With each passing day, we see tensions rising in Punjab, driven by various elements that are seeking to rouse passions and chant the slogans of Khalistan.
As the worries around Punjab increase, one man has been coming increasingly under scrutiny on this subject, as he came out of the blue and claims to be carrying forward a ‘mission’ to ‘free the Sikh qaum’.
Amritpal Singh Sandhu was a Dubai resident and involved with his family businesses. Till about two years ago, he did not even sport a turban. Enough pictures and social media content about that aspect survives.
Today, this Dubai resident is moving around Punjab as a transformed man, claiming he is pushing forth the agenda of actor turned separatist Deep Sidhu despite Sidhu’s family distancing themselves.
Heading an organisation named Waaris Punjab De (Inheritors of Punjab), the man has been walking around Punjab, inciting passions and making provocative statements repeatedly, causing controversies all the time.
While he claims that he is asking the youth to walk the path shown by the Gurus and exhorts them to partake Khand-Bate di Pahul and baptise themselves to be Gursikhs, there is much rhetoric of this man that really raises questions on the man’s real intentions.
Fighting for “Freedom” of the Sikh Nation
It is not surprising to hear Amritpal talk about ‘ghulami’ (slavery). This has been a rhetoric that has been rather problematic, though not new.
The problem of course has gone to the extent that everything that constitutes basic law and order has been labeled a sign of ghulami. Be it paying toll tax on highways or for a family who lost their member, an accused in the sacrilege case, to murder inside a jail, everything gets portrayed as a sign of slavery of the Sikhs.
This rhetoric has been taken to the extent of even accusing the government of ‘’ (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee), there is no area where he has not claimed that the signs of slavery are not evident.
The only answer, as per Sandhu, is power for the Sikhs. By power, he directly implies having a sovereign state for the Sikhs. The Sikh youth also, as per Amritpal, need to arm themselves, essentially a repeat of the Akal Takht Jathedar’s advice.
However, the problematic part follows this - to be ready to rise up when the occasion presents itself, clearly hinting at an apt time for an armed revolt against the state.
What is worrisome is that Sandhu claims that the ‘right to self determination’ is inherent to a democracy.
In interviews, Sandhu has stated that Khalistan will be a nation state, citing examples of countries around the world. Having just political power within the system is not acceptable in Sandhu’s universe, as he asks for “sampuran raj” and not “waziri”.
However, what will it mean? When asked this question, he just goes on to claim that it will be a new example of a nation state, and not explaining how it will not be any different from being a theocratic state.
This can be seen in the way Sandhu during an interview talks about following the directions of the Gurus after claiming how the Sikh nation state will be a different example of a nation state.
The contradictions can be seen in this interview (for those who can follow Punjabi), which end up showing more and more of the ideological inconsistencies.
Communal Rhetoric at an All Time High
One of the ignoble achievements of Amritpal Singh Sandhu has been to deepen the communal poison of the Khalistani separatists with his rhetoric.
Not once or twice - Sandhu has been a repeat offender when it comes to dog whistling on other religions. This habit reminiscent of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, accompanied with his outreach activities on the ground, makes one wonder if there is an attempt going on to become another ‘martyr’ which can precipitate an all out violence by an armed movement.
Recently, in an apparent targeting of proselytisers running amok in Punjab, Sandhu had made rather distasteful . While remarking that many pastors have cheated innocent people in the name of healing them, Sandhu asked why Jesus Christ could not save himself from crucifixion.
by Christians across Punjab and an FIR against him, Sandhu reiterated this statement, even asking why Jesus asked God - “God, why have you forsaken me?” and compared it with the composure of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji and Guru Arjan Dev ji.
On another occasion, he had rather distasteful remarks about people from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Himachal Pradesh.
While addressing an audience in Bhindranwale’s native village, Sandhu said that Sikh youth should sign a form saying that people from these states should come and settle down, set up temples.
He tauntingly referred to them by saying that the Sikh youth should beseech them to ‘worship idols, roam around wearing janeu, smoke cigarettes and drugs’, indirectly also trying to claim that these ‘outsiders’ are responsible for all the problems faced by the Sikh youth.
What was worrying also was that the person who was eventually held for murdering Sudhir Suri was seen some time prior.
On another occasion, Sandhu, also had challenged Dera Sachha Sauda and its leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim, on parole currently, over the issue of building a big Dera in Sunam in Punjab.
Talking to the media, Sandhu clearly stated that the onus of ensuring peace and stability lay with the administration and this can be ensured only if the Dera is not allowed its activity.
While pointing to the accusations around beadbi of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji and the Dera’s links with Maur Mandi blasts, Sandhu clearly said that he will not let the Dera to build a centre.
Similarly, on the issue of the clash of Nihangs with Radha Soami Satsang Beas followers outside the Beas headquarter on the issue of grazing Nihang owned cows, Sandhu had deliberately talked of withdrawing cases against Nihangs, instead blaming the Radha Soamis for behaving rudely.
Clearly, the rhetoric and actions are reminiscent of what Bhindranwale used to do. However, many questions remain about this man.
While he claims the sangat is funding him and he is doing what he is to propagate Deep Sidhu’s agenda, there are questions that remain unanswered about him on both fronts.
Also, the manner in which many surrendered Khalistani terrorists have also stood up and questioned his integrity raises more doubts about the genuineness of this person.
Perhaps, the answers are hidden in the mist of time. For now though, there is enough evidence to suggest that this man is treading a dangerous path and wants to drag the Sikh youth of Punjab on a wrong path.
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