Free Press Journal

Task in Punjab


The inconclusive nature of the meeting between PM Nehru and the Akali dictator, Sant Fateh Singh, is bound to engender some misgivings about the ultimate results of Shri Nehru’s negotiations with the Akali leaders.

Just the same, it must be admitted that a good beginning has been made in that the meeting has brought down the barriers of unreason between the Government and the Akali Dal. According to the Sant Fateh Singh, the meeting was cordial and it helped both of them to appreciate each other’s viewpoint better. The PM’s views on the Punjabi Suba demand have been well-known. That those views should now be appreciated by the Akali dictator, even after being told in no uncertain terms by the PM that a Punjabi Suba was simply inconceivable, shows that the bitterness and hate in which the Akali agitations were conceived have spent themselves up at least partly. This is not so much because the extremist Akalis have reconciled themselves to a bilingual Punjab as because of their realisation of the futility of agitations as a means to a questionable political end.

As the PM put it to Sant Fateh Singh, the Akali demand for Punjabi Suba is based more on communal considerations than on linguistic. The very fact that the Punjabi-speaking non-Sikhs in the State have been consistently opposed to Punjabi Suba proves it to the hilt. The Akali claim that most of the Sikhs are in favour of a separate State for themselves only emphasises the communal complexion of the demand.

The question of ethics of such a demand in a secular State aside, it must be borne in mind that the Punjabi Suba movement has been built up to formidable proportions and therefore it cannot be regarded as just another police problem. It is a political problem that must be resolved as soon as possible. Just now Shri Nehru has the initiative by virtue of his having helped Sant Fateh Singh to end his indefinite fast without any loss of face. And from Sant Fateh Singh’s own showing it is clear that although he is not exactly inclined to order the Akalis to retreat from the untenable position they have been pushed into by Master Tara Singh, he is certainly willing to listen to the voice of reason.

It is now up to Shri Nehru to drive his advantage home and hold the next round of talks soon rather than later, and impress upon the Akalis the complete unfairness of their demand.

February 10, 1961.