DC Edit | Throw the book at Amritpal; vital to ensure Punjab peace
DECCAN CHRONICLE | DC Correspondent
The incarceration of the Khalistani sympathiser and Waris Punjab De head Amritpal Singh in Dibrugarh, Assam, marks the culmination of a set of actions by the Punjab Police in bringing to heel a dangerous religious sect leader who was not only sowing discord but also planting the seeds of separatism once again. The actions taken, including stopping his wife from going abroad, were commensurate with the objective of reining in a troublesome element who was so obviously stoking the dissonance and disharmony of the kind that shook Sikh society and the nation in the 1980s.
It is arguable whether he surrendered or was forced to give himself up, but he did seem to choose the location of his arrest outside a gurdwara in the militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s native village. The militant preacher may have achieved the symbolism he was obviously aiming at as he, dressing up in Bhindranwale style, made himself over to the police forces.
The fear he triggers in an ominous statement that this was only the beginning and not the end should tell its own tale of what Punjab may be up against if it gives characters like him a free run. The defiance of the State in Ajnala where Amritpal Singh and his supporters raided a police station to free an aide and sympathiser of the dangerous causes he espouses was a step too far. But he had done worse in openly vitiating the communal atmosphere with provocative speeches against other religions and vandalism in gurdwaras. That he and his followers were allowed to go unchecked with such activities for too long before the police were ordered to swoop on Amritpal Singh does not commend the State for any sense of alacrity.
Had it been in the days of princely India, Amritpal Singh may have been tossed into a dungeon and the keys thrown away. Civil society of today can’t deal with him summarily and must move as per law. And yet it would serve the cause of divesting Punjab of an obvious separatist with a dossier of nefarious activities, including suspected links to Pakistan’s ISI, if the most stringent laws in the book are thrown at him.
It is too important to curb the fissiparous tendencies people like him plant in the minds of people with their preaching, but aimed at only serving their own narrow ends. His acts betray that he is no less than a terrorist openly promoting violence while rekindling the Khalistan cause. The nation once paid a very heavy price because the Congress party led by Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister encouraged the rise of Bhindranwale and events that spiralled from a late attempt at containment of Khalistan advocacy included her assassination as well as genocide of Sikhs. It took Punjab and India a long time to recover from those traumatic events. To reach out to the youth of Punjab and convince them not to be misguided by romantic notions of nationhood spread by the likes of Amritpal Singh is critical at this point.
There will be elements in the UK, Canada and Australia to propagate these fanciful ideas, but it is the community in India that must be educated on the ill that winds of separatism can cause to them and the country. Peace in the frontline state of Punjab is all too critical for everyone’s welfare.