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'None of Khalistan's leaders could define their wishful concept of a sovereign Sikh state'

Khalistan was not a clear political concept even to those engaged in terrorism in its name. It merely represented their revulsion against the establishment and found no alternative to it, says a new book on the Punjab troubles.

The Sikh Unrest and the Indian State says even known protagonists of Khalistan -- the Sikh separatist movement -- have failed to elaborate what Khalistan meant in concrete political terms and invariably deviated to an oft-repeated explanation 'since the Indian establishment does not fulfill their just demands... They have no choice but to fight to the end.'

Ram Narayan Kumar, the book's author, has been a prominent campaigner for human rights in Punjab. He says he has confronted Khalistani leaders like Arjun Singh, Jung Bahadur Singh Virk, Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan and Ganga Singh Dhillon in Punjab and abroad with a direct question about Khalistan. None of them, he claims, could define their wishful concept of 'a sovereign Sikh state'.

Kumar says none of the Khalistan leaders had a convincing answer to the question -- 'Do you think it is possible to carve out a sovereign Sikh state out of a 50,000 km land-locked region against the will of half its population?'

The Sikh Unrest and the Indian State, his second book on the Punjab, chronicles various strains of Sikh militancy, terrorists's intra-rivalry, infighting, their mindless violence against innocents and political naivety, the role of the official agencies and security forces when separatism was at its zenith from 1984 to 1993.

His earlier book The Sikh Struggle: Origin, evolution and present phase traced Sikh history till the beginning of the violence after Operation Bluestar in June 1984.

Disputing the traditional evaluation of the rise of Sikh separatism as having its origin in widespread unemployment among Sikh youth or the sudden prosperity of Punjab's farmers after the Green Revolution, The Sikh Unrest and the Indian State, says 'the majority of Sikhs identify themselves with the 'mission', vague as it may be, which inaugurated the militancy from the days of Bhindranwale.'

''Their hate for the central government and their distrust of the traditional Akalis is stronger than their anger with the mundas (militant youth) who are for them fighting for the Panth's honour," says Kumar while discussing why a section of rural Sikhs supported the terrorists despite their excesses.

Commenting on the observation that Sikh separatism has met its waterloo, the author says a queer combination of Sikh sentiment ''suggests that they would continue to support the groups who build on the notion of Sikh uniqueness and promised Raj Karega Khalsa even if they continued to suffer harassment and political deprivation in the process.''

Kumar observes that the collective Sikh psyche -- dominated by the jat Sikh mind -- does not easily forgive and forget. "It is not a happy assessment as we look for a positive content behind the people's readiness to fight and suffer," he says.

''Disaffected people held in check by force," he says, "are practically as good as lost for whatever positive objectives the State might have in claiming their allegiance.''

Referring to the tacit support of Sikh militancy by Sikh intellectuals, Kumar believes, "people in perpetual revolt against the established authority and their intellectual mentors lack a clear sense of goals and do not precisely know what wrongs they wish to rectify and with what alternatives can make no progress, even in idealistic terms.''

While the Akali leaders made concrete political demands like the transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab and restructuring of Centre-state relations as envisioned in the Anandpur Sahib resolution, the extremists gained popular backing by harping on the 'Hindu threat to the Panth', 'injustices of Hindu India'', 'aspirations of the common Sikh' and 'the vision of Bhindranwale.'

In its survey of Sikh separatist militancy, Kumar says, ''there was organisational fragmentation that compares with the state of disunity... Like the 18th century militant Sikh organisations were built around chiefs: Wassam Singh Zaffarwal, Manochahal, Sohan Singh, Jagjit Singh Chohan and several others.''

Evaluating the Sikh grievances in historical linkages, Kumar observes in the given Indian political scenario it look like that neither would the Sikhs make up with India on its own terms, nor would it be easy for India to assuage their grievances which are of three types: territorial, economy and constitutional.

All these issues, he feels, are difficult to be resolved as there could be no meeting point between the perceptions of the Indian establishment and those of the Sikh leaders. Citing the example of the Anandpur Sahib resolution's political philosophy on Centre-state relations, he says if the Constitution has to take cognisance of this, it "would have to be redrafted from cover to cover.''

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