OPINION

Monthly Archives: SEPTEMBER 2018


What one leaves behind
16.09.18 - Jawed Naqvi
What one leaves behind



ATAL BEHARI VAJPAYEE's ashes were immersed in the Ganga. Nehru had his scattered over the Himalayas from a plane. Theatre diva Zohra Sehgal desired no such fuss. She left a stark message for her followers to cremate her quietly and put her ashes in the flush. The electric furnace was malfunctioning as it often does, so Sehgal was put on a pyre. Priests who tried to intervene were shooed away. Nehru got an emotional farewell from millions he loved and who loved him back. Vajpayee was on the ventilator till a day after Prime Minister Modi’s last Independence Day speech. Then he passed away.

In 1977, he assured fawning leftist students on a visit to JNU as foreign minister that he had decided to "drop the bomb”, a significant disavowal of a core Hindutva objective of making a nuclear weapon. As soon as he got a wafer-thin majority he did Pokhran II.

It is always different with leaders of the Dravida movement. Their mortal coils are buried in contravention of Hindu rites, a parting shot, as it were, to the Brahminical order they accuse of limiting a multi-fangled Indian culture. Communist leader Jyoti Basu’s body, true to form, was handed over for medical research after a sea of mourners bade him farewell.

Sometimes the mourners switch sides. Take the late Somnath Chatterjee, the renowned parliamentarian who passed away last month. He was expelled from the CPI-M with which he had spent a lifetime as a respected parliamentarian. While his own party shunned him, the communist-hating Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh turned their aloofness into an embarrassment. In a two-page article in its English weekly Organiser, the RSS paid him glowing tributes as a true Indian.

Why is there fanfare when some people pass away and not when their colleagues with equal merit go? Khushwant Singh was a journalist who supported the emergency, and he later sponsored L.K. Advani’s candidature from Delhi, which he subsequently regretted. Kuldip Nayar who died at 95 was a gifted journalist. His Pakistani friends are said to have taken a fistful of his ashes to be interred in Lahore where he grew up. Khushwant Singh’s ashes were also scattered on a sapling.
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Why is there fanfare when some people pass away and not when their colleagues with equal merit go?
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What about others in this line of great journalism, S. Nihal Singh for example? Inder Malhotra departed quietly. Nikhil Chakravarty was a truly towering journalist who went away without fanfare. Apart from being a highly informed journalist in the 1990s he is remembered also for refusing India’s coveted civilian award, saying it was not a journalist’s place to accept appreciation or critique from the state. He never lobbied to become an MP or to be sent out as ambassador.

 

KR Malkani, Kuldip Nayyar, Khushwant Singh, Ramnath Goenka and others during a protest.

 
As journalists go, I have a surprise favourite. K.R. Malkani belonged to the RSS but he was a self-confessed atheist. His canvas of interests as a journalist was many times larger than that of his colleagues. He was better read than Vajpayee or Advani and edited the English party organ. One day Sushma Swaraj was paying obeisance at the pond of Katasraj temple off the Lahore-Islamabad highway. I joined her in the water ritual, but Malkani stood aloof smiling, to say he had nothing to do with what he had seen.

Malkani’s views on Muslim and Christian converts were far from agreeable. However, instead of bearing a grudge against the community, he showed a high regard for Muslim history. In a collection of essays published as India First, he wrote: "Many Muslim countries are occupied. Even after ‘Independence’ their governments are either toppled or turned into puppets. Their oil wealth goes to enrich the West. Their oil revenues are diverted to arms purchase. Neighbouring countries are encouraged and armed — to fight each other … In Iran when Mossadeq’s popular government nationalised oil, they toppled him. So much money was distributed as bribes that Nehru told the Indian parliament that the value of the dollar fell in Tehran bazaar.”

Nehru’s ‘sins’ have been listed aplenty. "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones,” said Shakespeare. The allegations ranged from his apparent stubbornness that led to Partition to his handling of the Kashmir dispute and ties with China. Would it not be fair to assess Vajpayee’s legacy with equal rigour? His musings from Kumarakom showed him up as a statesman. His easy affable ways with the opposition are missed today because his successor betrays no such quality.

But Vajpayee left too many skeletons in his cupboard to be overlooked. Rajiv Gandhi has been accused of favouring a botched law to restrict media freedoms. It was Vajpayee though who got an Indian magazine’s woman journalist removed from covering his PMO. There’s no space here to go into Ayodhya or Nellie or Gujarat or even the ghastly murder of an Australian missionary and his two sons by Hindutva zealots, some of these when Vajpayee was prime minister.

During a 13-day stint as prime minister, Vajpayee, without facing a trust vote in parliament, agreed to a damaging financial deal with the US-based Enron power company. And why forget the arms scam, which forced his defence minister to resign, or when his party chief was caught with his hands on the till?
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"The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones,” said Shakespeare.
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It was under his watch that Muslim extremists hijacked an Indian Airlines plane and got Masood Azhar and several others freed in Taliban-ruled Kandahar. Imagine the furore had an opposition leader carried out the transaction. They would perhaps be incinerated on the streets. It was under Vajpayee’s watch that a mere shepherd helped locate Pakistani positions in Kargil. And while we may accuse Modi of playing sectarian politics with the cow, it was Vajpayee who actually introduced cow protection as a state policy in the president’s address to parliament.

It is not how people go. It is about what they leave behind in the bargain that counts.
 
 

Jawed Naqvi is a senior journalist. This particular piece appeared in dawn.com and is being reproduced here.

 
 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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GURU KE LIYE, KUCHH BHEE KAREGA
Punjab’s angry crowds – Unsheathed swords, swinging lathis. All for the Guru.
07.09.18 - S Pal
Punjab’s angry crowds – Unsheathed swords, swinging lathis. All for the Guru.



THE CROWDS ARE angry, and they are baying for blood. The rulers are guiding them as to whose blood they must spill. Brandishing unsheathed swords, swinging sturdy lathis and shouting the war cry of Bole So Nihal, the devout are converging wherever they find a senior Akali leader plans to visit.

Top leaders of the ruling Congress, the self-anointed saviours of the Guru, are exhorting the devout to mete exactly such a treatment to their political opponents. The police, trained in the black arts of who to ignore and who to listen to, isn’t rushing around to book anyone fanning trouble. The media has so far not found anything particularly disgusting with ministers and legislators using the floor of the Punjab Assembly to ask voters to lynch their opponents. They dropped hints, suggested violence and exhorted crowds from the floor of the Assembly to not let elected representatives of the Akali Dal and their leaders to enter villages. Apparently, a lot has become kosher for Punjab’s media, including a minister seriously suggesting that Parkash Singh Badal should have killed his son, Sukhbir Singh Badal, the day he was born.

Two more paragraphs and many may suspect this to be a sinister attempt to defend the indefensible: the be-adbi of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Worse, many may not even read any further because it is already suspiciously sounding like the defence of the Akali Dal leadership. 

