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The transformation of Sikh demand for greater Punjab autonomy into a secessionist movement in India

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Title:
The transformation of Sikh demand for greater Punjab autonomy into a secessionist movement in India
Creator:
Venkatapuram, Kalpana
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
viii, 129 leaves : illustrations, maps ; 29 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
Sikhism and politics -- India ( lcsh )
Sikhism and politics -- History -- India ( lcsh )
Politics and government ( fast )
Sikhism and politics ( fast )
Politics and government -- Punjab (India) ( lcsh )
History -- Punjab (India) ( lcsh )
India ( fast )
India -- Punjab ( fast )
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History. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
History ( fast )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 127-129).
Thesis:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, Political Science
General Note:
Department of Political Science
Statement of Responsibility:
by Kalpana Venkatapuram.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
39698027 ( OCLC )
ocm39698027
Classification:
LD1190.L64 1997m .V46 ( lcc )

Full Text
THE TRANSFORMATION OF SIKH DEMAND FOR GREATER
PUNJAB AUTONOMY INTO A SECESSIONIST MOVEMENT IN INDIA
by
Kalpana Venkatapuram
B.A., St. Olaf College, 1992
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Political Science
1997


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Kalpana Venkatapuram
has been approved
by
lb
Cr
*9
T
Date


Venkatapuram, Kalpana (M.A., Political Science)
The Transformation of Sikh Demand for Greater Punjab Autonomy into a
Secessionist Movement in India.
Thesis directed by Professor Jana Everett
ABSTRACT
The Sikh separatist movement in Punjab has major implications for the
sustainability of Indias democratic unity. The underlying causes that gave rise to
the militant agitation for a separate Sikh homeland are endemic to Indias political
system. This thesis examines the transformation of the Sikhs initial demand for
greater autonomy for Punjab state into a violent movement and the reasons for the
rise of the movement, and the factors turning it into a violent secessionist conflict.
Using a framework that includes an integrative primordialist and instrumentalist
ethnonational conflict theories, the analysis shows that the Sikh secessionist
movement was transformed from a call for greater state independence as a result of
continued political and economic grievances, competition between subgroup
leaders, use of violent force and extension of direct rule by the center. Within the
larger context of Indian democracy, the study of the Sikh separatist movement
highlights the imbalance of center-state relations where an over-reliance on
Presidents Rule and the national governments control of economic policy formed
the basis for the Sikh ethnic conflict.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed
111


DEDICATION
I dedicate this thesis to my parents for their encouragement and support.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT
My thanks to my advisor, Professor Jana Everett, for her assistance throughout the
writing of this thesis.


CONTENTS
Figures.................................................viii
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW..............................1
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE AND THEORETICAL
FRAMEWORK..............................................6
Primordialist Theories................................7
Instrumentalist Theories ........................... 12
Integrative Ethnonationalism Theory ................ 17
Framework for Analysis of Sikh Separatism............20
3. HISTORY AND TENETS OF SIKHISM AND POLITICAL
HISTORY OF PUNJAB SINCE INDEPENDENCE .................23
Gurdwara Reform Movement: The SGPC and Akali Dal....28
Azad Punjab and Partition of India...................32
Punjabi Suba.........................................35
4. EXAMINATION OF THE SIKH SEPARATIST MOVEMENT 44
Internal Dynamics: Grievances........................46
Utilization of Grievances for Group Mobilization: Anandpur
Sahib Resolution...................................49
Continued Grievances ..............................51
Competition Between Subgroup Leaders...............55
vi


Expansion in Movement Goals ...........................64
The Effects of State Strategies on the Movement....... 68
State Violence ...................................... 68
Assassination of Indira Gandhi.........................73
The Impact of Rajiv Gandhis Government Policies ....74
A Succession of Governments and the Punjab............78
Return to Electoral Politics...........................82
5. CONCLUSION.................................................85
Conclusions Derived from Framework Analysis..............86
Implications for Indian Democracy .......................93
APPENDIX
A. The Draft of the New Policy Programme of the Shiromani Akali
Dal.................................................97
B. Revised List of 15 Demands Received from the Akali Dal by
Government in October, 1981........................ 121
C. Rajiv Gandhi-Longowal Accord...................... 123
REFERENCES..................................................... 127
Vll


FIGURES
Figure
A. Political Divisions of the Punjab, 1956-1966 ............................... 39
B. Punjab (India) and the Indian states and Territories........................42
V1U


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW
The Sikh separatist movement in Punjabi has major implications for the
sustainability of Indias democratic unity because the underlying causes that gave
rise to the militant agitation for a separate Sikh homeland are endemic to Indias
political system. This thesis examines the transformation of the Sikhs initial
demand for greater autonomy for Punjab state into a violent secessionist movement
and the reasons for the rise of the movement and the factors turning it into a violent
secessionist conflict. The analysis of this conflict offers a way to address the
sustainability of Indias democracy.
The mobilization of the Sikh groups lends itself to an analysis encompassing
elements from both the primordialist and instrumentalist models of ethnonational
conflict theories. A discussion of primordialist and instrumentalist theoretical
perspectives will lay the groundwork to introduce the theory proposed by Ted Gurr
and Barbara Harff (1994) who argue that ethnic group mobilization includes
elements from both models. This alternative theory will provide the framework to
examine the Sikh separatist movement. Gurr and Harffs theoretical framework is
made up of intertwining factors that shape groups mobilization and conflict. These
factors include the breadth of a groups grievance, group cohesion, the strategies
instituted by leaders based on political opportunities, the domestic political situation
1


and the international support received by group. This framework will be
augmented by Paul Brass (1991) assertions on the importance of the internal
dynamics of the ethnic group and its changing identity throughout the conflict.
Further, examining the role of the state in ethnic conflict, Brass argues, will give a
more complete picture of the different elements involved in a groups mobilization.
He emphasizes the role of the state in the movement and the choices it makes in its
interaction with ethnic leaders. Gurr and Harffs framework with Brass additions
will be used to examine the interplay between moderate and militant Sikh groups
and the choices made by Sikh and Indian Government leaders as the movement
progressed.
A brief overview of the Sikh secessionist movement will provide the reader
background on this conflict. Scholars of the Sikh separatist movement for
Khalistan (Land of the Pure) agree that the movement arose more out of a need to
address the political and economic issues relevant to the state of Punjab and less for
specific Sikh interests (Brass 1985; Leaf 1985; Kak 1990; Chima 1994; Mohan
1994; Telfold 1992; Hannum 1996). It took on secessionist overtones in the early
1980s as a result of a number of intertwining factors including the political
maneuverings of the two opposing political parties: the Sikh political party in
Punjab, the Akali Dal, and the Congress Party at the Center and at the state level;
the rise of militant Sikh leaders and their sustenance by moderate Akali Dal leaders;
the competition between different Sikh leaders to head the movement; and the
2


Indian Governments response to the movement, in particular, implementation of
repressive security measures.
Sikh agitation grew out of the widely held view that Punjabs political and
economic development was being thwarted by the highly centralized power of the
Indian Government. The demand for fair economic and political decentralization
took on Sikh nationalist overtones. The Central Government's decision to ignore
the movement, or at the most, barely acknowledge its demands compelled the
moderate Akali Dal leaders to stand firm while extremist leaders were given room
to maneuver. Furthermore, the governments repressive measures to control the
militants resulted in the stand-off between the government and the agitators for
most of the 1980s and early part of 1990s (Hardgrave 1983; Hazary 1991; Leaf
1985; Pai 1990).
A watershed event in Sikh politics occurred with the drafting of the
Anandpur Sahib Resolution (ASR) (see Appendix A) by the Akali Dal in 1973.
After the defeat of the party in the 1972 elections, the more nationalistic Sikhs
sought to solidify the community's identity through the passage of this list of
resolutions (Mahon 1994; Telford 1992; Hannum 1996). The Akali Dal demanded
that the Central Government implement the ASR in 1981. The Indian Government,
however, considered the ASR to be a manifesto for the creation of a Sikh homeland
and was reluctant to negotiate (Kak 1990; Mahon 1991).
Sikh extremist leader Jamail Singh Bhindranwale played a significant role in
3


transforming the movement into a violent secessionist conflict. Bhindranwales
personal ambition was to create a single Sikh identity and to lead a consolidated
Sikh community. This was a formidable goal since the Sikhs are not monolithic.
The community includes diverse groups of differing belief systems and all levels of
economic and caste categories. Bhindranwale used the All-India Sikh Student
Federation as a support base to preach against the threat of Hindu dominated Indian
Government and society. As terrorist acts orchestrated by Bhindranwale, against
Hindus and governmental officials increased in Punjab, in 1984 Indira Gandhi
ordered the storming of the Golden Temple which resulted in Bhindranwales
death. It is widely considered that as a result of the assault on this holy Sikh
shrine, she was assassinated soon after the assault by her Sikh body guards in
revenge (Chima 1994; Mohan 1994; Telford 1992).
Punjab was placed under Presidents Rule for most of the 1980s. Even
though the state elections in 1984 brought the Akali Dal back to power, the change
in government did not ease political violence in the state. Prime Minister Rajiv
Gandhi and Akali Dal President Longowal came to an agreement with the signing
of the Gandhi-Longowal Accord in 1985. But violence in the state continued as a
result of the Accord not being implemented. The state elections in 1992 brought
the Congress party to power and ended the President's Rule, but, Punjab remained
under virtual military rule because the state government relied on security forces to
suppress, not only the terrorism of the militants, but the personal freedom of all
4


Punjabis in order to keep peace in the state.
This study will begin by discussing various perspectives on ethnic
nationalism, group mobilization and conflict based on the theories proposed by
Walker Connor (1994), Donald L. Horowitz (1985), Anthony B. Smith (1981),
Paul Brass (1985), Ted Gurr and Barbara Harff (1994), and others in Chapter 2.
Chapter 3 will give a brief narrative of the Sikh history and religious tenets and an
overview of Punjab history from Indian independence to 1966 when Punjab became
a majority Sikh state. This historical background will be important in putting the
secessionist movement in context. Chapter 4 will include an analytical examination
of the call for greater Punjabi autonomy, the role of leaders in shaping the
movement, the governments response to the militancy and the violent escalation of
the Sikh demand for a separate homeland by applying the theoretical framework
laid out in Chapter 2. The conclusion will highlight the fundamental issues brought
to the forefront as a result of this movement that need to be addressed by the
government and Sikh leaders for a return to normalcy to occur in Punjab.
5


CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
The following survey of ethnonational theories will be a foundation for
analyzing the Sikh separatist movement. The first section will describe two
prominent theories in the study of ethnic conflict, the primordialist and
instrumentalist models. The section will attempt to give an account of the theories
by scholars whose primary focus was on ethnic conflicts in states that achieved
independence from colonial rulers after World War n, and on the autonomy
movements that periodically arose in Europe. Studies done by scholars in recent
years are also included to introduce new explanations of ethnic conflict. The new
theories substantiate earlier theories and point out aspects of conflicts overlooked by
earlier theorists. The section will end by outlining a framework for the analysis of
the Sikh separatist movement using the theories reviewed. It should be noted that
certain aspects of the primordialist and instrumentalist theories are more applicable
to the Sikh conflict than others. This perspective is affirmed by Ted Gurr and
Barbara Harff (1994) who argue that in ethnic conflict, both primordialist and
instrumentalist models are relevant when groups mobilize against the state.
Further, depending on the specific conflicts being studied, some factors from each
of the theories are more salient than others.
Gurr and Harff (1994) write that the primordialist and instrumentalist
6


theories make up the two perspectives of ethnonationalism. These two major
viewpoints arose as a result of modernization theorys inadequacy in explaining the
rise of ethnic conflicts in the 1960s and 1970s. The authors explain that the two
perspectives have different emphases in explaining ethnic mobilization and conflict.
Primordialist theorists believe that ethnic identity which encompasses social,
historical and genetic facets is threatened by modernization of society. As a means
of defending its culture, a group mobilizes against the modernizing state which
ultimately may lead to conflict. On the other hand, the instrumentalist theorists
contend that group leaders use ethnic identity as a means to unite and mobilize the
group to combat unequal distribution of the economic and political benefits of
modernization and to gamer their fair share resources.
Primordialist Theories
Ma Shu Yun (1990) writes that the connection between ethnicity and
nationalism became the focus of increased research after Walker Connor came up
with the term ethnonationalism in 1973, and subsequently wrote several articles
that helped familiarize the scholarly community with the term. Yun writes that
Connor considers the term nation to describe a self-conscious ethnic group. But
since the term usually denotes a loyalty to the state, Connor came up with the new
term to describe an ethnic group that is aware of its distinct identity.
In his early articles, Connor (1994) explains that ethnic groups become
7


conscious of their identity as a result of the diffusion of communication and
transportation. These elements of modernization make members of an ethnic group
aware of their uniqueness in comparison to other groups. As a result, ethnic
tensions may arise leading to separatist movements. In addition, the progressive
global environment where world leaders endorse self-determination of nations has
created a permissive environment for ethnic groups to agitate for independence. In
a more recent article, Connor (1994) argues that in the new theories of
ethnonationalism too much relevance is placed on material goals in ethnic group
conflicts. Instead, he states that more attention needs to be spent studying the
emotional and psychological motivations that spur a group to make sacrifices on
behalf of its identity. The emotional and psychological reasons, Connor writes,
explain the sense of kinship that is present in nations. This kinship is one of the
reasons ethnic groups should not be equated with interest groups, as instrumentalist
scholars contend. Further, the emotional bond among group members explains
their strength of loyalty to the group rather than to the state. This loyalty, he
argues, is the reason members do not want to be ruled by anyone outside their own
ethnic group.
Connor goes on to write that ethnic groups who agitate for autonomy and
independence from the majority ruling group have a variety of goals: some groups
want complete control over their regions except for foreign policy, others will
submit to almost complete control by the center; and still others will not stop until
8


