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History of Punjab

Punjab's History

 

The Indian state of Punjab was created in 1947, when the Partition of India split the former Raj province of Punjab between India and Pakistan. The mostly Muslim western part of the province became Pakistan's Punjab Province; the mostly Sikh and Hindu eastern part became India's Punjab state. Many Hindus and Sikhs lived in the west, and many Muslims lived in the east, and so the partition saw many people displaced and much intercommunal violence.[5] Several small Punjabi princely states, including Patiala, also became part of India. In 1950, two separate states were created; Punjab included of the former Raj province of Punjab, while the princely states were combined into a new state, the Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU). PEPSU consisted of the princely states of Patiala, Nabha, Jind, Kapurthala, Malerkotla, Faridkot and Kalsia. Himachal Pradesh was created as a union territory from several princely states and Kangra District. In 1956, PEPSU was merged into Punjab state, and several northern districts of Punjab in the Himalayas were added to Himachal Pradesh.

The capital of the undivided Punjab province, Lahore, ended up in Pakistan after partition, so a new capital for Indian Punjab state was built at Chandigarh. On November 1, 1966, the mostly Hindu southeastern half of Punjab became a separate state, Haryana. Chandigarh was on the border between the two states, and became a separate union territory which serves as the capital of both Punjab and Haryana. Chandigarh was due to transfer to Punjab alone in 1986, but the transfer has been delayed pending an agreement on which parts of the Hindi speaking areas of Abohar and Fazilka, currently part of Firozpur District of Punjab, should be transferred to Haryana in exchange.

During the 1970s, the Green Revolution brought increased economic prosperity for the Sikh community in Punjab. However, a growing polarisation between the Indian National Congress led Indian government and the main political party of the Sikhs, the Shiromani Akali Dal, began to widen during the 1970s. The hostility and bitterness arose from what was widely seen by the Sikhs as increasing alienation, centralization and discriminatory attitudes towards Punjab by the Government of India. This prompted the Shiromani Akali Dal to unanimously pass the Anandpur Sahib Resolution which among other things called for granting maximum autonomy for the Punjab and other states and limiting the role and powers of the Central Government. The Anandpur Sahib Resolution was rejected and erroneously dubbed as being of a hidden separatist agenda by India's Congress Party, specifically to discredit the resolution.

Discord had been developing after the rejection of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. A small section of Sikhs demanded an independent state of Khalistan. A number of militants took to targeting officials and people opposed to their point of view which included a number of Sikhs. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale along with his supporters sought shelter inside the Akal Takht. Fearing an attack on the Harimandir Sahib, Bhindranwale, with help from Shabeg Singh heavily fortified the temple. The Indian army finally assaulted the Golden Temple to flush out armed militants in June, 1984. However, the operation was poorly planned and coordinated, resulting in heavy military and civilian casualties.

As a result, the situation in Punjab deteriorated further and there was a rise in militancy. By the early 1990's, after many years of violence across Punjab, the militants' struggle for Khalistan had lost much of the sympathy given after the assault on the sacred Golden Temple, it had previously had from some Punjabi Sikhs and what little armed resistance remained was eliminated and forced underground.

With the assistance of the Pakistani military and secret service, Sikh terrorists carried out numerous attacks on Hindus and moderate Sikhs in the Punjab in the 80s and 90s. Thousands of innocent people were killed by the fundamentalists and hundreds of thousands of Hindus fled the state. The Sikh terrorist movement was also financed by Sikh communities in Canada and the UK. In 1985, Sikh terrorists blew up an Air India plane on its way from Canada to India, killing all 329 people on board.

Punjab's economy was acutely affected in the 1980s and early 1990s. However in recent times, there have been serious attempts by the Central Government to diminish resentment and strong feelings of Punjabis over the issue. Punjab's economy is now on the path to recovery. However, corruption and violence continues to hamper the state.

   
 
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