That’s the limit of tolerance – about 200 words. Reading anything beyond, or between the lines, has become anathema. Punjab is walking the path of the lynch mob. In a different set of circumstances, the Badals would have done the same. The Aam Aadmi Party leadership actually did the same in the past. The breakaway group of Sukhpal Singh Khaira explicitly tells people to lynch opponents. 

Ironically, this piece does not deal with why Congress or AAP, and its clone, are behaving in such a way. Instead, this one is focussed on why the Akali Dal finds itself in this singularly weak position.  
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The Badals’ hold over the party and the levers of power was the reason for their success and the exact reason for their current predicament. But what about the rest of the Akali Dal leadership?
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In a piece chronicling the best and the worst in the journey of the Shiromani Akali Dal, senior journalist Hamir Singh marks the edging out of veteran Gurcharan Singh Tohra and the resultant vice-like grip of the Badals on the party, the SGPC and the clergy as the critical point for this downward trend. He also cites the back to back victories of the Akali Dal and the obsequious crediting of Sukhbir Singh Badal and his CEO-style of politics for this success among the reasons. 

The fact is that while the Badals’ hold over the party and the levers of power was the reason for their success and the exact reason for their current predicament, it is the failure of the rest of the Akali Dal leadership to rise to the occasion and hold their ground that cannot be excused. The entire crop of senior leaders virtually owes their position to the House of Badals – the Dhindsas, Bhunders, Brahmpuras, included.

The Akali Dal never underwent even a modicum of introspection after the humiliating defeat in the 2017 elections when it came a poor third, winning even lesser seats than a ragtag AAP.

Normally, a defeat so massive would have either spurred the party into some introspection, or at least to enact a charade of introspection. Gone was the need for even a pretence, like the one the Akalis once enacted in a Shimla hotel in the past. 

The Badals knew there was no one in the party who could seriously question the leadership. The ten years of talk of Progressive Punjab summits, super highways, airports, malls, air conditioned bus stands and sewa kenders, and the charade of sangat darshans had failed, and yet no one challenged the son to a leadership duel.

This is how the party now works:

There is The Leader. He is the master strategist. The core committee, working committee, political affairs committee etc expresses full faith in the high command. Third rung leaders lack the gumption to question why The Leader is selected and not elected. Being seen with The Leader on a stage is peddled as their achievement. For such a photo-op, the minions obediently gather around The Leader. The Leader utters some inanity about a Navjot Singh Sidhu, or a Sukhpal Singh Khaira, the third-rung hordes waiting at the gates chirp in unison. The Leader remains plastered on hoardings across Punjab. 

The Leader stamps his authority by declaring that his writ still runs, that he plans to strike now at Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan. The minions are awestruck by the omnipotence of their leader. 

These minions have no ambition to matter in the scheme of things. They merely want to be able to pretend that they matter in the scheme of things. They are frequently reminded of their utter dependence for security and survival on The Leader. "Call me if anyone torments you,” The Leader tells them. "I will go and hold a rally in Sunil Jakhar’s village,” he thunders. No one asks if that is what the party or Punjab need right now.

He will recast the party now. He has brought out the veterans, covered in cobwebs. The veterans are happy that they will also now get a chance to figure in a three-column picture in the Ajit newspaper. If it appears in The Tribune, that will be a cloud nine feeling.
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No one mentions the "shrinking universe of morals.”
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It is the same pattern that The Leader adopted during his years in power. He would pass the crumbs around, very carefully, making the minions first fight for it, and then be grateful when they get a morsel. For how else will the morsel look big if the minions do not fight for it? And the leader knows how to keep such fights going. Holding back the morsels is one way. Letting know that more morsels are on the way is another. 

Read the past conduct. Minion A becomes a halqa-incharge. Minion B is promised he will be made one if Minion A fails. Minion C hopes both pull each other down. All minions are also selected by The Leader. Lesser minions insert advertisements and put up flex hoardings to proclaim their direct link with Minion A or Minion B. 
 
The Leader, meanwhile, has many favours to bestow. Such as choosing to have a cup of tea with a wanna-be Minion C. This is projected by the house-trained media as a major political move. Dropping in on a marriage ceremony to bless the newlyweds is considered a hallmark of the humility of The Leader. 
 
The minions then emulate The Leader. Everyone has read the signal. Follow The Leader, follow The Leader's actions, follow his pretences, too. Follow his shams, his theatre, his Punch and Judy act through the maze of politics.
The Leader, meanwhile, practices the art of survival. He is hailed for being a survivor. But no one mentions that the survival is because of his immense capacity to shun principles.

The Leader calls his political alliance a Fraternal Alliance. The desperateness earlier used to take him to sundry havans, yagyas, aartis, poojas. He was routinely spotted at the darbar of one or the other satguru. Satgurus have massive and captive vote banks. 
 
The politics of The Leader becomes a game of clever formulations. Earlier, he talked about higher MSP of crops, international airports, thermal plants. Now, it is about river waters, Chandigarh, attack on SGPC, zulm on his minions. At times, he throws in the ISI of Pakistan. If he did not need to visit the US off and on, he might well have added the CIA. (The Americans should thank Akali politics for small mercies.)

If things do not work out, The Leader may be forced to pull out the 1980s card: the Azad Hasti of the Sikhs! 
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Their silence is much louder than the cries of Bole So Nihal in the Assembly. It is a nefarious pact to maintain conspiratorial silence. Everything else is a sideshow.
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The fact is that when the party of history came to power, it dumped the history. Forgot the legacy. Trashed its own struggle. Became the party of airports and Progressive Punjab summits and cheque distribution at Sangat Darshans and managing administration through halqa-incharges. Out of power, it merely wants to put up a show of being the opposition but basically wants to merely wait it out.

Minions, too, wait. And as they wait, they hail The Leader. The Leader is now too big. He is a monolith. He is such a burden and has to be propped up at all times, because he cannot be allowed to fall. After all, he is the face and the body of the party. Down below and deep inside, there is nothing to the party. It is all hollow.
 
The Leader faces little threat because he believes in nothing. He has not taught the minions to believe in anything, so they, too, cannot threaten. When you believe in nothing, there is nothing that you need to desist from doing if there is some advantage that could be accrued. That’s why there are many who are ready to believe the most sinister of the allegations.  
 
The Leader is helped by others, by those outside his party. They, too, are chips of the same block. They, too, are leaders in the same league. "Baki vee sab same ne,” goes the argument. So why change? 
 
The minions have a logical line of reasoning: "Can one leader be any different from the other? Does any leader live by any ideals? Then why blame The Leader? Why blame a particular leader? The flaw is systemic. So we can live with The Leader.”

No one mentions the "shrinking universe of morals.” The ideas and ideology for the attainment of which the party was founded no longer permeate or radiate into those who are outside the party or organisation, just as it no longer affects those who are inside it. 

Once you shun ideology, the movement becomes a party. Then it becomes a mere electoral machine. So it has to ‘adjust’. Adjustment means compromises. It becomes acceptable language. Even acceptable formulation. Soon, it is raised to the level of an ideology. "We will give tickets to the winning candidates.” It is acceptable language, because even the opponents have the same ideology. They both state it in public, on the microphone. The media gets housetrained. xyz is a winning candidate from constituency A, it writes.
 
