DEACDES AFTER PUNJAB battled a toxic perception created by vested interests and anti-Punjab and anti-Sikh communal elements that branded Sikh youth as potential terrorists, the state's top police officer has now issued a statement that does even more harm, not only to the image of the Sikhs and Punjabis at large, but even to New Delhi's narrative of robust nationalism.
Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta has said that the Kartarpur corridor is a potential gateway to terrorism since a person can cross the border into Pakistan without a visa and come back after a few hours as a terrorist. If one is shocked at even such a suggestion, then perhaps one would find Gupta's own words actually much more horrific.
"Kartarpur offers a potential that you send somebody in the morning as an ordinary chap and by evening he comes back as trained terrorist actually. You are there for six hours, you can be taken to a firing range, you can be taught to make an IED,” Gupta told a roomful of journalists at the offices of an English daily that was apparently exchanging ideas with the officer.
While it is a no-brainer to reiterate that a venture like the Kartarpur Corridor would not have come to fruition without definitive clearances from the top political and army authorities, and that the decision would have involved a plethora of possible intelligence, diplomatic, strategic and tactical inputs, Gupta thought it fit to call the passage to the shrine connected to the First Sikh Master Guru Nanak as "a huge security challenge from terrorism point of view.”
In a subsequent press release, Mr Gupta, finding that his comments drew all around condemnation, "expressed shock and outrage" because he claimed his remarks were "being misunderstood or being wilfully misconstrued."
"I only red-flagged the obvious ‘potential’ for misuse by elements notorious for their hostility towards India and their effort to exploit every opportunity, even the most pious one, to disturb peace and communal harmony,” Mr Gupta was quoted as saying by an official press release issued by the PR department of the state government.
Mr Gupta effectively reiterated his position as enunciated earlier, did not deny a word of it, and actually repeated it. Here is the official clarification-style press note: "There was absolutely no reference to any religion or community in his remarks but simply that some anti-national elements based in hostile neighbourhood could misuse and exploit this opportunity and, therefore, "we” need to be vigilant to such potential dangers in the interest of peace and security of the people of the State, who, he said, had already suffered a lot in the past at the hands of terrorism promoted by our hostile neighbour." (sic)
The newspaper, where Gupta waxed eloquent about the possibilities that the Kartarpur Corridor offers, had reported the DGP as saying that some elements based in the neighbouring country were "trying to woo the pilgrims and making overtures to them.”
"It is a huge concern…that is why it was not opened for all these years. I was in Intelligence Bureau for eight years…I used to handle it over there. The feeling was that it (the Corridor) will be a huge security challenge. But after that as the community wanted it, the diaspora wanted it, it was decided why cannot this dream be realised. So all those security concerns were put on the backburner. And we also gave our go ahead,” he told journalists.
The fact is that Dinkar Gupta’s words were actually borrowed from RSS ideologues. When United Nations Secretary General António Guterres hailed
the India-Pakistan visa-free passage as "Corridor of Hope,” Seshadri Chari of the RSS and a former editor of Organiser, called it a Corridor of Terror. "The dispensation in Islamabad, obsessed with terror...has acquired yet another corridor – Kartarpur – to perpetuate another round of terrorism on India," Chari wrote
. Chari, in fact, committed a near blasphemy as he dragged in the Guru as being part of this instrument of terror. Read
his abominable words: "Pakistan army badly needed a diversionary ploy and Kartarpur corridor has come as a godsend, or rather ‘Gurusend’.”
While it is not known how objectively or professionally the roomful of scribes pursuing journalism with courage grilled Gupta, some of his utterances are surely pregnant with interesting interpretations.
One, the Punjab Police chief is claiming in no uncertain terms that Punjab and/or the Sikh community has a ready supply of young men/women who will willingly go and slip into the hands of some crafty ISI sleuths, acquire enough training and come back as a converted hardcore terrorists.
This immediately brings under a shadow of cloud every single Sikh/Punjabi man or woman who has already been to Kartarpur Sahib via the inter-country corridor. How is one to prove whether he or she was indoctrinated/trained or not indoctrinated/trained while being on Pakistani soil? After all, converted terrorists might not be assigned any immediate task! And Gupta has revealed his immense understanding of terror-factory where the final deadly product can be hammered out from absolute raw material in six hours flat, or less.
Now, from DGP Gupta's security point of view, everyone who has been to Pakistan via Kartarpur Sahib Corridor could be seen, or at least suspected, as a sleeping cell.
