From the editor-in-chief
Ihave always believed that no disputed political issue ever dies in India. Perhaps it has something to do with our strong belief in reincarnation. Look at Kashmir (64 years), Ayodhya (63 years), left-wing extremism (44 years), Telangana (42 years), the north-eastern states of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland (more than 30 years), anti-sikh riots (27 years), Cauvery river dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu (on the boil for 20 years), Gujarat riots (nine years), to cite a few examples. It is, therefore, little wonder that the demand for Khalistan which first turned violent in the late 1970s but which we thought had disappeared after the death of its chief protagonist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale during Operation Bluestar in June 1984, is raising its head once again. The vampire of Khalistan is being nourished back to life by Pakistan.on October 12, a joint team of the Delhi Police and Haryana Police seized a car loaded with more than 5 kg of the lethal explosive RDX in Ambala. On October 23, the Sikh extremist angle to the Ambala seizure was confirmed when the Khalistan Tiger Force, a breakaway faction of the Babbar Khalsa, led by Jagtar Singh Tara claimed responsibility for the plot. The group was likely planning a larger terror attack to rattle Delhi before Diwali though it claimed it was only targeting Congress MP Sajjan Kumar for his alleged involvement in the anti-sikh riots of 1984.
Does this signal a revival of the militancy that plagued Punjab through much of the ’80s? I would think that is unlikely, simply because there is no appetite in the larger Sikh community in Punjab or elsewhere to support another long bout of violence. Terror finds fertile ground when a population is feeling aggrieved. Twenty years of rapid growth, from which Punjab has been a beneficiary, has greatly reduced material grievances. Now, there is too much to lose from instability.
For our cover story, Assistant Editor Asit Jolly travelled through Punjab to assess the extent of revival in militancy. The Pakistan link is clear. The main protagonists of the new extremism, Jagtar Singh Tara and Wadhawa Singh Babbar, the head of the Babbar Khalsa, both live in Pakistan, which also gives them financial and logistical support. For now, the outfits remain too small to inflict the kind of damage they did in the ’80s when they assassinated a prime minister and bombed an Air India plane. But as K.P.S Gill, the hero of the anti-militancy campaign in Punjab writes, “There is, in counterterrorism, no room for complacency in any measure.” As with vampires, you have to put a stake through their heart while they are still sleeping. This movement is only in its nascent stage and the Government would do well to send a strong message to its sponsor.
There is no better antidote to the politics of grievance than the politics of development. We bring to you in this issue the ninth edition of our annual State of the States Report, now the established gold standard for assessing the progress of India’s states across a range of economic parameters. This year, we have ranked states solely on the basis of the improvement they have recorded under various parameters over the last one year. The study throws up some interesting new results. By measuring change over the last year, we have a better idea of which states are progressing rapidly and which ones are resting on legacies of the past. The centre of India’s political gravity has been gradually moving away from the Centre to the states over the last two decades. Good governance in the states is crucial for a prosperous India and tracking it is a good measure of the health of the nation.
OUR APRIL 1983 COVER