Holy City! Kejriwal should brush up on Punjab History


While any devout Sikh living in the Majha – region of Punjab north of the Beas river – would vehemently contest the suggestion that you need any self-serving politician or even the “electorally driven” Kejriwal to bestow the status of “holiness” on Amritsar, the centre of the world’s youngest religion, there is also the minor detail that it’s already been done.

Arvind Kejriwal’s poll promise, “Amritsar will be declared a holy city”, may have come three decades too late – as many in Punjab, including the ruling SAD-BJP coalition’s deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, have correctly pointed out.

Indira Gandhi had already agreed, back in 1983, what the AAP Chief is promising now.

Gandhi, besides moving liquor, tobacco and meat shops out of Old Amritsar, also agreed to the long pending Akali demands of direct broadcast of kirtan from the Golden Temple by All India Radio and permitting amritdhari or baptised Sikh men and women to carry nine-inch kirpans (with a six-inch blade) on board Indian Airlines’ flights.

Venteran journalist Jagtar Singh, who’s had a ringside view of events through Punjab’s troubled 1980s and 1990s, reminds us that it was actually Indira Gandhi who made the announcement on February 27, 1983, over a year before she ordered the Indian Army to flush out Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed supporters from the precincts of the Golden Temple in June 1984.

“Kejriwal and his advisers need to brush up their knowledge of Punjab history,” Singh says, adding, “He should also know that there has also been the demand for according Vatican status to Amritsar and Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.”
“Farm debt is essentially a byproduct of other more basic maladies that afflict agriculture in Punjab,” says political scientist Pramod Kumar, insisting that like other parties, the AAP too is unhesitatingly indulging in “narrow populism” with an eye on the elections rather than trying to explore real solutions that could rescue the farm sector in Punjab.