Dr Kailash Maini

(Some Indian extremist groups had opposed the proposed visit of Queen Elizabeth. The queen itinery was thus cancelled. Later on how ever the itinery was reconsidered and the queen did visit Amritsar. This story focuses why the Queen cancelled visit.)

For the golden jubilee celebrations of lndias lndependence Britain had earlier assured lndia of the visit ol its head of Monarchy Queen Elizabeth in the month of Oct. 97.

 Representatives of about 10,000 strong Sikh population in UK on the other hand had been impressing upon the lsland Govt. to return the holy Sikh relics which it took away at the time of annexation of the Punjab in 1849 AD.
On July 22 the British High Commissioner visited Amritsar along with 12 members in an advance party led by Queens Deputy private secretary Mr. Robbin Janvrin and informed the Sikh authorities of the Queens impending itinery and that the Queen was to bring with her the Kalgi or the plume which once adorned the holy turban of Guru Gobind Singh and wai to hand over the kalgi to SGPC authorities at the time of her visit to the Golden Temple, the Mecca of the Sikhs.
It appears before this news could fully spread among the Sikh masses, the Home Ministrys desk on Punjab affairs was perhaps alarmed and- felt some sort of danger to the peace which it had been able to restore in the state.

 Before the pro Sikh news papers could carry the news on Queens visit. The nationalist and pro- communist papers got over splashed with the statements condemning the Queens visit. The anti-visit lobby (AVL) took the plea that the Queen must apologize for the excesses committed by the British Raj. The AVL projected the 1919 incidence of Jallianwala Bagh Amritsar where 379 unarmed and peaceful people mostly Sikhs were massacred.
The first person of AVL to get his name printed in the dailies of the Punjab was a professoi of Ludhiana who claimed that he was the nephew of Sardar Bhagat Singh, the lndian revolutionary, who was hanged in 1930 for murdering some English officers of the Raj. An Akali later remarked that ironically the relatives of this man had been desperately trying for the British Visas and some were comfortably in jobs in the UK.
A  Queen and Golden Temple- The Hindustan Times on Aug. 24 carried such a blend of photographs. On Queens visit Amritser would have been-the centre stage for the world media. 
 Luxmi Kanta Chawla the fire brand BJp leader of Amritsar was second to. condemn the visit of the Queen and demanded an unqualified apology from the Queen. There after keeping in view the attitude of the nationalist dailies every one who-so- ever wanted his name in the print sent  threatening press notes and saw his  name on the following day. In this list were included the heads of otherwise  unheard ogranisations like the  Rashtriya Sikh Sangat of Mohinder  Singh Gehla. Hindu Shiv Sena leaders  once again got a golden opportunity in  the Queen visit to say something to the  press. Youth Congress of the Amritsar  threatened that the Queen will have to  cross the ocean of blood if she visited  Amritsar. They also pooh-poohed the Sikh leaders who demanded the  return of the relics.
 Except a single statement by  G.S.Tohra,the head of the Sikh apex  body the SGPC no Sikh ever spoke  until Aug. 20, when the nationalis! dailies carried headlines QUEEN NOT  TO VISIT AMRITSAR. The lndian  prime Minister lnder Kumar Gujral in  an interview with the correspondent of  Sunday Observer advised the Queen  not to visit Amritsar. Following the  advice of the PM to the Queen that she  had better not visit Amritsar, Tohra saw  a conspiracy through the demand of  apology to scuttle the visit of the  Queen  there after only Badal  demanded that the Queen should visit  Amritsar.
Before Britain could decide on  the issue of apology which it had been  duly considering, as the Monarch had  her self apologised to the Maori Tribe  of New Zealand and her government apologised on yet another occasion.  Not only this the British High  Commissioner Sir David Gore Booth  during his preliminary survey of Amritsar had duly visited Jallianwala Bagh and left a note of regret and over the incident. An otherwise voluntary apology from the Queen was thus very much there. Yet the Prime Ministers advice to the Monarchy surprised everybody.
The national papers were surprised not at the advice but at the mahner in which it had been publicly conveyed. The Tribune remarked "Mr. Gujral- should severely ration his-time spent on the media interviews. There must be more to a Prime Minister than mere statements.
 An official of the Buckingham Palace remarked that the lndian Governments change of mind has put them in an awkward position especially when Tony Blairs Govt was   already considering some. expression of Royal apology during the on coming visit.
