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Chandigarh: After an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party and the early announcement of candidates, Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal’s tweet on Sunday morning again shifted political gears. He invoked the Anandpur Sahib resolution that talks about the party’s commitment to the Sikh panth and greater autonomy for Punjab. The state’s autonomy has been a topic of political concern since the Union government’s controversial farm laws and decision to increase Border Security Force jurisdiction in Punjab.
In the short video uploaded by Badal with the title “Anandpur Sahib resolution – Committed to ‘Sarbat da bhala’ (Welfare of All)”, the party says the said resolution passed by party’s general house on August 28, 1977 was the result of the Akali Dal’s perseverance (drdhata), ability (kaabiliyat) and prudence (siaanap).
The specific portion of the video commentary which is likely to generate a lot of political interest in days to come is SAD re-aligning with the most-talked-about aspect of the Anandpur Sahib resolution, which was to seek more powers for the states and restrict the Union’s authority to defence, communication, railways and currency.
Through this video, SAD also returned to another old political demand, prominently adopted then in the Anandpur Sahib resolution, which was to seek the inclusion of all Punjabi speaking-areas including Chandigarh, which it stated was deliberately kept out of Punjab at the time of its division in 1966, in state, besides giving Punjab back its full control over its water resources.
The resolution also talked about the propagation of the Sikh way of life and removal of atheism and un-Sikh thinking, maintaining the feeling of a separate independent entity of the Sikh Panth and creation of an environment in which the “national expression” of the Sikhs can be full and satisfactory.
SAD summarised Sunday’s video by declaring that the state and the nation’s well-being goes through the implementation of the Anandpur Sahib resolution, while justifying that SAD rightly launched the ‘Dharam Yuddh Morcha’ on August 4, 1982 in order to fulfil objectives laid down in the resolution.
Why is SAD coming back to the resolution?
While SAD spokesperson Daljeet Singh could not be reached for comment, senior journalist and author Jagtar Singh said that as the SAD president is visiting temples these days in order to attract Hindu voters, talking about Anandpur Sahib resolution is a parallel attempt by the party to please Sikh voters who may feel alienated after the sacrilege issue in Bargari.
Secondly, through this resolution, there is a larger attempt by the Akali Dal to assert federalism by presenting both the Congress and ruling BJP as usurpers of state powers, said Jagtar
Both the Central agricultural laws, on which farmers from Punjab are protesting for over a year, and the recent BSF area enhancement are seen as infringements of state rights.
Jagtar, however, said that people will not be influenced by SAD’s latest stand. Sukbir Singh Badal is not serious when he raises these issues. “How can they talk about strengthening federalism when they themselves stayed in power with the central party like the BJP, for over 26 years? When they were in power, they never touched these issues. They raise the passion of the people only when they are out of power.”
He also added that SAD even supported BJP on the issue of Article 370, the Union’s attempt to take full control over Jammu and Kashmir two years ago.
Senior journalist Kanwar Sandhu, who is also an MLA in the outgoing state assembly, told The Wire that clearly SAD has woken up to the hard reality of its eroding base, necessitating a makeover of its image, thought and ideology. “I don’t think people of the state with a myriad problems buy this newfound ‘awakening’,” he added
He further said “running with the hare and hunting with the hounds” is how one can describe the sudden awakening of the Akali Dal to the Anandpur Sahib resolution. “When in power, swim with current to enjoy the benefits and when out of power, growl and start sabre-rattling,” he said
Row over resolution
Historically speaking, the resolution has been at the centre of a political row during the turbulent days in Punjab.
Jagtar Singh, who wrote two books on the Khalistan movement in Punjab, said that Congress fought the 1984 general election after Indira Gandhi’s assassination on the grounds that the Anandpur Sahib resolution was a secessionist document.
He, however, believed that the resolution was not responsible for troubled days for Punjab as there were far more important factors like the water-sharing dispute and Chandigarh issue.
The Anandpur resolution was just one of the demands when Dharm Yudh Morcha was started in 1982, he added.
Going back to the history, Jagtar said the Akali Dal had demanded special status for Sikhs on the lines of Jammu and Kashmir pattern as envisaged under Article 370 during the 1967 assembly election. It was in continuation with this demand that SAD’s working committee in 1973 adopted the Anandpur Sahib resolution with an emphasis on great autonomy for Sikhs. The resolution was later adopted by the general house in 1977.
The resolution, however, was phased out in 1985 after the Akali Dal submitted it to the Sarkaria commission that was constituted in 1983 to examine the central-state relationship on various portfolios and suggest changes within the framework, he said.
“Akali Dal must answer now why it is reviving after 1985,” he added.
On the other hand, journalist Kanwar Sandhu is of view that while the Anandpur Sahib resolution is not per se a secessionist document,t it formed the basis for the launch of the Akalis’ ‘Dharam Yudh Morcha’, which ultimately led to operation Blue Star and then emergence of militancy in Punjab. The problem started when the morcha shifted to the Golden Temple and everyday Sikh Jathas would surrender before the police in huge numbers.
History professor Harjeshwar Pal Singh thinks of SAD’s latest move in a different light. He says that in the Indian constitution, Union has more powers. But SAD’s Anandpur Sahib resolution sought radical change in the constitution, which during the Bhindrawala era was projected as secessionist attempt. But later SAD shifted from its stand, and declared itself more of Punjabi party than just Sikh-driven party. When it inked a pact with the national party BJP, it for all practical purpose diluted its stand and went with the centralised tendencies of their alliance partner. Their silence on the dilution of Article 370 is one such example.
“Now a tactical shift by SAD towards its old stand of more state assertiveness should be seen in light of the fact that there is still a big constituency in Punjab who take pride in their Sikh identity and are firm supporters of more powers for the state. Farm protests also fanned this feeling among Punjabis after the Union’s refusal to appeal them, despite the fact that agriculture is a state subject. But whether Akalis will get a support on their attempt to revisit their old stand can’t be said, since they themselves are responsible for diluting their core stand in order to gain political power,” he added