Militant Sikh youths, still embittered with the Indian government, have threatened to continue the violence that has wracked the heartland Sikh state of Punjab for the past three years.
But the government of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi appears to be counting on widespread indications of support within the mainstream Sikh community -- weary of the violence that has taken more than 2,000 lives in the strategic state -- to overwhelm the extremist view and allow implementation of the accord reached last week between the government and the main Sikh political party, Akali Dal.
Officials in Punjab said they have tightened security around the governor and key political leaders after receiving reports that they were marked for terrorist attacks, and fresh reinforcements were rushed to the state yesterday after the killing of a police inspector in Amritsar.
In interviews with Indian reporters yesterday, members of the outlawed All-India Sikh Students' Federation predicted an escalation of violence despite Wednesday's agreement in New Delhi between Gandhi and Sant Harchand Singh Longowal.
But the accord, which gives Sikhs a greater chance of political control of Punjab, India's granary, received wide support from many Sikhs. Several of them said in interviews here and in the Punjab in recent days that they were tired of years of turmoil.
Harkishan Singh, a scooter rickshaw driver in Chandigarh, complained that restrictions imposed as a result of the violence cut into his income. "People questioned whether we were loyal to India. We lost business as a result of the agitation in the Punjab," said a businessman here.
Gandhi's government appears to be relying on this strain of Sikh opinion. The appointed governor of Punjab, Arjun Singh, said in an interview Friday that the government does not expect threats of violence or opposition by splinter groups to kill the agreement with the Akali Dal. He said public opinion eventually will force an end to the violence.
"Peace has not been won as yet," wrote M.J. Akbar, the widely respected editor of the Telegraph, a daily newspaper published in Calcutta. "It requires more than resolutions to solve the Punjab. The terrorists and secessionists, who have suffered their worst defeat so far, will react like scalded animals. They will search for the means to destroy the relief, which is the common sentiment. They will not accept defeat without their last stand -- perhaps one more round of violence."
The agreement with Gandhi has been rejected by a more extreme wing of the Akali Dal, and it met with opposition Friday from two party leaders who are political enemies of Longowal.
While the agreement meets many of the Sikhs' political demands by increasing their control over Punjab and turning over federally run Chandigarh to them as a capital, scars are still present from three years of battles between Hindus and Sikhs in northern India.
Standing outside the sacred Sikh temple in the tiny Punjab town of Anandpur Sahib, a retired professor of animal husbandry, Karnail Singh, said: "We can be happy in India if the Hindus keep us happy. But they . . . just want to absorb us."
This view that Sikhs, who make up just 2 percent of India's 750 million inhabitants, cannot continue to exist in a country dominated by Hindus has led Sikh extremists to demand the formation of their own nation, Khalistan, in territory that is now the Indian Punjab.
More moderate Sikhs, however, are pressing for a territorial alignment that ensures them control of Punjab as a Sikh state, a demand that the agreement appears to meet. The agreement is less clear on the related demand for greater autonomy from strong central government rule. An already existing committee on relations between the central government and the states would study the issue.
Longowal had proposed that solution to the government of Rajiv Gandhi's mother, Indira Gandhi, two years ago, but it was turned down. This time, however, he apparently agreed that any powers given to Punjab should be entirely within the Indian constitution.
There are also scars among Hindus. Since the secessionist activity, many Hindus question whether Sikhs consider themselves members of the Indian nation. These concerns were intensified when Indira Gandhi was assassinated Oct. 31, apparently by two Sikhs on her security detail.
Sikhs' fears that they are not accepted as Indians, on the other hand, grew as a result of an anti-Sikh bloodbath that followed.