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Hide and Sikh


Time, Oct. 21, 1991

Photo: Julio Ribeiro

The Romanian charge d'affaires in New Delhi, Liviu Radu, 55, left his heavily guarded home one morning last week, climbed into his black Dacia sedan and was promptly seized by four armed men as he drove to his office. Two days later, the Khalistan Liberation Force and three other militant Sikh separatist groups in the Indian state of Punjab jointly claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

Violence is nothing new in Punjab. So far this year, 4,200 people have been killed in clashes between the Hindu-dominated government and militant Sikhs, who have been fighting for a separate nation called Khalistan since the early 1980s. But what could Sikh rebels possibly have against the Romanians?

Well, the abduction was apparently a retaliation for the death of a Sikh extremist and the arrest of two others in the attempted assassination of Julio Ribeiro, 62, the Indian ambassador to Romania, in Bucharest two months ago. Ribeiro, who was shot while walking with his wife in a suburb of the Romanian capital, has long been a target because of his get-tough 'bullet-for-bullet' policy toward Sikh separatists during his two-year tenure as police chief of Punjab. The kidnappers' current demands, however, strike much closer to home. They are seeking the release of three Sikhs who are facing death sentences for their role in the 1986 assassination of A.S. Vaidya, a former Indian army Chief of Staff. If these men are not set free, the separatists threatened, Radu will die.