CHANDIGARH: A undercurrent of tension is running through Punjab politics at the moment due to moves by separatists to commemorate militants slain during Operation Blue Star in 1984 within the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar.
The appearance in Malwa region of hoardings featuring a picture of slain militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and speaking of a referendum on the Khalistan issue in 2020 is a symptom of this undercurrent.
Against that context comes the move to open a gallery of photos of various militants killed in 1984 in the Operation Blue Star Memorial inside the Golden Temple complex.
Sources said the head of Dadami Taksal, Baba Harnam Singh Dhuma, will lay the foundation to restart work in the basement of the Operation Blue Star Memorial on July 6.
Within the Golden Temple comples, the memorial lies right next to the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee (SGPC), controlled by the Shiromani Akali Dal, now in the opposition, is said to have delegated the construction to the head of the Damdami Taksal.
Inside sources say that on July 6, a committee is likely to be set up to decide whose photographs can be showcased in the museum. One hardliner, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the gallery will have digital screens on which photographs will be displayed. The pictures could be of aspects of Sikh history, events that occurred during Blue Star, and perhaps photos of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his men and devotees who died during that operation.
Besides Harnam Singh Dhuma, the three Sikh high priests (jathdars), the president of SGPC and some radical leaders have been invited to the July 6 function, sources said.
Chief minister Amarinder Singh today accused the Damdami Taksal of trying to foment trouble in the state through such steps. “Whenever Shiromani Akali Dal is out of power these issues are raked-up. When they were in power, why did not they stop it?,” he asked.
Reacting to Amarinder Singh, SAD spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema said there was communal harmony during the 10-year rule of his party although the Congress did try to stoke communal passions when a few of its MLAs participated in the parallel Sarbat Khalsa held by hardliners in Taran Tarn district two years ago.
Both Congress and SAD described as a gimmick the referendum 2020 hoardings put up in Malwa by US-based Sikh organization called Sikhs for Justice (SJF).
Reacting to the BJP’s demands that such hoardings be removed, Amarinder Singh said a response to SJF - a “non-entity” -- was not worthy of consideration. “These posters will be washed away in the rains,’’ he said.
For once on the same side as Amarinder, the SAD’s Daljit Singh Cheema said, “These noises are just meant to get publicity.”
The BJP is however vehement that the posters have to be removed. The party’s Punjab secretary, Vineet Joshi said, “Otherwise, we will take a legal course of action.’’