But the transformation doesn’t stop there. Indeed, it has just begun. For the character of the one who has wrested the office of party pardhan, stamps itself on the entire organisation, on every level of the organisation. His very success legitimises ambition, greed, intrigue and double-dealing. 
 
It becomes imperative for The Leader that the only voices are the ones that hail him. So he ensures that all gatherings unanimously resolve to leave the choice of nominating all office-bearers to him. The party hierarchy comes to consist entirely of nominees of The Leader, and of those who, for the moment, have managed to insinuate themselves into the good books of The Leader.  

In reality, the stronger that The Leader and his circle appear, the weaker is the organisation. Power now flows solely from The Leader. "Don’t worry, it is just a matter of time. Four years will pass quickly.” Basically, he was earlier a ruler, now he is waiting to be a ruler. 

Those whose claim to representation was to bring an alternative politics are trying to prop up an alternative Leader of the Opposition. Earlier his battles were confined to a Bibi Jagir Kaur or a Rana Gurjit Singh. Now, his target is a Harpal Cheema. 

The important thing in all of this is not to let The Leader succeed in his charade of leadership. The even more important thing is not to let the current ruling dispensation get away with the claim that it is trying to fix things and do the right thing by enacting more charade – taking back the inquiry from the CBI, telling people to lynch Akalis, and underlining a remarkably innocent faith in the fairness and non-partisanship of the Punjab Police.  

Both sides are treating you as fools. Those hailing Sukhbir Singh Badal for his micromanagement of politics are fools. Those adamant on thrusting the panthic leadership on Amarinder Singh are stupid, because they are being fools even after watching what happened to their counterparts in the Akali Dal.

The aan-baan-shaan of the Guru cannot be predicated on the ability, proclivity and capacity of small time politicians and their masters. At a time when all the dramatis personae are speaking too much, listen to what they are not saying.
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When two parties call each other the dushman of the Sikhs, it is a sign that the fight is for the same turf, not for the aan-baan-shaan of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
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From an Amarinder Singh to a Sukhbir Singh Badal, from a Navjot Singh Sidhu to a Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, from a Harminder Singh Gill to a Sukhpal Singh Khaira, from a Bhagwant Mann to an HS Phoolka, they are all shouting loudly – and so silently – on the top issues of our times. Their silence is much louder than the cries of Bole So Nihal in the Punjab Assembly.

It is a nefarious pact, one that is just not possible for anyone with any claim to believe in the teachings of the Gurus. Amarinder Singh and the Badals share the same conspiratorial silence. Everything else is a sideshow.

This silence is the common thread between those who claimed that the 'Congress was the enemy of the Sikhs' and those who now peddle that the Badals were responsible for sacrilege. 

The test of a politician is what he has to say about what is most crucial to your life, security, independence, rights. The test of the media is if it asks the questions that directly affect how your tomorrow will turn out to be. Instead, the Hindu-Muslim debate of the rest of the country is being reflected in Punjab in the form of political positions on the sensitive issue of sacrilege.

When you have two parties calling each other the dushman of the Sikhs, then you know that the fight is for the same turf. The Akali Dal portrayed itself as the party of the Sikhs. The BJP of Amit Shah-Modi portrayed itself as the party of the Hindus in the country. Then came Rahul Gandhi sporting a janeyu, laying claim to being a Shivbhakt. In Punjab, you now have a Congress laying claim to be the saviour of the Sikh panth. In the Punjab Assembly, the good people of Punjab heard a minister making a case for infanticide on the floor of the Assembly, with not one sound of protest.

In such a matrix, it becomes possible for the media to forget to ask Amarinder Singh if he agrees with Rahul Gandhi’s view on the Rafael fighter jets deal. My bet is that he will not squeak a word on it. It is now kosher for the media not to ask Amarinder Singh about the state of the Enforcement Directorate case against his family members. Amarinder Singh’s view on the state of joblessness in the country is not known, even though Rahul Gandhi makes his view public every day. Ask Amarinder Singh or Parkash Singh Badal or Sukhpal Singh Khaira about the civil society activists arrested in the country, and you will get silence. 

They cannot even speak about demonetisation, not even after the RBI has counted all the notes. 

And you thought these are the brave leaders who will do anything for the aan-baan-shaan of Sri Guru Granth Sahib? 

You are today going out with an unsheathed sword or swinging a lathi after those who you believe committed sacrilege, or you are going to answer the call of the leader who says you only have to wait for three plus more years, or you are ready to spew venom on the social media because you believe the answer lies in a Bhagwant Mann or a Sukhpal Khaira. 

It is because you hear what they say. And you are not listening to what they are not saying. 

Are you fooling yourself, or the Guru? 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles: 

UNHOLY HASTE To save the faith

Hua Panthik-Panthik Punjab - How do we reclaim real politics?

The Yuba City Attack on Manjit Singh GK & General Sambit Patra

Pakistan, Navjot Sidhu & the hug: Amarinder Singh 2018 is opposing Amarinder Singh 2004

Amarinder, Badals, AAP — Every party in Punjab is now an Akali Dal

Paragraphs that went missing from PM’s Red Fort speech could have pre-empted Opposition attack

Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

Mr SY Quraishi, can you please help to save this pet dog locked inside this sealed building?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

Punjab is Silent as India Wakes Up to Talk of Refugees

AAP-CONG ALLIANCE: ARREY BHAI, YEH KYA LIKH DALA?

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS PLANNING HONEYMOON? 

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

DEATH EMBRACING LOGIC: Drugs in Punjab

PANJAB'S EMERGENCY: FORMAL AND INFORMAL

THE KASHMIR GOVERNOR, THE TRIBUNE TRUST & ETHICS - How Journalism Fails Readers?

"Congress Sikhan Di Dushman Jamaat Hai?” —Akalis need to dump broken record, shift gears

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

SARKAR IN MANALI: From Shahkot to Mohali Court, Sara Alam Bigrra Jaye

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

SIKHS & FEMINISTS – We hailed Harjit Sajjan; they didn’t hail Gina Haspel

AFTER BEING RAPED, I WAS WOUNDED; MY HONOUR WAS NOT

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WE MISSED A REVOLUTION, BUT CAN IT STILL BE A GAME CHANGER?

A POLITICIAN SPEAKS – YOU SHOULD HEAR

ENCOUNTER, JULOOS & SELFIES

SOWING ANGER - NO QUICK FIX - Democracy is an Empty Ritual in Punjab

OUT-OF-BOX SOLUTION TO STOP FARMERS' SUICIDES

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

'THORRI BAHUTI EHNA NU SHARAM AUNI CHAHEEDI HAI'

ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON SUICIDE-HIT BATS FOR AARHTIYAS

RANGROOT OFFERS A PEEK INTO PUNJAB'S TRAGEDY

WHAT MAKE NEWS IN INDIA, AND WHAT DOES NOT?

