Nipping the evil of Khalistan in the bud in Punjab
The action was strategically timed a day after a G20 meeting in Punjab to keep international guests out of harm’s way.
For someone who fancied himself as Bhindranwale 2.0 after he stormed a police station last month to get an associate freed, his escape from arrest on Saturday came as somewhat of an anti-climax. There was no valour in self-styled preacher Amritpal Singh slinking away when security forces intercepted his cavalcade. The police arrested many of his supporters though he managed to give the slip. His attempts to make a spectacle of the police action were foiled as Internet connectivity was suspended in the state. If the Punjab Police meekly capitulated in February last before a mob led by Amritpal that brandished swords and firearms, the personnel in khaki showed they were made of sterner stuff this time. It was a clinical operation to deny Amritpal the oxygen of publicity and public sympathy. The action was strategically timed a day after a G20 meeting in Punjab to keep international guests out of harm’s way.
Amritpal has been styling himself like pro-Khalistan leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale by copying his attire and body language, holding an arrow, using religion as a shield and surrounding himself with a battery of armed bodyguards. But that didn’t appear organic to security forces as he wasn’t a trained preacher, nor did he follow Sikhism’s tenets till he got radicalised in Dubai before returning home last year. He also sought to issue edicts without consulting those officially empowered by the faith to do so. His fiery speeches to whip up fanaticism became shriller by the day. He went on to warn Union Home minister Amit Shah and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann they would meet the fates of Indira Gandhi and Beant Singh, respectively. Indira and Beant were assassinated in retaliation to Bhindranwale’s murder in Operation Blue Star at Golden Temple in 1984. Yet, the state government dithered in taking action until Mann recently got a nudge from Shah.
Restlessness among the youth due to the lack of jobs, easy access to narcotics, gun-running from Pakistan, and a clueless administration have made the state a dangerous cocktail for anti-national activities. Amritpal is tapping into this groundswell of disenchantment to expand his support base with funds and directions from Khalistani separatists abroad working in tandem with Pakistan’s deep state. He has to be neutralised before he becomes Frankenstein. One hopes the police action will draw bipartisan support from the political spectrum. Punjab cannot afford to slip back into the dark days of militancy.