Sandhu’s Punjab

Sandhu’s Punjab is a small State of India covering only 1.6 per cent of its area. Its population according to 1981 Census was 1.63 crore. But these statistics do not give a correct idea of its importance to the country. Its crop yields are the highest in the country, which provide more than half the surpluses of wheat and rice for the national food reserve. Its people are considered physically the strongest in the country and make good soldiers. It is the home of an important minority in the country – the Sikhs. It is a live border with Pakistan where there is a conflagration every few years. While these conflicts have nearly always ended in a draw, one concrete result for Punjab has been that there are no heavy industries in this state.

What is the story of Sandhu’s Punjab? Through what processes of history has it passed in order to be what it is?

Punjab is a Persian word, which means ‘five rivers’. This language came here only after the Muslim advent into India. The establishment of the Ghaznavi Empire (after Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni in modern Afghanistan), in the eleventh century, brought the Persian language into India. Just as the British introduced English in the eighteenth century. The five rivers which traversed this land are called, the Sutlej, the Beas the Ravi, the Chenab and the Jehlum. The word “Punjab” came into currency during he rule of Akbar (1556-1605). It was virtually synonymous with the province of Lahore (now in Pakistan), of the Mughal Empire.

Although the name came with the Muslims, the land of Punjab is credited with one of the oldest civilizations on earth.

Harappa, which has given its name to an ancient civilization, flourished as a city on the banks of the Ravi in Punjab four thousand years ago. Remains of this civilization have also been discovered at Ropar on the banks of another river, the Sutlej, near Chandigarh and at Chandigarh itself, the capital city of Punjab.

Later, during the Buddhist times, Sialkot and Taxila in Pakistan, Punjab and Jullundur in the Indian Punjab, developed into famous cities. The Muslim conquest of the Punjab in the eleventh century made possible the introduction of the Persian Wheel in the countryside and the resulting rural settlement.

When the British came here in 1849, geographically Punjab came to mean all the land from Delhi to Peshawar. Then began the process of clipping and separating some parts from it. The first to be separated were the areas north of the river Sind. These areas got the name of North West Frontier Province. These had been captured by Ranjit Singh from the rulers of Kabul in modern Afghanistan, who generally spoke a different language (Pushtu) and did not really belong to Punjab. In 1911, when Delhi was made the Capital of India in place of Calcutta, this city was detached from Punjab. At the time of Independence of India, the remaining Punjab was partitioned between Pakistan and India. The areas where the Muslims were in a majority, which was really the bigger chunk, went to Pakistan and the rest came to India. The same thing had happened to Bengal. But while the Bengalis called their part West Bengal, the Punjabis accepted the fact fully and changed the name of their part from East Punjab to Punjab. A near complete migration of Muslims from Indian Punjab to Pakistan and of Sikhs and Hindus from Pakistan part of India changed the composition and complexion of the population in the two Punjabs. Although the Hindus were in a majority in the Punjab as a whole, in a substantial part where Punjabi was spoken, they were in a minority. Later, in 1966, Punjab was again partitioned on the basis of language, the non-hilly Hindi-speaking areas forming the separate State of Haryana and the hilly areas going to Himachal Pradesh. The Akali Dal, the major political party of the Sikhs had been agitating for a separate Punjabi-speaking State for a long time; the Haryana people also now favoured the demand. After the separation of Punjabi they would no longer be required to learn Punjabi, which had a separate script from Hindi and would also have a State of their own while now they were being dominated by the Punjabi-speaking people who were in a majority. In the new Punjab that remained after 1966, the Sikhs came to be a majority. This was the real purpose behind the Akali Dal’s clamour for a Punjabi-speaking State.

Like the rest of India it entered the modern age under the British. It was the last region to be conquered by them. There was a time lag of about one hundred years from the time they took over say, Calcutta, or Madras.

The British had also brought with them the technology of building canals, railways and metalled roads. The first canal, the Bari Doab from the river Ravi was dug in 1860 and the second, the Sirhind Canal from the river Sutlej in 1880. These two canals continue to irrigate Punjab to this day. Metalled roads also began to spread from 1955 onwards. Later more canals were taken out for the sparsely cultivated areas west of the Ravi (now in Pakistan) that is, from the Chenab and the Jehlum, leading to great increase in the production of wheat and cotton crops, which were exported to England by sea. Punjab was the poorest province in India before the coming of the canals.