HITLER, MODI & GANDHI: ON THE SAME PAGE?

PUNJAB IS STILL VERY FAR FROM INDIA

APOLOGY – AKALIS BIG LOSER, CONG TOO 

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_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

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Will Punjab see a new party by 2019? Panthic, nationalist, Punjabi, & without Badals
05.09.18 - S Pal
Will Punjab see a new party by 2019? Panthic, nationalist, Punjabi, & without Badals



WILL PUNJAB SEE the emergence of a new political party, headed by Captain Amarinder Singh, panthic in nature and nationalist in its positioning, by 2019? Will Punjab see mid-term polls next year? The window is now wide open. 

With the Akali Dal sinking into a vortex and its panthic turf slipping fast, Punjab’s politics is currently witnessing a vacuum: it has always had a huge component of panthic vote bank that doesn’t want to go with the Brand Badal anymore, but is not ready to overcome its antipathy to the Congress brand.

The new kid of the block, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), is proving to be nothing more than a nuisance creating urchin who hasn’t yet learnt to deal with politics as a serious vocation. 
On top of that, Amarinder Singh is not having the most comfortable of the times in Rahul Gandhi’s Congress, and the BJP is not having the best of relations with the Akali Dal. 

Punjab’s politics is in a flux and a range of permutations and combinations are being thrashed out in the backroom of all political parties, top sources in the Punjab Congress and among the national leadership of the BJP have indicated. 
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People want a panthic party, but not in Badal mode. Amarinder Singh is not in a comfort zone in Rahul Gandhi’s Congress, and the BJP is not having the best of relations with the Akali Dal.
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In his authorised hagiography, Amarinder Singh admits/claims that just before the 2017 elections to the Punjab Assembly, he tightened the bolts on his party supremo Rahul Gandhi, threatening to quit the Congress if he was not allowed to have his way. He seemed to have won that round, but since then, the Rahul Gandhi brigade has constantly worked to cut short his stature.

Not once did Rahul Gandhi hail his loan waivers, and not once did his twitter handle reminded the people of a Congress CM doing anything worthwhile. Amarinder Singh does not exist for Divya Spandna, a woman who anyone with any serious interest in India’s politics knows is one of the closest to the Gandhi scion. 

Since his electoral victory, the window for Amarinder Singh to walk away and form his own party seemed to have closed. The party organisational structure is, understandably, a limiting factor. But with the latest churning in the panthic domain, thanks to the acrimonious Akali-Congress exchanges and the no-holds-barred speeches in the Assembly against the Akali Dal and the Badal family, Amarinder Singh has made the ground beneath Badals’ feet too hot for comfort.

If the Badals are able to recover some of the lost ground, it will not be without a serious loss of reputation and vote bank. Also, they today stand exposed as far less powerful players in Punjab’s politics than what the party was when it forged its "fraternal” and unconditional alliance with the BJP.

The narrative of who stands for the panth or with the panth has changed. Since 1984, Congress was anti-Sikh and Akalis were a panthic people. If the Congress was able to win power in Punjab, it was partially because Amarinder Singh had some quintessential panthic credentials: he quit the Congress in protest against Operation Bluestar, and later he stood rock solid to guard Punjab’s river waters by passing the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act in 2004. He could always hark back to his picture of that August in 1986 when New Delhi wanted to count every head in Kandukhera. 

But the discourse of "Congress is the enemy of the Sikhs” remained in currency with the Akalis, and not without reason. The foolish insistence of the central leadership of the Congress on keeping the likes of Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler in the public eye, and the nefarious attempts to get a clean chit via the CBI now and and then, all worked to the detriment of the Congress in Punjab.
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If the Badals are able to recover some of the lost ground, it will not be without a serious loss of vote bank. The narrative of who stands for the panth or with the panth has changed.
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It was always a joust between the panthic Akali Dal and the Amarinder Singh Congress in Punjab. Rahul Gandhi understood this and suffered Amarinder Singh because there was no other alternative. 

Now that a Navjot Singh Sidhu has the charisma, and a Manpreet Singh Badal is available on the backshelf, Rahul Gandhi is working to prop up a second rung of leadership in various states. Amarinder Singh, having once announced that it was his last tenure in a public office, no more talks of retirement, and most in Punjab believe he will love to serve his people for at least one more term.

It might not be as the Congress chief minister.

Post the debate on Justice (retd) Ranjit Singh Commissions’ report in the Punjab Assembly, Amarinder Singh has emerged as far more panthic than the Badals. From Harminder Singh Gill to Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa to Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, the Congress has emerged as a pro-Sikh Panth party in Punjab. The Akali Dal leaders are finding it difficult to wade into the crowds, while the Congress leaders were exhorting each other in the Assembly to go for the next kill: contest the SGPC elections. "Aage badho, hum tumhare saath hain,” Navjot Singh Sidhu was telling his colleagues.

Rahul Gandhi has not said a word, hamstrung also by the fact that he had shot himself in the foot just hours earlier with his remarks in London as he claimed that the Congress was innocent as far as the 1984 massacre of Sikhs was concerned. Divya Spandna can be a master of the black arts of social media, but would not understand the nuances of the be-adbi debate in Punjab.

In the opposing camp, a puny little Shwet Malik aside, the BJP is not rushing to defend the Akali Dal. Narendra Modi is not planning a visit to the Golden Temple, Amit Shah is not creating a photo-op occasion to be seen backing the Badals, and the food processing ministry isn’t really very helpful politically.
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The BJP is weighing its options, and the memories of how Akalis treated their alliance partner in the past are too fresh in saffron minds.
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The BJP is weighing its options, and the memories of how Akalis treated their alliance partner in the past are too fresh in saffron minds. Sukhbir Singh Badal trying to threaten the BJP with rallies in Pipli and another planned in Uttar Pradesh is not something Amit Shah would want to gulp.

An Akali Amarinder is a grand option, if it were on the table. A nationalist Akali Amarinder Singh is a dream option. A nationalist Akali Amarinder Singh with Punjab-Punjabi-Punjabiyat credentials better than the Moga Convention-minted secular Akali Dal is an option that is watering BJP’s mouth.

Punjab’s politics is very fluid right now, and saliva is dripping from many ends.

The Badals, while running roughshod over local BJP leaders, positioned themselves too obsequiously vis-a-vis the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo,  a position that carries little respect among Punjab’s electorate. Amarinder Singh appeals more to the constituency that always wants to see Punjab's leadership brave enough to stand up to Delhi.

If political pundits are to be believed, the powers that be in New Delhi have been playing footsie with Amarinder Singh while repeatedly tripping alliance partner Akali Dal. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had famously said that the Congress had little control over Amarinder Singh who had been functioning like a swatantar fauji (an independent soldier).
 
"Punjab mein...na yeh us ko apna maante hain, na yeh un ko apna maante hain..woh swatanter fauji hai," Modi had said, referring to the distance between Amarinder Singh and Congress.

