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Satluj-Yamuna Link canal: ‘Won’t give-up Riparian rights, will internationalize struggle’

By Hardyal Singh, Manpreet Singh* 
The World Sikh Parliament members from 26 countries deliberated over a conference call on the issue of the Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal issue. Water is the source of life. India’s Supreme Court is preparing to deliver yet another deadly blow to Punjab’s riparian rights over its own crucially important river waters. 
Mobilizing efforts worldwide, the World Sikh Parliament, with its partners, will challenge the decision both within the Indian subcontinent and internationally. As per International Riparian law, the state of Panjab has the first right over its waters. For decades Panjab is being robbed of their territorial waters. Hence, the common Panjabi speaking man must raise their voice, protecting themselves from being deprived of the waters and the revenue from the shared waters.
The following are the conclusions that the World Sikh Parliament reached upon:
  1. The SYL Canal issue is dear to all people living in Panjab. It’s a matter of right to their life. Hence, the World Sikh Parliament will work with civil society organizations to address this as a legal challenge within the national courts of India.
  2. The World Sikh Parliament will work to bring awareness of this issue across schools, universities, colleges and will agitate peacefully. 
  3. The World Sikh Parliament will take forward the SYL canal issue as an international campaign. This will be a part of its broader ongoing movement to educate on the right for self-determination while pointing out that international law’s prescription on self-determination (1966 Covenants on Human Rights) states: “All peoples have the right of self-determination …All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources … In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence”. 

Brief history

The history of this dispute dates back to before the days of the partition. In 1955, Rajasthan was allocated the majority share of water without any cost. After India and Pakistan’s formation, both the countries signed the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960, hence, settling for the unrestricted use of three rivers -- Beas, Ravi, and Sutlej.
The creation of Haryana in 1966 from the old (undivided) Punjab brought in the problem of giving Haryana its river waters. Punjab opposed sharing the Ravi and Beas’ waters with Haryana on riparian grounds, arguing that it had no water to spare. The Supreme Court (SC) of India, in January 2002, directed Punjab to continue digging for the SYL canal, ordering the canal to be functional within a year. The state of Punjab challenged and sought a review of this order.
Punjabis of all political persuasions have no prospect of a just outcome from the Indian judiciary or the Central government
The SC dismissed the review in March 2002. On July 28, 2020, the SC had directed the chief ministers of both the states to settle the dispute by way of talks within three weeks. No resolution has been achieved as of yet. 
The latest Supreme Court action focusses to take even more water away to Haryana (on which it has already ruled against Punjab), but will not address the core issue of riparian rights or even deal at all with the bulk of the disputed water which is being taken by Rajasthan. This will leave India’s breadbasket, Panjab, arid and barren, directly impacting more than 30 million people.
In a landmark judgment delivered in 2018 about the Cauvery water dispute, the Supreme Court has already made its position clear; it sees rivers as a ‘national asset,’ which ultimately New Delhi will control. 
As such, Punjabis of all political persuasions have no prospect of a just outcome from the Indian judiciary or the Central government. The terrible conflicts of the 1980s and 1990s erupted from the resistance of the building of the SYL canal. The BJP-led fundamentalist government is again heading towards this direction, leaving no choice for Panjab’s people than to agitate.
Himmat Singh, the coordinator of the World Sikh Parliament, conducted the meeting.
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*General secretaries, World Sikh Parliament. This article was distributed by Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre- PMARC

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