Canal irrigation in Indian Punjab is now supplemented by small private tubewells of which there are over four hundred thousand. Half are run by electricity which enjoys great popularity because of its low cost and the other half by diesel. Road building received great stimulus in the late 1960’s and now every village, over twelve thousand in number, is connected with a metalled road. 

Racially, the Punjab sports an interesting historical spectacle in which religion and absorption into the Indian social order work out their affinities. The Aryans started entering into the Punjab in waves around 1500 B.C. For about five hundred years they were confined to the region between the river Sindh and Jamuna. The most important consequence of their conflict with the native population and the Indus Valley Civilization was the birth of the Varan (caste) system. It was less of a fact than an “ideal’’ model to fit different peoples into a social order. The conquered were given the subordinate status of dasas or slaves, and a minority was absorbed into the aristocracy, the priestly class and the traders. Not withstanding the proverbial rigidity of caste in the rest of India, it can be said that in Punjab dominance flows from secular and not ritual pre-eminence. From the first to the fifth century A.D., Shakas, Kushans, Huns entered the Punjab. They had their famous kings in Kanishka, Tormana and Mihirkula. The ‘’foreign’’ element was to cherish Buddhism, which worked as a mechanism of their integration into the Hindu social order.

The first railway line laid in Punjab connected Amritsar with Lahore (now in Pakistan), a distance of thirty five miles in 1862; later railway lines were laid, linking every worthwhile place with important towns. That is, Ambala Cantt to Ludhiana in 1869, Patiala to Bathinda in 1889 and Delhi to Kalka in 1891. There has been no extension in railways after Independence.

In the later half of the nineteenth century when the Census began to be taken, half of the population was agriculturist. The Jats, Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims, constituted forty-five per cent of the agriculturists. Rajputs constituted sixteen per cent of the landowning class. The Pathans and Balochs was eight per cent. The artisans, craftsman, labourers and other service performing groups were one-third of the population. The cobblers and weavers, prominent among the service groups, were ten per cent of the population, carpenters and blacksmiths six per cent, chuhras six per cent, nais and mirasis 2.5 per cent of the population. The largest group of one-quarter of he population is constituted by Jats.

The trading class and the religious groups comprised one-sixth of the population. The Banias dominated the Sutlej-Jamuna divide. Khatris and Aroras dominated western Punjab. The Muslims constituted less than five per cent of the trading class. Hence the stereotype of Hindu “traders” in the mythology of the Muslim League and the early incidence of communal riots in West Punjab of 1947. Among the religious classes, the most numerous were the Brahmins – 4.5 per cent. The Sayyids and Shaikhs, that is, the Muslim priestly classes, were hardly one per cent of the population. Their numerical insignificance goes far to explain the relative lack of conservatism of the Punjab.

The Jats being the most important community in the Punjab and the ones who generally provide the Chief executive (Chief Minister like the WASPS (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) in America), it is necessary to study them in somewhat great detail. Sir Denzil Ibbetson who conducted the 1881 Census in the Punjab and prepared a kind of encyclopaedia on the Punjab castes, quotes, with approval, General Cunningham and Major Todd ,as saying that Jats are of Indo –Scythian stock and they moved into Hindustan in the beginning of the Christian era. Scythia was an ancient country corresponding to modern south Europe and Asiatic Russia. They first occupied the Indus valley as far down as Sind but before the earliest Mohammaden invasion they had spread into the Punjab proper where they were firmly established in the beginning of the 11th century.

Like all primitive communities, the Jat race is split into a number of tribes, held together by the tie of common descent. According to 1881 census, Sidhu were 2,08,000, Sandhu, 1,35,000, Gill 1,24,000, Dhillon 86,000, Dhalilwal, 77,000, Chahal 63,000, Mann 53,000, Randhawa 51,000, Virk 43,000, Bajwa 34,000, Ghuman 31,000, Bhullar 29,000, Bains, 29,000, Kang 24,000, Kahlon 23,000, Her 23,000, Aulakh 23,000, Athwal 23,000 and Srai 21,000.

Among less numerous tribes are Bal, Goraya, Sekhon, Deo, Butter, Pannu, Kang, Grewal, Mangat, Dhindsa, Johl, Chhina, Sohal and many more. All these tribes had a small or large component of Muslims who are now living in Pakistan, on the other side of the border. Certain other Jat castes like Cheema, Chatha, Hans, Waraich, Sahi and Hinjra had a majority of Muslims and those living in India now, are the smaller part.

