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

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PUNJAB-Diversionary Manoeuvre

Diversionary Manoeuvre PAST experience of seemingly earnest attempts at resolving the Punjab problem as well as the recent disturbing developments in the heartland of Indian politics prohibit an optimistic reading of the prime minister's much publicised initiative on Punjab. The prime minister has conferred with Akali leader Simranjit Singh Mann and while the credentials of both are doubtless very sound it is their focus standi that is in question. The supposed benefits that will accrue to Mann on account of the merger of the Akali factions into the Shiromani Akali Dal may well turn out to be more illusory than real, for while it will grant a degree of respectability to the discredited Akali leadership it is bound to complicate Mann's already ambivalent relations with the militants. If no substantive concessions are forthcoming Mann will have to face the prospect of further marginalisation, much in the manner of Badal and Barnala, The only other available option will be to identify himself more closely with the militants. For the present if Mann's moves do not find favour with the militants negotiations with him are likely to be as pointless as they were with Longowal. Already in response to Akali unity and Mann's talks with the prime minister the prominent militant outfits, notably the Panthic Committees led by Sohan Singh and by Wassan Singh Zaffarwal and Gurbachan Singh Manochahal, have made more or less similar statements asserting that the Sarbat Khalsa resolution of 1986 which fixed the independent state of Khalistan as the final goal of the Sikh 'qaum' will have to be the basis of talks. Mann's memorandum on the other hand demands self-determinatiqn for the Sikhs. Whatever be the exact difference between the two objectives there is no doubt that the centre can accept neither as a starting point for negotiations. Quite clearly, the constraint is not the specific objection of this or that political party but a generalised state of mind from which such objections derive.

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