chapter  3
17 Pages

Risky Strategies and Family Plans

Momentous events present a challenge to state and society at once. In response, the state unleashes a string of strategies, countered by social groups and the polity, which reshape the future and imprint themselves on directions of change. Transformative strategies are not necessarily ‘large’ scale, in the sense that they are located in the institutional domain of the state or the public polity. Individuals and small groups like families think about and adopt transformative strategies that have far-reaching consequences for each member of the social group. What is significant, however, is that each ‘level’ of strategising does not look the same, nor can such strategies be accessed in identical ways. Further, transformative strategies take on a particular resonance at times of extraordinary events and uncertain periods. In the last chapter, I analysed one momentous event — the politics of remembrance of a violent past. However, it is important to look back at the period prior to that event. While Operation Bluestar is a critical event, the unfolding of other transformative changes that preceded that event had enormous consequences for the lives of ordinary folk in Punjab, events that reconfigured the political landscape in the early 1980s. The downward spiral of agricultural productivity and falling farm incomes were deeply emotive issues, and gave rise to agrarian protest and state politics. What is significant about the nature of agrarian protest of the period is that the rights and claims to livelihood and well being were espoused simultaneously, sometimes jointly, with religious-political demands for a separate state. The key document on which the claim to Khalistan was made, the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, combined political demands for a federalist structure with rights over resources that were vital to agriculture (Tatla 2004: 310). Despite the fact that many versions of the Resolution circulated through the militancy period, all of them contained demands for decentralised rights over river

waters. A key demand was that the control of headworks should be vested in Punjab. Another was parity between the prices of the agricultural produce and industrial raw materials. Amidst the ‘political’ demands for the transfer of some districts to Punjab to balance the electoral constituencies, were demands for a reduction in the prices of farm machinery like tractors and tubewells, abolition of excise duty on tractors, and the purchase of cotton through the Cotton Corporation.