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Question

What were the main provisions of the Punjab accord? In what way can they be the basis for further tensions between the Punjab and its neighbouring States?

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Solution

The aftermath of Operation Blue star and the assassination of the then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, followed by a period of growing turmoil and violence, particularly against the Sikh community, proved to be a painful experience for the country at large.

Rajiv Gandhi, who became the Prime Minister in 1985, soon initiated negotiations with the Akali leaders in the belief that a settlement with them would provide a lasting solution to the Punjab problem. In July 1985, he reached an agreement with Harchand Singh Longowal, who was the President of the Akali Dal at that time. This agreement was known as the ‘Rajiv Gandhi-Longowal Accord’ or the ‘Punjab Accord’. Following were the main provisions of this accord:

a. Chandigarh to be transferred to Punjab

b. Compensation to be provided to families who were killed and affected by militancy

c. A commission to be set up to resolve border dispute between Punjab and Haryana

d. A tribunal to be set up to decide the sharing of Ravi-Beas river water among Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.

e. The Centre be willing to withdraw Armed Forces Special Powers Act from Punjab

f. The Centre to take steps to promote Punjabi language

g. The interest of minorities to be be adequately safeguarded.

After the accord, the day Longowal announced that the Akalis would participate in the elections, the terrorists assassinated him. The accord did not necessarily bring peace; it rather started a cycle of violence and militant activities continued in Punjab.

The militant groups soon regrouped taking advantage of the soft policies of the Barnala government. There was, over time, resurgence in terrorist activities, and the state government, ridden with factionalism, was unable to contain them. Consequently, the central government dismissed the Barnala ministry and imposed President’s rule over Punjab in May 1987.

The accord was criticised by neighbouring states, particularly, Haryana, that criticised the central government for its soft approach and conceding to demands of the Akalis.

The five opposition parties in Haryana— Lok Dal, BJP, Janata Party, Congress (S) and Congress (J) — declared that they would observe Haryana bandh on July 31st to protest against the accord. They considered its provisions as vague and protested against it.

Besides that, till present, both Punjab and Haryana have been arguing for several years about their rights and sharing of the surplus waters of Ravi and Beas rivers.

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