Chandigarh, April 9, 1999. Sardar Inderjit Singh Jaijee in an open letter to the Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Parkash Singh Badal demanded immediate release of young Sikhs languishing in jail under TADA. The text of the letter is reproduced below :

Dear Sardar Parkash Singh,

Many dignitaries are expected to attend the celebration marking the tercentenary of the Khalsa Panth, among them the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, chief ministers of many states and parliamentarians. They are certainly welcome and there should be no bar to their visit or indeed to any visitor who comes with respect for the Sikh faith.

At the same time, it would be good to recall that on Vaisakhi day, 1699, when Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa, his ‘chief guests’ were a water-carrier, a shopkeeper, a farmer, a tailor, a barber. The five were by no means ‘high dignitaries’ but they had earned the Guru’s special affection by virtue of their willingness to die for their faith. In other words, the Guru found his strongest support from among the ordinary people rather than the elite. There are today many people who have distinguished themselves by selfless service to humanity and who embody the Khalsa ideals. It would be fitting if the tercentenary celebrations gave such people pride of place rather than honouring the politically powerful.

Your commitment to Punjabiat is laudable and we hope that it will go beyond mere rhetoric. However, even rhetoric is an acceptable starting point, provided it is in Punjabi. Let all Akali Members of Parliament make it their policy to speak Punjabi in Parliament. The audience is India and it is multilingual. Punjabi is our language and we should show more pride in it.

The tercentenary celebrations lead our thoughts back through history. In the time of the Mughal emperors, occasions of state were often celebrated by releasing prisoners. The Sixth Guru Hargobind Sahib succeeded in bringing 52 men out of Gwalior prison on one such occasion. Today, countless Sikh TADA detenues are languishing in Nabha jail and other jails all over India. To release them on this great occasion would be a generous gesture of reconciliation by the Central government in which the Akali party is a partner. Indeed, within Punjab, you have the legal competence to release these prisoners on your own. As a leader who called upon the Sikhs to come forward as “mar – jivras”, you should not forget those who responded to that call.

[ *Inderjit Singh Jaijee, Convenor April 8, 1999 Movement Against State Repression ]