From Madhu Kishwar < >
I reproduce below my interview with Sant Longowal carried out in June 1985, at the modest Bhai Mani Singh Gurudwara in village Longowal which was his preferred home away from the cut-throat politics of Akalis at their headquarter in Amritsar.
In this interview, Longowal provides valuable insights into the role of Indira Congress in propping up Bhindranwale and injecting the Khalistani agenda in Akali politics.
This was first published in Manushi Journal, issue number 30 of 1985.
Sant Longowal was assassinated two months later on August 20, 1985, by Khalistani hotheads led by Gian Singh Leel, 53, who was awarded a death sentence – that was later converted into life imprisonment that lasted just 16 years.
Harchand Singh Longowal (2 January 1932 − 20 August 1985) was the President of the Akali Dal during the Punjab insurgency of the 1980s. He is known affectionately as “Sant” because he was deeply rooted in the Vedantic worldview of the Ten Gurus and known for his acts of piety and soulful kirtans of Gurbani. He was among those ill at ease with the separatist agenda adopted by a section of the Akalis.
As a benign face of Akali Dal, he had a very good rapport with Hindus of Punjab. He was assassinated because the militant wing of Akalis felt let down at his signing a Peace Accord with Rajiv Gandhi, also known as the Rajiv-Longowal Accord on 24 July 1985. The government got its way and accepted only a few demands of Akali Dal who in turn agreed to withdraw their agitation. Less than a month after signing the Punjab accord, Longowal was assassinated by militant Akalis Sikh who opposed any settlement with the Congress party.
As is typical of Congress politics, most of the promises made in the Accord were not fulfilled, leading to further disenchantment among Punjab farmers who then turned to Bharatiya Kisan Union to lead the farmers.
Sant Longowal personally led several agitations of farmers, including civil disobedience on a mass scale, during the reign of Indira Gandhi on issues that are being redressed through new farm laws introduced by the Modi government.
However, the most historic of his protest morchas was against the Emergency. Thanks to him, Punjab became the only state to offer stiff opposition to Indira’s authoritarian rule on a concerted basis. Every single day of the Emergency which lasted from 25 June 1975 until its withdrawal on 21 March 1977, Akali Dal faction led by Sant Longowal sent out shaheedi jathas to court arrest by walking out of Golden Temple shouting slogans against the suspension of civil liberties and fundamental rights by Indira Gandhi. (I will publish an account of Longowal’s anti-Emergency morcha in a later article).
Had Sant Longowal not been sacrificed at the altar of Congress party’s unsavory and destructive politics, ISI propped up Khalistanis would not have succeeded in hi-jacking the farmers movement in Punjab at the behest of Pakistan, as has happened today.
For more insights into the life of Harcharan Singh Longowal, read my article: “This Is The Guru’s House…” A Day In The Longowal Gurudwara