At some stage in history, these tribes moved into and occupied a large area of land, which if everything has gone well with them, they are still occupying. (The non-peasant castes on the other hand are found distributed widely because they diffuse themselves among the agricultural tribes and accompany them in their movements). The principle of common descent applies again when the tribes split into villages and further into patties (sub-division of the village). A peasant family, therefore, does not just happen to be where it is. It is the result of the history of its tribe and its own place in the tribe’s genealogy. A big political event like victory or defeat in arms may add to or reduce their area. The partition of the country made several tribes, notably Virks and Bajwas give up their ancient possessions in what is now Pakistan and flee across the border into India.

Normally the peasants in a village are the children of one ancestor, six, seven or more generations removed from the present occupants, depending on the size of the village. It is thus a most impressive graph of the rapid breeding of the human race. Where there was only one ancestor two or three hundred years ago, there is now a whole village-full of people. It is also instant history. Anyone there can tell you who among their ancestors was the contemporary of Ranjit Singh or of Aurangzeb. It is like a parallel line of kings. In the village, even in the factional structure, the prominent participants are from the dominant Jat class, while the role of the members of other caste grouping is only marginal. Even in the changed circumstances of the present day, the lower castes still depend on their patrons from the upper strata in the economic sphere but this dependence is rarely carried to the political sphere of electoral politics.

The Jats constitute the largest section in leadership even of the Communist Party at the State level. The lower castes have risen only up to the district level. But whatever party they may be working in, the landowning peasants of he Punjab themselves provide a great buffer against a revolution.

Like peasants everywhere, the peasants of the Punjab were history’s beasts of burden till the 18th century. No one could become rich or make a name through farming – Jatton Raj Nahin, Mothon Kaj Nahin – (no status through farming, no gain from growing the moth pulse) said a local proverb. It could come only through arms or piety. The nearest the Jats came to ber known through piety was in the person of Baba Budha, a Randhawa Jat who lived long enough to be a contemporary of all the first six Gurus and anoint all of them except the first.

But the arms came naturally to the Jats. Under the inspiration of Guru Gobind Singh they hammered their ploughshares into swords and set out to conquer the world around them. They met with conspicuous success on all sides. Some ordinary peasant families acquired areas as large as the smaller countries of Europe and set themselves up as rulers. The high watermark was the year 1764 when they defeated Zain Khan the Durrani (not Mughul) Governor of Sirhind and took possession of the country as far South as Panipat and Jind, near Delhi.

Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) consolidated all these little principalities West of the Sutlej into his kingdom but the British did not allow him to do so East of this river.

Besides the Jats, there were other small farming communities in the Punjab like Sainis, Rajputs, Kambojs, Labanas, Mahtams and Gujjars. They also predominate in specific areas. Sainis occupy sub-montane areas in Hoshiarpur, Ropar, Gurdaspur and Jullundur districts. Rajputs are indistinguishable from Jats because all Jats are fond of claiming Rajput origin. The dividing line is provided by widow-marriage. Now only some small communities living in sub-montane areas call themselves Rajputs. The larger Rajput areas being in the hills were transferred to Himachal Pradesh in 1966. The Kumboja or Kambohas are fine cultivators and have their stronghold in Kapurthala district from where they return one or two numbers of the legislative Assembly every time. Labanas have their centre in the Tanda area of Hoshiarpur district. Gujjars are also located in Hoshiarpur and Mahtams or Rai Sikhs in Ferozepur districts along the Sutlej. With every passing day the points that divide one farming community from the other are becoming fewer and less marked.

Besides the agricultural communities there are people belonging to the religious, professional, mercantile-industrial and miscellaneous castes. Among them may be mentioned the Brahmins, Khatris and Banyas, the artisan castes have no territorial organization. They accompany their clients in their migrations, settle with them in their new homes and receive grants of land to hold or cultivate. Of the Brahmin population, it was said that (in the bigger Punjab) it gradually decreases from east to west, being markedly smaller in the central Sikh districts. Even a long time ago he concerned himself, but little, with the spiritual guidance of the people but even when he continued to be in the profession he was consulted for omens and auspicious names, dates and events and, he officiated at all Hindu ceremonial functions. Banyas were said to be performing functions of the most cardinal importance in the village economy. “The husbands man of the village is a mere child in their hands”. The Khatris, besides monopolizing the trade of the Punjab and the greater part of Afghanistan, and doing a good deal beyond these limits, are in the Punjab, as the Chief civil administrators and have almost all literate work in their hands. While there are few Sikh Brahmins and Banyas, there are a large number of Sikh Khatris and Aroras. The Aroras were the Banyas of West Punjab who migrated to India after Independence.