The fact is that Amarinder Singh has been shrewdly projecting himself, from time to time, as a nationalist as well as an independent and panthic.

Some of Amarinder Singh’s stances on the most crucial issues are much closer to the BJP-RSS than even the Badals’ position. Bessides, Amarinder Singh has never uttered a single word against pet peeves of the BJP, such as Love Jihad, Ghar Wapsi, Anti-Conversion Bill, Mohd Akhlaq/Pehlu Khan killings, lynchings, harassment of anyone travelling with cows or other cattle, or Kanhaiya, Umer Khalid, Varvara Rao etc. 
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Amarinder Singh’s aim in 2019 is not to see Rahul Gandhi becoming PM. His aim is to ensure continuing comfort for himself, and if possible, an extended stay in the top office.
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Amarinder Singh's public stances are a matter of record. He wrote an article in the Indian Express to argue that the Army Major who strapped a Kashmiri citizen on the bonnet of his jeep as a human shield should be celebrated and awarded. In another article in The Tribune, Amarinder Singh argued for a free hand for the army in Kashmir.

Thus, he remained in a lockstep with the RSS dispensation, including on the question of dealing with the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

But he made sure his panthic credentials are boosted from time to time. He cleared the compensation payments to the Sikh detenues thirty-four years after 1984 and carefully survived the drugs-related deaths and the Black Week Movement. 

Time and again, Amarinder Singh has been walking away with panthic issues, often with the Centre doing little to stop him. Time and again, the Badals have been huffing and puffing to retain their panthic territory.

Amarinder Singh has given the Congress party a panthic tinge in a very calculated fashion, and never got any encouragement from Rahul Gandhi. If the Congress under Rahul Gandhi emerges stronger in the upcoming elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Amarinder Singh will be dealing with a much stronger party president. Given his nature, it may actually precipitate the state of affairs. A possible outcome could be Amarinder Singh building his own political vehicle, an idea he has toyed with in the past.

He would want to drive such a vehicle himself, and the image of a panth-prast leader would come in handy.

On the other hand, the BJP needs a stronger, more politically viable force in Punjab than what Akali Dal has been reduced to. In Amarinder Singh’s possible new party, it may find a more nationalist yet more credible version of the Akali Dal. Besides, the BJP needs to prove a point by 2019: that it is attracting the best of the Congress. 

Amarinder Singh’s aim in 2019 is not to see Rahul Gandhi becoming PM. His aim is to ensure continuing comfort for himself, and if possible, an extended stay in the top office. A new party, an understanding with the BJP, and a mid-term poll in Punjab in 2019 alongside the Lok Sabha elections checks out all the boxes.

The Patiala scion has the required charisma, is fluent in English and Hindi, is an army man, a writer, an author, suave, royal, with a mulk-prast family history going back centuries. He can claim the heritage of the Sikh gurus while praising the Indian army in the same breath.

Prakash Singh Badal hobnobbed with the hotheads in Sikh politics for too long. No wonder, he had to attend many yagnas, pay floral tributes to many Hindu gods and goddesses, attend many jagratas, and stand with hands folded before many self-styled holy men to cultivate a secular image and the Hindu vote bank.
----------
The BJP needs a more politically viable force in Punjab than what Akali Dal has been reduced to. In Amarinder Singh’s possible new party, it may find a more nationalist yet more credible version of the Akali Dal.
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Amarinder Singh does not have to do any of that. His strong nationalist view point, his diatribes against Pakistan, his consistent praise for the armed forces and his line on Kashmir that the Army be given a free hand will do the trick for him.

He has already weaned away a huge chunk of the panthic vote bank from the Akali Dal and that could prove to be the crucial now. 

The Akali Dal looks a lot more tainted, Amarinder Singh a lot less Congressi. With the palpable vacuum out there in the panthic constituency, political statisticians are thinking in terms of new permutations. 

Saving the Brand Badal is a nightmare for any image consultant wizard — not just because the brand has been rubbished beyond repair, but also because the protagonists work hard every day to further erode value. Sukhbir Singh Badal’s best strategy to save the brand has been to speak more, to take the front seat, to deploy a television channel that plays hosannas to Nanhi Chhanv and Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s services to the panth ad nauseum. 

They just don’t know how to stay away from a screen or a microphone. Whoever devises the strategy that if people want to see less of you, you serve more of yourself to them smokes something really strong. 

In contrast, when it comes to Amarinder Singh, people want more of the panthic Maharaja. 

When the 2017 joust was on, many opinion polls reported a strange confusion among wide sections of those wanting a change in Punjab: people wanted Amarinder Singh as their CM but wanted the Aam Aadmi Party to change the status quo. A new party headed by Amarinder Singh can draw upon the best talent in the Congress as well the Aam Aadmi Party. Besides, a lot of Akalis may want to jump the ship. That might resolve people’s dilemma.
 

So, will Punjab see the emergence of a new political party, headed by Captain Amarinder Singh, panthic in nature and nationalist in its positioning, by 2019? The window is now wide open, and there is no reason why Amarinder Singh will not take that leap. 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

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UNHOLY HASTE
To save the faith
02.09.18 - Amandeep Sandhu
To save the faith



MY UNCLE HAD always wanted to go back to his village in Punjab. When he passed away in Delhi mid-August, his daughter Minni took his body to village Chakklan, district Morinda. The shareeka — larger family, kin, village community — took over the funeral rites. After the cremation, we discussed where to conduct the Sehaj Paath — the reading of the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, in its entirety. Many of my elderly female relatives have bad knees. We knew they would find it hard to climb up to the village Gurdwara on the first floor. On the suggestion of a kind neighbour, we decided to host the Guru Granth Sahib at his dignified outhouse across the road.
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By resurrecting the ill-considered blasphemy bill, the Punjab government has shot itself in the foot. The proposed law may have grave implications for the entire country
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Sikh prayers include the humble phrase bhool chook mauf — "forgive us our shortcomings”. Our worry was not about inadvertent mistakes. It was about beadbi — meaning sacrilege, blasphemy — a scourge that, since October 2015, stalks Punjab. Any mal-intentioned or mischievous person, or a drunkard or drug addict, or one of unsound mind or hate agenda can commit sacrilege. We, who were grieving our uncle, taking care of our aunt with Alzheimer’s disease, managing meals and sleeping spaces, planning the logistics of the final bhog ceremony and langar (communal meal), now had an additional task of protecting the Granth Sahib.

The verses of the holy book that are supposed to soothe us, heal us, give us strength, were now under three locks. The fear of possible sacrilege made us anxious, made us imprison the mellifluous Granth Sahib, and turned the simple act of prayer and grieving into a ritual of caution and watchfulness. Minni and my wife Lakshmi stayed on outdoor night vigils for the whole week. We were relieved when the prayers passed without incident and, after the bhog, we returned the Granth Sahib to the custody of the gurdwara.

