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Tribune Special

Posted at: Dec 30, 2018, 1:53 AM; last updated: Dec 30, 2018, 1:53 AM (IST)PUNJAB

Bygones made an ugly comeback

Punjab took a step forward with Kartarpur corridor and two backward with radicals gaining ground

Rise of Bargari morcha

  • The pain of sacrilege incidents of 2015 was not allowed to subside as radical leaders staged a dharna from June 1 to December 9. The dharna was lifted following an announcement by Sikh leaders that they were satisfied with the government action in sacrilege and police firing incidents.

Ruchika M. Khanna

The ghost of Khalistan came to haunt Punjab again in 2018. It is more like a genie though, pulled out of a lamp before every election. This time too it is the same story. Only the ghost has come out a bit too early and in a fiercer form. 

Despite all the ills that the previous SAD-BJP government in Punjab was (in)famous for, it did manage to keep the radical elements in the background, until the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib happened in 2015. Further, the targeted killings of religious leaders gave the radicals a fresh ‘launch pad’ in 2016. 

Fast forward to June 2018. Some radical leaders began an indefinite dharna at Bargari village in Faridkot, where the incident had taken place. They sought action against those responsible for the sacrilege. The dharna continued as the Commission of Inquiry under Justice Ranjit Singh  (retd) carried out a fresh investigation into the matter. The commission found the followers of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda responsible for the incidents. 

Simultaneously, the Referendum 2020 campaign was launched by a US-based advocacy group. This event was played out outside India. In India, new small terror modules were being formed. Efforts were made through these modules to garner support for the secessionist campaign.

The tense religio-politico situation, large-scale unemployment and lure of easy money, provided a perfect backdrop for the Pakistan-based ISI to foment trouble here. Luckily, people rejected the propaganda and the security agencies remained alert as the Punjab Police busted these modules. The only incident in which the damage was done was the grenade attack on the Nirankari Bhawan in Amritsar.

The surge in radicalism only led to polarisation. The Hindu community became wary of anyone mingling with the radicals. In the last Assembly election, the Hindus were believed to have voted in favour of Congress in at least 29 Assembly seats for they were wary of the Aam Aadmi Party cosying up to the radicals.

With the Lok Sabha polls round the corner, a narrative of Congress dealing with the radicals (Bargari Morcha leaders) was successfully created by their political opponents. The plan was to polarise Hindu voters. How far this politics of polarisation succeeds, we will know after  the results for the General Elections come out.

Amid all this, tragedy struck when more than 60 persons watching a Dasehra mela while standing on the rail tracks  in Amritsar were run over by a train in October. The chief guest of the occasion was Navjot Kaur Sidhu, wife of Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. Though Sidhus’ political opponents tried to turn her presence at the horrific incident into an issue, the couple was given a clean chit in a magisterial probe.

Attack at Nirankari Bhavan

Three people, including a preacher, were killed and more than 20 injured when two motorcycle-borne men threw a grenade on a religious congregation inside Nirankari Bhavan at Adliwal village on the outskirts of Amritsar on November 18. The cops made two arrests in the case in the following week.

Protest over pay cut

Early in October, the Punjab Cabinet regularised the service of 8,886 teachers. However, they were forced to take a sharp cut in salaries — from Rs 42,000 down to Rs 15,000 for three years. The teachers called the move gross injustice and launched statewide protests.

Revolts in opposition parties

The principal opposition party, Aam Aadmi Party, and the state’s oldest political party, Shiromani Akali Dal, suffered massive revolts. While several MLAs in AAP have rebelled, in Akali Dal, the Taksali leaders, led by an MP have formed a new Akali Dal (Taksali). 


In the news

Dissent in Congress

The ruling party too had its share of rebellion. Other than the ruling party MLAs and whispers about the cold war between Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and state party chief Sunil Jakhar, the flashpoint seemed to be, “Which Captain are you talking about?” This was said by local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. 

Lost in Beas spill

Thousands of fish in Beas river were killed besides other aquatic life, after a molasses spill from Chadha Sugar Mill in Keeri Afgana in May. The mill was then sealed and fined Rs 5 crore. The mill is owed by Jasdeep Kaur Chadha, wife of late Hardeep Singh Chadha, brother of liquor magnate Ponty Chadha.

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