Noticed And Unnoticed: The Context To PM's Outreach To Sikh Community

Swarajya Staff

May 04, 2022, 10:29 AM | Updated 10:43 AM IST

PM Modi at an event at 7 Lok Kalyan Marg (PMO)
PM Modi at an event at 7 Lok Kalyan Marg (PMO)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of pandering to the Sikh community through his overt outreach to them. The critics, most of whom are BJP supporters, believe that the PM’s outreach has not been reciprocated by the other side.

The context. In the recent past:

- The Union government has removed names of suspected Khalistan separatists from blacklists.

- Withdrawn the farm laws.

- The Parkash Purabs of three eminent Sikh Gurus have been celebrated at a grand, unprecedented scale.

- The Prime Minister has hosted Sikh delegations of various sizes at his official residence.

On the other hand. The outreach efforts of Prime Minister Modi have not been reciprocated by the Sikh community. In fact, they have been rebuffed.

- When PM Modi announced that 26 December will be celebrated as Veer Baal Diwas in honour of the sacrifices of the children of Guru Gobind Singh, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee said that "limiting the martyrdom of the younger Sahibzadas to ‘Veer Baal Diwas’ is not fitting their martyrdoms".

- In a statement issued a day after PM Modi participated in the celebration of Guru Tegh Bahadur’s 400th Parkash Purab at the Red Fort in New Delhi, the head priest of the Akal Takht said that the under the current BJP regime, the beliefs of the minorities were being suppressed.

Is this appeasement? Notwithstanding the criticism coming PM Modi’s way for his outreach, the crackdown on radical Sikh elements in the past few months seems to have turned stronger, and is being carried out at both home and abroad.

- In December 2021, the German authorities arrested Jaswinder Singh Multani, after the Indian government put significant pressure following the court blasts that took place in Punjab.

- Multani is a leading member of the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) movement and faces charges for terror-related incidents, including an alleged plot to kill Bharatiya Kisan (Indian Farmers) Union president Balbir Singh Rajewal.

- During British PM Boris Johnson’s recent India visit, the governments of India and the UK agreed to create a taskforce to counter extremist elements operating in Britain, including pro-Khalistan forces.

- In February this year, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Director-General S N Pradhan had stated that there has been a threefold increase in the seizure of heroin from 2,146 kg in 2017 to 7,282 kg in 2021. A good part of the money for pro-Khalistan activities is said to come from heroin trade.

- In Canada, it is well known that many prominent Sikh criminal gangs are actively involved in the drug syndicate. April 2021 saw a huge gang bust taking place as part of Project Cheetah, where ties of the busted gang were traced to India as well.

- The information that drugs were being used to finance the terror movement was well known to Canadian authorities since July 2020. The fact that bust took place only in 2021 suggests that increased activity by Indian authorities could have played a role here too.

Closer home. The BSF can now patrol upto 50 kms of the international border in Punjab. The areas that now see increased BSF jurisdiction intersect with two important areas:

- What were once the supposed 'liberated' zones;

- And the water routes for smuggling in weapons and drugs.

- This area is also coinciding with the zone where increased drone activity of drugs and arms-drops from across the border have been witnessed increasingly.

- The Centre's decision allows hostile activity to be easily monitored and acted upon in coordination with the local police force.

Interestingly. Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann named the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and Simranjit Singh Mann’s Akali Dal faction as responsible for the violence in Patiala, leaving out the name of the BJP.

- Similarly, Raghav Chadha, named the Congress and Akali Dal (Badal) directly for the violence.

- On the ground, the police arrested Khalistan supporter Barjinder Singh Parwana for the Patiala violence. His arrest and the speed of it becomes noteworthy given that pace of investigation and arrests in much older but similar cases in Punjab.

- This could be indicative of a broader understanding being present between the Centre and the state, at some level, on keeping law and order under check, and exchanging notes.

Bottom line. The Prime Minister going out of his way for the Sikh community is the visible, celebrated, criticised part of his government’s approach. On the other hand, his government’s crackdown on radical Sikh elements, both at home and abroad, goes under the radar. Perhaps he intends it to be so.

Also read: Patiala incident, PM's outreach, and the on-ground situation in Punjab

Get Swarajya in your inbox.