Scourge of sacrilege

As lawmakers in Punjab discussed a controversial — and potentially dangerous — bill on blasphemy on Tuesday, the scourge of beadbi raised its head again. It all started in 2007, when Gurmeet Singh aka Gurmeet Ram Rahim, the head of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, impersonated Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th and last Sikh guru. He drew widespread criticism from the Sikh community. In September 2015, the Sikh management body Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) granted general pardon to Gurmeet Singh. The Sikh community felt betrayed. A month later, during the farmer-labour strike to demand compensation for cotton crop losses due to whitefly pest attack, pages of the Granth Sahib — referred to as ang (limbs), for the holy book is considered a living Guru — were found littered on the streets of village Bargari, Faridkot. During the protests that ensued, two people were killed and scores injured in police firings at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan. As more instances of sacrilege across religions were reported, Punjab’s composite society protested on the streets in silent anger and with black flags for over 15 days, but did not give in to provocation. With the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) government appearing to be all at sea, a controversy-ridden Sarbat Khalsa (plenary meeting of Sikhs) was organised in November by non-Akali leaders, and the issue of "religion under threat” became part of the discourse leading to the state elections.

Like all of Punjab, I too asked: Who cleared the police firing against protesters? Who was benefiting from sacrilege? Was it the Dera? Was it to distract from the farmer-labour strike? Was it the political parties? The SAD, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party milked the issue in their election campaigns. In the absence of answers, the long-standing traditional support for the Akalis waned and SAD lost miserably in the elections.

The Congress government appointed the one-man Ranjit Singh Commission to investigate the sacrilege incidents and the police shootings. The panel looked into 122 plus another additional 35 hitherto unreported cases of sacrilege of the Granth Sahib, Gutka Sahib (shorter version), gurdwaras, Bhagvad Gita, Koran, and the Bible. It studied the findings of earlier panels headed by Justice Jora Singh, and the reports of various Special Investigative Teams (SITs). Ahead of the Ranjit Singh report’s release in August this year, it was mysteriously leaked, thereby allowing the SAD and SGPC to dismiss it and the witnesses to recant.

Committee faced a wall

Former director general police Sumedh Singh Saini, former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, and SGPC members had declined to depose in person before the Ranjit Singh committee. Nevertheless, based on media reports, previous testimonies and witnesses, the report reveals how the police lied, gave confusing statements, concocted stories, hid and destroyed evidence, and bullied and silenced witnesses. The report concludes that the police firing was unwarranted and unprovoked.

Since the time of militancy in Punjab (1978-93), including seven years under President’s rule, human rights organisations have produced reports on the alleged high-handedness of the police, but Ranjit Singh’s is the first official report to lay bare both the police and the previous government’s evasion and lack of accountability. Surprisingly, on his last day in office as DGP, Saini presented an annexure stating that former CM Badal knew ahead about the police action.

The report holds the Dera responsible for the incidents of sacrilege and records how, under pressure from Akali leaders, the police did a shoddy job of investigating 95 traced cases, leave aside the untraced ones. It cites the calls for a non-Akali Sarbat Khalsa as the prime reason behind the Bargari sacrilege. It completely ignores the farmer-labour strike. This is the fault line of Punjab’s politics: Its agrarian economy has failed in providing succour and sustainability to its people, but, instead of addressing it, time and again the state is pushed towards religious issues.
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For the first time in history, the assembly passed a unanimous resolution against the SGPC for breach of privilege, for rejecting the panel report before it was tabled in the house.
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The issue gathered momentum this week as the SAD on Tuesday walked out of the assembly debate on the panel report and conducted a mock session in the parking lot. In a free-for-all for seven hours, the Congress and AAP members attacked the Akalis and Badals. Given the history of militancy and fears of disturbing communal harmony, never before has the role of police been such a part of assembly discussions. Yet, in this marathon discussion, minister Tript Rajinder Bajwa elaborately detailed the actions of ex-DGP Saini. The Action Taken Report has summoned 32 police officers involved in the firing. It is a welcome beginning towards making the police accountable — a long-pending step. At the same time the non-Akali Sikh leadership - which had given the call for the earlier Sarbat Khalsa - was also holding a demonstration over the sacrilege at Bargari. Traditionally, this was a section that the Akalis used to appease and now the Congress has tilted towards them.

For the first time in history, the assembly passed a unanimous resolution against the SGPC for breach of privilege, for rejecting the panel report before it was tabled in the house. The assembly passed another resolution to take back the sacrilege cases handed over to the CBI by the previous government and, instead, have its own SIT probe them. Both resolutions assert Punjab assembly’s independence from both religion and the Centre. Their implications are massive for Punjab’s religious-political narrative and Centre-state relations. It remains to be seen if these moves will alter the public perception of SAD. Meanwhile, Sukhbir Badal, SAD president, has launched his attack on the Congress.

Blasphemy law

In the middle of all the developments surrounding the Ranjit Singh committee report, the Congress also managed to shoot itself in the foot, with a move that has grave implications for the nation as well. In April 2016, as a face-saver, the SAD had brought in a regressive blasphemy law amending IPC 295 ("Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class...”), supported by an even stricter IPC 295A ("Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs...”), by singling out and adding as 295AA the Guru Granth Sahib to it, and sent it for a Presidential nod. It was a farce because 295A already encompasses 295AA. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre had returned the amendment, saying it violated the secular principles of the nation. On Tuesday, instead of letting the Bill slide by, the Congress passed and returned the Bill, after adding the ‘Gita, Koran and Bible’ to it, and recommended life-imprisonment for the accused.

While Punjab looks to heal from the scourge of sacrilege, the new law now forces not only the Granth Sahib but even other religious texts behind three locks. To some extent one can understand the law in the context of monotheistic religions like Sikh, Islam and Christianity but how will it work for polytheistic Hinduism with a hundred Ramayanas, a thousand Mahabharatas, a million other revered texts and icons? My aging aunts, who find it hard to walk a few steps, habitually ask a younger cousin or their kids to get them the Gutka Sahib from the shelf at home. They sit in their chairs and doze off while praying. As they nap, they leave the Gutka Sahib in their laps, or next to the pillow. Are they committing blasphemy per the new law? Aunts and uncles in Panjab carry the Gutka Sahib, the Hanuman Chalisa, the Holy Bible in their leather purses or kurta pockets. Is that blasphemy? At village Chakklan itself, a samadh - shrine on a grave - of an unknown village elder has recently become a temple with a trishul and a shivling. Is that blasphemy? On the Pakistan border in Amritsar, at village Naushera Dhaala, the 16th Century saint Baba Jallan ji's samadh has recently turned into an elaborate Gurdwara. Have the followers committed blasphemy? When Captain Amarinder Singh took his famous oath at Damdama Sahib in December 2015 promising to eradicate drugs, he held a Gutka Sahib in his hands. Everyone on the stage were wearing shoes. Was that not blasphemy? What exactly is a ritual, a prayer, a way of life and a blasphemy? Merely inserting names of texts into a revision of law, without due deliberation, is going to be detrimental to the way of life of the people in Punjab and the nation.  
 