The British, while looking around for local help to do all the jobs that the British had to offer when they took over the administration of the Punjab, went to men from trading and professional classes because they were the only ones who were literate. Later, this proved to be a stepping-stone for them to more lucrative and influential jobs. Schools and hospitals, roads and rail gave further advantage to the urban areas, which inhabited mostly persons from the trading and money lending classes. This advantage is still with them without having much political power. Punjab has no big industries but the small and medium industries are all in their hands. The Hindu-Sikh tensions in Punjab, although a somewhat complex phenomenon, can be largely traced to this fact. An American, woman journalist, Donna Surf who lived on the campus of Punjab University, Patiala, for a number of years, has said in a published paper, the entire campus unrest in Punjab is due to the feeling of deprivation suffered by boys from the rural areas, but of this more later.

The thirties of the present century was the worst period for the peasant because of the world depression. Prices of agricultural produce slumped. The expense of running the Government of India, repayment of “Home charges” and the well-being of the British nation, everything seemed chargeable to the Punjab peasant with canal-irrigated land. It was impossible for him ever to see the face of money. Owners of farms trudged miles and miles along the railway line to save fare.

Relief came with the war. Inflation made debts lighter. The pre-peasant Unionist ministry wrote off old and unjust ones. There was also more money from farm produce.

Some important developments since Independence are the influx of accomplished farmers from the canal colonies, the eradication of malaria through D.D.T sprays in the 1950’s and the wheat revolution of the late 1960’s. The settlement in Indian Punjab of the displaced farmers from Pakistan who were excellent agriculture, acted as a catalytic agent for the new agriculture in Punjab. The New Mexican wheat discovered by Dr Norman Borlaug, adapted and introduced by the Punjab Agricultural University has provided for the peasantry, an experience similar to the coming of the canals and the value of agricultural land has gone up by five to ten times. But in urban areas, the increase has been even higher. Much political power also now lies in the hands of the peasants who control all the assembly seats except the urban and the reserved ones.

As a result of land reforms, the rentier landowning class depending mainly on tenant cultivation has declined considerably in number. There has been a corresponding increase in the number of owner-occupiers who cultivate nearly eighty per cent of the total area.

That the Punjab peasants particularly the Jats, are the best cultivators in India, is easily conceded. M.L.Darling, a British civil servant who worked here for about thirty years preceding the Independence calls them “ the flower of Indian agriculture” and says “it would be difficult in any country to find a more remarkable combination of cultivator, colonist, emigrant and soldier”. He is capable of strenuous and unremitting work in the worst kind of weather. His hardihood is proverbial. As the saying goes, ‘’a Jat should be considered dead only after the 13th day ceremony after his death is over.’’ A proverb says, ‘’ if a peasant’s mother dies in the sowing season he will put the corpse in a bin’’. There is no time for obsequies, working and suffering thus and eating food which cannot be described as varied or rich, they have managed to put forth and preserve a race of man no country need feel ashamed of. Arnold Toynbee, the historian, writing his impressions of a visit to India in 1959 said that the Jats of Majha (country between Beas and Ravi) were among the strongest people on earth.

Since there are fewer women than men, a number of Punjab peasants have to stay unmarried. They have a hard time of it indeed. It is a nightmare for the mother and the father and hell on earth, for the old bachelor. In the midst of a scene, which has a long known history and a limitless future, he looks so ephemeral. As soon as he dies, his land will be divided among his brothers or their sons and his line will come to an end. A tremendous lot of folklore has grown around his tragic figure called Chhara (single). ‘’All who have wives are going to die in the month of Chet. Be patient for a little while more, ye Chharas . There are two grinding stones in the house of Chharas. But out of fear no woman goes to use them”. Fun gives place to sympathy in these. “While those with wives are having paronthas (chapaties fried in ghee) cooked, the Chhara are unable even to raise a fire”. The Chharas are in great trouble. They blow to raise a fire and their beards get burnt”.

Are the Jats short of girls because they kill the infants? Possibly so. The girls are considered ‘’other man’s wealth,’’ begana Dhan , while sons are one’s own. 

A Deputy Commissioner of Jullundur wrote in the early years of this century: “The girls are sacrificed in order that loans for their marriage expenses may not encumber the land descending to the sons. The birth of a daughter is regarded as the equivalent of a decree for Rs.2000 against the father”. 

