Chandigarh: The police crackdown after the clash between Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray) members and Khalistan supporters in Patiala on April 29, notwithstanding, the failure of the new AAP government in Punjab to anticipate the situation on the ground shows it completely misread the goings-on of the past fortnight there.
The upcoming clash was writing on the wall with the Sikh for Justice’s (SFJ’s) Gurpatwant Singh Pannu's call to observe Khalistan Day on April 29 and the Sena members announcing to take out an anti-Khalistan march on that day. Barjinder Singh Parwana, one of the masterminds of the said clash, who has been arrested, had also said on social media he would not allow anyone to hold such an event.
The clash finally broke out near Kali Mata Mandir in Patiala when some Khalistan supporters and Sena members pelted stones at each other brandishing swords, leaving four persons injured. This gave all the opposition parties, namely Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), and BJP, the opportunity to tear into the chief minister Bhagwant Mann-led AAP government. Not only this, the AAP government also faced severe criticism from Sikh outfits for failing to prevent the Sena’s march.
Even though the AAP maintains it was not a communal clash but a clash between opposition political parties and that the arrests have been made from both sides, the question that remains unanswered is that – why were both the groups allowed to take out march as the march by the Sena members as well as Parwana’s objection to it, was unknown to none?
Reports are rife that there had been conflicting stands of Parwana and Sena members in the past too over the issues of Khalistan as well as the Army action on the Golden Temple, the holiest site of Sikhs. Not only this, the former has also faced a police case for his comments on such issues in the past.
However, even though the state saw militancy for over a decade from the 1980s, there have also been clashes later between Sikhs radicals and the Dera Sacha Sauda followers, Dalits and farmers unrests, and the 2015 Guru Granth Sahib sacrilege incident in which two Sikhs protesters were shot dead by police.
Political scientists opine that while Delhi model for better power, health and education facilities, is fine but the AAP government would do better to weigh the gravity of radical Hindu and Panthic groups and farmers and labour unions.
Dr Ronki Ram, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chair Professor in political science, Panjab University, agrees that though police failed to calculate the situation in Patiala beforehand because of which the clash took place, the incident, nonetheless, proves how the people of Punjab - who had suffered and endured militancy for over a decade - cannot become the target of such ``divisive designs of some anti-Punjab/Punjabiyat groups anymore’’. However, such issues are sensitive in Punjab and need to be aptly handled well in time for the peace and harmony in Punjab, he added.