total secession is achieved. In most cases, Connor states that groups agitate for a
separate homeland but will agree to greater autonomy. This is because elites are
too fragmented within the group to maintain their original stance for the duration of
the conflict. In general, Connor argues that agitating groups should be
accommodated, preferably through decentralization of authority.
Donald L. Horowitz (1985), in his analysis of ethnic group conflicts in Asia
and Africa, agrees with Connor that serious ethnonationalist scholarship did not
explain the role of emotions and group psychology involved in groups choosing to
mobilize against state. He adds that the majority of the theories are overly
concerned with elite actions while not enough attention is given to relationships
between leaders and group members, in general, and the reasons for member
loyalty to leaders, in particular.
After examining the inadequacies of cultural pluralism, modernization and
economic-interest theories, Horowitz argues that group symbols, cultural traits and
member interaction should be taken into account in explaining conflict. The
majority of his research is spent on studying secession, which he considers to be an
unique part of ethnic conflict. Horowitz examines the type of groups that choose
secession, the circumstances that make secession possible, and finally, the results of
secession.
Secessionist movements occur, according to Horowitz, when groups
want to have a separate region within the state or establish a completely
9


independent state. He agrees with Connor that groups have different goals when
they agitate for secession. Whatever the goal of the group may be, Horowitz writes
that various elements are involved in influencing the conflicts outcome. The
results of conflict are contingent upon domestic politics, goals of the group, intra-
group relations, the response of state, and to a certain extent, international politics.
Horowitz explains that conflicts can take on different forms: they can be prolonged
for years but result in nothing substantial, they can quickly turn violent or there
might not even be a conflict. In conflict situations, Horowitz argues, groups are
flexible with their demands. He writes that depending on the status of negotiations
with the state, group demands may shift from autonomy, at one extreme, to
independence, on the other extreme. He agrees again with Connor that groups who
mobilize for independence will settle for regional autonomy.
In his comparison of ethnic conflicts, Horowitz sets up a matrix that
includes four categories of potential secessionist groups according to the type of
ethnic group and the type of region that the group inhabits. He categorizes ethnic
conflicts as involving either a backward or an advanced ethnic group based on the
educational level, industrial sector employment level and motivational level in the
region. The region is then considered to be either backward or advanced according
to the regions economic prosperity level in the state. The four categories of
conflicts encompass advanced groups in advanced regions, advanced groups in
backward regions, backward groups in advanced regions and backward groups in
10


backward regions. Thus, Horowitz argues that group and regional position affect
the mobilization, since they determine the type of needs voiced by groups.
Although there are many factors that differ among the four categories of
groups in the matrix, Horowitz explains that there are certain elements that are
likely to be present in all four situations: In general, most regions that have
secessionist conflicts are ethnically diverse. A grievance used for mobilization may
be the loss of group members either by migration out of region or assimilation into
the majority group. Mobilization may also be influenced by foreign aid received
by the group. Groups may have ethnically based political party bureaucracies,
which may strengthen groups resolve internally, but hinder accessibility by outside
actors. Horowitz also talks about the role of the state in ethnic conflicts. In cases
where many subgroups are involved in mobilization, the state may deliberately
divide the group by dealing with only moderate elements, thereby exploiting
differences within the group. In addition, the state will have a better position in the
negotiations when dealing with the group if members are well integrated into state
institutions or if members are geographically dispersed throughout the state. In
both these cases, Horowitz writes that mobilized groups are more open to accepting
less than regional autonomy. The state also has time on its side because when
conflict is protracted, secessionists groups become amenable to any conciliatory
moves made by the state. Finally, as all four types of groups mobilize, other
groups in the region may either support the state in suppressing the movement or
11


agitate for their own independence.
Instrumentalist Theories
Smith (1981) writes in The Ethnic Revival that Walker Connors theory
provides an important framework that highlights the interaction between culture and
politics, but does not adequately consider the institutional underpinnings and social
motivations of nationalistic ethnic groups. He further writes that the spread of
communications along with modernization does not fully explain how dormant
ethnic identity becomes important enough for the group to agitate for recognition
based on its ethnicity. Smith, in his explanation of ethnic nationalism, is concerned
with picking up where Connor stops.
The present ethnic revival, Smith writes, is part of an historical trend where
ethnicity becomes important during some periods and declines in importance during
other periods. He says that distinct ethnic communities have always existed, but
that the social and political ethnic links fluctuate in importance. The current cycle
has been ushered in by intellectuals who are conscious of groups history and its
symbols and deliberately make ethnicity the focal point of all social and political
interaction.
Smith asserts that several steps are involved in an ethnic groups
transformation from a mere cultural group to a nation. He writes that ethnic
identity is the basis for loyalty among members while ethnic awareness along with
12


politicization occurs during periods of conflict and warfare. Smith further argues
that ethnic identity becomes important only with the growth of state bureaucracies.
For the professional members of the group, state bureaucracies are the means of
social mobility. However, conflict arises when these professionals are hindered
from participating fully because of discrimination based on their ethnicity,
opposition by established bureaucrats or an excess of qualified members for the
number of open seats. Meanwhile, as their authority becomes undermined by the
scientific state, the intellectuals of the group revive ethnic ties as a means to
mobilize members to agitate for a separate state. It is the professionals who are the
main proponents of this elite led ethnic revival, since they see mobilization as a
means of combating obstacles to their social mobility. This revival allows for the
formation of alliances among professionals and breaks down barriers among
members from different social levels. As a result, this new emphasis on ethnic
links creates a new social identity, and the active utilization of this identity
transforms the group into a nation.
Paul Brass (1985) focuses his explanation of ethnonationalism on certain
points that Smith brings out in his theory. Brass identifies more with
instrumentalist theoretical analysis than the primordialists, but contends that
instrumentalist arguments do not fully consider all of the elements that are involved
with ethnic group mobilization. Brass main concerns are with identity formation
and the repercussions of different state responses in dealing with ethnic group
13


mobilization and conflict. In particular, he believes that the role of elite
relationships within groups, role of elite collaborators and opponents of the state
and the role of state control in the ethnic region are critical influences on ethnic
groups.
Brass writes that ethnic conflicts are a result of unequal modernization of
society. As education, industrialization and new employment opportunities spread
across all regions, a new group of elites is created who want to acquire political
power through monopolization of state bureaucracies. In the process of this societal
transformation, competition arises among all ethnic groups for jobs, admissions to
educational institutions and representation in government. At the same time, Brass
argues, the internal dynamics of ethnic groups will be affected as their core values
are being redefined. Conflict between old traditional or religious elites and new
secular elites ensues during the struggle for the right to represent the group to
outside entities. Along with Smith, Brass emphasizes that in order for an ethnic
group to be mobilized politically, group members must be united socially and
culturally. The development of nationalism, then, will be driven by elite
competition and the effects of state strategies in dealing with mobilization.
According to Brass, ethnic groups mobilization largely rests with elites,
since economic inequality and political discrimination will be accepted by members
when elites dont intervene. In general, elites want to intervene on behalf of the
group as a way to retain control of the ethnic community. Brass describes different
14


scenarios where groups resort to mobilization. In case of the state encroaching on
elites authority, Brass contends that they may choose to mobilize against the state.
In the case when traditional or religious leaders feel their authority being
undermined by members collaborating with the state, they may promote
mobilization as a way to defend their cultural and religious values. Whatever the
reasons for the group mobilizing, Brass argues that intra-group conflict plays an
important factor in shaping groups identity which ultimately affects its
mobilization.
Brass argues that elites of different subgroups compete within the
community to control the group and to become its chief representative to outside
groups and the state. Ethnic elites utilize the symbolic resources of the groups
religious and cultural values, historical grievances and economic inequalities as a
means of gamering support and mobilizing community. When these emotionally
charged symbols are used to unite the group, the authority of leaders is legitimized.
As mobilization progresses, group elites constantly compete to interpret and
manipulate symbols. As group elites fight for control of the group, its identity is
shaped by whichever subgroup is leading at the moment. At times, secular elites
will look toward religious elites to bolster support of community and legitimize
their authority more effectively. However, there will be other elites who will not
want to be categorized according to the arbitrarily chosen symbols and will point to
the differing cultural traits of the various subgroups within the community.
15


Therefore, Brass argues that the transformation of ethnic identity to ethnic
nationalism is reversible. This process is useful in cases when elites want to
submerge ethnic symbols in order to have the cooperation of the state, and to bridge
the gap between the cultural differences of the state and group. Also, depending on
the elites that the state chooses to deal with, the balance of power within the group
will shift to favor that subgroup.
In addition, the outcome of conflict is determined by the role of state in
dealing with the groups mobilization. Brass writes that modernizing states have to
contend with being the source and distributor of resources on the one hand, and
being the promoter of new secular values on the other hand. The state uses its
bureaucracies to acquire resources, distribute benefits and settle disputes. It
engenders loyalty in its population through socialization and establishing regulations
that need to be followed to get a share of the resources of the state. However,
conflict arises when values propagated by the state differ from values of the group,
or when state begins to regulate the personal and family life of ethnic group
members. Thus, the traditional and religious elites will feel threatened by states
secular ideology infringing on their authority.
However, Brass contends, as does Smith (1981), that elites aspire to control
the state bureaucracy rather than overthrow it which results in a struggle between
the center and group elites. He writes that conflict can take the form of center
working with elites who are opposed to the dominant elites, or between states
16


regional political party organizations and group elites. The type of conflict
between the center and group elites is influenced by the type of elites who control
the state bureaucracies. The state strategies and policies toward the group change
according to the elites who are in control. Ultimately, Brass writes, the actions that
the state chooses to take in dealing with an ethnic group will be supported by its
general population because its authority is seen as legitimate, and especially since
the decision to act is usually the result of following well established procedures.
Integrative Ethnonationalism Theory
After studying 227 politically mobilized religious and cultural groups in the
1980s, Ted Gurr (1993a and 1993b) contends that both primordialist and
instrumentalist models are useful in explaining ethnic mobilization and strategies of
ethnic conflict. In Gurrs framework, the basis for mobilization incorporates the
primordialist arguments of groups defending their identity as well as the
instrumentalist arguments that groups mobilize to gain political and economic goals.
Gurr argues that groups are motivated by discriminatory treatment they face
because of their ethnicity and mobilize to acquire their share of economic and
political resources. In a similar manner to Brass, Gurr and Barbara Harff (1994)
point out that conflict is shaped by the interaction of the decisions of group leaders
and the strategies of the state in dealing with mobilization and conflict.
Gurr (1993a and 1993b) agrees with some of the previous scholars who
17


argue that ethnic group conflicts occur because of the actions taken by modernizing
states. He writes that states attempt to assimilate ethnic groups into a new secular
ideology without regard to each groups unique history and cultural autonomy. At
the same time that the state is secularizing society, Gurr explains that the state
actively pursues industrialization. As a result of modernization, some groups have
greater economic opportunities after discriminatory barriers have been dismantled
while other groups are harmed by industrialization.
In his analysis of the 227 communal groups, Gurr (1993a and 1993b) writes
that ethnic groups have four predisposing traits that shape groups sense of
grievance which motivate them to act to rectify those grievances. First, groups
should feel discriminated because of the political and economic disadvantages when
compared to other groups. Second, there should exist a strong sense of group
identity across all classes and castes. Third, groups should be internally cohesive
regarding social, political and economic issues. Finally, groups should have a
sense that the state is repressively controlling groups in order to keep them in a
subordinate position. According to Gurr, group leaders will use the groups
grievances about discrimination and loss of autonomy as motivations to mobilize
community, and persuade members to protest for change, or even agitate for
secession.
The grievances of groups are an impetus for mobilization, but the resulting
conflict, Gurr explains, involves the decisions of group leaders and actions of state
18


in response which play defining roles in shaping the conflict: Group leaders base
their decisions after considering specific factors, including the strength of shared
traits like religion, culture and history; the strength of group cohesion based on the
networks connecting members and leaders; and the breadth of grievances shared
among members of the community. The types of decisions made by leaders are
influenced by their consideration of the domestic political situation, the potential
reaction of the state and its resources, and even, the support that might be received
from outside groups and states. Specific decisions made about the timing of
political events, type of goals sought and strategies followed are based on political
opportunities that result from any changes that occur within the state and
developments outside the state. He writes that leaders see opportunities to mobilize
when there are any shifts in state policies, or when successful outside groups ally
themselves by giving political and organizational assistance, or when similar groups
in adjoining countries are successful in fillfilling their goals, thereby giving
inspiration. Gurr cautions that whatever conflict strategy leaders decide to follow,
groups and the state get caught up in a action-and-reaction conflict dynamic which
is difficult to de-escalate especially in violent situations.
Gurr writes that as states have great power in regulating the social and
economic lives of group members especially in a modernizing society, the extent of
states control over groups influences the extent to which groups utilize protest.
The response of the state and its decision to use violence against a protesting group
19


depends on the political system of the state; weak and strong states respond
differently as do autocracies and democracies. In general, institutionalized
democracies provide opportunities for non-violent protest. In fact, state leaders are
responsive to groups needs especially if large number of group members
participate in the protest. In the cases where groups resort to violent conflict
however, groups may lose support of the public, which may even support the state
using force in dealing with terrorism.
Framework for Analysis of Sikh Separatism
Variables identified in both primordialist and instrumentalist theories help
explain the transformation of the Sikhs demand for greater Punjab autonomy into a
violent secessionist movement. The three approaches to analyzing ethnonationalism
surveyed highlight different factors that need to be taken into consideration for
analyzing the transformation and the secessionist movement that followed. Gurr
and Harffs (1994) synthesis of the primordialist and instrumentalist theories will be
the most relevant to the analysis of the conflict. In addition, Paul Brass (1985)
explanation of internal dynamics of a mobilized ethnic group and the responses of
the state are relevant to the study of the Sikh separatist movement. In general, the
two theoretical explanations are mutually reinforcing and highlight pertinent factors
that help shape the framework for analyzing the movement.
The factors that the two theories bring out are interdependent in explaining
20


how the movement is shaped and what the motivations are of the actors. The
examination of the Sikh conflict will take into consideration points that Gurr and
HarfFs (1994) theoretical arguments bring out, in particular: The grievances of the
Sikhs and how leaders used those to mobilize the community; the political
opportunities that Sikh leaders took to move the movement forward in terms of the
timing of the political events; the goals at the beginning of the movement and how
they changed as the movement progressed; and, the tactics followed by leaders of
the movement and how they changed through the course of the conflict. Thus, the
authors explanation of the different influences on the progression of ethnic conflict
over time is imperative to the study of the Sikh movement which has developed
over many years.
Furthermore, the analysis of the movement will be strengthened when the
interaction between leaders of the various subgroups, and between the state and the
mobilized group are considered as raised by Brass (1985) in his arguments. The
analysis of the Sikh separatist movement needs to specifically consider the relations
between different subgroup leaders and how they changed as the movement
progressed; the identity of the group and how it changed based on goals and tactics
as different subgroup leaders came into control; the strategies used by the state in
dealing with the movement and how they changed as different elites came to control
its bureaucracies; and finally, if or how the strategies that the state used in dealing
with the movement affected the internal dynamics of the group. The factors
21


highlighted from Gurr and Harff s and Brass theories brought out in this discussion
will need to be addressed in order to understand how the movement for the greater
autonomy for Punjab was transformed into a violent movement for a Sikh
homeland.
22


