H C Singh

Charan Singh

About Charan Singh’s rise and fall much has been written in the main article as well in brief summaries about Morarji Desai as well as Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Though Charan Singh’s contribution to Janta Party’s victory and Indira Gandhi’s crushing defeat, but as stated, he virtually had no commendable achievement to remember. It was unfortunate for Janta Party rule with which his name could be associated and remembered. It was unfortunate for Janta Party that it had a leader and Home Minister like Charan Singh whose only aim was to be PM whether Janta Party supports him or not, whether Janta Party continues to rule or not. With the help of arch enemy of Janta Party. Indira Gandhi he defeated Morarji Desai and demolished Janta Government. However when her purpose of defeating Janta Government was achieved she got Charan Singh defeated to become  Prime Minister. So less it is said about Charan Singh better it is.

With these remarks and with heavy heart we close the brief summary of Janta Party leaders and Janta Party itself.

Review of Janta Government’s short span will be incomplete without referring to the chief architects of Janta’s victory and on their brief background and their conduct, as politicians, leading to the ultimate failure of Janta government. Morarji Desai had been Chief Minister of Bombay which composed of present day Maharashtra as well as Gujarat. Though he belonged to Gujarat yet his being CM of Bombay, which was predominantly a Marathi speaking state, was not resented because at that time Congress under the leadership of Gandhiji, Sardar Patel, Pandit Nehru and Dr Rajendra Prasad was unquestionably national Party which was instrumental in winning independence (Azadi) for India.

But in due course Maharashtrians demanded ouster of Gujarati Chief Minister. There were huge demonstration even violent ones by the ‘All Party Action Committee of Sanyukta Maharashtra’. They even burnt effigies of Desai and Nehru, besides there being complete strike and thereafter unprecedented riots. When mobs indulged in looting shops and offices, police resorted to firing and that resulted into death of more than a dozen people. So Morarji Desai who had lost control of Bombay and got bad name for himself for congress and Nehru was replaced by Y.B Charan, Maharashtrian, as Chief Minister.

In 1968, young Turks led by Chander Shekhar levied charges of corruption on Desai’s son Kanti Desai. As Morarji Desai was Finance Minister he was charged with issuing licences out of turn to his favourite large Industrial Houses. As Desai also appeared to be opposed to nationalization of Banks. Indira Gandhi divested him from Finance portfolio.

As already explained, in the main articles, Desai was after Prime Ministership and hoped and tried his best, after Pandit Nehru’s demise. He could not get despite all efforts in preference to Lal Bahadur Shastri who was simple and honest. Secondly he got defeat from Indira Gandhi when he demanded voting in Parliament. His ambition to be PM, was however fulfilled after Indira’s defeat in 1976 general relations. So he became PM as Janta Party’s choice but by his failure to control the flock and impress upon equally selfish leader like Charan Singh he miserably failed. Charan Singh who, too, had ambition to be PM. He succeeded with the help of arch enemy of Janta Party, Indira Gandhi. Charan Singh broke the Janta Party and broke the heart of Desai. Thus Desai was a failure as Chief Minister of Bombay, failure as Finance Minister and failure as Prime Minister.
It is incompetent and selfish leaders like Morarji Desai and Charan Singh who tarnished the image of Janta Party and ultimately destroyed it.

Indira Gandhi used Charan Singh, Janta’s Dy CM at that time to oust the Janta Government. She could not forgive and forget Charan Singh who was instrumental in her arrest. She wanted him to be ousted within a month or so but Charan Singh was sworn as PM in July 79 and remained PM for about three months, to pave the way for Indira to be PM again, as Indira informed the President that she and her party had withdrawn support and were no more supporting Charan Singh as PM. Election Commission took 3 months to hold the elections. Accordingly Parliamentary elections were held in less than 3 years. Indira Gandhi became PM with thumping majority, winning 353 seats in Parliament out of 500 or so. This emboldened her more than during emergency because now she was legitimate and duly elected PM with absolute majority, more than in 1971 elections.

