During the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi, fear of a terror attack by ISI-funded and trained Khalistani militants led to a substantial overreaction by the Haryana police. Anyone with a turban was pulled off buses and trains while entering the national capital — their national capital — and questioned, often with not even the pretence of courtesy. It needs to be borne in mind that at no stage during the decade-long Punjab insurgency was more than a small fraction of the Sikh population in cahoots with the terror gangs seeking to drive Sikh moderates and minorities out of the state, the way other groups succeeded in Kashmir in doing to the Pandit community in 1990. Indeed, it was largely due to the patriotism and bravery of Sikh police persons, together with an Army where Sikhs had and have a keystone role, that the insurgency was crushed and the state returned to stability, albeit 12 years after the Asiad. While then Chief Minister of Haryana, Bhajan Lal has been portrayed as the prime mover behind the typecasting of an entire community by the local police, in fact the Union Home Ministry masterminded the entire operation, down to details such as the number of road blocks needing to be set up.
Because of errors committed by both Union Home Ministers, first Zail Singh and later R. Venkataraman, the Khalistan movement gained significant traction, reaching its most distressing point in the takeover of the sublime Golden Temple at Amritsar by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his supporters, and to the Army action against the secessionists in mid-1984; followed by the assassination of Indira Gandhi on 31 October 1984. Errors in the perception of the ground situation led to faulty tactics, so that much damage was done to the shrine. Then Home Minister Zail Singh witnessed at close range, now as President of India, the poisoned result of his policy of standing by while some in his party propped up Bhindranwale as a counter not just to the Akalis but to Chief Minister Darbara Singh, a first-class administrator, who was let down by his own party and shunted out of the state in 1983 before he could subdue the insurgency. First under-reaction and subsequently over-reaction characterised much of policy towards the operations of the ISI in the Punjab, with the result that the situation steadily worsened.
And now comes news that several dozen Kashmiri students — clearly from the Valley, as in most other parts of the state, the very name “Pakistan” evokes anathema — were sought to be criminally prosecuted, and that too for sedition, a crime to which the death penalty has been attached. There is no doubt that Wahhabi-leaning elements in Kashmiri want to have it both ways, and have largely succeeded in this. They excoriate the Indian state while becoming wealthy as a consequence of it, and praise a Pakistan that since the mid-1980s (once assured of US support as a consequence of the Afghan war) has pursued a policy of “fighting the Indian state to the last Kashmiri”.
However, they are hardly the only citizens of this country who work against the national interest on behalf of aliens. In the financial world, there are literally hundreds of well-paid professionals (several with senior politicians and bureaucrats as their fathers-in-law or as their fathers) who daily ensure immense profits for the likes of Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch by speculating in commodities and currency and commodities in a manner that drives up the prices of the first and pulls down the value of the other. Almost all the steep fall in the value of the rupee that was witnessed in the weeks leading up to 25 August 2013 (when The Sunday Guardian exposed this game) was caused by a tiny clique of currency speculators operating from Mumbai, Dubai and Singapore, and who were backed by four leading non-Indian financial entities.
While Subrata Roy of Sahara has been the subject of much obloquy and attention from SEBI, it is a surprise why similar attention is not being paid to these non-Indian financial enterprises, who collectively are draining the country of tens of billions of dollars each year, besides sending commodity prices up and the rupee down, with the RBI as their cheerleader. Where the US or the UK imposes fines worth billions of dollars on such entities, in India they get privileged access to the Finance Ministry, the RBI and even to the PMO.
Students sometimes behave idiotically. That, indeed, is the charm of that phase of one’s life, where such errors get condoned rather than condemned. By seeking to send the Kashmiri students to jail, and also by depriving them of their education in the institute of their choice, the ISI was not being checkmated but facilitated.