CHAPTER 3
HISTORY AND TENETS OF SIKHISM AND POLITICAL HISTORY OF
PUNJAB SINCE INDEPENDENCE
An historical overview of the politics of the Punjab region and an
explanation of the religion will put into context the modem Sikh sessionist
movements deep connection to the region of Punjab, as well as the communitys
historical tradition of defending any threat to its religion. The next chapter,
which will examine the secessionist movement, will be better understood, since
some of the demands of the movement brought up during the period of partition
and the reorganization of the states remained unresolved. The chapter is
separated into three sections beginning with an explanation of the history and
tenets of Sikhism, the rise of the Akali Dal and the SGPC, and finally the
formation of a Sikh majority Punjab state.
Although the Sikh community encompasses less than two percent of the
Indian population, they are represented in all facets of Indian society including
agriculture, industry, civil service and the military. Sikhism is the fourth largest
religion in India, but unlike other religious minorities that are dispersed
throughout the Indian subcontinent and speak different regional languages, over
eighty percent of the Sikhs live in Punjab, the land of five rivers, in north-west
India and speak Punjabi (A. Kapur, 1985, p. 1).
23


Sikhism can be traced to its founder, Guru Nanak, (1469-1539) who was
bom to a high caste Hindu family in Punjab (A. Kapur, 1985). For most of his
life, Punjab was a peaceful region under the Turko-Afghan mle. The majority of
Muslims lived in urban centers while the Hindus lived in rural areas. The
Muslim rulers did not allow high-level administrative positions to go to Hindus
whose control over local politics dissipated dining the Muslim rule. Some
Hindus converted to Islam while others migrated to the hills or the deserts.
During this ascension of Muslim rule, Gum Nanak traveled all over India
preaching his sermons along with two companions, a Hindu and a Muslim, who
set his sermons to music. He preached to the rural Punjabi peasants that all
humans are bound together by one omnipotent God who was neither a Muslim or
a Hindu. Gum Nanak eschewed ceremonial rituals practiced by Hindus and
Muslims and taught his disciples or Sikhs to abstain from eating meat or drinking
alcohol and to live fully as members of society while participating in spiritual
fulfillment.
The succeeding nine Gurus that followed Gum Nanak contributed to
Sikhism by organizing and defining the underlying tenets of Sikhism. The religion
was institutionalized by each gum through the establishment of Gurumukhi script
for Punjabi which was originally used only for the Sikh scriptures but eventually
came to be used in all forms of written communication; the institution of specific
ceremonies for births, marriages and deaths; and the incorporation of the writings
24


of Hindu saints and Muslin sufis along with the writings of Guru Nanak into the
Adi Granth. the Sikh holy scriptures. In addition, meeting places or manjis were
established and masands or pastors were appointed to preach the teachings of
Sikhism to disciples; Amristar was established as a holy city where the
Harimandir, the Temple of God, or the Golden Temple was built; and eventually
across the entrance of the Golden Temple the Akal Takht, the Immortal
Throne, was built designated to conduct the secular affairs of the community.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century during the reign of Guru
Hargobind (1606-1644), the sixth guru, the community began to be transformed
into a militaristic society as a way to combat persecution by Muslim rulers. He
emphasized the need for physical prowess and carried two swords, miri and piri.
which represented the gurus spiritual and temporal sides. The communitys
transformation into a militaristic society was completed with the formation of the
Khalsa, the Sikh brotherhood, by the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1675-
1708). He initiated five followers into the brotherhood who swore to observe five
symbols of orthodox Sikhism: kesh-to wear beards and hair uncut; kangha-to
carry a comb in the hair; kara-to wear a steel bracelet on the right hand; kachha-
to wear specific type of short pants; kirpan-to carry a sword. These Sikhs were
given the common surname of Singh or lion and could not drink alcohol, smoke
tobacco and eat meat. This initiation gave the Khalsa brotherhood a distinct
identity of Keshdhari Sikhs, or those who pledged loyalty to the Khalsa and
25


adhered to the five symbols of Sikhism. Gobind Singh also decreed that he was
the last Guru and discontinued the line of personal gurus.
However, the Sikh community is not monolithic in its interpretation of the
teachings of Sikhism. The non-Keshdhari Sikhs are called Sahajdharis, slow
converters, since they do not follow all of the requirements of the orthodox Sikhs
and consider themselves to be both Hindu and Sikh. There are many different
sects and movements within Sikhism that reflect the various interpretations of
Sikh tenets. One movement that is important to the rise of the current conflict is
the Nirankari movement. The followers of this movement want to keep the
religion pure from Hindu influences and are against religious ceremonies that are
similar to Hinduism. This sect is distinct because its followers worship the
descendants of its founder, Guru Dayal Das, in addition to the ten Gurus of the
Sikhs. As a consequence, these followers were identified as enemies of the
religion by the Golden Temple priests.
Caste also plays a part in hindering the community from forming an all-
encompassing single identity. Although Sikhism as espoused by Guru Nanak did
not include a caste system, the caste hierarchy within the community most likely
reflects the social background of the original followers of Guru Nanak (Grewal,
1990 and Kak, 1990). Most of Nanaks disciples were from the lower castes, but
there were followers from the Khatri class who were urban merchants and
wealthy Jat farmers from the rural countryside. Caste distinctions within the
26


community are important because they influence the politics of Sikhs as a whole
and highlight the economic disparity of the community. The predominantly
wealthy Jat Sikhs are the most vocal in Sikh politics, since they make up the
largest contingency in the Akali Dal and the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak
Committee (SGPC) (see following section). The Khatris, Aroras, Ramgharias
make up the business and artisan sector of the community representing urban
concerns. The Mazhabis who make up the lower cast of Sikhs generally do not
vote for Akali Dal candidates and are usually suspicious of SGPC activities
dominated by Jat Sikhs.
After the death of Guru Gobind Singh, the Punjab province was unified
under Sikh rule in 1799 (A. Kapur, 1985). During the forty years that Maharaja
Ranjit Singh was in power, the Sikh empire was extended beyond the province to
the Khyber Pass on the North-West Frontier. The British, who were in control
over the rest of the subcontinent, considered the Maharaja to be the sole ruler of
the Punjab and did not interfere in the province during his reign. However, after
Ranjit Singhs death, the British formed alliances with various Sikh rulers who
were fighting amongst themselves for succession of the kingdoms provinces
(Hannum, 1996). After fighting two wars with Punjab, the British annexed the
Province in 1849. Most of the Punjab was directly controlled by the British but
some areas of the province were left intact and only administered indirectly.
27


Gurdwara Reform Movement: The SGPC and Akali Dal
After the death of Guru Gobind Singh, the Udasis, followers of the first
son of the Guru Nanak, were given control of the gurdwaras or temples (Mohan,
1991). This sect was considered to be devout and selfless in their contributions to
the community even though they were not Kesdhari Sikhs. Eventually, these
Udasi Sikhs settled in specific gurdwaras and became their mahants or managers.
After the annexation of the province by the British, the gurdwara estates were
recorded under the names of the mahants who retained control through hereditary
succession. These gurdwaras came to be considered to be places of corruption
where the mahants were amassing personal wealth from the tax-free gurdwara
farm lands and generally led amoral lives. The Sikh community was aware of
practices that were anathema to Sikhism such as Hindu idols placed in the
sanctuaries and mismanagement of temple contributions but did not know what
can be done to combat these impure practices.
Dining the early twentieth century, the Sikhs found that the civil courts
were no help in evicting the mahants from control of the gurdwaras especially
since the mahants had the assistance of the British administration in defending
their holdings. After realizing the futility of finding relief through legal channels,
the Sikhs formed jathas or groups of agitators and attempted to take over the
gurdwaras through peaceful means. On November 15, 1920, the Sikhs created
the 175-member Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (Central Gurdwara
28


Management Committee) SGPC to manage the Sikh shrines in the province.
The SGPC is considered to be a government within a government mainly
because of the high degree of power it has over Sikh religious issues as well as its
influence over Sikh politics (Singh, 1988). After its inception in 1920, the
organization gradually extended its power over the gurdwaras. including the
Golden Temple, as they were taken over by the Akali Jathas or were handed over
by the mahants. Under the constitution of the SGPC passed in 1921, four-fifths
of the members were elected from the Punjab districts and Sikh princely states,
while one-fifth were elected by the members. Within this 175-person
membership, there is a thirty-one-member executive committee, a seven-member
working committee and numerous local committees that have the responsibility of
managing the different gurdwaras.
Dining the early stages of the movement, moderate Sikhs were elected to
the executive board but the more radical Sikhs organized into a pseudo-military
group of volunteers, the Akali Dal or Army of Immortals, to take charge of the
gurdwaras from the mahants (Singh, 1988). There was no organized method of
recruitment of the Akali volunteers, and Akali Jathas were formed in areas were
reforms needed to be instituted. The Shiromani Akali Dal (Central Organization
of the Akalis) was formed on December 14, 1920 in order to assist the SGPC in
organizing and coordinating jathas in different areas of the Punjab.
The groups that assembled to free the gurdwaras were named Akalis after
29


a sect of Guru Gobinds followers who were fanatical in their faith and in their
willingness to risk their lives in defending their religion (Singh, 1988). The
volunteers of the Gurdwara reform movement from 1920-1925 came to be called
Akalis because of their willingness to sacrifice for their religion to achieve their
goal of freeing the gurdwaras from the mahants. They did not have much in
common with those of the original Akalis in the pre-Sikh rule except in their
sincere belief in their religion and pureness of faith.
The Akali Dal was intended to be under the auspices of the SGPC with the
SGPC directing the activities of the volunteers. As the movement progressed, the
Akali Dal moved away from its subordinate status with the SGPC and became an
independent organization working along with the SGPC on Sikh concerns.
Eventually, the Akali Dal came to be considered the political party of the Sikhs.
In modem Indian politics, the Akali Dal considers itself to be the only
representative of the Sikhs and considers any opposition to its policies as being
against the Sikh panth or religion (Misra, 1988). All Sikhs at 18 years old are
offered membership in the party and non-Sikhs can join the party as associate
members.
The struggle to take control of the gurdwaras took five years resulting in
400 deaths and 30,000 Sikhs arrested (Singh, 1988, p. 145). Many mahants
voluntarily gave up their shrines and land holdings to the local SGPC committees,
but there was a lot of resistance at some of the major gurdwaras to the Akali
30


reformers. As the reform movement progressed, the Indian nationalist groups
began to consider the Akalis to be part of the larger agitation for independence
especially since the Akalis espoused non-violence as a means of achieving their
goals and protested against the British rulers who supported the mahants. In
order to stop the movement from escalating any further, the colonial legislature in
the Punjab adopted the Sikh Gurdwaras and Shrines Bill on July 7, 1925,
granting the SGPC management over 700 Sikh shrines and surrounding
properties in Punjab including the Golden Temple (A. Kapur, 1985, p. 23). The
act has gone through thirty amendments but the basic tenets are still relevant.
With this added power behind the organizational structure, the SGPC is similar to
the Vatican and the president of the SGPC is akin to the Pope. As a result, the
committee has within its disposal vast resources and personnel under its power.
This act also defined a Sikh to be someone who claimed to have no other religion
except Sikhism thus excluding the Sahajdharis who consider themselves to be both
Sikh and Hindu (Kak, 1990).
The SGPC has used its authority and resources to benefit the Sikh
community by building schools, hospitals and new gurdwaras. This in turn
allowed the SGPC to create and maintain support for its policies within the
community. The head priests of the gurdwaras issue hukumnamas or religious
edicts on behalf of the SGPC to which all Sikhs must conform. In addition, the
SGPC declares its opponents as tankhaiva. which ostracizes them from the Sikh
31


community. In 1950, the SGPC published the Sikh Rahit Marvada which
prescribed the tenants that Sikhs needed to follow. It required that Sikhs be
initiated into the Khalsa as instituted by Guru Gobind Singh and that they reject
all other religions.
The gurdwara movement was a springboard for the Sikhs to participate in
the political arena on behalf of the community. The SGPC passed a resolution at
the beginning of the reform movement in 1921 to support the passive resistance of
the nationalist movement. Thus, this religious body of the Sikhs was involved in
politics of the country from its inception. The organization is very effective at the
grass-roots level providing a direct channel for mobilizing Sikhs (A. Kapur,
1985). For Sikh politicians, in particular the Akali Dal politicians, the SGPC is a
means of amassing political backing especially since there are ready-made
audiences in the gurdwara congregations, in addition to the organizations vast
resources at their disposal.
Azad Punjab and Partition of India
The Akali Dal became an important part of the independence movement in
the Punjab province and lobbied the Indian National Congress to take Sikh
concerns into consideration especially during the partition of the country. After
declaring in 1940 that Muslims in India were a separate nation, the Muslim
League demanded that majority Muslim areas in India form the independent state
32


