Veteran journalist and author Jaspal Singh Sidhu has argued that the Punjab crisis of the 19070s and 1980s is the result of “the unfinished agenda of Partition”. Explaining his argument, Sidhu says that the Sikh community in India supported the Congress at the time of Partition, believing the “pledges” of the grand old party. The promises were made that the Sikh community’s religious and cultural identity as well as the federal system would be respected. But Sidhu rues that the Congress in the following years had failed to keep up its promises. It went for centralizing the power and imposing “majoritarian” nation.
“Being a small community, the Sikhs did not demand a separate country as Muslims did. They joined hands with the Congress party. The Congress made a lot of pledges to them. Sikhs were given promises that they would have a separate area where their religion and culture can proliferate. But actually, after the Partition, none of them was fulfilled. The whole Sikh problem started in 1947”.
Sidhu, who was born in a farmer family in Punjab, expressed his views during a live interview conducted by Abhay Kumar on August 21, 2020. He joined the interview from Chandigarh, Punjab where he lives and spends his time on reading books after retirement. He is working on nationalism.
When asked about what suggestions he would give for addressing the grievances of the Sikh community, he replies that recognizing the historical betrayal is a first step. However, he laments that the current regime is imposing further centralization.
After completing graduation and post-graduation from Patiala (Punjab University) in journalism, Sidhu first joined The Indian Express (Chandigarh edition) in 1977. In 1982 he moved to the news agency, United News of India (UNI), as an Amritsar-based reporter. During his days at UNI, the tragic incident of the Operation Blue Star took place.
Based on his experience during the Punjab crisis, he co-authored a book titled “Embedded Journalism: Punjab” (Media Studies Group, New Delhi) in 2014. Six years later he has revised the book. A new version is all set to be released soon. In the revised edition, he has incorporated the experiences of those journalists who saw the tragedy at close quarters.
In his book on Punjab, Sidhu broadly argues that the media — cutting across languages and banners — had toed the establishment’s position during the Punjab crisis. The media demonized the image of the Sikhs and created a scene for “army assault”.
During an hour-long interview, Sidhu talked about other important issues including the state of journalism in India and the politics of Punjab. You may watch the full interview here.
(Jaspal Singh Sidhu is a veteran journalist and author. Abhay Kumar is a PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University and independent journalist. You may write to Sidhu at email@example.com and Kumar at firstname.lastname@example.org)