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Militancy rears head as Punjab elections near - The Asian Age

Asit Jolly ()
8 December 1996

Title : Militancy rears head as Punjab elections near
Author : Asit Jolly
Publication : The Asian Age
Date : December 8, 1996

With state elections only two months away, Khalistani
separatism once again appears to be casting its shadow
over Punjab. Intelligence agencies in Punjab believe
"the terrorists are now adopting a dangerous new strata-
gem in bid to influence the electorate in the state."

Four known Khalistani outfits - Khalistan Commando Force,
Babbar Khalsa International, International Sikh Youth
Federation and the US-based Council of Khalistan - have
publicly denied their involvement in the December 2 bomb
attack on the Jammu-bound Jhelum Express. In messages
faxed to newspaper offices all over the world, BKI su-
premo Wadhawa Singh Babbar, KCF chief Paramjit Singh
Panjwar and Gurmit Singh Aulakh of the Khalistani Council
have denounced the killing of innocent people by what
they call "death squads sponsored by the United Front
government and the Congress."

The Khalistanis see the train bomb as well as the recent
murder of former Akali Dal legislator Bachittar Singh as
"a part of the state's conspiracy to countermand the
Assembly elections." Adding a note of caution, Panjwar
advised "all Punjabis" to elect only those leaders who
will raise a voice against state terrorism.

Intelligence sources in Punjab, however, see both the
Jhelum Express blast and the subsequent denial by
Khalistani groups as "expressions of the latest Inter
Services Intelligence offensive planned over the past two

According to them, the statements by the militant chief,
which are perfectly in tandem with allegations by Sikh
politicians that the Congress spawned terrorism, are part
of the "smart strategy to attain a separate Sikh homeland
by engaging in a limited armed struggle backed by an
ostensibly democratic initiative."

Information made available by a network of "moles or
cats" established in the Lahore-based Khalistani hier-
archy by the Punjab police and other agencies, the sourc-
es said, "has revealed disturbing details of the new
Plans." An important aspect of these will be to empha-
sise, what the separatists describe as, the havoc wrecked
in Punjab by the state or Congress-sponsored vigilantes.
Strikes like the one on the Jhelum Express will only help
in driving home the point, feels the Khalistani leader-
ship. This. intelligence men say, is why "no group has
claimed responsibility for what would otherwise be con-
sidered to be a perfect operation."

According to the Punjab police chief, Mr Sube Singh,
details of the new offensive for Khalistan were discussed
at a recent meeting of more than 50 "terrorists" and
their North America and Europe-based sympathisers at
Nankana Sahib in Pakistan. "The meeting was attended by
top-ranking separatists including Panjwar, Wadhawa Singh,
Rode and Rajinder Singh, who had hijacked an Indian
airliner to Lahore in the 1980s," the DGP told a news
conference at Kharar on Thursday. Coinciding with Guru
Nanak's birth anniversary celebrations from November 23

to November 25, "the terrorist leaders chalked out plans
to target VIPs, public transport and government installa-

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