of Pakistan. The provinces of Punjab and Bengal were the main areas to be
affected by this demand. Before Indian independence on August 15, 1947, Sikhs
constituted 13 % of the Punjabi population (R. Kapur, 1986, p.208). Since the
Sikhs were distributed almost evenly around the province, they would be split
between Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India. To counter the Muslim Leagues
declaration and to protect the interests of the Sikh community, the Akali Dal
proposed the creation of a Azad Punjab (free Punjab) through the reorganization
of territorial boundaries of the Punjab province. The Indian political leaders,
however, did not take this proposal seriously. In light of Akali Dal leaders
emphatic opposition to the partition of the country, they considered the Azad
Punjab idea as a way to thwart the creation of Pakistan.
However, partition became more of a viable option after C.
Rajagopalachari of the Congress Party publicized his formula for the partition of
India in the north-west and the east where the Muslim population was the greatest
(A. Kapur, 1985). At this point, the president of the Aklai Dal, Master Tara
Singh, publicly stated that the Sikhs were a nation and demanded a separate state
for themselves if Pakistan was going to be established as a separate nation. The
executive committee of the Akali Dal in March 22, 1946 passed a resolution for a
separate Sikh state. They thought that a separate state would be a means of
protection for the Sikhs and wanted the right to become part of India or Pakistan
(A. Kapur, 1985). The passage of this resolution did not move the Indian
33


national leaders or the British government to give importance to the Sikhs
demands. In the end, partition of India was inevitable. Furthermore, none Of the
Akali Dals demands for the protection of the Sikhs were met. The partition
divided the Punjab equally between Pakistan and India causing two million Sikhs
to migrate to the eastern districts of Punjab (Misra, 1988, p. 88). The Akali Dal
leaders decided to focus their attention on influencing the Punjab Boundary
Commission to relocate the majority of Sikhs to East Punjab.
The Indian Punjab consisted of three rivers and thirteen districts with 70%
Hindus who were concentrated in the east and 30% Sikhs who were concentrated
in central districts (A. Kapur, 1985, p.149). In addition, Himachal Pradesh was
created out of the formerly Punjab Hill states while the Sikh kingdoms became the
new state of Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU) which was 53 % Sikh.
The Akali Dal knew that the secular government of independent India would not
have communal reservations for any minority group (Misra, 1988 and A. Kapur,
1985). Nevertheless, the Sikh members of the Punjab Legislative Assembly
submitted to the Constituent Assembly, gathered to draft the constitution, a
memorandum of thirteen different demands including having a 50 % Sikh
representation in the Punjab legislature and 40% in government ministries (R.
Kapur, 1986, p. 210). If these demands were not accepted, the Sikhs wanted to
create a separate province where Sikhs were in the majority. According to
Master Tara Singh, the Sikhs wanted a separate area in India in order to safeguard
34


the Sikh culture and tradition from the majority Hindu society. However, all of
the Akali Dal demands were rejected by the Constituent Assembly. As a result,
the Akali Dal refused to endorse the Indian Constitution that the Constituent
Assembly formulated (Grewal, 1990).
Punjabi Suba
The nationalist leaders during the independence movement planned for
independent India to be reorganized according to the languages of the regions as a
means of keeping the new country united (Rai, 1986). Since the country was
separated into provinces according to the administrative convenience of the
British rulers, provinces were not homogeneous culturally or linguistically. The
Indian National Congress proposal to reorganize boundaries was popular among
the various linguistic groups. During the drafting of the Constitution, the
Linguistic Provinces Commission headed by S.K. Dar was set up to study the
viability of linguistic reorganization of India. In December 1948, the Dar
Commission recommended southern Indias borders to be redrawn and northern
India to remain the same with the warning that the formation of states along
linguistic considerations is not in the larger interests of the Indian nation. (A.
Kapur, 1985, p. 156).
The Punjab was declared to be bilingual with the province separated into
three different zones according to the formula put forth by the Punjab governor,
35


Bhimsen Sachar (A. Kapur, 1985). The western districts with a Sikh majority was
designated the Punjabi zone, the eastern districts with Hindu majority was the
Hindi zone while the central districts with both Sikh and Hindu evenly divided
was the bilingual zone. However, whether Sikh or Hindu, the majority of
Punjabis spoke Punjabi. In accordance with the Sachar Formula, the language of
the area was to be the medium of instruction in the public schools while the other
language was taught as a second language. The Hindus, however, did not want
Punjabi in Gurumukhi script to be taught in schools and were against the
Formula. As a result, the Formula was not given a chance to be implemented.
The Hindus rejected Punjabi as their mother tongue in the 1951 census when the
Hindus declared Hindi to be their main language when in fact Punjabi was used
more often. This antagonized the Sikhs moving them to bring up the issue of a
Punjabi-speaking state once again.
The Akali Dal ran on a platform of a Punjabi Suba or Punjabi-speaking
state during the first general election in 1952. The Congress party won the
majority of seats in Punjab which motivated the Akali Dal to agitate even fiirther
for a separate Punjabi-speaking state. The Akali Dal explained to the Indian
Governments States Reorganization Commission (SRC) in 1953 its reasons for
the creation of a Punjabi Suba. It argued that since Punjabi was the oldest of all
of the Aryan languages with its own Gurumukhi script as well as being the
language of a distinct community with its own culture and art, the region was
36


distinct enough to be separated into a separate state. The Akali Dal emphasized
that a Punjabi state would bring unity in the region and make educational
instruction and administration of the state easier. Furthermore, a homogeneously
compact region in the northwest would strengthen the defense of the border. The
Hindus, however, considered this argument as a way to hide the Akali Dals
desire for a Sikh majority state, and therefore, did not support the Akalis.
The SRC rejected the idea of a Punjabi-speaking state in their September
30, 1955 report because it lacked a general support of the people inhabiting the
area . will solve neither the language problem nor the communal problem and
considered the main contention to be the usage of Gurumukhi and Devnagri
scripts. (Misra, 1988, p.100). None of the groups affected by this report favored
the decision. The Akali Dal and Master Tara Singh in particular considered this
decision as a decree of Sikh annihilation (Misra, 1988, p.100).
After the SRCs report, the Indian Government decided to merge PEPSU
with the Punjab and make Himachal Pradesh a Union Territory where it was
administered directly by the national government. The Akali Dal supported this
decision overwhelmingly since it was considered to be a step toward a Punjab-
speaking state as a majority of the population of PEPSU was Sikh. As a result,
Punjab would have a 65% Hindu and 35% Sikh population (Misra, 1988, p. 101).
Two months later, Master Tara Singh leading a five-member Akali Dal
delegation met with Prime Minister Nehru to make their grievances known to the
37


Indian Government and to find a solution for the two language groups to co-exist
peacefully. The result was the Regional Formula that divided Punjab into a
Punjabi speaking area and a Hindi speaking area. The Regional Formula (see
Map B) took effect on November 4, 1957: the Punjabi zone was 54% Sikh and
the Hindi zone was 8% Sikh (Misra, 1988, p. 101). The state government would
have one governor, one chief minister, one council of ministers and one state
assembly. However, there would be two departments that would oversee the
development of Hindi and Punjabi and two regional committees made up of
assembly legislators. In addition, the Sachar Formula would continue to be
implemented in regards to educational instruction.
None of the Hindu groups were consulted as the Formula was being drawn
up, as a result, these groups considered the Indian Government to have caved into
the Akali Dal demands. Blocking the proper implementation of the basic
bilingual tenets of the Formula, the Hindu groups exploited anti-Punjabi feelings
to thwart the Regional Formula. The Akali Dal once again demanded a Punjab
Suba which they considered to be the only solution to the save Hindi movement
and the governments inefficient implementation of the Formula. The Akali Dal
members met at the Golden Temple on January 24, 1960 and took a pledge to
work toward gaining a Punjabi state (A. Kapur, 1985). As a result of Master
Tara Singhs argument that Sikhs were discriminated against, a three-member
commission chaired by S.R. Das, former Chief Justice of India was set up to
38


Map A
. POLITICAL DIVISIONS OF THE PUNJAB, 1956-1966
(Weiner, Myron, ed. State Politics in India. New Jersey:
Princeton University Press, 1968, p.43p
39


consider the grievances of the Sikhs on October 1, 1961. The Das commissions
Report concluded that there was no basis for discrimination against the Sikhs and
stated that the request for a Punjabi state was a demand for a Sikh state.
During this period of agitation, the Akali Dal was going through a
transformation within its membership (Rai, 1986). The rising prominence within
the party of Sant Fateh Singh, a Jat, gave rise to rural Jats involvement in the
Punjabi Suba movement of the Akali Dal. This new membership coupled with
the feeling that it was the Master Tara Singhs fault for not achieving a Punjabi
state resulted in the overthrow of his presidentship of the SGPC in 1962. A
resolution was passed at this time to create a separate Akali Dal with Sant Fateh
Singh as its leader. In general, the urban Sikhs comprised Master Tara Singhs
group while the rural Jats made up Sant Fateh Singhs group.
Sant Fateh Singh changed the entire complexion of the agitation for a
Punjabi state from that of an indirect demand for a Sikh majority state to one
based on language. He proposed a state with Punjabi as the official language
without regard to the Hindu or Sikh population percentage. Prime Minister
Nehru did not believe in the necessity of a Punjabi state but stated that since
Punjabi was the dominant language in the province, it should be promoted.
The Working Committee of Sant Fateh Singhs Akalis Dal group passed a
resolution on August 5, 1965 demanding the formation of a Punjabi state based
solely on language and emphasizing the Hindu-Sikh cooperation in this endeavor.
40


It was not until after the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965 that the Indian Government
formed a commission along with a Parliamentary Committee to find a solution to
the Akali Dals demand for a Punjabi state. Soon after Indira Gandhi became
Prime Minister, a new state was created out of the Punjabi-speaking region with
the passage of the Punjab Reorganization Bill on September 18, 1966. The new
Punjab state was divided along linguistic basis into the new states of Punjab and
Haryana with the hill districts merged into Himachal Pradesh on November 1,
1966 according to the 1961 census (Misra, 1988). The city of Chandigarh was
given Union Territory status and made the capital of both new states with the idea
that Chandigarh would transfer to Punjab in exchange for the villages of Fazilka
and Abohar to Haryana by January 1975. Ultimately, with the redrawing of
borders, the Punjab became 60% Sikh (Misra, 1988, p. 110) (see Map C).
However, the issues that were not resolved fueled the Sikh separatist
movement as the following chapter will show. The analytical framework
described in the previous chapter which will be used to examine the movement
will be enhanced by this chapters historical context of the Sikh religious history
and politics. In particular, the uniqueness of this ethnic conflict is put into
perspective when the conflicts basis of grievances is explained, the organization
and leaders in the community described and historical stance of the state to this
ethic group given. The post-Independence history as well as the Sikh
communitys culture and religion that this chapter attempted to describe provide
41


Map B
(gossman, Patricia. Human Rights in India; Pun.iab in Crisis
New York: Human Rights Watch, 1991^
42 '


the backdrop, and further, the underpinning of the movement and its progression
throughout the three decades beginning in the 1970s. The interaction between the
Indian Government and the movements leaders as well as rhetoric of the
movements leaders and their decisions at important junctions in the movement
will be better understood with the above historical overview.
43


CHAPTER 4
EXAMINATION OF THE SIKH SEPARATIST MOVEMENT
The Sikh communitys turn from a demand for greater autonomy for
Punjab to a demand for secession can be explained by the frameworks of Gurr
and Harff and Brass. Gurr and Harffs emphasis on the shape of the movement
considers the grievances of group, the way leaders utilize grievances to mobilize
the group, the political opportunities which leaders take advantage of, the tactics
of leaders, and finally, the goals of the movement and if and how they change.
Brass considers the motivations of the actors involved, including the movements
leaders and state leaders, and highlights the movements internal dynamics. Brass
also emphasizes the relations between different subgroup leaders, the identity
formation of the group based on goals and tactics of subgroup leaders in control,
response of state and how the responses affected the movement. All these factors
need to be considered to analyze the Sikh separatist movement accurately. This
chapter will apply these frameworks to the Sikh separatist movement.
The Sikh separatist movement in Punjab has gone through three distinct
stages of development. Though the violence reached its apex in the 1980s, the
mobilization of the Sikh community to gain greater autonomy for Punjab began in
the 1970s with the passage of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. The frustration
that Akali Dal members felt at not being able to form a Sikh government without
44


the support of other political parties in a majority Sikh state was blamed on the
Central Government. The repeated imposition of Presidents Rule and the
dictation of economic priorities by New Delhi were noted as examples of the
Indian Governments centralized governance. Thus, in an attempt to consolidate
Sikh support for the party as well as for the benefit of the state as a whole, the
Akali Dal passed the Resolution articulating its goals in 1972.
While agitational politics were used most often throughout the movement,
the Sikh groups ultimately relied on violent means to pursue their goals. In the
1980s as different Akali factions and Sikh groups took up the ASRs goals, the
competition among leaders and groups led to the escalation of demands. In
particular, it was not until militant Sikh leaders such as Bhindranwale became
involved in endorsing the ASR and pursuing its resolutions, however, that the
movement began calling for a separate Sikh homeland.
In addition, the Central Governments reaction to the movement at various
stages influenced the type of choices that the movements leaders made in
mobilizing the group. The type of responses made by the government can be
distinguished according to the different leaders who headed the administrations at
the Center. There were some state leaders who chose to open channels of
communication with the movements leaders while others chose to extend
Presidents rule and have minimal contact with the Sikh leaders and still others
chose to use violence to thwart violence. Ultimately, the movement became
45


caught up in the action-reaction tug-of-war between the Sikh and state leaders.
The period at the end of 1980s and the beginning of 1990s is noted for the
Indian Governments use of security troops to counter the terrorist violence in
Punjab. More recently, however, the state of Punjab has returned to utilizing
electoral politics as a means of resolving contentious issues important to both the
Sikh community as well as to Punjab as a whole. The Indian Government in
particular is relying on elections as a means of bringing back Sikhs and Punjabis
into the political process of Indian democracy.
Internal Dynamics: Grievances
Gurrs theoretical contention that groups are motivated to mobilize
because of specific grievances is given credence when analyzing the impetus for
the Sikh mobilization. Grewal (1990) points to the frustration that the Akalis felt
by the early 1970s. In particular, they believed that the Indian Governments
intrusion into the political arid economic matters of Punjab led to the overthrow
of Akali governments and impeded the prosperity of the state. Their frustration at
having been forced to form five coalition governments since 1967 and the
perceived economic burdens that Sikhs, in particular, and the Punjab state, in
general, were expected to carry on behalf of the whole country were used as
motivators to mobilize the community. Specifically, the loss of the 1972 elections
to the Congress party, headed by Gaini Zail Singh, was the turning point for the
46