All this noise successfully managed to drag leaders like George Fernandese too who lost no time to criticise Gujral for such a public advice to the Queen. Without mincing words he said that it was "wholly undiplomatic on the part of a man who is propounding doctrines on diplomacy and who is touted as a great diplomat. The Hindustan Times wrote,"There is unanimity among leaders and everybody over criticising Mr. Gujrals move".
Mr. J.N.Dixit. the former diplomat however said, "What our PM has said is very practical solution given the geographical location of the Jallianwala Bagh. But l wish he had not given this advice publicly". Eminent journalist Kuldip Nayyar too defended the pM.
Khushwant Singh too was consulted and spoke judiciously, All those demanding an apology are damn silly people. When you invite somebody to the country, it is bad on your part to behave in such a manner. Her coming here in itself is a gesture of goodwill, friendship, an  act I would say all those demanding apology are non descript people hungry for publicity from any means possible".
George Fernandes questioned Gujral and his predecessor Mr. Deve Gowda as to why they have not apologized during their visits to the Golden Temple. He says "l believe that an apology to the Sikhs was called for the holocaust they were subjected to in Delhi". Opposing the demand for an apology from the Queen he adds, "you cannot apologize for something which your ancestors have done".
Dr. G.S. Dhillon, a Sikh scholar and writer has also criticized the AVL and said, "those who demand an apology from the Queen should also apply the same rationale to ask for a similar apology from the central Government for the army action at Darbar Sahib, an event of much bigger magnitude than the 1919 firing. Dhillon writes, "The British regime had bowed to the demand to appoint a commission of enquiry-the Hunter Commission to go into the circumstances leading to the event. The Government of lndias refusal to appoint a commission to explain as to what happened before, during and after Blue star seems a confession of failure (or guilt).
Now considering that the prime Minister of the host country has advised the guest to drop her visit, it is fikely that the royal guest will not visit Amritsar despite fervent demand of the Sikh  NRls in the UK. We may bury the issue like an ostrich but certain questions. which the proposed visit has raked would remain and haunt till resolved.
As we know the AVL consists of such elements which routinely serve the nationalist cause by lending their voice to the forces which fought terrorism it thus makes clear that there is something more than the mere apology demand Only assumption that one thus can arrive at is that the security forces consider the visit of Queen as a sort of moral booster for the secessionist Sikhs. lf this is the case with the Govt approach it is then highly sad as that would amount to the suspicion of whole Sikh community including Badal and the Sikhs as the Ex. CM Mrs. Rajinder Kaur Bhathal has also denounced the AVL and demanded that the Queen should  come.
It needs to be reminded that it was this over suspicion which led to denial of carving of the Punjabi speaking state for so many years i.e. from 1948 to 1966. Such a suspicious approach strengthens the hands of those who felt deranged.
A daily of this region which  behaves as if it is the sole saviour of the nation and would even go to the extent of implanting bogus stories poked its nose once again by printing a  the Queens visit issue, it said that Badal was unhappy over the Queens visit that Tohra would steal the show.

n analytical story which promoted a
 Amritsar has lost an opportunity to be in the world news and the Sikhs have lost substantially as they would have to wait for indefinite and uncertain periods for the return of the kalgi which is presently preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum London.
 It is almost now a week that no further development in sight as to her visit except that unfortunate paris accident in which the princess Diana lost her illustrious life and this may provide the Monarchy with an easy excuse in cancelling the visit.
lnspite of all this some of the circles are still hopeful of the visit and believe that Her Royal Highness will not cancel her visit not withholding Gujarals warning.

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1 comment:

Linda Thomas said...

This is so complicated issue to know because so many people were waiting for this visit for a long time. Rephraser reviews had some predictions about this event but didn't want to believe in such gossips. However now we need to wait for another big occasion.

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