Griffin says Ranjit Singh’s own mother, as an infant had a narrow escape. Part of the suspicion may, however, be due to heavy child mortality (one out of every two) before the present baby boom, less care for the female infant and the absence of even the ceremonial grief on her death. In any case this is a story of the past. The upbringing of boys and girls now receives almost equal emphasis. A most remarkable fact of the modern peasant life is the attention given to the education of girls. If there is no separate school for them, they are sent to the boy’s high school and nobody takes any adverse notice. The girls themselves cycle three or four miles to the school, un-escorted.

What else is new in Punjab? The first thing that strikes the eye is the invasion by science and machinery. Agricultural engineers say that there are as many tractors in the Punjab as in the rest of India. Many tractors registered in other States are working in the Punjab. With it, the rich peasant also hauls his produce to the city and goes places with his family.

With tractors and more roads, has come the idea of speed and economy of time. Half-day marriages, where the marriage party arrives at breakfast and leaves after lunch instead of spending a night or two at the bride’s house, have become common. The richer farmers, however, find marriages an occasion for conspicuous spending and show. All the city paraphernalia like kanats and shamianas, chairs and tables, crockery and cutlery and, eatables like fish and pastry are loaded into tractor-trolleys and taken to the villages.

The tractor has entered deep into the consciousness of the farmer and has changed his vocabulary. If someone is feeling lazy or unwell in the morning he is ‘start nahin ho rahya (not getting started)’. The word for going faster is ‘’a change of gears’’ and if someone is being very quick about anything he is said to be going in ‘’top gear’’.

In the last thirty years, the consolidation of land-holdings has changed the country landscape. The consequent felling of trees, which makes tractor operation easier, has produced a visual bleakness. Water logging in the fifties also decimated the tree population. Today one never comes across a tree in the fields, which is more than twenty years old. The future historian would easily connect the uniformity of the landscape with the standardising effect of modernity on human personality.

The institution of ‘’family’’ has visibly cracked. The generation, which assumed social leadership just before Independence had a marked peculiarity. The whole family would rally round to make one son graduate to be an engineer, civil servant or commissioned officer in the army. That is why some of our illustrious men have illiterate brothers. The idea of making sacrifices for a member has evaporated. The Hindu Code Bill has introduced a subterranean hostility between brothers and sisters as it is legally obligatory for a father to make a will to disinherit his daughter so that the land or properly passes to sons only. There is always a hassle about wills, authentic or otherwise. The earlier generation had “poor relations” but they were not perceived as such. “Poor relations” have no existence for the post-independence generation. The family as a formation without substance is still there. One usually gets an invitation to attend the marriage of a nephew or niece, never met before. The family connections are no longer conterminous with the ties of blood. Some relatives are more ‘‘related’’ than others. A distant but well-off relative is closer than a poor, first cousin. A marriage in the Punjab is now shoddily symbolic of the social terrain. Along with conspicuous consumption, there is an arrogant display of political connections. A marriage is not a fully auspicious occasion unless it is graced by a Minister.

The institutions of village community have atrophied. The sath, that is, the leisurely gathering of men on the raised platform under a huge tree by the villages’ gate is no longer vibrant with good-humoured banter.

Emigration has eaten into the core of the family in parts of the Punjab. In the sixties, whole villages were emptied of men in the doab between the Sutlej and the Beas. Every emigrant to the West is a symbol of hope and a personal wrench. The community is scarred. The Punjabi diaspora in Malaya, United Kingdom, Canada and East Africa is a major social event of twentieth century Punjab. The Diaspora has created a new international Punjabi literature. The first World Punjabi Conference held in 1980 in London, was a literary event of far-reaching importance. The immigrant experience of Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa was a decisive influence to the political history of India. In the first and second decades of the century, the Ghaddar Party in the USA, Canada and the Punjab, was the precursor of militant nationalism. It was born out of sub-proletarian, racial experience of the Punjabi in Canada and the United States. The Ghaddar Party later transformed itself into the Communist Party in the Punjab. Even today, the experience of immigrant life in UK is acting like a leaven in a significant way in the political and intellectual life of the Punjab. To a significant extent, the Punjabi attitude to the West is being determined by the immigrant situation in UK, Canada and the United States.