By asking for the penalty, the Congress has reduced its own efforts of exposing the double-faced SAD — namely, misusing the police tapping religion as a vote bank while also allegedly abetting blasphemy. If passed, it may become a national law and anything could be added to the list of holy icons. This is how, to make a louder noise than required, the Congress has made a blunder. The only hope is that the President withholds his nod. Yet, it is anyone’s guess whether the BJP — whose own rise is through Hindutva as a vote bank — will let that happen.
 
 

Amandeep Sandhu is working on non-fiction book on Panjab. This article initially appeared in The Hindu Businessline, and is being reproduced here as per special arrangement with the author.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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FROM OFFICIAL TO MOCK, FROM ZEE TO PTC
Hua Panthik-Panthik Punjab - How do we reclaim real politics?
01.09.18 - S Pal
Hua Panthik-Panthik Punjab - How do we reclaim real politics?



IN SEARING HEAT and amid ricocheting gunfire, when the Vijayanta Tanks of the Indian Army rolled into the parikarma of Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar, it solidified a long-term narrative in Punjab politics: that the Congress was anti-panthic, and the Akalis were a panthic lot.

For three and a half decades, it remained an enduring narrative underpinning the state politics, even when Amarinder Singh gave a panthic hue to the provincial Congress.

This week, that narrative seemed to have been reversed, even if temporarily. The day-long mediocre debate, its idiom and diction particularly crude in parts, was telecast live from the Punjab Assembly, and while you may parse the hyperbole and demands to put aside all legal niceties and tie a rope around the necks of political opponents, the fact remains that the 'Congress is enemy of the Sikhs' narrative lost its currency.

For the first time since Operation Bluestar, on the highly slippery turf of public perception, the Congress advertised itself as a panthic party, ready to use law, force and tactics to defend the izzat and adab of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, while the Akali Dal was portrayed as the party that was responsible for the sacrilege of the scriptures.

The villain of the piece were the Badals and their kin, and the hero of the day was chief minister Amarinder Singh.

Punjab's politics seemed to have made an 180 degree somersault. All the other details seemed unnecessary.

But it is the other details that are deciding the next course of politics in Punjab. 

The Badals today find themselves in such a hapless situation because, for decades, they did not allow a second rung of leadership to emerge. There is no buffer. For nearly a quarter century, Parkash Singh Badal had a Gurcharan Singh Tohra, and every time there was heat from the panthic flanks, Tohra would tamper it. A Captain Kanwaljit Singh could speak as an effective voice. Once the Badals decided to hog the entire spectrum, they put themselves bang in the middle for anyone with a clenched fist and righteous anger.

The Dhindsas, the Brahmpuras, the Malukas, the Totas either turned out to be, or were, bonafide citizens of Lilliput or Blefuscu. Anyone with the remotest possibility of developing a rebel gene in the future was enveloped in a loyalty blanket by adjusting his son in a prime position. Everyone became a Balwinder Singh Bhoonder — gentle, ineffective, with little capacity to apply his mind. He, in fact, is an example of a life lived as a boilerplate paragraph.

When the time came to take the heat, there was no buffer, and the Badals were singed to the core. The only people speaking with a gusto were Sukhbir Singh Badal, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Bikram Singh Majithia. Rest of the party watched them, helplessly and with suppressed anger.

In the Punjab Assembly, every party became an Akali Dal, and the purpose of politics was reduced to appeasing a very angry Sikh crowd on the streets, and on social media. The Akali Dal had walked out — God knows why — and everyone else borrowed their dictionary and political philosophy.

Perception became reality, and the core issue became "the sentiments of the sangat." The entire narrative of citizenry, citizens' rights, human rights, basic necessities, state of the farmers, the frustration among the youth, joblessness, bad economy, a sense of a darkness descending upon Punjab — all of this and more was reduced to 'what can we do to the Badals.'

If one were to listen attentively and suffer the hours of froth from the mouth, it seemed that mortal men were eager to proclaim themselves as the saviours of the immortal. The aan-baan-shaan of the Guru seemed predicated on the ability, proclivity and capacity of small time politicians and their masters — The Revealed Word of the Guru, awaiting the bravado of politicians, so that its supremacy can be reinstated.

But that is a matter between them and the God, if He spared time to watch the Assembly session. We are concerned here with the politics of Punjab.
----------
For the first time since Op Bluestar, the Congress became the panthic party, and the Akali Dal was portrayed as the side responsible for sacrilege of Sikh scriptures. The narrative had reversed.
----------
Now, all political parties speak in panthic lingo. The most bandied about phrases were 'Sikh hirdey', 'Sikh quom', 'panth', 'Gursikh', 'Sikhan de valoondhre hirdey' etc. The target was clear - 'Panth da jhanda gaddna hai'. 

In politics, always pay attention to what is not being said. Never take your eyes off what is not being asked of the politicians. The test of a politician is if he comments on what is most crucial for your life, security, independence, rights. The test of the media is if it asks the questions that directly affect how your tomorrow will turn out to be. 

And then join the dots to see how similar are these political parties which are so bitterly fighting among themselves, calling each other the dushman of the Sikhs, Guru-dokhi, panth-dokhi, thieves, robbers and worse. The fact is, that today, we have only Akali Dals in Punjab: the Badal Akali Dal, the Congress Akali Dal, the Kejriwal Akali Dal and the Khaira-Sandhu Akali Dal. 

It is because you know their views on the highly sensitive issue of be-adbi of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The investigations might bring out who was responsible for such a vicious, hateful, unforgiveable crime, but we have a consensus: whosoever did so must be brought to book, and the rage and anger of the devout crowds is fully understandable.
----------
The aan-baan-shaan of the Guru seemed predicated on the ability, proclivity and capacity of small time politicians and their masters.
----------
It is the other issues on which you not only do not know their views, but will not hear them either. In fact, journalists do not even seek their views on these other issues. Amarinder Singh's views are not known on any of the issues about which Rahul Gandhi speaks tens of times in the course of a week, and yet no one is surprised. Parkash Singh Badal's views are not known on any subject that his contemporaries raise at the national level, and no one poses him a question.

Rahul Gandhi can raise all the ruckus over Rafael fighter jets deal but you have not heard and will not hear the word "Rafael" dropping from Amarinder's lips. The Congress may call for a series of countrywide protests against benefitting Reliance, but the word will not escape Amarinder's mouth. 

Parkash Singh Badal and Amarinder Singh are both champions of provincial autonomy, and now you have the newly minted champions in Sukhpal Singh Khaira and Kanwar Sandhu whose group's raison d'être is autonomy – 'khudmukhtiary' as Sandhu rolls it out over his sharp tongue. Not one of them has or will squeak out a word on the PDP-BJP alliance, or its parting, or the possibility of their coming back together again. 

In fact, when was the last time you heard the views of Amarinder or Badal or any of the other characters on the political firmament of Punjab on the issue of Kashmir? Last we heard was Amarinder Singh writing an article in a national newspaper demanding a bravery medal for an Army major who tied up an innocent Kashmiri citizen on the bonnet of his jeep to use him as a human shield against stonepelters. 

