Punjab CM: Khushwant Played a Key Role in Defusing Tensions post-Operation Bluestar
NEW DELHI: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday recalled the crucial role played by eminent author Khushwant Singh in defusing tensions in Punjab in the wake of Operation Bluestar in June 1984.
Turning nostalgic as he recounted several of his personal interactions with Khushwant Singh while launching a book on the well-known writer and editor at the Press Club of India here, the Chief Minister said a general feeling of bitterness prevailed in the state at that time and a team was appointed to bring down tempers, with Khushwant being a prominent member of it.
One of the important legacies left behind by Khushwant Singh was that he believed in truth, and what he wrote was simply truth, said Captain Amarinder, adding that Khushwant and his books would live in the hearts and minds of people till posterity.
In response to a question on Khushwant’s decision to support the imposition of emergency and sterilisation in India, the Chief Minister said while one could agree or disagree with the methods adopted at that time, the fact is that population is a matter of serious concern and needs to be dealt with. Khushwant was a man who spoke straight from his heart and that was a quality everyone admired, said Captain Amarinder.
The Chief Minister, who released Vitasta Publishing’s new book ‘Khushwant Singh: In Wisdom and in Jest’, co-authored by Vijay Narain Shankar and Onkar Singh, described Khushwant as a man who could get away with the most outrageous of statements.
Taking part in a discussion after the book launch, the Chief Minister said he did not endorse Khushwant’s projection as an agnostic and believed it to be his mere public posturing, considering that he was well versed with the Sikh religious paaths (prayers) of `Jap ji Sahib’’. In fact, said Captain Amarinder Singh said that Khushwant’s translation of `Jaapji Sahib’ was the best he had come across. He also cited from the book to point out that the author used to visit Bangla Sahib gurdwara at night, indicating that he did believe in religion though he was opposed to ritualism.
Captain Amarinder, who was joined on the dais by former Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, said he had known Khushwant for a long time and the book did full justice to the man. He remembered how he went to Khushwant’s house after becoming chief minister for the first time and was turned back as he was late by an hour and a half. Not one to mince his words, Khushwant refused to welcome him into the house as it was his dinner time when Captain Amarinder came for this much-delayed meeting.
The Chief Minister recalled another incident when Khushwant did not spare him out of any sense of politeness. On the release of Captain’s book on the Lahore Darbar, the author told him “this is the first book of that period where I have not been quoted,” recalled the Chief Minister.
Soli Sorabjee described Khushwant as an extraordinary person who could crack jokes on Sikhs despite being a follower of the Sikh religion. He was a rare gem with the strong courage of conviction, along with a great sense of humour, said Sorabjee.
Montek Singh said Khushwant had enriched Delhi in many ways and was much admired by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Considering that he had not achieved much till the age of 40, Montek said he was an ideal for youngsters who could learn from his example that success could come at any age.