Internal immigration into the Punjab has filled the manpower-void created by international emigration. The Punjab suffered artisan drain in the seventies. Whoever had elementary skills hoped to find his El Dorado in the United Arab Emirates. Carpenters and bricklayers found themselves in the sellers’ market. These village artisans were earlier servicing the farming communities. Even where they are staying back in the village their services are no longer in demand. A recent study of a village in Sangrur district says that most of these families are now less dependent on their traditional occupation. For instance, of the six Tarkhan (carpenter) families only two are doing the traditional job of making and repairing implements for the agriculturists. The rest make wooden articles for the market or do skilled work in house construction. Some of the other castes in this category now supplement their income by working as agricultural labourers.

The untouchable scheduled castes preferred to desert the unskilled labour in the villages to be rickshaw pullers in the towns where they inhale the heady draught of freedom away from the oppressive presence of the Big Brother. The Punjab would be unable to harvest its wheat and rice crops without the seasonal influx of unskilled labour from other parts of India, Iit is not possible to say whether this shortage is wholly due to migration of Punjabi labour to other countries or to an increase in demand for labour because of the green revolution and higher intensity of cropping.

The immigrant labour works not only on the farms but also in factories and is one of the reasons for low wages there. The Communist leader Satyapal Dang says that the average wage of industrial workers of the Punjab according to statistics published by the Punjab Government itself, is amongst the lowest in the country, even though the Punjab has the highest per capita income in the country. The apparent contradiction is explained by the nature of the industry as well as its trade union movement.

Due to frequent power shortages and power cuts and at times, the non-availability or exorbitant prices of yarn etc. workers are not provided with work and are laid off. They are not paid sufficient compensation.

Often groups of workers hailing from UP and Bihar with families left behind, rent rooms and live jointly. It is not uncommon to find fifteen to twenty persons living in one room.

A word about the politics of the Punjab. Both the Constitution of India and the Planning Commission (which is not a part of the Constitution) work to deprive the States of any vestige of effective decision-making. The common complaint is that the States cannot even change the name of a village. A State cannot set up a factory, use a drop of its river water or order a railway train to stop at a new station, not to speak of things like determining the price of its produce to be sold to the Central Government.

On the other hand, the Centre is comprised only of the States and cannot exercise effective power without having support in the States. Political thinking in a State, therefore, has a great significance for the Central Government. As already noted, Punjab being the home of the important Sikh minority and bordering Pakistan, excites keen political interest. The major parties are the Akali Dal, which professes to represent the Sikhs and the Congress, whose major slogan is a strong Centre. Other parties like the two Communist parties and the Bhartiya Janta Party, though commanding a sizeable number of votes in different constituencies, cannot make a good showing, without aligning themselves with one of the big parties.

Although the Sikhs are in a majority, Akali Dal cannot capture the legislative assembly on its own. All political parties including the Congress and the two Communist parties appeal to the Sikhs whereas forty per cent of the population is Hindu. Moreover, scheduled castes vote against their Jat landlord. On the whole, the Congress party has managed to do better than the Akali Dal during the last sixteen years since the formation of the new Punjab. 

Paul Wallace, an American political scientist says, ’’Since Independence, antipathy between the two major ethnic parties in the State – one primarily rural Sikh and the other primarily, urban Hindu, had been skillfully exploited by the Congress Party. Congress politicians appealed to rural Sikhs to vote for Congress so as to avoid urban Hindu Jan Sangh domination. The same politicians successfully urged urban Hindus to support Congress in opposition to the rural Sikh-based Akali Dal.’’

But the Akali extremists’ slogans of autonomy Sikh Homeland or Khalistan frightens the Hindus and the scheduled castes away from the Akali Dal. That is why the Akali Dal, after initial hesitation, is now publicly opposing this slogan. Whether this slogan is born out of Akali frustration or is inspired by individual Congress leaders is not known but it does serious harm to Akali prospects of gaining power in the existing set-up. A large number of Sikhs living outside Punjab are opposed to the Khalistan demand because they would be left out of it and its ultimate outcome is anybody’s guess. But should this slogan catch the imagination of the Sikhs, it can mean serious trouble for the country. The Sikhs are, any day, great ones for making sacrifices and laying down their lives for a cause they hold dear. It is authoritatively claimed that during the struggle for Independence out of the 121 people executed, 73 were Sikhs, while out of 2646 sentenced to life imprisonment in the Andamans, 2147 were Sikhs. In the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, out of 1302 men, women and children, gunned down, 799 were Sikhs. The population of Sikhs in India then was only one per cent. But an independent State can seldom be achieved without the assistance of a powerful foreign country. There is at present no prospect of any such assistance

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