ISI at it again

The trouble in the border State of Punjab in all likelihood has its origins in the neighbouring Pakistan. According to reports, the police have arrested two persons for allegedly desecrating the holy Sikh book, the Guru Granth Sahib. Torn pages from one such book kept in a village gurudwara were found strewn about in the area, triggering protests. This was ten days ago. Since then the holy book was found torn in a couple of other places. The police had to fire at an angry crowd of protesters which was indulging in arson and rioting. Two people were killed. This too fuelled the popular anger further.

From repeated and widespread incidents of the desecration of the Sikh holy book it was clear that there was a well-planned conspiracy to create trouble in the state which is rightly known as the granary of the nation. On Tuesday too hundreds of protesters were out on the street after twenty pages of the Guru Granth Sahib were found torn near a gurudwara. The police claim that the two persons who were baptised as Sikhs were behind the sacrilege and that they had confessed to the crime. Reportedly, the two were in contact with people in Australia and Dubai and were acting at their behest. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has spoken of ‘certain forces’ being behind the mischief. They wanted to disturb peace in the state.

At least four districts were declared sensitive; paramilitary troops were posted there. Though he did not name the forces, it is widely believed that the finger was pointing at the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence. Apparently, the Intelligence Bureau had warned the Punjab Police about the ISI attempt to infiltrate the state with agents trained to look and act as Sikhs. Despite the warning it was still not possible to safeguard the holy books kept in remote gurudwaras. The subsequent arrests by the police confirmed the earlier tip-off by the IB about the ISI plot in the state. The timing of the ISI provocation might have something to do with India’s no-nonsense stance against the Hurriyat leaders’ aborted dealings with the Pakistani interlocutors in New Delhi which led to the cancellation of the official level talks between the two countries.

Given the extreme provocation and the volatile character of the people of the state, the ISI may have wanted to create mayhem in Punjab. Happily, with the revelation about the ISI hand in the desecration coupled with the strong steps taken by the State Government, normalcy seems to be returning to Punjab. The desecrations followed the farmers’ agitation over the loss of crops due to the whitefly pests which spread further owing to the use of spurious pesticides. The timing of the ISI mischief was perfect but the arrests of its agents clearly show that the agency is losing its touch. Earlier two of its terrorists were caught red-handed by the Kashmir police. Both detailed how they were recruited, trained and pushed into India to ‘kill Hindus,’ as one of the terrorists revealed to the authorities. Talking to Pakistan in such a hostile climate will certainly not be advisable.

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