Also, what good are Indian school/college books, the untiring work of NCERT and the national sense of history propagated through daily school prayers, All India Radio's incessant belting out of Ae Mere Watan Ke Logo and our news television-propelled hyper nationalist anchors whose Republic is always seeking an Answer if all it takes is a devious Pakistani whisking away an unsuspecting devotee from Guru Nanak's shrine and turning him into a terrorist in SIX HOURS FLAT? Or less?
In essence, Punjab's Director General of Police has told the nation in no uncertain terms that Kartarpur Sahib Corridor is a very risky venture, that it was against India's national interest to open it, that the community insisted on opening it, that those who kept the Indian security concerns above religious sentiments were against it, that India's and Indians' security has been put at risk by a community's insistence on opening this Corridor and now all of India's security establishment is on its tenterhooks -- devoting maximum surveillance, resources, eyes, ears and sleuthing brains to prevent greater harm to Indians from these bad, bad people called Pakistanis.
In which part of India will groups of people, heavily intoxicated on massive doses of nationalism administered on a daily basis by the Adityanath Yogi School of Desh Prem, hail the Sikhs for finally realising their dream of finding access to the shrine where Guru Nanak spent the last few years of his life?
How do you think a boisterous group of school students in a school in Rourkela or Muzzafarnagar or Bijnour will treat the lone Sikh boy in Grade 9 who just last week shared his excitement with fellow classmates at his parents' plan to visit Kartarpur Sahib because finally the family has gotten their passports made?
The fact is that Mr Dinkar Gupta has just made this boy's life a little less secure.
But it is what Mr Gupta has done for Pakistan, for ISI, for Pakistan's ISPR, for the morale of devious elements in Pakistani Deep Establishment that is more worrisome.
So far, despite having a troublesome, devious, inimical neighbour that continues to look for opportunities to needle us, to inflict harm upon us through its thousand-cuts policy that costs it nothing but inflicts much damage upon us, we have enjoyed a certain comfort because we had faith in our security forces, in the abilities of our intelligence agencies and in the determination of our police to check any evil designs of Pakistan.
Now, we have the top cop of the state telling us that Pakistan, in fact, is so good that it can pluck a man from the crowd of devotees and turn him into a terrorist, train him in arms and explosives, teach him how to set off bombs and carry out terror attacks, all in the span of six hours. And six hours, in fact, is the maximum for the job, Mr Gupta told an entire bunch of journalists. One can surmise that a more efficient officer of the ISI might take four or perhaps three hours. It is not known if a journo asked Mr Gupta how much can one be turned in a matter of fifteen minutes or so, and now that finer understanding of the bluebook of Pakistani terrorism as gleaned by this senior IPS officer will remain unknown to ignoramus bunch of pen-pushers.
Currently, India is passing through turmoil. One minority is at the receiving end. Its patriotism is being questioned by those in power. Its people have been suffering for a long time and are lately finding a voice in the anti-CAA protests. Its members have been killed in public lynchings that have largely gone un-condemned by powers that be. People have been shirking to give them houses on rent. A love affair involving a boy from that community is being termed a case of love jihad. Everyone knows which community is being targeted by the self-proclaimed nationalists. The goon brigade is out sniffing blood, checking fridges for meat of a particular animal, and attacking, mauling, killing with impunity.
In Punjab, a community is watching all this with a sense of deja vu. It has been there, suffered that sense of alienation. It saw its members being burnt alive in 1984 simply because of their religion.
Senseless statements are making this community vulnerable again. Sikhs are not going to be seen as very friendly people if top police officers go around telling the rest of India that the Corridor which Sikhs pressed for, fought for, prayed for is likely to be used by Pakistan to unleash terrorism.
On top of that, Mr Gupta knows too well that a number of Sikh organisations have openly opposed the CAA-NPR-NRC, that Indian national media has relentlessly telecast images of Sikh and Punjabi farmers running langar at Shaheen Bagh and standing up for their Muslim brethren at Malerkotla and elsewhere. Now, here is Mr Dinkar Gupta telling everyone that the same Sikh community was also adamant on pressing for opening of this Corridor, and that this has opened India to a potential terrorist attack.
Mr Gupta, in one stroke, has effectively made every Sikh a suspect. In a press release issued in response to reactions to his comments, it was claimed that there was no religious connotation to what he said.
Was Mr Gupta well informed about how Sikhs feel about the Kartarpur Sahib corridor? You bet. Here is Mr Gupta in his subsequent press release issued on the evening of February 22: "I rejoiced at the opening of the Sri Kartarpur Sahib Corridor which has fulfilled the decades-old aspirations of millions of devotees like myself all over the world who profess their faith in Guru Nanak Dev Ji and his divine teachings. Their daily ardas for ‘khulle darshan-deedaar’ of religious shrines that remain in post-Partition Pakistan, was finally answered. It was a matter of even greater happiness that it coincided with the 550th Prakash Purab of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji”.