party.
In the 1967 general elections, the Akali Dal formed a United Front
coalition government with all non-Congress parties including Jan Sangh, the
Hindu party and communist parties (A.Kapur, 1985). However, the Gumam
Singh (Sant Fateh Singh group) government was not a stable coalition and fell on
November 22, 1967. Lachhman Singh Gill (leader of Master Tara Singh group),
who was a minister in the Gumam Singh administration, formed a minority
government with the support of the Congress party and with the help of defectors
from the Gumam Singh camp. However, the Congress party withdrew its
support bringing down this government on August 23, 1968. The result was
direct rule of Punjab from the Center for over five months. At this time, Master
Tara Singhs Akali Dal group decided to merge with the Sant Fateh Singhs group
because the death of Master Tara Singh left them with no obvious successor, and
to prepare for the upcoming elections.
The mid-term elections in February 1969 brought back the coalition of
Akali Dal and Jan Sangh. But because of intra-party dissensions when the Sant
decided to withdraw his support of Gumam Singhs administration making the
state ungovernable in March 1990, D.C. Pavate, Governor of Punjab, appointed
Parkash Singh Badal to replace Gumam Singh. However, a lack of strong Akali
support and strained relations with Jan Sangh brought down this administration on
June 13, 1971. Once again, the Center took over the administration of Punjab
47


until the March 1972 elections when the Congress party came into power with
Giani Zail Singh as chief minister of Punjab.
While Punjab experienced scheduled and unscheduled changes in
governments from 1967 to 1972, with Presidents Rule imposed periodically, the
states economy was growing under the auspices of the Green Revolution
instituted by the Indian Government (Grewal, 1990). This program was
beneficial for the Akali Dal as over 90 percent of Sikhs in Punjab lived in the
countryside with 23 percent comprised of landowners who cultivated almost 65
percent of the farm land (Grewal, 1990, p. 211). In this period, Punjab was
considered to be economically prosperous with the lowest poverty level of any
state in India. However, the growth areas were concentrated in the agriculture
sector while industry remained stagnant. The Akalis point to the thermal project
that was begun without prior clearance from the Central Government and the
Thein Dam Project that was not given a clearance as examples of the Centers
disinterest in developing the industrial sector of the state. The Akali Dal was
acutely aware of this disparity because of the migration of urban Sikhs out of the
state. This rapid migration was linked to Punjab getting a relatively small share
of development funds from the Indian government. In addition, a lack of a
functional infrastructure and the absence of financial investment in the state
motivated the Akalis to make their position clear on the status of their relationship
with the Center (A. Kapur, 1985, p. 230-231). Grewal (1990) writes the Akalis
48


believed that the present system gave too much power to the Center. As a result,
the states development was being hindered. Further, that a large Akali
membership supported instituting a true federal system governing the state and
Central governments.
According to Telford (1992), the Akali moderates were put in a precarious
position within the Sikh community after the 1972 elections when the Congress
party came back to power in the state. On one hand, the moderates felt the
resources of the state of Punjab were being unduly taxed without adequate
compensation, on the other hand, they felt strapped without a stable political
power base to rectify these grievances. This frustration led directly to the
formulation of the ASR. The Resolution aimed to establish the Akali Dal as the
single Sikh party and maintain Sikh support for the partys platform. This tactic,
which had the backing of the whole party, had its main goal of consolidating the
community behind the party as a tool of gaining leverage within the community.
Utilization of Grievances for Group Mobilization: Anandpur Sahib Resolution
The Working Committee of the Akali Dal appointed a twelve member sub-
committee to formulate a program of policy for the party soon after the 1972
elections (A. Kapur, 1985). The policy report was passed unanimously at
Anandpur Sahib on October 17, 1973.
The Resolution consists of two principles and four goals with ten
49


programs. One of the main goals of the Akali Dal was, To preserve and keep
alive the concept of distinct and independent identity of the Panth and to create an
environment in which national sentiments and aspiration of the Sikh Panth will
find full expression, satisfaction and growth (A. Kapur, 1985, p. 193). But the
main policy of the Akali Dal is to seek the realization of this birth right of the
Khalsa through creation of congenial environment and a political set up (R.
Kapur, 1986, p. 219). The ASR, then, follows by stating the goals that will need
to be met to reach this main policy. One of those goals is to transfer the capital
city of Chandigarh, which is shared with Harayana, to Punjab along with specific
adjoining areas outside of Punjab that are heavily populated with Punjab speaking
Sikhs. In addition, it directs that the Central Government limit its attention only
to the defense, foreign affairs, posts and telegraph, currency and railways. All
other issues were to be left to the discretion of the new state of Punjab.
According to Leaf (1985), the Akalis thought that this same concept would be
applicable to the other states as well. The Resolution goes on to demand that the
Indian Constitution should become Federal in a real sense and provide that all
states are equally represented at the Centre (Leaf, 1985, p. 481). The rest of it
specifies ways to eliminate discrimination against Sikhs in civil service and in
Indian society. There were three different versions of the ASR in circulation until
Sant Harchand Singh Longowal published an official version in 1982.
The political and economic grievances of the Sikh community enabled the
50


Akali Dal to take up the nationalistic mantel in the form of the ASR. Telford
(1992) writes that the party was trying to establish itself as the sole Sikh
representative. He points to the explicit opening statement: Shirmonai Akali Dal
is the very embodiment of the hopes and aspirations of the Sikh Nation and as
such is fully entitled to its representation (Telford, 1992, p. 972). The religious,
political, and economic policies of the party included in the ASR, Telford (1992)
writes, are worded to spur the nationalistic sentiments of the Sikhs. Thus, the
significance of the Resolution has been interpreted different ways: that it was an
Akali Dal political manifesto; that it was a demand for greater state autonomy; or
even further, that it was a declaration for Khalistan, a separate Sikh state.
However, after taking such a decisive stand on the status of Sikh politics
and status of Indian Federalism, the party chose not to pursue the goals of the
ASR. Telford (1992) explains that the ASR was set aside as the Akalis agitated
for a Save Democracy morcha against the Emergency imposed by Prime
Minister Indira Gandhi. It was also not used after the 1977 elections which
resulted in the ouster of the Congress party by the Janata party and the placement
of Akali parliamentary members in the cabinet of Prime Minister Moraiji Desai at
the Center.
Continued Grievances
After Indira Gandhi came back to power in 1980 again, the Akalis continued
51


to grapple with the specific issues they had first addressed in the days of Punjab
Suba in the late 1960s. The issues of merging Chandigarh and other Punjabi-
speaking areas into Punjab, granting Sikhs special status or sharing river waters
with Harayana were still not brought to closure. Further, the Center did not want
to deal with the all-India Gurdwaras Act since other provincial administrations
would need to be brought into the negotiations.
In addition, Chima (1994) argues that soon after the Congress party took
over power at the Center in 1980, food zones were imposed where most of
Punjab was considered a zone and farmers could not transport their wheat outside
the area. Since the central government regulates interstate commerce, Food
Zones were seen as way for the Center to control Punjabi farmers. Farmers were
not allowed to sell their wheat to areas that needed food, but were forced to sell to
government agents at such low prices that the farmers were not even able to recover
their costs. Further, he writes, that the central government defended price indices
for industrial goods rising at double the rate for agricultural commodities as
necessary for the modernization of the country.
Thus, the Sikh community leaders point out the unabatement of the
economic burdens that they were facing since the 1970s. According to Chima
(1994), Sikhs felt discriminated because of a perceived exploitation of Punjabs
resources. The high cost of agricultural inputs in relation to support prices, the
lack of central governments investment in industry, the imbalance in sharing of
52


canal waters with Haryana and rising unemployment rates among young Sikhs
were considered to be the result of the Indian Governments interventions into the
states development.
Furthermore, the Akalis highlight Punjab receiving only 2.2 percent of the
total industrial funding by the Indian Government as the main factor in rising
unemployment and migration of Sikhs out of the state (Telford, 1992, p. 980). The
party had reason to bemoan the lack of industry in the state. The state,
encompassing 1.6 percent of Indias land and 2 percent of the population, produces
73 percent of the wheat but has to import the majority of its processed food
products. Punjab produces 17 percent of Indias cotton but only has .6 percent of
the looms in the state because of a lack of central government approval to build
more. The state produces 3.63 percent of the sugar cane, but only 1.3 percent of
the processed sugar. Punjab owns 23.9 percent of Indias tractors but has only one
tractor factory in the state (Telford, 1992, p. 980). In addition, the Akali Dal
wanted the state to have control over the Bhakra canal headworks, as the state built
it with state funds but it was now controlled by the central government. The over
emphasis on the agricultural sector and inadequate attention given to the industrial
sector created a situation where there was a large influx of non-Sikh farm laborers
into the state while educated unemployed Sikhs were migrating out of the state for
employment (Chima, 1994). These grievances were similar to the ones highlighted
in the 1970s, and once again, the Indian Government was considered to be the
53


cause of these problems.
The 1984 attack of the Golden Temple by the Indian Government bolstered
the perception of the Sikhs in Punjab that the Center was targeting the community
deliberately. This sense of alienation became entrenched after the anti-Sikh riots
that followed the assassination of Prime Minister Gandhi in October 1984. From
this point onwards, Punjab was in a state of siege even when there were Akali
administrations heading the state government (Grewal, 1990 p. 229).
When Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhis son, and the Congress party (I) came
to power at the end of 1984 (R. Kapur, 1986), he made some concessions to the
Akalis to open a channel of communication by signing the Rajiv-Longowal Accord,
but it came too late. Even with the Akli Dal coming back to power at the end of
1985 after the death of Sant Longowal, Chief Minister Suijit Singh Bamala could
not stop the reorganization of the terrorist Sikh groups using the Golden Temple as
their base of operation once again. Presidents rule was again imposed in Punjab
on May 11, 1987 and was extended every six months for the next five years by
successive administrations at the Center. These include administrations of V.P.
Singh of the National Front, Chandra Shekhar of the Janata party and Narasima
Rao of the Congress party (Arora, 1990). 'thus, direct rule by the Center was the
normal course of Punjab state administration until Beant Singh was elected as chief
minister in 1992 with a 20% voter turnout.
Beginning of the 1970s, the Sikhs embarked on a movement to rectify their
54


perceived political and economic grievances. In the intervening years until the
1980s when the movement reached its apex of violence, the movement gained
momentum in large part because of their frustration at the grievances being
unresolved. Even when there were compromises reached, the Akalis were not fully
satisfied. The spiraling violence which Punjab was caught up in was a result of the
Sikh movement turning to violent means of achieving their goals, and in large part
due to the interaction of the movements leaders. In their quest to lead the group
by competing with one another, the movement escalated from a goal of greater
autonomy to secession.
Competition Between Subgroup Leaders
In addition, Brass contention that subgroup leaders influence the
dynamics of the community as well as the relations with the state are also
represented in this conflict. In their quest to mobilize the community based on
their different goals, the different Sikh subgroup leaders raised the stakes. As the
movement progressed, the conflicts between different groups of Akalis and non-
Akali Sikh leaders assisted in exacerbating the situation to the point where
Khalistan became a viable goal for the Sikhs to agitate for.
The movement for Punjab autonomy did began with the ASR, but the
Resolution rose out of a need for the Akalis to appease the nationalistic leaders
within the community to make Akali politics more Sikh oriented after the
55


frustrating loss of the 1972 elections to the Congress party. The Akali Dal used
this election loss as an opportunity to shore up its negative image with the Sikhs,
gamer support for politics that were more Sikh based and promote itself as the
only party of the Sikhs through the explicit statement of the partys religious,
political and economic policies as presented in the ASR.
It was only after Indira Gandhi led the Congress (I) party back to power in
the 1980 elections, however, that the movement started gaining momentum when
the Akali Dal split into two groups as a result of infighting within the party.
Brass (1991) writes that after Sant Fateh Singhs death in 1972, no single leader
was able to lead a consolidated Akali Dal. The party was characterized by a
tension among the leaders of the SGPC, the ministerial wing and the
organizational wing of the party:
[Gurcharan Singh] Tohra, as SGPC chief, sought the support
of the other groups to retain both the presidentship of the
SGPC and a seat in the Rajya Sabha. Jagdev Singh Talwandi,
as president of the Akali Dal, sought the support of Tohra in
his struggles with Prakash Singh Badal, who controlled the
ministerial wing of the party. In 1980, the Badal group
successfully supported Sant Harchand Singh Longowal for
president of the Akali Dal. The two then formed an alliance
with Tohra to isolate Talwandi, who left the Akali Dal (Sant)
to form a rival Akali Dal (Brass, 1991, p. 180).
Rajiv Kapur (1986) writes that the shifting goals of the rival Akali groups
confused even their supporters. Longowal emphasized in February 1981 to the
Working Committee of the Akali Dals endorsement of the ASR, and thus,
56


meeting the goals of the Resolution being the long-term objective of the party. In
response, the Talwandi group argued that since the ASR states that the Sikhs are a
nation, a separate Sikh state should exist. The SGPC, for its part, supported its
commitment to the ASR and passed a resolution endorsing Sikhs as a nation.
However, soon after voicing their views of Sikhs being a nation, both groups
distanced themselves from their statements. Longowal explained that Sikhs as a
nation was meant only in a religious sense while Talwandi group argued for a
desh Punjab (Punjab country) within India.
Andrew Major (1987) writes that the subordinate Akali factions, including
the Talwandi group, were more open to radical politics that advocated secession
from India and having clear religious and cultural demarcation between Sikhs and
Hindus. On the other hand, he argues that the dominant Longowal party should
be considered the moderate faction with a disclaimer. He writes that as a result
of the group not yet having approved the Indian Constitution, Akali leaders have
always been poised for protest against the Indian Government since the 1950s.
Major gives support to Brass argument that group leaders use the symbolic
resources of the group to mobilize when he writes that the Sikh leaders were
adept at using the symbolic resources of the community when their audience was
the Sikh community: In particular that the Sikh beliefs that the Khalsa should
always fight injustice, that the bravery of Sikhs will lead to the fulfillment of their
destiny of ruling Punjab once again, and further, that the Indian Government now
57


