Regional aspirations in the framework of perverted sense of nationalism


Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, July 11: Once nation’s ‘saviour’ and now forgotten hero K P S Gill, then heading Punjab police, convened early morning news conference at GO Mess in Chandigarh to announce  a major killing-that of ‘dreaded terrorist’ Gurbachan Singh Manochahal. A journalist from a wire agency  got too excited and said it was a cause for celebration and Gill should order Champaign.

The person having the image of a ruthless cop looked at the journalist with a stern face and said, “The death of even an enemy is not the cause for celebration”. The Champaign suggestion was part of the perverted nationalist psyche. At one level, Gill respected human values.

Similar is the reaction to the killing of young Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani by the security forces. There is a section that has congratulated the security forces for this action. Kashmir is on boil. The situation would slowly ‘normalise’. However, in the process, the irrelevance of the PDP-BJP government in the state headed by Mehbooba Mufti stands exposed. This government is meeting the fate of the Akali Dal government in Punjab headed by Surjit Singh Barnala that was facilitated into power in 1985.

Punjab is now ‘normal’ but former chief minister and state Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh could not enter Canada some weeks back. Akali Dal President and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal dare not visit Canada.

The people with this perverted sense of nationalism fail to realize or they don’t want to that a person who picks up the gun knows that he would be killed by the gun and that too within a short span.

Two developments can be linked in the framework of this nationalism- first is the  Supreme Court verdict on continuing Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Manipur since 1958.  Irom Sharmila has not been taking solid food for more than  a decade demanding withdrawal of AFSPA. A group of naked women standing behind a banner had protested against excesses by the army in that state a few years back. The Supreme Court has also finally taken notice of killings in fake encounters in that state. In Punjab, there is no estimate of extra-judicial killings.

In Punjab, the fact is conveniently overlooked that more than 50,000 people have died including Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Chief Minister Beant Singh due to political violence spanning about  decade and a half.

People continue to die from Kashmir to Nagaland to Mizoram to Manipur to Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh and some areas in West Bengal.  The killings are just one part. Women in Manipur protested against rape by security forces. There have been similar reports from the Naxal areas and Kashmir. Rape  has been one of the instruments to humiliate the struggling people.

It is claimed that India is the biggest functional democracy in the world. However, it is this biggest democracy that has failed to respect regional aspirations. The Supreme Court has rightly questioned the futility of continuing AFSPA in Manipur since 1958.  People from the North-East working in other states are subjected to racial discrimination. Kashmiri students are just not trusted and have to face humiliation.

Kashmir has been the ‘problem area’ from the very beginning. The basic issue is as to for how long the security forces continue to be deployed in such states. The so called nationalists overlook the point that the jawans in the armed and para-military forces are also from the ordinary families and it is not the sense of ‘nationalism’ that shapes their decision to join. Burhan Wani is a martyr for Kashmiris. The people from ordinary families who get killed while fighting ‘terrorism’ are hailed as martyrs by the ‘nationalists’ whose sons and daughters prefer cushy jobs. Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale has become part of the Sikh history with his memorial at the very place where he died fighting against the army-the Golden Temple complex.

One can’t remember when the government at the centre initiated dialogue with the people struggling in Manipur. Mehbooba Mufti can’t talk to her ‘own’ people in the valley. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not taken any initiative to start even dialogue with the people who are fighting for their regional aspirations.

People continue to die but that fails to stir the consciousness of the rulers. Let India function as a healthy democracy. India adopted the Westminster model  without its core values.

It is after years that the country has a party in power at the centre with absolute majority  an a prime minister in Narendra Modi whose leadership is unquestionable. It is only such a strong leader who can take the bold initiative. He must start interacting directly with the representatives of the struggling people. The perverted sense of nationalism should not be allowed to overtake start of the dialogue.


Jagtar Singh


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