But the same Mr Gupta had also informed about how the community's efforts, prayers and intense lobbying was earlier dealt with by the authorities and on what grounds. Here is what he told the scribes at the newspaper, where he exchanged perceivably brilliant ideas, about the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor:
"It is a huge concern…that is why it was not opened for all these years. I was in Intelligence Bureau for eight years…I used to handle it over there. The feeling was that it (the Corridor) will be a huge security challenge. But after that as the community wanted it, the diaspora wanted it, it was decided why cannot this dream be realised. So all those security concerns were put on the backburner. And we also gave our go ahead.”
You do not need to quibble over what Mr Gupta said: he was the one handling the issue, he engaged with the matter for years, it was a huge concern, it was clearly a security challenge, but because the community wanted it, all those security concerns were put on the backburner. Therefore, the Corridor is open. Therefore, there is massive threat to India. Therefore, it is taking huge resources to prevent that threat.
In his subsequent press release, clarifying what he called "misunderstood" or "willfully (sic) misconstrued" understanding of his remarks, Mr Gupta claimed that there was "absolutely no reference to any religion or community in his remarks but simply that some anti-national elements based in hostile neighbourhood could misuse and exploit this opportunity."
In contrast, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the same Corridor as an event that was akin to the demolition of the Berlin Wall, sending a message of peace and unity. One would think the disciplined police force would be in sync with the country's leadership, but then one has not reckoned with officers out to exchange ideas.
Dinkar Gupta, with his utterances, also destroyed what Narendra Modi had sought to achieve with the Kartarpur Corridor. At the onset of the winter season in mid-October, Modi asked why the Kartarpur corridor took seven decades to be realised. "What could be more unfortunate that for nearly 70 years since Independence, devotees had to use binoculars for 'darshan' of Gurdwara Kartapur Sahib across the border,” he said, blasting the Congress for not caring that "just because of a distance of four km, devotees had been kept away from the 'Guru ghar'?"
"In 70 years, shouldn't the Congress governments have made efforts to eliminate this distance? But the Congress and other parties related to its culture had never given due respect to the faith, tradition and culture of Indians,” he had told
election rallies. Now, it finally takes Dinkar Gupta to tell the nation that actually it was he and the security establishment that thwarted the plans, not the Congress.
This is a much more brilliant cornering of the Prime Minister than Rahul Gandhi has been able to achieve with any tweet. With one idea exchange event, Dinkar Gupta has thrown the PM under the bus.
Also, it is the numbers that are causing a worry, as per Mr Dinkar Gupta. These numbers were actually pushed for by the Indian government. Pakistan was ready to give access to a few hundred. India wanted permission for thousands to visit. Pakistan had meekly agreed. The numbers were an Indian victory. Now, Mr Gupta finds that that "the numbers are huge."
Glean it from the newspaper where Mr Gupta made everyone aware of this great national security challenge: "Earlier the traffic to Pakistan was only a few jathas at Baisakhi and gurpurab. (now) The footfall, the numbers are huge. This is huge potential. So, it is a security challenge."
Which part of it will the rest of the country not understand clearly? There are clearly very pertinent questions involved.
* Pakistan poses a security risk.
* It can turn devotees into terrorists.
* This can be done in six hours.
* Too much pressure was there to open the corridor.
* Corridor was a security challenge.
* The government had resisted for a long time.
* Finally, it agreed to open.
* Now, there is threat of terror.
* Too many people are visiting it.
* That is why challenge is harder.
* If fewer people visit it, it will be better.
* If no one visits, then ISI cannot turn anyone into a terrorist.
* If the Corridor were not to be opened, then there would have been no threat on this count.
Will the number of Sikh devotees wishing to have darshan deedare of Sri Kartarpur Sahib increase or decrease after the DGP’s Idea Exchange?
Also Read: DGP Gupta’s Statement Reeks Of Bias Against The Sikh Community
But pray, you must read the subsequent official and most eloquent clarification. For your benefit, it is titled most appropriately: "No religious connotation in Kartarpur Corridor remarks, says DGP Gupta; Re-emphasises need for vigilance against potential threat of misuse by hostile elements."
One hopes that now there is no doubt left in anyone's mind about what Mr Dinkar Gupta said/wanted to say/wanted to be understood/clarified/absorbed.
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