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Blundering Through
A review of Dreams After Darkness: A Search for a Life Ordinary Under the Shadow of 1984 by Manraj Grewal (Delhi: Rupa); January 2004; pp. 224.


The Telegraph, Calcutta, Nov. 19, 2004

Photo: Dreams After Darkness by Manraj Grewal

Operation Bluestar (1984) doubtlessly represents a brutal manifestation of state power in the post-independence Indian history. Similarly, the Khalistan movement that prompted it remains an egregious example of communitarian politics that brazenly privileged callow sentiments and shallow self-interests over the fundamental norms of 'peaceful co-existence.' In Dreams after Darkness: A Search for a Life Ordinary Under the Shadow of 1984, Manraj Grewal sets out to explore the layers of interconnectivity between these two events - but ends up loading her arguments heavily against the former.

It is indisputable today that Operation Bluestar was a huge strategic blunder. In his recently published book, Through the Corridors of Power: An Insider's Story, P.C. Alexander puts the blame on the Indian army; especially on two important men, General A.S. Vaidya and the Lieutenant General K. Sundarji; for storming into the Golden Temple without even considering other options. While there is a morsel of truth in Alexander's indictment, it will be unjust to hold the state solely responsible for leading the events upto their gory consequence.

But Grewal does not seem to be recognizing this, as she grossly overlooks Indira Gandhi's several attempts of negotiation with Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Then again, her critique of sections 78 and 80 in the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 - which insisted, among other things, that Punjab should share its river water with Haryana and Rajasthan - remains inadequately substantiated. Besides, Grewal is inexplicably mellow towards the Akali Dal's parochial attitude regarding the water dispute and, disturbingly, she refrains from dwelling long enough on the contents of the Anandpur Sahib resolution.

In the ten chapters of the book where Grewal focusses on 'the survivors of the dark decade in Punjab,' she is more keen to depict the militants and their progenies as fighting against the state's tyranny than to analyse the origin and growth of terrorism as well as the politics feeding into it. There is no sociological perspective coming through in the book, the historical evidence presented is either partial or incomplete.

On the whole, the book is an outcome of a biased and blinkered vision.