Janta’s fratricidal war between leaders and resulting unpopularity and finally Caharn Singh’s dumping Janta Party and Government for getting support of Indira Gandhi made Indira more bold, more revengeful more autocratic. Sanjay had realized that his excesses against Muslims, of large scale demolition in Turkman gate area and family planning, had antagonized Muslims. Accordingly Sanjay apologized to pacify the Muslims and get the ‘Muslim vote Bank’ back in Congress. During emergency it was Sanjay who was real dictator but after 1980 elections remained in the background and Indira became once again the dictator. Her first act was to dismiss nine state Governments. Again it was Sanjay who was now an elected MP as well as General Secretary of Congress, who started weilding authority and power on behalf of PM. It was Sanjay who was to decide who was to be given Congress ticket for Assembly elections and who would be Chief Minister of a Congress ruled state. But unfortunately for mother Indira her son Sanjay died in a single engine plane crash which he was piloting, as a hobby, in New Delhi almost over his residence and PM’s residence. By the end of August Indira persuaded her second son Rajiv who was a pilot in an airline to resign from his job and assist her.
Soon one of the biggest strike of workers was witnessed which went on for two years in Bombay, as the demand of the workers to revise wages ie minimum wage from Rs 670 PM to 940 was rejected by the Government. More than 2,00,000 workers had participated in that strike as a result more than 2 million man days were last. During the same period there was demand for creation of separate State of Jharkhand, mainly inhabited by tribals. Early 1980’s saw revival of demand for independent state of Nogaland under aegis of National socialist council of Nogaland (NSCN) which charged Phizo and his Shillong accord during emergency as sell out. NSCN gurillas in Feb 1988 ambushed a military convoy and killed more than 20 military personnel. The Army restricted with farce and military and NSCN submitted. There was also movement in Assam for new economic policy for the state. Assames also demanded deletion of names of immigrants from voters lists, particularly Bengalis and Muslims.

As explained earlier, during emergency Akalis opposed most vehemently imposition of emergency. As a result out of the total arrests during emergency more than 50% were Akali Sikhs mainly from Punjab who opposed imposition of emergency and courted arrest including Parkash Singh Badal former Chief Minister and leaders of SGPC, the Sikh premier religious organization which managed all the Gurdwara’s of Punjab. During the first 3 months of emergency more than 80,000 people- protesters, leaders and journalists were arrested of these more than 30,000 were Akalis.

So much opposition by Akalis in particular and Sikhs in general infuriated Indira Gandhi and when the time came after the Congress under Indira Gandhi’s leadership was returned to power in 1980 elections with unprecedented majority in Parliament, congress winning 353 seats in Parliament. This not only emboldened her but it got into her head she become revengeful particularly of Sikhs and Akalis as Sikhs constituted only 1.5% of India’s population but had protested against imposition of emergency and were 30% of total arrests during emergency. She at once made up her mind to humiliate and punish not only Akalis but the entire Sikh Community.

Indira immediately started to find ways and means of achieving this nefarious aim by consulting her close associates Sikhs in congress like Giani Zail Singh.

With the end of emergency Badal again became the CM of Punjab, as he was before the imposition of emergency and his subsequent arrest with other prominent members of his cabinet and SGPC. This was not that congress under Indira Gandhi liked, so she started finding ways and means to oust Akalis and punish Sikhs as a whole.
Bhindranwale who was vociforous against Nirankaris and was a seminary of Damdami Taksal, suited Congress and Indira so that an orthodox Sikh faction fights the Akalis. Bhindranwale was built up by Sanjay Gandhi and the Union Home Minister Zail Singh ( himself a former Chief Minister of Punjab) as a counter to the Akalis. Writing in September 1982, the journalist Ayesha Kagal remarked that the Bhindranwale was ‘originally a product nurtured and marketed by the centre to cut into the Akali Dal’s sphere of influence’. (page 559)

Bhindranwale used to come fully armed to New Delhi on the top of a Bus full of his fanatic followers but Delhi Government or Central Government did not take any action to disarm him not to speak of arresting him. He addressed Sikh gathering in Delhi Gurdwaras particularly Bangla Sahib, hardly one km from Central Secretariat. This clearly shows that Indira Gandhi wanted him to be strong rival of Akalis. With the dismissal of Akali Government in 1980 because of apparent Akali-Sikh and, Nirankari violent conflict initiated by Bhindranwala. Punjab situation became tense, because of Bhinderanwale’s militant followers , but no action was taken by the Central or Delhi Government.

