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Small Steps Toward Peace


Time, Mar. 25, 1985

Photo: Harchand Singh Longowal

Hope glimmered faintly last week that the often bloody problem of autonomy-seeking Sikhs in Punjab, an Indian state on the border with Pakistan, may finally be easing a bit. Nearly ten months after the Indian army stormed the sacred Golden Temple in Amritsar, the central shrine of the 15 million Sikhs, India's Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi announced the release of eight prominent Sikh leaders taken into custody at the time of the raid, in which 600 were killed on both sides. Those freed included Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, president of the Akali Dal, the Sikh political party. Longowal is a moderate who opposes secession of Punjab from India. Talks between representatives of the Akali Dal and Gandhi's government appear likely; the issue, said Longowal, is 'the very future of the Sikhs and Sikhism in India.'

In Lahore, Pakistan, meanwhile, five Sikh extremists who hijacked an Indian Airlines Boeing 737 in 1981 were finally brought to trial. In the past, India has accused Pakistan not only of sympathizing with the secessionists but also of training Sikh terrorists. The trial was seen as a Pakistani gesture encouraging the normalization of relations with New Delhi.