That was Amarinder Singh. Did Sukhbir Singh Badal condemn it? Did you hear a Sukhpal Khaira or a Kanwar Sandhu waxing eloquent on the extraordinary application of mind by Major Gogoi in quickly rustling up a Kashmiri tailor and trussing him up on his jeep as a new Standard Operating Procedure to survive a seemingly tough ordeal of passing through a street in a fortified vehicle?
----------
In politics, always pay attention to what is not being said. Never take your eyes off what is not being asked of the politicians.
----------
In the Punjab Assembly, Kanwar Sandhu was hailing himself - others, too, should - as an expert in military matters. Have you ever heard his views on the surgical strike? His boss Arvind Kejriwal slammed Narendra Modi for the strike jumla, but came under fire. Punjab AAP learnt quickly, and did not set foot on the hot turf. Needless to say that you also do not know Badals' views on the surgical strike.

All politicians of a border state that has borne the brunt of the war with Pakistan full frontal do not pronounce their view in public on the question of surgical strike against it, and the media does not even ask them any such uncomfortable question. What do you deduce from it? That our polity has become so mature, and our media so understanding? Good luck.

Have you noticed that right from Amarinder Singh to Sukhbir Singh Badal, from a Navjot Singh Sidhu to the Dhindsas-Bhoondars Taksali Brigade, from that colossus of legislative skills Harpal Singh Cheema to the "Mujhe LOP se Kyon Nikala" Sukhpal Singh Khaira, every single dramatis personae of Punjab's politics was untypically available for hours this week to the pen-pushing, mic-thrusting brave media corps of Punjab? 
----------
Amarinder Singh and Badals are silent on the most crucial issues, and this silence reflects a nefarious political pact. Amit Shah, Amarinder Singh and Badals share the same conspiratorial silence. Everything else is a sideshow.
----------
Has a single one of those politicians commented on the raids on, and arrests of, the leading lights of India's civil society? Did they utter a word when another batch of activists were rounded up by the police in June this year? Did you see any of these politicians refusing to answer a query fired by a media person? Did you see any of the Badals, or an Amarinder or a Majithia or a Sidhu or a Sandhu brushing aside the thrust microphone and refusing to answer whether the Pune police was doing a great patriotic duty by bundling off Sudha Bharadwaj for violent attempts to overthrow a regime?

Historian and author Ramachandra Guha tweeted, "I have no doubt that if Mahatma (Gandhi) was alive today, he would don his lawyer's robes and defend Sudha Bharadwaj in court; that is assuming the Modi Sarkar hadn't yet detained and arrested him too".

I have no doubt that were Mahatma Gandhi to be arrested by the Modi Sarkar and labelled as anti-national by Amit Shah, the Badals, Amarinder, Majithia and the rest of the ilk would not have uttered a word. You can have a view on whether the media would have shouted a question while they dragged the frail old man to be put under house arrest.

No matter what the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) might say about the demonetised currency returning to the banks, you will not hear it from Amarinder or Badal, or the Harpal Cheema-Sukhpal Khaira Punch and Judy sideshow at the circus. 
----------
The test of a politician is what he has to say about what is most crucial to your life, security, independence, rights. The test of the media is if it asks the questions that directly affect you.
----------
You can argue that the latest debate in the Punjab Assembly was limited to the be-adbi issue, and the report of the Ranjit Singh Commission, but was it? 

Was it?

Manpreet Singh Badal described how Parkash Singh Badal was the man responsible for the 1978 massacre of the Sikhs at the hands of the Nirankaris. Was he unaware of the role of Parkash Singh Badal when he fought the by-election from Gidderbaha in the summer of 1995 with Parkash Singh Badal leading his election campaign from the front? It happened again in 1997. By 2002, he was 40 years of age and, by his own proclamation, an alim dabbling in Urdu and occasionally in Persian, when Badal Sr. was again campaigning for him. You should go back and read his long-winding hosannas in praise of Badal Sr. in the Ajit, a newspaper he loved to read in those days. It is possible that he may have discovered the devil, the murderer of Sikhs in Badal Sr. much after he was made the Finance Minister by Parkash Singh Badal, snubbing Captain Kanwaljit Singh who seemed like a threat to the House of Badals.

But we need to ask just two questions: why did the media not ask Manpreet Badal about his supreme reticence in speaking out so far about the 1978 killings of Sikhs in Amritsar, and why did we hear the deafening collective silence of the Congress, the Akali Dal, the Aam Aadmi Party on the 40th anniversary of the Sikh-Nirankari clash of April 1978 which was just four months ago?

Amarinder Singh seems to be sitting on crucial pieces of evidence and witness testimony in the 1984 anti-Sikh massacres, but did not deem it fit to share any of it with any of the Commissions or Committees probing the killings for decades now. Did the media ask him about this rather peculiar choice of withholding testimony in a matter of killings of thousands of Sikhs?

Punjab which fought against Emergency in a most exemplary fashion now has politicians who do not talk about the unannounced Emergency under the Amit Shah-Modi regime, and it seems normal to the media to not talk about it or ask questions.

As for the content, language and level of debate in the Punjab Assembly, may the Guru bless them and save us from these self-proclaimed protectors of the izzat and adab of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
----------
When did Manpreet Badal discover that Badal Sr. was responsible for killings of Sikhs in April 1978? In 1995, 1997, 2002 or 2007? Or not even by April 2018 when the 40th anniversary of Sikh-Nirankari clash went unobserved? In more evolved democracies, he would be facing a federal agent for suppression of material facts in a case of murder.
----------
As Pratap Bhanu Mehta put it most pithily, and sanely, by using state power to enforce the sacred, Punjab’s sacrilege law defiles the sacred, messes with the secular. But we are playing these sacred games on the floor of an Assembly whose only job was to protect us from these shenanigans and focus on how to build a world that the Gurus dreamed of, and worked towards.

They sacrificed their lives and more so that the poor do not go to bed hungry. They walked thousands of miles so that the darkness in people's lives gives way to enlightenment. They made supreme sacrifice to stem the onslaught of terror and atrocities, often being wreaked on others. They stood up for the fundamental right of others to practice their belief system. They waged wars for equality and an egalitarian society. They were not deterred by any Babar, any Aurangzeb. They were a people of the Word. We learnt from them to bow before the Word. We are a people of the Book that preaches tolerance and sacrifice, that enjoins us to work for the most marginalised, that makes it obligatory upon us to have no other aim but universal welfare.
 

And now we have puny little men with little compunction, inside the Assembly and outside, proclaiming themselves to be the protectors of this sacred word.

Their collective silence about the most pressing issues of our time tells more about them than all the froth from their mouth in the official or the mock session, whether telecast on "Zee Punjab Haryana Himachal” or "PTC News.” 

It is time to reclaim the politics. The Guru is with you. He always was. Are we with Him?
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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PUNJAB: AN IDEA IN SEARCH OF WORDS: Punjab, more than a poster boy of progress or a renegade from modernity

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT






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