replaced the Mughal rulers as the main source of its grievances. Major notes that
this symbolic rhetoric was toned down when its audience was outside the Sikh
community. The leadership, both Akali and non-Akali, were conscious of the
audience and acted accordingly. However, he argues that the Akali leaders have
always advocated non-violent protest, negotiations and peaceful Hindu-Sikh
relations. Longowal explained his view on peaceful means of protest in an 1984
interview with Major:
In a democracy, peaceful means are the best means of
solving problems. The constitution of the India recognizes
this, and gives everyone a chance to air his grievances. This
means that violence, if it ever is used, should only be used as
a last resort (1987, p. 47).
However, the entrance of Sant Jamail Singh Bhindranwale into the politics
of the Sikh movement for greater autonomy changed the means of achieving the
goal, and in fact, the goal itself.
Scholars studying the Punjab conflict contend that Bhindranwale had a large
influence on the Akalis pursuing the ASR demands. According to Telford (1992),
Bhindranwale came to the forefront of Punjab politics through his arrest for the
murders of Guru Baba Gurbachan Singh, the head of the Nirankari Sikh sect, and
newspaper editor Lala Jagat Narain, who was critical of Sikh extremism. The
rhetoric of Sikh politics changed and the perception by the outside community of
the Sikhs in Punjab changed as a result of the influence of Bhindranwale on the
movement. The militant stance of some subgroups overshadowed the moderate
58


subgroups, especially since the moderate leaders were not condemning the violence
that the militants advocated.
Bhindranwale was a village preacher, the head of the Damdami Taksal, a
Sikh seminary, who promoted Sikh orthodoxy and preached to his followers to be
baptized, abstain from drinking alcohol and become true Sikhs by following all the
tenants of Sikhism (A. Kapur, 1985). Anup Kapur (1985) and other scholars write
that when the Akali-Janata Party formed the Punjab government in 1977, the ousted
Congress Chief Minister Giani Zail Singh brought Bhrindranwale into SGPC
politics as a way to dismantle the Akali stronghold. '
Bhindranwale did not consider the Akalis to be complete Sikhs and spoke
against them. Indeed, Telford (1992) writes that the Akalis agitated from 1975 to
1977 for Save Democracy morchas against the Emergency which allowed the
party to become part of the national anti-Congress movement and brought Akali
leaders into close contact with other non-Congress leaders. As a result, there was
a certain amount of secularization of Akali politics even while the party held onto
its Sikh support base. During the 1980 elections, Bhindranwale worked on
behalf of the Congress Party and supported its candidates. However, Anup
Kapur (1985) writes that Bhindranwale was not considered to be an important
figure among all the groups that were established during this period until his
public blessing of the murder of Lala Jagat Narain in 1981, a year after the
assassination of the Narankari Guru.
59


The Golden Temple priests declared the Nirankaris enemies of the Sikh
Panth in 1973 because they considered the Nirankari beliefs to be heretical,
especially their worship of a living guru (Telford, 1992). The Sikh sect was
holding a congregation in Amristar on the Sikh holy day of Baisahi on April 13,
1978 at the same that Bhindranwale was preaching at the Golden Temple. Moved
by Bhindranwales sermons against the sect, writes Telford, some of his
followers tried to stop the Nirankari meeting. In the clash that followed, sixteen
people died with more deaths among Bhindranwales followers than among the
Nirankaris. Guru Baba Singh was arrested for these killings but was acquitted
along with sixty-one of his followers for reasons of self-defense. In April 1980,
Guru Baba Singh and a few other Nirankaris were assassinated. In September
1981, Anup Kapur (1985) writes Lala Narain was killed because of his testimony
on behalf of Guru Baba Singh about the clash in Amristar. For his alleged
involvement in both murders Bhindranwale was arrested, but was released two
months later because of lack of evidence.
On September 21, 1981, Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, president of the
Akali Dal, submitted a list of forty-five grievances of the ASR which later were
summarized into fifteen demands to the Indian Government (Grewal, 1990).
Grewal (1990) explains that Longowal was following the decision of the World
Sikh Convention in July 1981 to pursue the ASR and plan a dharm vudh morcha
(righteous war) until the demands were met. Paul Brass (1991) argues that the
60


Akalis were using agitational politics to gamer support for the party since non-
Akali Sikh militants, particularly Sant Jamail Singh Bhindranwale, were talcing
away its support base. When Bhindranwale began to gamer a following, the
Akali leaders took a stronger stance against the Indian Government as a means of
shoring up their support base within the community. The tactics of the Akalis
became more intractable and they needed to act quickly as Bhindranwales
rhetoric became more pronounced. Thus, spurred by a need to show a stronger
position within the community, the Akalis took a decisive turn toward more
confrontational tactics. Thus, the ASR was no longer a guiding list for the Akali
party, but a list of demands which the Indian Government needed to meet.
Telford (1992) writes that Bhindranwale was secure in his new position as
a political leader through the mass support of the All-India Sikh Students
Federation (AISSF). With the AISSF student president Amrik Singhs support,
Bhindranwale had the attention of the Akali Dal since a significant support of the
party was made up of this student base. Telford explains that the AISSF has
always been considered to be on the radical end of the Akali party, therefore, it
was receptive to Bhindranwales call to protect the religious and political identity
of the Sikh community. Bhindranwale, Telford argues further, consolidated his
position as an influential figure in Sikh politics by attacking the Akali Dal for the
partys passivity in leaving the Sikh community open to assimilation and the
Indian Government by declaring that the Hindu imperialist rulers of New Delhi
61


who were letting the atrocities against the Sikhs increase daily and Hindus who
were trying to enslave us . (Telford, 1992, p. 975).
Brass (1991) argues that the Akali leaders were unable to speak against
Bhindranwale as his defense of the Panth against the Indian Government put him
in a prominent position within the community. In addition, Bhindranwale was
reinforced in his position since a few of the other Sikh groups began to follow
Bhindranwales lead. In particular, the SGPC President Tohra and the Talwandi
group both moved closer to Bhindranwale as a means of shoring up their support
within the community. The smaller subgroups and the radical subgroups
identified themselves as Bhindranwales allies as a means of sharing his support
and following his ascension within the community. It was also a means of
showing their dislike for the Akali Party.
Telford (1992) explains that the Akali Dal was regaining its Sikh
credentials after taking part in the secular politics as a coalition partner of the
Janata party (Telford, 1992, p. 984). Thus, the Akali leaders were compelled to
support this popular Sikh religious leader or otherwise lose their standing within
the Sikh community. This was the reason, Telford writes, that the Akali Dal put
Bhindranwales release from prison for the murder of the Nirankari guru at the
top of their revised fifteen demands of the ASR (see Appendix B). In addition,
the party invited him to join their cause and accepted him into their camp after his
release from prison for his alleged involvement in the murder of the Nirankari
62


guru and Lala Narain. In a tactical move, Akali leaders made a decision that was
politically safe and decided they could not afford to ignore Bhindranwale because
of his vast support base within the community.
The various groups that were part of the larger movement to gain
autonomy for Punjab, whether moderate or militant, relied on each other for
support and manpower as a means of achieving a goal. After the goal was
completed, the groups separated. The subgroup leaders were pragmatic in
fulfilling their goals since differences were set aside when coalitions were needed
to be formed.
In June 1982, the Talwandi and Longowal groups decided to merge and
begin a new campaign of protest in Amritsar where the Golden Temple is located,
since the Indian Government had not conceded to their demand of declaring it a
holy city. Although a ban on protests was imposed in the city, 4,000 Akali
volunteers were blessed at the Golden Temple to pursue the agitation (R. Kapur,
1986, p. 224). At the same time that the Akali Dal morcha was going on,
Bhindranwale called for a demonstration at the Golden Temple for the release of
Amrik Singh from prison for his alleged involvement in a murder. Grewal (1990)
writes that since there was not much of a response, Bhindranwale turned to the
Akalis for support. He complied with their request of joining their Dharm Yudh
and moving into the Golden Temple complex.
Amidst the multitude of subgroups that propelled the movement, however,
63


a single perspective was never developed that encompassed the whole
communitys views throughout the whole of the movement. In fact, any view
advocated or action taken by the community had to take into consideration the
particular subgroup advocating the perspective. From its inception, the identity
of the movement was shaped by a subgroup that dominated the movement, which
in turn, shaped the identity of the community. Further, this identity would
change as different subgroups took over the leadership of the movement.
However, Brass (1991) contends that because of the moderate leaders active
efforts to show unity among all of the various groups, the public did not perceive
any differences between the moderate Longowal Akalis and the militant
Bhindranwale supporters. In this period, the identity of the Sikh community was
perceived to be militant as a result of the choices that leaders made.
Expansion in Movement Goals
When the government made what the Akali Dal labeled as inadequate
concessions to the demands in early 1983, the Akalis protested by obstructing
traffic, stopping trains from running and stopping from going to work. There
were increased clashes between Sikhs and security forces. Brass (1991) argues
that the governments response decreased the credibility of the Akali Dal while
increasing that of Bhindranwales. Throughout the movements progression, a
shifting of leadership status within the community was present, especially because
64


the way the movements leadership was treated by the government had a major
influence on the balance of leadership. Most likely because the Akalis credibility
was low, Longowal at this point reiterated that he and Bhindranwale were the
same in their philosophies.
Nevertheless, the Akali Dal was willing to continue negotiations with the
government in early 1984 even though Bhindranwale would not accept anything
less than the complete acceptance of the ASR. The Akalis chose to call for a new
morcha to force the Indira Gandhi government to accede to more of the demands
in the ASR. The demand was accompanied by stepped up terrorist violence in the
state. As a result, the Indian Government stormed the Golden Temple and
arrested most of the leadership of the Sikh community. Anup Kapur (1985)
writes that there were eight different extremist Sikh organizations who used the
complex as their base of operations including Bhindranwales organization.
Rajiv Kapur (1986) argues that after the Akali leaders were released from
prison by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in march 1985, they wanted to recoup
their loss of credibility for surrendering to the government troops during the
assault on the Golden Temple. There was also an intense competition amongst
them for leadership status within the movement. Depending on the particular
leader, verbal attacks were aimed at other leaders or against the government.
Furthermore, the idea of Khalistan, taken up by moderates and militants, was
legitimized within the community. Thus, the movement had escalated to the point
65


where Punjab autonomy was no longer sufficient and the idea of a separate Sikh
nation became a viable goal.
Soon after his release, Sant Longowal toured Punjab attacking the Indian
Governments anti-Sikh policies and blaming the violent situation in Punjab
entirely on the government. He once again embraced Sikh militants and wanted
the government to apologize to the Sikhs in order to atone for the storming of the
Golden Temple. Rajiv Kapur (1986, p. 239) writes that Longowal became more
amenable to the idea of Khalistan according to an interview he did during this
time . .we dont want to separate ourselves from the country . But if the
government were to force us, then we would think and say, lets settle the
price. Rajiv Kapur also argues that Talwandi wanted to fill the role of
Bhindranwale because he took over the responsibility of demanding for the
enactment of the ASR and autonomy for Punjab. He also began to attack
Longowal for his cowardice in surrendering to the government. In addition, the
SGPC President Tohra argued that the Akal Takht, which the government troops
built after the assault, must be demolished and rebuilt by volunteers from the Sikh
community according to Sikh tradition.
Rajiv Kapur (1986) explains that, as the two Akali leaders were vying to
position themselves as the Sikh communitys main leader, Bhindranwales father,
Baba Joginder Singh, was catapulted to the head of the AISSF to lead the radical
Sikhs. He argued that since both Talwandi and Longowal had requested that he
66


intervene on behalf of the Sikh community after Bhindranwales death, all of the
Akalis should be united behind him. Accordingly, he dissolved the two Akali
groups and formed the United Akali Dal which was to be headed by nine co-
chairs. He nominated Longowal, Talwandi, Tohra and former Akali chief
minister of Punjab Prakash Singh Badal to serve as co-chairs along with other
radical Sikh leaders. Rajiv Kapur (1986) argues that Joginder Singh wanted to
follow in the footsteps of his son to lead the Sikh community. He goes onto
explain that Talwandi readily agreed with Jogninder Singhs plan while the rest of
the Akalis declined to join the United Akali Dal.
Once again, the various groups competed with each other to consolidate
support within the community and used protest tactics as they saw fit. The June
1985 anniversary of the assault on the Golden Temple was used as a political
opportunity by all the groups: Longowal called for protests; the United Akali Dal
observed ten days of mourning for the Sikhs killed; and the SGPC sued the Indian
Government for Rs 10,000 for damages to the Golden Temple. Though there
were a few incidences of terrorism in Punjab from March and April 1985, there
was an increase in terrorist violence outside of the state. There were bombings in
cities outside of Punjab, assassinations of public officials and a bomb explosion
on an Air India airplane that killed 329 passengers (R. Kapur, 1986, p. 241).
The competition between different subgroup leaders to shape the
movement and its goals that occurred throughout the 1980s and the choices that
67


different leaders made based on political opportunities open to them influenced
the movements turn from the goal of autonomy to one of secession. In addition,
the effects of the governments reactions to the choices that the leaders made
exacerbated political tension within the movement and in Punjabi.
The Effects of State Strategies on the Movement
State Violence
Brass (1991) contention that the governments stance in dealing with
mobilization influences the end result applies to the Sikh mobilization. The
governments response to the movements actions affected the dynamic of the
mobilization, and further as Brass argues, was influenced by the specific leaders
who controlled the states actions. Throughout the movement, various
administrations at the Center cooperated with various leaders of the movement,
others chose to administer the state directly and have minimal contact with the
groups leaders, and still others used violence to suppress violence. There were
some state leaders who chose all three options at various times during their
administration. But whatever response was chosen in the end, it influenced the
decisions that Sikh leaders made in shaping the movement.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhis government began negotiations with the
Akali Dal for over a period of a year and a half starting in October 1981 (R.
Kapur, 1986). This was in response to Longowals fifteen demands to the Indian
68


