Dal Khalsa turns 34: Articulating the cause of Sikh Nationalism (author: Kanwar Pal Singh)
Published: August 6, 2012
On 6th August 1997, on the occasion of its 19th foundation day, Dal Khalsa counsel wrote a letter to Indian Home Minister declaring the revival of the organization as a political group in Punjab after being on a low for a decade and so. Fortunately, the ban imposed on the organization in 1982 was lapsed in 1994. The comeback was not easy for the organization that nurture ambition to establish sovereign self-rule for Sikhs and whose leader is perceived to be “guest” of unfriendly country.
Many fingers went up the air. Some pro-militant groups dubbed such a step as turning a back to the armed struggle while the adversaries blamed it as a new phenomenon to disturb peace in Punjab. Our own compatriots rued that this was being done with the help of the ‘state’ to defuse the fighting spirit of Sikhs whereas New Delhi portrayed it as a new design of the hostile neighbour.
However, we decided to give a new shape to the struggle, not under any pressure or weakness. We decided to give politics a try, totally on our own after due deliberations and consideration with a keen sense of history. While taking this decision, we were very much aware of the difficulties and accusations. The foremost thing that we kept in mind was that our decision should not become an instrument in the hands of the government to again perpetrate atrocities on the Sikh people.
On 6th Aug 1998, after a gap of 17 years, a public function was held in Amritsar. There it announced the beginning of a democratic struggle for the establishment of a homeland for the Sikhs.
9/11 occurred. After the tragic event, the American and the European governments and media changed the meaning of “terrorism”. Freedom seeking organizations and peoples across the world became the victims of the new enlarged definition of “terrorism”. Those movements, which were not even remotely related with 9/11, also became victim to this new meaning.
In the wake of the attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001, a list of 20 most wanted terrorists was handed over to Pakistan. In the list, our party head S Gajinder Singh’s name was included. The decision of the Indian government surprised us. It made us restless. We wrote a letter to the Indian Home Minister to protest the inclusion of Gajinder Singh’s name in the most wanted list.
Again to our surprise, in the “list of 50 most wanted persons”, which India handed over to Pakistan on March 28 and released to the media on May 11, 2011, the name of Gajinder Singh was excluded. We wrote to Indian Home Minister on May 19 acknowledging the deletion of the name of our leader –Gajinder Singh. It was a clear substantiation that inclusion of his name in the earlier lists was a faux pas as was pointed out by us in our earlier missives to the Home Ministry.
Since August 1997, we have achieved a lot. Equally, we have missed a lot. We have certain confessions to make. Despite putting hard and sincere efforts, we failed to transform the Dal Khalsa into a mass base party because of our hardliner image and the tendency of the people to stick with the power that be.
Our approach towards any Akali Dal is based upon our past experience and the lessons drawn from it. We do not follow a policy of conflict with any of the Akali faction. According to us, every party has the right to function in accordance with its ideals. Despite our ideological differences, we want to maintain a co-operative approach with all. However, we do not condone alignment of any Akali Dal with anti-Sikh political party.
The Dal Khalsa does not aim for any temporary power. We know our destiny. Our aim is the rejuvenation of a religious, cultural and political movement so that Sikhs could play their unique role. We are not in haste to achieve anything in a jiffy. It is not even possible. We are aware that in the present political scenario, this path is very difficult.
After 14 years of detention in Pakistani prison in hijacking case and 15 years of self-exile, Gajinder Singh was asked just how many years he was prepared to sacrifice more for the sake of his mission ‘Khalistan’. “That could take a long time, he replied. ‘It could take all my life.’ He has always emphasized in his political commentaries that it’s just a question of being persistent. One has to see that success is achieved by a lot of hard work.
Dal Khalsa has turned 34 today. Born on 6th August 1978 at a conference held at Gurdwara Akalgarh in Chandigarh, the organization is in the prime of youth today. The work that gave us a sense of satisfaction includes the compilation of the Directory of June 1984 martyrs, that gives personal details of all Sikh fighters who died protecting the honour of the Darbar Sahib in June 1984. We played a constructive role in building circumstances ensuring the construction of “June 84 Martyrs Memorial” becomes inevitable.
Criticism is what Dal Khalsa has been used to it since its inception. In 1978, a Congress tag was attached with us to malign our Panthic credentials. This blinkered vision still continues. There is no dearth of Indian writers and historians who have contributed a lot in spreading this rumour ad nauseam. Since 1981, the Indian rulers and the state propaganda have been trying to portray Dal Khalsa as a “dogmatic and trouble-maker”. Undeterred by such hollow allegations and false propaganda, we stood by our principles. We knew that path to freedom is always destined to be long and tortuous. We are conscious of future problems and difficulties. We are also aware of our responsibilities to maintain peace and brotherhood amongst the people of Punjab irrespective of religion, caste and creed.
by Kanwar Pal Singh
August 06, 2012.