ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Politics: The Bloody Aftermath

possible and relevant in this connection. First, insofar as the events in Punjab are directly linked to her murder, can the responsibility for the way these events have turned out be placed anywhere away from the Congress(I) party's, and Indira Gandhi's, own decisions and non- decisions? She was wont to make a small point time and again during recent months: the Akalis did not make a squeak during the interregnum of the Janata regime at the Centre during 1977-79; they started raising their 'extremist' demands only after she returned to power in 1980. She could not have been more right. She did not, however, stop to investigate the factors underlying this change in Akali attitude, or, if she did, felt it prudent to keep the result of her investigations to herself. During the Janata spell, the Akalis did not pitch their demands in extravagant terms simply because they did not feel the objective need to do so, nor was there any external circumstance pushing them towards such a denouement. The fact that things changed with Indira Gandhi's assumption of office as Prime Minister was on account of Indira Gandhi herself. She and her younger son had encouraged the Bhindranwale phenomenon in Punjab merely to get even with the Akalis who had turned against her during the Emergency and its aftermath. They had to be punished for their perfidy; the punishment was Bhindranwale, who was egged on to be as unreasonable as he could be, and, in the process, make life increasingly more impossible for the Akalis. The facts, after all, are on record: till as late as the last week of April of this year, Rajiv Gandhi, who has now assumed the mantle of Prime Minister, was himself ambivalent in his attitude towards Bhindranwale, whom he described as only a spiritual leader not interested in politics. It was intense competition; the Akalis too, for sheer survival, had to match their demands with Bhindranwale's. It is equally necessary to mention another fact. Had Indira Gandhi straightaway accepted the formula the oppositon parties, with the consent of the Akali leaders, had broached to her for resolving the tangle, a kind of peace could have been brought back to Punjab in 1983 itself. But she hesitated, her partisan interests stood in the way. It is only after the Golden Temple had been wrested from the control of the extremists that she changed her stance and announced the acceptance of the core of the formula; it was then too late. And in any case the foremost Akali leaders were held in detention by her government under the National Security Act.

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