Government on September 21, 1981. The Indian Government was willing to
open channels of communication with the Akalis, but was not willing to concede
to their demands fully. Rajiv Kapur (1986) writes that each side was accusing the
other of using delaying tactics to prevent negotiations from progressing. As a
result of the governments strategy of prolonging negotiations, the Akali Dal, in
order to put pressure on the Indian Government, began successive agitations
demanding various changes at the same time that the ASR talks were going on.
In April 1982, the party first organized a Nahar Roko (block the canal)
agitation near the newly inaugerated Sutlej-Beas Canal because it considered the
canal to be diverting water to Haryana, depriving the Punjab farmers of their fair
share of water. A 1,000 Akali volunteer Jatha was organized to court arrest at
the site (R. Kapur, 1986, p. 223). This agitation continued later in the year when
the Talwandi and Longwal groups joined in protesting the rejection by the Indian
Government of designating the Golden Temple as a holy site-
Rajiv Kapur (1986) argues that because of the governments on going
arrests of Akalis, the Sikh public sympathized with the Akalis cause while the
Indian Government was perceived as having no regard for the Sikh religion. The
Center, it was considered, did not act quickly enough to deal with the demands.
Although the Center had begun negotiating with the Akalis, it was not seriously
considering the partys demands, and furthermore, gave the impression of giving
only token acknowledgment.
69


In response to the agitations by the Akalis, the Indian Government finally
released 25,000 Akali prisoners and attempted to appease the Sikhs by meeting
some of their demands finally in October 1982 (R. Kapur, 1986). However, the
Indira Gandhi government decided that the issues of Chandigarh, Sikh special
status, dispute over sharing river waters with Harayana, and the all-India
Gurdwaras Act would not be taken up at this time. The government did agree,
however, to allow sermons to be broadcast from the Golden Temple and to allow
Sikh, passengers to carry kirpans on domestic flights. In addition, the sale of
tobacco, alcohol and meat were prohibited within a demarcated area around the
Golden Temple. Further, the issue of center-state relations was to be studied by a
government commission. Nevertheless, these governmental concessions were not
enough to stop the protests of the Akalis. The party launched protests including
Rasta Roko (obstruct road traffic), Rail Roko (stop trains) and Kam Roko
(stop work) from April to August 1983 .
During this new period of Akali protests, the number of violent incidents
increased (R. Kapur, 1986). There were bombings of train stations and Hindu-
owned businesses, attacks on policemen and government officials and random
killings of Hindus. On December 16, 1983, the Indian Government called for the
arrest of Bhindranwale because it believed that terrorist activities were being
directed by him from the fortified Golden Temple complex. Since the Center
perceived the Darbara Singh government unable to deal adequately with the
70


violence, Presidents rule was imposed on October 6, 1983. The Indian
Government chose to rely on direct rule from New Delhi to deal with the violence
that went unabated.
Negotiations with the central government started again in February 1984
as the Akali Dals continued its Dharm Yudh tactics, which included burning the
Constitution stating that Sikhs were equivalent to Hindus (Grewal, 1990). A
month later, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi appointed the Sarkaria Commission to
look into the status of center-state relations and announced that the government
would consider amending Article 25 (2) (b) which the Sikhs found offensive.
However, even with these new settlements, the Akali Dal called for a new
morcha. Sikhs were asked not to ship wheat and stop land revenue payments and
water rates beginning on June 3, 1984. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, in turn,
stated that the Akali Dal should rely on further negotiations. Although the Akalis
were willing to continue talks with the government, Grewal (1990) writes that
Bhindranwale adamantly wanted the government to concede all of the ASR
demands. Meanwhile the Indian Government chose to act with force to combat
the terrorist acts that continued even as negotiations were taking place.
The Center launched an assault on the Golden Temple on June 3, 1984,
stating the action was a last resort against to the terrorism in the state. Punjab
was sealed off from the rest of the country by the Indian army and troops
surrounded the Golden Temple complex. Over a period of days, the Indian
71


troops tried to take over the Golden Temple complex and forty-two other
gurdwaras (A. Kapur, 1985, p.249). The troops found that the Akal Takht,
where Bhindranwale stayed, and the entire complex were fortified with machine
guns on roof tops, sand-bagged windows and look-out posts on top of towers.
Enough food grains were stored for many months and a communication system
was also set up. The assault resulted in 493 Sikh deaths, including
Bhindranwales, and 1,592 militants were captured while 83 army soldiers were
killed (A.Kapur, 1985, p.251). The Indian army moved out of the Golden
Temple but stayed in Punjab to keep control over the violence. Although the
governments actions did much to alleviate the violence in Punjab, the
relationship between the Sikhs of India with the Indian Government and the status
of Sikhs within Indian society were transformed.
Grewal (1990) writes that Prime Minister Gandhis quick rebuilding of the
Akal Takht did not appease the Sikh communitys feeling of victimization because
it was rebuilt without the complete cooperation of the SGPC and Akali Dal. The
two groups wanted troops to vacate the Golden Temple and leave the rebuilding
entirely to the Sikhs. This was not acceptable to the government.
Rajiv Kapur (1986) writes that the governments actions in the aftermath
of the Operation Blue Star assault on the Golden Temple helped to maintain the
Sikh communitys group solidarity. The government moved quickly to court
martial Sikh deserters from the Indian army. The government gave an impression
72


of bias, creating special judicial procedures to study suspected Sikh extremists
cases but refusing to investigate the anti-Sikh riots claiming that an inquiry would
create further communal tensions. Meanwhile the Akali Dal leaders who were
not in prison called for the release of their leaders. The Akalis presented an
ultimatum to the government to punish those responsible for the riots or otherwise
they would begin mobilizing. Rajiv Kapur (1986) explains that since there was
no concrete preparation for following through on these threats, the government
did not make any concessions. The non-cooperation by the government assisted
in creating a sense of isolation and entrenchment within the movement.
Assassination of Indira Gandhi
Rajiv Kapur (1986) explains that the repressive control of Punjab
increased the resentment of the Sikhs against the Indian Government. He argues
that this resentment caused many Sikhs in Punjab to consider the assassination of
Prime Minister Gandhi, as an inevitable result of her governments attack on the
most sacred site of the Sikh religion. Two of her Sikh bodyguards, Beant Singh
and Satwant Singh, shot her at point blank range using their pistols and rifles on
October 31, 1984 as she was walking from her living quarters to the office next
door with servants and staff (A. Kapur, 1985, p. 256). Grewal (1990) adds that
there were celebrations across Punjab villages and in New Delhi upon the news of
her death. Quickly, however, anti-Sikh riots followed her assassination all over
73


India which Grewal (1990) describes as being on the same scale of Hindu-Muslim
violence during the period of Indias partition. Sikhs, particularly in New Delhi,
were sought out and killed resulting in over 2,000 deaths (A. Kapur, 1986, P.
258). Anup Kapur (1985) writes that the police and local Congress Party leaders
were seen taking part in the riots in order to fuel the violence as a means to
gamer votes for the coming elections. Grewal (1990, p. 229) argues that these
riots rendered Sikhs to become psychologically alienated in Indian society.
The Impact of Rajiv Gandhis Government Policies
The unrest in Punjab was the main issue of Rajiv Gandhis campaign
during the 1984 parliamentary elections (R. Kapur, 1986). Gandhi attacked the
ASR as secessionist and declared that the government would only negotiate with
the Akali Dal if the party cut off its ties with Sikh extremists. The government
considered finding a solution to the Punjab situation as its main priority, but the
Akali leaders refused to meet with the government until their imprisoned leaders
were released. Once Gandhis government realized that it needed the cooperation
of the Akali Dal, it released the Akali leaders who surrendered to the army at the
Golden Temple on March 1985 (R. Kapur, 1986). In addition, economic aid
along with other concessions that were designed to open discussions with the
Akali Dal were announced. Among those concessions, the government opened an
official inquiry into the anti-Sikh riots. The Rajiv Gandhi government was
74


willing to deal with the movements leaders when this suited the states interests
changing tactics as the situation warranted.
Rajiv Kapur (1986) writes that although Longowal continued his attacks
on the Central Government after his release from prison, he spoke about the
importance of maintaining good Hindu-Sikh relations especially as tensions
increased amidst the continued terrorist violence. Rajiv Kapur (1986) writes that
Longowal understood that if Sikh politics became even more radical, there would
be major repercussions for the Sikh communitys future in India. He understood
the importance of maintaining stable relations with the Hindu community and
knew that he needed to make the necessary overtures. Thus, Longowal
maintained that the Sikhs had grievances with the Indian Government and not
with the Hindu community. He condemned the terrorist activities of the Sikh
militants and explained that the Akalis were not pursuing a separate Sikh state of
Khalistan.
The Indian Government took advantage of the opening created by
Longowal. It quickly reacted to the Akalis moderate tone and wanted
negotiations to begin again, writes Rajiv Kapur (1986). During the initial secret
discussions, Longowal set some preconditions that the government had to meet
before he was willing to begin negotiations. They included an end to the special
judicial procedures that were in progress, the release and rehabilitation of Sikh
prisoners and army deserters, the repeal of anti-terrorist legislation such as the
75


National Security Act, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Preventions Act,
and Armed Forces special Powers Act which empowered the security forces in
the state (R. Kapur, 1986, p. 239). He met with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in
the summer months, and soon after, the Rajiv-Longowal Accord (see Appendix
C) was signed on July 23, 1985. The Central government, among other
concessions, agreed to transfer Chandigarh to Punjab, to provide financial
compensation to families of innocent people killed in the riots of 1982, to refer
the ASR to the Sarkaria Commission on Centre-State Relations, to refer river
water dispute with Haryana to an independent commission and to reduce the
special powers given to the Indian security forces and police in Punjab (Wallace,
1986). There seemed to be an end to the impasse with the signing of the Accord.
Unfortunately, this did not turn out to be the case because of Longowals
assassination on August 20, 1985 as revenge for giving in to the government.
Grewal (1990) writes that because the Mathew Commissions
recommendation of exchanging Chandigarh for the Hindi-speaking areas in the
Abohar-Fazilka region was not acceptable to Punjabs Chief Minister Bamala
This put a hold on the January 26, 1986 transfer of Chandigarh. Meanwhile,
violence was once again on the rise in the state. By the end of 1986, more than
500 people were killed by militants as well as the security forces who were using
their special powers indiscriminately (Grewal, 1990, p. 231). At this time, Chief
Minister Bamala was complaining that the Center was hindering the
76


implementation of the Accord, while the Center was complaining that the rise in
terrorism activities, which the chief minister could not control, was creating
problems for the prime minister (Grewal, 1990).
The Center reimposed Presidents rule on May 11, 1987. The Akalis,
writes Arora (1990), saw this as yet another example of the Congress partys
reliance on political expediency rather than giving the Bamala administration a
chance to deal effectively with the situation. The Indian Government, on the
other hand, defended itself by arguing that the Akali Dal was not capable of
dealing with the extremist movement and that a total breakdown of law and order
in the state justified direct rule from New Delhi; both sides became entrenched in
their view of the situation and did not seem willing to find a middle ground.
Nevertheless, even with direct central rule, during the summer months of
1988, the Golden Temple became the stronghold of terrorist groups who directed
kidnappings, torture and killings of both Sikhs and Hindus (Arora, 1990). In
response, Operation Black Thunder similar to previous central government
action, but this time observed by journalists was implemented to root out the
terrorists. Unlike Operation Blue Star four years earlier, this operation had no
causalities. This attack on the Golden Temple was not perceived by the Sikh
community as an attack on their religion, since they supported the governments
actions. The militants had alienated themselves from Punjabi Sikhs by their
constant harassment and extortion of the peasants (Arora, 1990). Rajiv Gandhis
77


government was unable to resolved the conflict.
A Succession of Governments and the Punjab
When the V. P. Singhs National Front government came to power in
New Delhi with the defeat of the Congress (I) party in 1989, the Center was still
afraid that the militants and the separatist movement might gamer support if
elections were held in Punjab (Gurharpal Singh 1992). This fear was well
founded, since thirteen of the Lok Sabha (Parliaments lower house) seats in 1989
were won by the militant Akali Dal (Mann) which was vocal in its demand for a
Sikh homeland. As a result, the V. P. Singh administration decided to disregard
the results and extend Presidents Rule for two more terms.
When the National Front government at the Center collapsed soon after, it
was replaced by the Janata party led by Chandra Shekhar. Prime Minister
Chandra Shekhar attempted to deal with the Punjab quagmire by negotiating with
the radical breakaway Akali leaders after the army contained the violence (Singh
1992). When the Akali Dal would not cooperate, Chandra Shekhar went to the
militant groups who were willing to utilize the parliamentary process to gain their
goal of self-determination. Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar announced that
general elections would be held in Punjab in 1991 only if the results of the
elections would not be considered as a vote for Khalistan.
The elections were originally scheduled for June 22, 1991, but as the
78


campaign season progressed, violence escalated. As the election date neared, 24
candidates were killed (Singh 1992, p. 990). Over the objections of the state
government, the center postponed the elections.in Punjab until September 25
while the rest of the country went ahead with polling in June. The Congress (I)
once again formed a government at the Center with Narashima Rao as Prime
Minister. Meanwhile Sikh leaders, from moderates to militants, in response to
the postponement, decided to boycott the elections. They declared that the
Central Government was not interested in seeing elections that were free and fair
in Punjab. The Center reacted by extending the Presidents Rule over Punjab
until February 15, 1992, most likely for political considerations (Singh 1992).
The Congress (I) party did not want to jeopardize its leadership position in an
unstable coalition of Left and Right parties. In preparation for polling in
February, however, the government sent the Indian army to Punjab to contain the
violence and assist with the elections. Except for a small moderate Akali Dal
group, all Sikh groups reiterated their decision to boycott these elections. As they
were preparing to march in their support of the boycott, the government arrested
all of the major leaders and violence resumed once again although not at the level
that it was in June. In some cases the security forces forced villagers to
participate in polling to counter the boycott. Even with these types of state
strategies, the voter turnout was only a little over 20 percent (Singh 1992, p.
992). The Congress party (I) did not have too much competition and won the
79


majority of the state assembly and parliamentary seats. Singh (1992) writes that
the 1992 elections were significant because they showed that Punjab was at the
beginning of a total breakdown, and that a parliamentary solution would not be
enough to deal with the' violent situation as the Center hoped. The solidarity of
the various Sikh groups in boycotting the elections was a clear indication of the
futility of electoral politics at this point. The governments determination to go
ahead with the elections showed that it did not understand the political inclination
of a large majority of Punjabis. In fact, the boycott was a clear signal to the
government that elections were not the answer to solve the violence in Punjab.
A few weeks after the elections, the Akali DaLand extremists leaders
joined together to unseat the puppet administration (Singh 1992). This
declaration was accompanied by increased violence. In response, the Indian
Government made it known that the army would stay in Punjab as long as
violence continued. At this point the Rajiv-Longowal Accord was a non-issue, as
the moderates became compelled to join the extremist groups in calling for the
formation of an independent Sikh state. The postponement of the June 1991
elections, which the moderate Akalis were prepared to participate in, took away
their leverage because elections sustained moderates in Sikh politics. There was
still a clear distinction between moderates and extremists even though moderate
leaders chose to align with militants over the years. This was once again an
opportunity for moderate leaders to look for support within the extremists camp.
80


