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Use of violence to vent anger condemnable

Kangana Ranaut’s abhorrent remarks on Sikhs and Punjab during and after the farmers’ protest do not justify an act of violence against her.

Use of violence to vent anger condemnable

Face-off: CISF constable Kulwinder Kaur (R) slapped Kangana Ranaut at the Chandigarh airport last week. PTI



Sherbir Panag

Lawyer and commentator

A CISF constable, Kulwinder Kaur, slapped actor and MP-elect from Mandi, Kangana Ranaut, at the Chandigarh airport on June 6. While the CISF promptly (and rightly so) suspended Kulwinder and handed over the matter to the local police, polarised narratives almost instantly overtook the events.

There were those who expressed support for Kulwinder, celebrating the act, offering her a job and suggesting that Kangana deserved violence because of the abhorrent statements that she had made about Sikhs, Punjab and the farmers’ protest. On the other hand, there were the moderates, who rightly castigated what Kulwinder did as being contrary to the ethos of the uniform. And then, there were the not-so-moderate ones, who concluded that this was an act of terror and that Punjab was on the brink of secessionism by lazily correlating this incident with the election of Amritpal Singh and Sarabjeet Singh Khalsa. In short, the usual trope, devoid of reality, that has been peddled since the farmers’ protest. Kangana, as if on cue, added her two bits of ‘concern’ and equated the incident with the ‘rise of terrorism’ in Punjab.

First things first — violence, for any reason whatsoever, is not acceptable. The use of violence to make a political statement is not okay. And violence by someone in uniform — who is sworn to protect the Constitution of India and all Indians alike — is not acceptable. Neither one’s political beliefs and biases nor the actions of the recipient of violence should dictate how we feel about violence. There is no space for support to what Kulwinder did. There can be no justification for it and no ifs and buts or nuances associated with this position.

Kangana’s abhorrent remarks on Sikhs and Punjab during and after the farmers’ protest do not justify an act of violence against her, and I say this as someone who has sparred with her and attracted the vitriol and abuse of her supporters. We cannot justify someone in uniform making a political statement on duty — whatever the provocation. This is a slippery slope, and what the meme makers, stand-up comics, artistes and others fail to realise is that they could also be on the receiving end of violence one day. We must not forget that it was only last year that a constable of the Railway Protection Force killed four persons aboard the Jaipur-Mumbai Superfast Express, and at least three of the victims were allegedly targeted by him on account of their religion.

The uniform cannot be politicised, and if it is, it will lead to disastrous consequences. It would be incorrect to label the CISF an unprofessional force — which it is not — based on Kulwinder’s unbecoming conduct, but it would be pertinent to also address the ‘yeoman service’ that some officers in the military and paramilitary forces have rendered to the politicisation of their offices. The rank and file observe their leaders. And if the leaders depart from their constitutional duties, join political events, make political statements in service and run as candidates of the ruling party immediately after demitting office, then politicisation will occur and manifest itself in different forms.

But equating what Kulwinder did to an act of terror is highly objectionable and sinister. To constantly take every incident involving a Sikh or Punjabi and call into question their patriotism is no longer a laughing matter and must be unequivocally condemned. That it has been normalised is deeply concerning. It finds its genesis in the not-so-civil discourse that surrounded the farmers’ agitation and the events thereafter.

The right to protest in a democracy is fundamental and absolute, as is the right to oppose those who protest. Therefore, it was entirely within the growers’ right to hold a stir against what they believed were unjust laws, and others are entitled to disagree with their cause. That the Government of India saw merit in their demands and ultimately repealed the laws is lost on various IT cells of political parties and trolls. Unfortunately, the discourse at the time reached the lowest of lows, and whoever protested or disagreed with the government was labelled an anti-national, a terrorist, an urban Naxal or a member of some fabled ‘Tukde Tukde’ gang and was subjected to hate and bigotry and faced calls for violence.

This has now been stretched ad absurdum, and Indians are being called on to answer for the statements and actions of the diaspora as well. Collectively, this is the greatest disservice one Indian can do to another, and that we do so with impunity is nothing we should be proud of. But the damage that these bizarre narratives have done in creating social fissures and fractures is going to last long and will only be compounded or fanned by statements of prominent BJP leaders.

There is no terrorism in Punjab, and the state rejected the idea of Khalistan long ago. Does Punjab have deeper social, economic and political challenges? Absolutely. And do these challenges create fissures and give rise to a fringe? Yes, they do. But has Punjab adopted the fringe en masse? Absolutely not. I am not doing a detailed analysis of the Khadoor Sahib election in this piece, but I will say that Amritpal’s election has got nothing to do with what Kulwinder did. The fearmongers don’t understand Punjab and that Amritpal and his supporters have not won all 13 Lok Sabha seats. Nor do they take note of the fact that Simranjit Singh Mann lost in Sangrur and that Amritpal will soon be taking an oath on the Constitution of India.

Let me conclude with something I am pained to say. I should not have to say it, but I feel compelled to — that for most members of my generation — we are Indian, Sikh and Punjabi. And there is no contradiction between any of these identities. While the second and third are interchangeable, the first is not.

#Kangana Ranaut #Mandi #Sikhs


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