Punjab and Punjabis love hawking media headlines for doing things differently. It may be the reason that even after more than a hundred books written on the State’s turmoil have hit the stands in the past 38 years, many knowledgeable students of Punjab or Sikh politics still await the “truth” to come out.
Their impression that most of the Books on Punjab problem carry version of one party or the other and none gives the correct or authentic account is not without a background.
Latest on the list of books on Insurgency in Punjab is by a senior bureaucrat, Ramesh Inder Singh, popular in civil circles as RI Singh. Thirty eight years after ‘Operation Bluestar’, he has announced the release of a tell-all book “Turmoil in Punjab: Before and After Blue Star An Insider’s Story”.
“I was an eyewitness, and at times a participant, in the defining moments of Punjab’s history, from 1978 to about 1996. What I saw or did—or failed to do—needed to be told. My conscience and the many competing misrepresentation of facts floating around in the public domain, more than anything else, impelled me to write a tell-all account of what transpired over the troubled decade and a half, including during Operation Blue Star, Operation Woodrose, Operation Black Thunder I and Operation Rakshak, the role played by various political forces, the foreign powers, the media, the diaspora and the way militancy was handled by government agencies, leading to the end of the ethno-national conflict in Punjab. Many previously unanswered questions have been addressed in this book,” says RI Singh while explaining the need for this book.
Published by Harper Collins, it will be formally released on June 20.
The book promises to be an objective narration as an eyewitness by RI Singh, who was originally a 1974-batch West Bengal Cadre IAS officer. He was Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar between 1984 and 1987.
‘ It is a gripping story of missed opportunities, misplaced courage, military arrogance and criminality, particularly gun dealing. Some previously unanswered questions are answered but the reader is left to choose from several different explanations for Indira Gandhi’s handling of the crisis that led to her assassination,” says celebrated author and BBC journalist Mark Tully in his comments about the book.
During his long career of forty years in public life, RI Singh has held many crucial appointments. He was Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal, for five years; before being elevated as the Chief Secretary of the State. From that position, he took premature retirement from the IAS in 2009 to serve for five years as Chief Information Commissioner, the transparency watchdog under the Right to Information Act.
Before joining the IAS, he taught political science in a constituent college of Delhi University.
He has an MA in Political Science and topped Panjab University, and is also a law graduate (LLB) from Delhi University. He has also worked with the World Bank as a consultant. Now he lives a retired life.
The book details the events that ignited the strife and created the socio-political fault lines that divided Punjab in those years. It also describes the terrorist violence in Punjab, the state response to the military operations, the death of thousands of innocent citizens, the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and tragic incidents that followed.
It also dwells upon the role played by various political forces, the foreign powers, the media, the diaspora and the way militancy was handled by government agencies, leading to the end of the ethno-national conflict in Punjab. The author has tried to answer many of the previously unanswered questions through his matter of fact narration.
Punjab went through a politically turbulent period between 1978 and 1994, triggered by the rift between Sikhs and Nirankaris, and fuelled by various operations undertaken by the State agencies. It affords an insider’s view of the events that ignited the strife and created the socio-political fault lines that divided Punjab in those years. It also describes the terrorist violence in Punjab, the state response to the military operations, the death of thousands of innocent citizens, the shocking assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the subsequent lynching of close to 3,000 Sikhs in the national capital of Delhi, which set in motion a devastating ethno-national movement in Punjab.
Based on extensive research and first-hand accounts of those who lived through those volcanic years, it is an eye-opening narrative of the genesis of the Punjab conflict, the rise of radicalism and the forces demanding Khalistan, and subsequent the elimination of militancy from the state.
Punjab militancy did not arise overnight. It has been best explained in the historical context, as an evolutionary process. Part 2 of the book, subtitled ‘Historical Perspective’, is a deeply researched account of inter-community relationships from pre- Independence days, how these evolved and how the subsequent polarization triggered the emergence of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and the turmoil in Punjab,” adds RI Singh.