That Sinking Feeling In Punjab

That Sinking Feeling In Punjab

by Rohit Pathania - Friday, November 11, 2022 02:35 PM IST
That Sinking Feeling In PunjabRecent murders in Punjab are increasingly reminding its people of the dark days of 1980s.
  • A CM missing in action; random calls for killings being followed by murders; gangs running amok claiming to be freedom fighters; a radical preacher touring and provoking sentiments of the people.

    Punjab appears to be sliding back to a time that brought the state and the country a lot of pain.

Yet another day, yet another high profile murder. This has seemed to become the trend in Punjab in the past few weeks.

Last week, Sudhir Suri, of one of the various Shiv Sena factions and a locally prominent Hindu activist in Amritsar was shot dead. 

What was particularly shocking was the rather professional manner in which the murder was committed, and that too when a police security cordon stood around Suri. The incident left the police looking absolutely clueless. 

The murderers were seen by several witnesses, and the links to Khalistani terrorists are difficult to deny. 

Be it Gopal Singh Chawla, Pakistan-based Khalistani terrorist and ISI asset congratulating the killers, or Gurpatwant Pannu promising cash for legal defence of the killers, the trail is rather evident. 

Add to that the link of Dubai-based businessman-turned-radical-Khalistani-preacher, Amritpal Sandhu and the killer having met some time before the murder, and the cocktail seems perfect. 

This week’s murder took things to another level though. 

One of the accused in the Bargari sacrilege case and a follower of the controversial Dera Saccha Sauda, Pradeep Singh, was shot dead in broad daylight by unknown assailants. 

The fires have definitely been simmering, given how Pradeep is one of the seven accused shot dead in the past six years. What however it once again proved was the total absence of even a semblance of law and order in the state of Punjab.

Knowing fully well the need to fast-track the cases and also provide security, the importance of the case was not hidden from anyone. Even then, that a murder like this could take place raises questions on the intelligence failure of the Punjab Police. 

This reactive approach of the police has been going on for a while.

The administration however has reacted in a manner that has left many disappointed to say the least. Issuing advisories to prominent Hindu activists in the state to not step out of their houses in Ludhiana has perhaps not been seen since the heydays of Khalistan terror of the nineteen eighties. 

This speaks volumes on the inability of the Punjab Police to be able to detain suspects preemptively. What is ironic is that so many Sikhs are also being issued threats by people like Gopal Singh Chawla, and yet the police force seems to be in deep slumber on the question. 

The lack of interest of the administration in addressing any issue is more than visible. Every day there is some or the other road in the state that is blocked by a batch of some farm union faction or the other, causing massive inconvenience within the state and earning the ire of the common people. 

Inaction on stubble burning, salaries not being paid for months on a stretch, state economy in shambles, and a bureaucracy in boycott mode - there is no end in sight to a dark tunnel into which Punjab is being hurtled. 

But for the alertness of Delhi and Haryana Police, many instances would have also happened in the neighbouring regions, spreading the menace wide. 

People like Amritpal Sandhu have a free hand in provoking sentiments through inflammatory speeches. Even in the Patiala temple attack case from earlier this year, not much action has happened in terms of investigation and prosecution. 

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister has started to look more and more like a ‘lame duck’. No amount of ridicule for dancing in Gujarat or being deplaned in Germany after repeated fiascos seemed to have made any difference.

Even on the issue of stubble burning, the Aam Aadmi Party’s u-turn and rhetoric have been caught out repeatedly. This has raised more questions than answers about what the government of Punjab even wants to achieve.

History may not repeat, but it certainly rhymes. These incidents are increasingly reminding the people of Punjab of the dark days of the nineteen-eighties.

A popularly elected government missing in action with a chief minister known more for his shenanigans; random calls for killings being followed by executions to ‘avenge’ the Panth; gangs running amok claiming to be freedom fighters and being armed to the teeth; people related to deras and spiritual groups being targeted; and a radical preacher touring and provoking sentiments of the ordinary people and radicalising at large - the signs are all over there. 

Forces trying to foment trouble are receiving funding and support from elements in the diaspora, with drug trafficking forming a significant source of such funds. Pakistan’s involvement has also come back, given how drones are being deployed to deliver weapons, explosives and drugs. 

The central government has to move forward; however, given the federal structure, there are limits to what action it can undertake. 

Rest assured, every effort is being made right now to ensure that the communal poison does not spread beyond Punjab. Efforts have been made to track Khalistanis in and outside India and get them to justice.

What is worrying though is that the narrative war is definitely not being fought by the intelligence agencies in a concerted fashion. 

Social media content is awash with inflammatory material, but there is action in a reactive manner. Several Khalistani sympathisers based abroad and fake handles running from Pakistan are trying to stoke flames. It is on this front that much more is left to be desired. 

Incidents are more and more starting to remind the well wishers of Punjab about the return of those days that everyone else wants to forget and move on from.

One can only hope that this is addressed fast. Before it is too late. No more bloodshed can be afforded by Punjab.

Rohit Pathania works in the space of renewable energy and environment. Other interests include politics and the economy.
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