A cautious, wait-and-watch policy is being adopted by the BJP-led Centre, with the powers that be acutely aware of the “mistake Indira Gandhi made by dismissing the Akali Dal government in Punjab in 1980.”
In February 1980, Indira, who returned to power after three years of Janata Party rule, dismissed assemblies in nine opposition-ruled states. Among these states was Punjab, which was experiencing upheaval amid the rise of radical preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.
Following the April 1978 Sikh-Nirankari clash in Amritsar and the subsequent acquittal of Nirankari sect chief Baba Gurbachan Singh in January 1980, tensions were already raging.
Gurbachan Singh was killed at his Delhi residence in April 1980. The probe did not result in any action against Bhindranwale.
Following the dismissal of the Punjab Government in February 1980, Congress Chief Minister Darbara Singh was installed in June 1980, triggering a series of events that exacerbated the state’s problems.
Eventually, Indira had to impose President’s Rule in Punjab in October 1983, a historical milestone from which Punjab went further downhill on the road to religious strife.
On June 1, 1984, the Army entered the Golden Temple to purge the holiest Sikh shrine of militants, including Bhindranwale, who was killed. The former PM’s decision to order Operation Bluestar continued to be debated long after she left office. There are many lessons to be learned from Punjab history. We are watching and waiting. Maintaining law and order is essentially the state government’s responsibility,” an official source said today, even as Amritpal Singh’s sudden entry into Punjab’s landscape remained a mystery.