Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Two-Stands Theory

Kanwar Manjit Singh 

WAS JARNAIL Singh Bhindranwala a 'Sant' or a terrorist? Twenty-six years after Operation Bluestar, Punjab's Akali Dal-led government has now given a clear answer. 
Sorry, it has given two clear answers.
1. On June 6, the SGPC paid homage to those killed in the Operation Bluestar by organizing a function at the Akal Takht where it honored the kin of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, prefixing with his name the honorific of 'Sant' and recalling 'how he fought for preserving the sanctity of Sri Darbar Sahib.' SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar, several SGPC members from the Akali Dal and other senior leaders of the party participated. The Akali leaders and the SGPC do so, in fact, every year, year after year, and always on June 6. This was one clear answer to the query.
2. But just two days earlier, on June 4, the Parkash Singh Badal-led government gave another clear answer, very clear, in fact. In an affidavit submitted before the Punjab and Haryana High Court to defend its decision to ban a procession that a bunch of radical Sikhs wanted to take out to mark the tercentenary of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur's victory, the government justified the ban, saying the group would have used pictures of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala in the procession, and Bhindranwala was a militant who was killed in an Army operation".  So even the possibility of use of such a man’s photographs is enough to ban a procession. This was the second clear answer.
The state government’s two-stand theory is pretty consistent.
Going further, the government counsel Additional Advocate General Amarjit Singh Jatana quoted from the Constitution of Akali Dal (Panch Pardhani), which wanted to take out the march, to prove the serious charge made by the government that the radical faction still believes in the Anandpur Sahib Resolution and wants to secure a federal structure in India as per a document as nefarious as the Anandpur Sahib Resolution.
Even if you forget for a moment that for decades, CM Badal professed to have fought against the Centre for implementation of the same Anandpur Sahib Resolution was forgotten, it is a surprise that the Akali Dal government took such a plea in the High Court just weeks after Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil, in his inaugural address to the Punjab Assembly, affirmed the state government's commitment to secure the demands mentioned in Anandpur Sahib Resolution, and advocated implementation of federal structure in India.
So, just like on Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala, the Badal Government has two stands on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution too. First, it is committed to Anandpur Sahib Resolution so much that it tells the Assembly it will secure federal structure as per the document. Second, it considers the same document so nefarious and dangerous that it tells the court that someone cannot be allowed to take out a procession because he professes faith in the same Anandpur Resolution.
Parkash Singh Badal is now a master of taking two stands on almost any issue. Take the postures he struck on death row convict Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar. He pleaded before the President of India to spare Bhullar's life, claiming the convict was actually innocent. He sent Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa to meet the then President, APJ Abdul Kalam, to plead for Bhullar's release. His own senior party leader and the then SGPC chief wrote to the President of India to argue and plead for Bhullar's release. All of these after the Supreme Court condemned Bhullar to a death sentence.
But now, when Bhullar wrote from Delhi's Tihar jail, merely asking that he be shifted to Amritsar jail, Badal's government said in writing that the convict is such a dangerous terrorist that his shifting to Amritsar jail may lead to a law and order problem.
This, when Bhullar was convicted on the basis of a verdict by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court wherein two judges, Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice B.N. Aggarwal, convicted him and sentenced him to death while the third judge, M.B.Shah, dissented not just on the question of capital punishment but on the very question of guilt, and actually acquitted Bhullar as innocent.
Politicians are often termed as a two-faced species, but few can match the consistency shown by Parkash Singh Badal in following a two-stands theory.
Back to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Akali Dal's senior leader and SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar installed a portrait of Bhindrawale in the Sikh Museum despite strong protests. Last week, he and his SGPC honored Bhindranwale's son Isher Singh at the Akal Takht. They also honored Bhindranwale's close associate Bhai Amrik Singh's son Tarlochan Singh and mother of Harjinder Singh Jinda, the slain militant. And yet, the Badal government's counsel asserted that a procession to celebrate Baba Banda Singh Bahadur's victory cannot be allowed because those wanting to take out such a procession may possibly use photographs of Bhindranwale alongwith that of Banda Singh Bahadur.
Incidentally, Bhindranwale was declared as 'Great Sikh of the Century' in 2001 by the Akal Takht, a decision hailed by the SGPC lorded over by the ruling Akali Dal leadership.
Now, the vacation bench of Justice Rajan Gupta has asserted that the matter required serious and detailed discussion; and has fixed July 5 as the next date of hearing. One wonders what double faced stands the government led by Parkash Singh Badal  may come up with next.
It is time the Akali Dal and the Badals who lord over it tell the people what they really believe in. Was Bhindranwala a terrorist? Then come out and say it. Is Anandpur Resolution secessionist? Then, for God’s sake, say it and become part of the national mainstream. Does Punjab have a right to royalty on its waters? Then tell the BJP, its alliance partner, in as many terms. Are you for river-linking scheme of the NDA regime and a beloved national-integrity tool of the BJP? Then say it, or say you oppose it. Badal chooses SGPC presidents, or sacks them, and then claims he does not interfere in SGPC affairs. Two stands.
You cannot spend a lifetime in politics, riding on two-stands theory. Or perhaps you can. See, even we are taking two-stands! It is a contagious disease, and by all indications, often gets passed on to a son.

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