How many of you have heard of the so-called Khalistan terrorist movement, which spread death and destruction across Punjab and Delhi for 14 years between 1981 and 1995?
How many of you have heard of the repeated hijackings of Indian Airlines aircraft by the Khalistani terrorists in the 1980s?
How many of you remember the military operation in the Golden Temple, Amritsar, in June 1984, to flush out a group of Khalistani terrorists who had taken shelter there?
How many of you remember the desertions of some Sikh soldiers from the Army and the assassination of a Brigadier by some angry Sikh soldiers after the Golden Temple operation?
How many of you remember the assassination of Indira Gandhi by some of her till then highly trusted Sikh bodyguards, enraged by the Golden Temple operation, in October,1984?
How many of you remember the blowing-up of the Kanishka aircraft of Air India in 1985 and the 1986 assassination in retirement of Gen. A.S.Vaidya, who was the Chief of the Army Staff at the time of the Golden Temple operation?
How many of you remember the assassination of Beant Singh, the Chief Minister of Punjab, in 1995?
These are distant memories now. The Khalistan terrorist movement almost died in the months following the assassination of Beant Singh.
It is 95 per cent dead, but the embers are still there.
In Pakistan in the form of some remnants of the terrorist movement who have been given shelter by the Pakistan Government.
In the West, in the form of some recalcitrant individuals, who are not prepared to say die.
Even in our own country in the form of some individuals here and there in Punjab and Delhi.
They are without influence, without following, but not without lingering traces of the anger which initially gave rise to the movement.
The fact that for 16 years since 1995, the embers have remained embers and are slowly dying their natural death goes to the credit of the people of Punjab, who have ignored them with the contempt they merit.
Is it wise to give these discredited elements a source of new anger that they could exploit in an attempt to give themselves a new lease of life?
This is a question that the Government should carefully consider before it goes ahead with its reported decision to send Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, a notorious Khalistani terrorist, to the gallows in implementation of a long-pending death sentence awarded to him by a court.
Even if there is only a five per cent chance that his death could be exploited by the remnants of the Khalistan movement to re-kindle the embers, should we take the risk?
What do we hope to achieve by carrying out his death sentence?
We don’t need to teach any lesson to anybody 16 years after the movement went into a state of living death.
We don’t need to do any justice to the relatives of the victims of the Khalistan terrorist movement years after their painful memories have faded.
Executions have rarely ended any terrorist movement. Living ignominy has.
Like the ignominy of Carlos, the dreaded international terrorist of the 1970s and the 1980s. He was as dreaded in those years as Osama bin Laden was in the subsequent years.
Where is Carlos, the jackal, now?
Nobody knows. In some unheard of jail in France, spending a life sentence, almost forgotten by his old followers and the people. His movement is dead since 1994.
Nothing wipes out the persona of a terrorist more decisively than ignominy.
Let Bhullar die in ignominy and not in the gallows. ( 31-5-11)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India,New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com ),