Repressive state response to democratic struggles in Punjab uncalled for

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Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, July 16: The leaders of the United Akali Dal and some other activists  were yesterday detained by the Punjab police in a pre-dawn swoop to stop them from taking out a peaceful march on July 17 from Bhagta Bhai to  Bargari a few kilometers away to protest against failure of the Akali Dal-BJP government led by Parkash Singh Badal to nab those responsible for sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib last year. It was on June 1, 2015 that a Bir of Guru Granth Sahib went missing from Burj Jawahar Singhwala near Bargari and that is still to be traced.

The latest attempt by the farmers’ organisations to stage demonstration pressing for their demands in Bathinda was thwarted by the police.

The Badal government is resorting to the use of repressive state machinery to crush every democratic and peaceful struggle by the people.

It is the same Akali Dal that launched consistent struggle for restoration of civil rights during Emergency imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in June, 1975.

Ironically, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal at the 11th Inter-State Council Meeting on June 16 in New Delhi talked of genuine federal structure with more power to the states. This has been the demand of the Akali since ages. He should take up the speech of his father and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at the National Development Council meeting in Delhi in 1978 for reference. He has talked nothing new. However, in this case, the issue is of crushing democratic struggles by a party  that talks of decentralization of powers. The party is not prepared to provide people even the space to air their grievances and demands.

The United Akali Dal is headed by  Bhai Mohkam Singh with Gurdip Singh as the general secretary. Both of them for years subscribed to the radical politics. The Badal government, rather any democratically elected government, should have facilitated the shift by such leaders to the democratic mode rather than blocking their path.  They don’t raise any radical slogans and they seek space in democratic domain. Badal, it seems, is not prepared for that. Mohkam Singh has already been slapped with eleven cases. Badal takes pride in having spent about 16 years in jails in free India for which he is compared with South African  leader Nelson Mandela. However, none in the government has  ever provided the proof of Badal having spent such a long term in jails. His jail term would not total more than six years. Akali Dal stalwart Gurcharan Singh Tohra spent more time in prison than Badal.  His  himself would admit that his total jail time might be between six to seven years. This reference is for the sake of making comparison between Badal and Badal, when in power and when out of power. This amounts to double standards.

Mohkam Singh and company are the leaders who had summoned Sarbat Khalsa on November 10 last at Chabba near Amritsar against series of incidents of sacrilege and killing of two protesters at Behbal Kalan by the police. The response was unprecedented. However, there have been no protests against their repeated arrests since then. Their effort to carve out their space in democratic domain continues.

There is yet another irony. Mohkam Singh has been with Damdami Taksal for years and came out over some differences. Damdami Taksal is now with Badal and playing religious-political card on his behalf in the political domain like attacking Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Bada’s repressive approach has parallels  with the treatment meted out by the Congress government in the state headed by Beant Singh. There is little difference between Badal and Beant Singh so far as the approach to democratic struggles is concerned despite the fact that Beant Singh was dictated by different factors.

He  never provided any space to Akali Dal and Badal to launch even peaceful struggles so long as he was alive. He used the state machinery to suppress all activities of the Akali Dal. Badal is only repeating history with the change that the victim this time is the United Akali Dal and other activists who have raised their voice even at the individual level. They include people like former Golden Temple Ardasia Balbir Singh. He too was detained but the police realized the mistake within minutes. The issue is that of approach that is no different from that of Beant Singh.

The party that has been demanding autonomy should not curb the basic democratic right of the people to protest peacefully.

Editor-in-Chief

Jagtar Singh

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