In April 80, Nirankari leader Baba Gurcharan Singh was shot dead in New Delhi. It was assumed that this was the work of Bhinderanwale who addressed a number of Sikh gatherings from Akal Takhat inside the Golden Temple complex. He was not prevented by police from taking arms inside the temple complex. Rather he was facilitated to do so. The challenge of Bhinderawale made peaceful and uncommited Sikhs, besides Akalis, to join his demand for a ‘Sikh Republic’ or state. Bhinderawale now compared Congress Rule to Moughal Rule against which the Sikhs under Maharaja Ranjit Singh fought and defeated Muslims in Punjab, NWFP and Kashmir. To gain popularity among peasant Sikhs, in particular, he wanted and tried to make Sikhs, (particularly Akalis) militants, Bhinderanwale became a hero when after the murder, in September 1981, of Lala Jagat Narain a famous editor who had exposed Bhinderanwale and his followers, and was arrested on charge of murder but released after three weeks. His arrest was dramatic. Darbara Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab wanted to arrest him then and there but Zail Singh prevented him from doing so fearing the fall out. But after sometime Bhinderanwale offered to be arrested by a Sikh Police Officer bearing beard and with turban. Punjab Government agreed to his conditions. His arrest and release after three weeks made Bhinderanwale undisputed leader of Sikhs, more important and more influential than any Sikh leader, including Badal.
That Darbara Singh a Sikh Chief Minister of Punjab and Zail Singh a Sikh Home Minister of Government of India were Indira’s henchmen who played neforious anti Sikh role at the bidding of Indira and facilitated her effort to turnish the image of Akali’s in particular and sikh’s in general as Communal, separatists and even anti-Indira and anti-India. It will be more clear from the following:

“ To give a new twist to Punjab situation several heads of cows were placed before Hindu temple in Amritsar” according to government media, this provocative act was of Dal Khalsa which was banned in May 1982. But emphatic denial of Dal Khalsa was blocked out from media. However in an interview Dr Gopal Singh of Himachal University said ‘ it was the work of Darbara Singh’s agents. It is for record that some Muslim butchers from Saharnpur recruited to throw cow-heads at places of Hindu worship were arrested at Amritsar but the inconvenient news was suppressed’. Giani Zail Singh who knew the truth about cow-heads being placed at Hindu places of worship was told by Indira not to speak on Punjab or proofer any advice unsolicited’ (Dr Sangat Singh, Sikhs in History page 384-85).

Throughout 1982, on the other side negotiations on Anandpur Sahib Resolution between the Akali’s and the Indira government continued but without any result. Thus all Akali legislators en mass resigned from Punjab Assembly because of delaying tactics of the Government. Akali’s became more vociferous as well as active as challenge of Bhinderanwale who had been made a Sikh hero, was upsetting Akali’s and they were loosing followers and workers.

Not to be left behind Akali started organizing Shahidi Jathas ie Martyers Squads, and started comparing congress rule with Mughal rule and addressed the Akali gatherings to be ready for supreme sacrifice to end the tyranny of Indira rule. In April 83 a senior Police officer A.S. Atwal was killed after he had left Golden Temple after prayers but Bhinderanwale followers thought he had been sent by Inidra to survey the hide outs of Sikh militants in Golden Temple Cmplex, particularly Akal Takhat.

In October 83 a bus was stopped and Hindu passengers were segregated, obviously by Bhinderanwale followers and Killed. Bhinderanwale and his militants fully armed entered Golden Temple and took up residence in Akal Takhat.

With the rise of Bhinderanwale with the support of Indira Government through Darbara Singh and Zail Singh, Akal Takhat was allowed to be occupied and became virtually a citadel of Bhindreranwale and his militant followers. Bhinderanwale started addressing the followers from Akal Takhat daily and like the Sikh Gurus started issuing Hukamnamas (orders). To make his Akal Takhat fortress more effective a retired Major General of Indian Army Subheg Singh was authorized to surprise the arming and preventive measures of Akal Takhat so that it could withstand the possible attack by Government forces and even repulse.

Both sides, Indira Government and Bhinderanwale squads were now ready to face armed confrontation. Government wanted a senior Sikh military officer to lead military operations. Accordingly Major General R.S. Barar was appointed and briefed by the Generals Sunderji and Dayal. It was clear that the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had decided to trounce the Akali’s and Sikhs in their most sacred and historical Gurdwara and Akal Takhat, the Golden Temple Complex, though for last year or so she had been negotiating with Akalis on one side and preparing for attack on Golden Temple on the other. The tragedy was bound to be worst because such a day of attack by Indian Army was chosen which was 5th Sikh Guru. Arjan Dev martyrdom day and thousands of Sikhs had come to pay homage to the great Guru.

August 28, 2009 - Posted by | India, Indian History, Politics | , , , , ,

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