The moderates had no choice but to join ranks with the militants response to the
governments actions. The centers disregard for the moderate position within the
movement and the non-implementation of the Accord took away the credibility of
moderate leaders.
As the security forces utilized the broad powers at their disposal, many
Sikh leaders - radical and moderate - were detained by the administration.
One of the ways that the new administration claimed Punjabi loyalty was by
firmly suppressing terrorists harassing Punjabis for personal gain (The
Economist. Sept. 9, 1995). The border with Pakistan was sealed off, as the
government suspected that the terrorist groups were being armed by Pakistan.
The police force was increased from 35,000 to 60,000 within five years, equipped
with rifles and armored vehicles, and the force often used torture and killing as a
means of dealing with suspected terrorists (The Economist. May 22, 1993, p. 45).
Although human rights groups were shocked that the government was using such
brutal counter-terrorist tactics to deal with the militants, Congress (I) won more
than fifty percent of the seats in the municipal elections held in September 1992
with a 70 percent voter turn-out (The Economist. May 22, 1993, p. 45). The
Narashima Rao government in New Delhi seemed content with the situation in
Punjab, and in fact, the calming of violence was considered to be one of the high
points of his administration. However, most likely as revenge for the excessive
use of force by the police and the armed forces under the Terrorist and
81


Disruptive Activities Prevention Act, Chief Minister Beant Singh was
assassinated on August 31, 1995 (The Economist. September 9, 1995, p. 43).
Return to Electoral Politics
The Congress party placed two chief ministers in succession to head the
Punjabi government until the February 1997 state assembly elections. In 1997,
the Akali Dal once again came back to power in a coalition government with the
BJP with Prakash Singh Badal as chief minister. The 1996 parliamentary
elections were also an overwhelming success for the moderate Akali Dal group,
since the party won eight of the thirteen seats with 69% voter turnout (India
Today. February 28, 1997, p. 57). The resounding defeat of the Congress party,
which only won two seats, most likely occurred because of the charges of
corruption and nepotism that plagued Congress administrations (India Today,
June 30, 1997, p.83).
The general and state assembly elections in 1996 and 1997 seem to be
indications of normalcy returning to Punjab. All Punjabis including Sikhs were
tired of the violence especially as the militants began to attack their own
supporters. The Indian Governments counter-terrorist measures demoralized the
militant groups but some still exist undergroung. All of the political parties
participated in the elections showing full support for the electoral process. This
shows a reliance on electoral politics as a means of achieving political goals.
82


Sikh leaders were resigned to the fact that the only way to gain leverage in state
politics was by winning elections. Further, the Akali Dal in its actions showed
that the party is willing to cooperate with the Center as well as with the Hindu
nationalist BJP. The two parties will be foil for each other, and possibly, balance
not only the policy positions but the rhetoric that has fiieled Sikh politics, and
ultimately the movement.
The arguments put forward by Gurr and Harff and Brass explain the
impetus and transformation of the call for Punjab autonomy to a Sikh movement
for secession. This chapter discussed the political and economic contentions that
the Sikh community, and specifically the Akali Dal, had with the Indian
Government. Further, the personal and political ambitions of Sikh leaders
expanded the demand for greater state power to include a demand for an
autonomous state of Khalistan. Another element considered in this chapter was
the response of the Indian Government to the movement since the interaction
between the Indian Government and the movement played a large role in shaping
it. The accompanying violence instigated by the militants and the Government
finally seemed to take its toll on the movement in the early 1990s. As Brass
argues in his theory on ethnonationalism, ethnic groups and leaders submerge
symbolism and rhetoric when convenient and the Sikh leaders found it convenient
at this time. By all of the Sikh political parties willingness to contest elections in
the recent state and national elections, the Akali Dal leaders and other Sikb.
83


leaders were attempting to fulfill at least some of the movements goals.
84


CHAPTER 5
CONCLUSION
The opening framework of analysis as applied in the last chapter identified
specific factors that showed the development of the movement for greater autonomy
for punjab into a call for a separate Sikh region. Three overarching elements of the
analysis encompassed these factors: grievances that gave rise and sustenance to the
movement, the interaction of Sikh leaders to head the movement and the response
of the state to the movement. The Akali Dal used the ASR to describe Punjabs
political and economic grievances which was the impetus for the movement. The
incapacity to resolve the grievances and the competition among moderate and
militant Sikh leaders to lead the movement expanded the goals of the movement.
However, the Indian Governments disregard for the movements demands and
finally the use of violence to thwart militant terrorist tactics in the state left the
conflict at an impasse. Even though there were a succession of different
governments in New Delhi during this period, the policy toward Punjab stayed the
same: a reliance on Presidents Rule. It seemed as though there might be a solution
to this stalemate with the Rajiv Gandhi-Longowal Accord but no attempt was made
to implement the Accord. Finally, as the situation in Punjab currently stands, the
Akali Dal and the other Sikh political parties have used electoral politics as a way
to regain their political clout with all Punjabis and not just with Sikhs.
85


Conclusions Derived from Framework Analysis
Although the ASR embodies the goals of the Sikh Panth, the document also
highlights the importance of a balanced system, of federalism in political and
economic terms which applies to the whole Indian union. Prodded by more
nationalistic Akalis who wanted the Akali Dal to be more religiously and culturally
Sikh-centered, and because the party wanted the ASR to be a means of identifying
the Akali Dal to be the sole representative of the Sikh community, the Akalis
decided to state the partys platform explicitly. Their frustration at not being
politically stronger in a state that has a majority Sikh population coupled with
perceived grievances imposed by the Indian Government on Punjab in general and
the Sikhs in particular compelled the Akali Dal to publish its platform.
As put forward in Gurr and Harffs theoretical contention that the impetus
for an ethic groups decision to mobilize are perceived grievances, the Sikh
separatist movement had a strong basis for its initial demand for greater Punjab
autonomy. The grievances as propagated by the Akalis do have substance. The
Akalis point to the prescription of Punjabs economic policy by the center where
the agriculture sector was developed disproportionately to the industrial sector, the
minimal development aid distributed to the state, the reluctance in giving clearances
to industrial projects and the lack of infrastructure and absence of financial
investment by the Indian Government or private industry as evidence of the
Centers disregard for Punjabs interests. Further, the Akalis point to the
86


unwillingness of the Indian Government to address these grievances since the same
issues continued to provoke the Sikhs in the 1980s: minimal development funds
given to industry, undue burden on Punjabi farmers with the implementation of
food zones, the prolongation of river water dispute with Haryana and die transfer
of Chandigarh.
Gurr and HarfP s arguments once again can be applied to the Sikh movement
when they content that the decisions of movements leaders shape the conflict.
Throughout the movement in the 1970s, at the height of the violence in the 1980s,
and during the government crackdown in the 1990s, the ASR was touted by
different Akali factions and Sikh subgroups as a guiding framework. The various
Sikh groups used the ASR as a platform to argue positions on the movements
goals. According to the circumstance in which it was brought up and the particular
leader bringing it up, the ASR was variously defended as a party platform, as an
argument for greater autonomy for Punjab, or as a declaration for a separate Sikh
nation of Khalistan. As an extension of their stance on the Resolution, varies
groups of Akali and non-Akali factions advocated particular positions. Some
leaders declared the Sikh community to be religiously separate from the Hindus,
while other groups advocated a Sikh nation within India. However, all these
declarations were merely rhetorical, since the Akalis in power, after either the 1977
general elections or the 1985 state assembly elections, did not attempt to implement
the ASR. Nevertheless, the Resolution was used as a means of uniting Akali
87


supporters and the larger Sikh community because, once again, during the
campaign for state assembly elections in February 1997, the Akali Dal published
the Resolution as the partys platform even though its coalition partner was the
Hindu nationalist Bharata Janata Party.
The 1980s saw an expansion of the movements goals from autonomy to
secession showing Brass theoretical arguments as very appropriate highlighting
competition between subgroups leaders as very appropriate in explaining some of
the reasons for escalation of demands. The Akalis were once again out of power in
the early 1980s after Indira Gandhis Congress party (I) won the state and national
elections. The party formally submitted the ASR to the Indian Government
primarily as a means of retaining their base of support within the community. The
Indian Government, for its part, played a role in strengthening the Akali leaders
stance after the fifteen demands were submitted. The year and a half of
negotiations with the government bolstered the Akali standing in the community.
The government was not willing to compromise on the demands and the Akalis
were willing to go to great lengths of shoring up community support and forcing
concessions from the government including calling on assistance from other Sikh
groups.
Bhindranwale was one of the main Sikh leaders who prodded the Akalis to
move from a position of moderation to one of militance, demanding that the entire
Resolution be fulfilled by the Indian Government. The Akalis were put in a
88


position where the party had to support a preacher who advocated a single Sikh
religious identity and political protection for the community. The party had no
choice but to side with Bhindranwale especially when it considered the large
number of unemployed educated Sikh youths, Akali splinter groups and other Sikh
subgroups who were heeding his call and clamoring to join his camp. The Akali
leaders were compelled to support Bhindranwale as a way of showing solidarity
within the community. The party leaders became intransigent in their position on
the Resolution. Because they won few concessions from Prime Minister Indira
Gandhi, the Akalis lost credibility within the community. Thus, as a way to shore
up their status, the party leaders moved closer to Bhindranwale to promote the
cohesiveness of the community. Although the government made some
compromises, the Akalis had to follow the dictates of Bhindranwale and demand the
implementation of the entire ASR.
The other reasons to further understand the spiraling violence in Punjab in
the 1980s is to consider Brass explanation for the states response to ethnic group
movements. The Indian Government, which was led by various administrations,
had no variation in policy in dealing with the movement: direct rule of Punjab by
the Center and use of force. This policy was instituted by Prime Minister Indira
Gandhi. The Indira Gandhi Government took the extreme measure of attacking the
Golden Temple to deal with the escalation of violence by Sikh militants taking
advantage of the protracted negotiations. The government felt forced to use
89


repression, since the moderate Akalis had argued that there was no separation
between themselves and the militants and had not rejected the call for a separate
Sikh state. The governments resort to military force might have been avoided if
the fifteen demands had been dealt with quickly and effectively.
An attempt to resolve the ASR controversy came in 1985 with the signing of
the Rajiv-Longowal Accord. Unfortunately, the Accord was never implemented
because of immediate political circumstances. In fact, this period saw a growth of
renewed Sikh militant terrorist activities. The only method used to handle the
situation in Punjab by succeeding administrations at the Center was to extend
Presidents Rule every six months with increasing reliance on security troops to
quell the terrorists. In between the enactment of Presidents Rule, electoral politics
were used as a means of bringing a sense of normalcy to Punjab. The general
elections in 1992, which were boycotted by most of the political parties in the state
except for the Congress (I) resulted in a voter turnout of twenty percent showing
the absolute irrelevancy of the election process in Punjab without Sikh
participation. The Beant Singh Congress (I) administration who came to power in
Punjab, however, had the backing of the Indian governments full security force,
which it used freely, in suppressing terrorist activities. At this point, the Sikh
community welcomed the governments crackdown on militants who were
terrorizing the very Sikhs who were sympathetic to the movement for personal and
material gains. Unfortunately, the governments tactics did not take into account
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innocent Sikhs. The government indiscriminately used counter-terrorist measures
which infringed on civil rights and human rights.
The decision of the Akali Dal and other Sikh groups to take part in the
electoral politics of the Indian political system once again gives credence to Brass
(1985) theoretical contention that an ethnic groups turn toward ethnic nationalism
can be reversed because the elites decide to submerge symbolic and cultural
rhetoric to open channels of communication with the state, and further, are open to
co-option by state entities. Even though the moderate Akalis have never
condemned the Sikh militants, and further, have used them to move along their
goals, the partys main priority has always been to head the state government. The
Akali Dal along with other factions and Sikh groups participated in the general
elections in May 1996 and state assembly elections in February 1997. In fact, the
Akali Dal won a majority of seats in the parliamentary elections while it led the
coalition state government with the BJP headed by Parkash Singh Badal. There
was a 65 % voter turnout for the state assembly elections, but the candidates were
not about to forget how precarious it was to run for office in Punjabi (India
Abroad. February 7, 1997, p. 14). Each of the 693 candidates who ran for 117
seats had ten security guards during the campaign season (India Abroad. February
14, 1997, p. 8).
Thus, with the idea that Khalistan was not going to become a reality as
attested by the protracted separatist movement, the Akali Dal used the usual
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rhetoric of Indian campaigns, including making campaign promises to make
economic concessions to scheduled classes, to resolve issues of governmental
corruption and to curb rising prices and unemployment. Even though the separatist
movement did not become an issue during this election, the Akali Dal once again
declared its commitment to'the ASR and its desire to start anew in resolving the
transfer of Chandigarh and sharing of river water with adjoining states. The party
did not step back from its declaration when the BJP voiced its concerns. However,
the coalition has remained intact. Since both the parties will need each other to stay
in power, it will be up to the usual parliamentary government tactics which the
Akali Dal and its coalition partners have used in the past to govern the state. Badal
as chief minister of Punjab is resigned to dealing with the BJP as his partys
coalition partner and will work to keep the party in power especially after the Akali
Dal has been out of power for ten years.
The Akali Dals participation in the recent elections supports Chimas
(1994) assessment that there is a solution to the stalemate between the Akali Dal
and the Indian Government. He writes that throughout the whole movement, the
connections between the Sikh community and the Indian Government were never
severed. In fact, the Indian Government agencies continued to function fully in the
state. The agriculture sector, the major source of economy in Punjab, continued to
function without being impacted and all the other political parties active in Punjab
including the Congress party and communist parties with major Sikh support
92