"Sikhs Will Not Allow Anyone To Repeat 1984 With Kashmiri Women," Says Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpeet Singh
Why temperature in Punjab is simmering over Kashmir. Punjabis led by farmers, students and women have come out in open against the trampling of democratic rights in Kashmir by abrogating Articles 370 and 35 A, and dividing the state in two union territories. One of the Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh has strongly reacted to the comments from Hindutva elements about Kashmiri women. “Sikhs will not allow anyone to repeat 1984 with Kashmiri women”, he says.
CHANDIGARH, SEPTEMBER 17—Punjab is on the boil on the issue of abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A in Kashmir. Majority of Punjabis led by farmers, students and farm labourers are not only airing dissent on the manner in which the Centre carried out the abrogation but are raising the larger issues of democratic, human and federal rights.
The move by the government to thwart a proposed rally of those who wanted to raise their voice in support of the Kashmiris in Mohali on Sunday proved to be counter- productive as the protest got decentralized and resulted in protest rallies in no less than 45 places across the state. The massive deployment of police and other forces led to stopping of all the vehicles that were bringing protestors from across the state to Mohali. This resulted in the protestors staging dharna at the very spot where they were stopped bringing things to a standstill and protests erupted at the most mofussil venues including railway stations.
“We had informed the government in the required format at whatever office we were asked to. We shifted the venue to Mohali after we were told that Section 144 was in place in the union territory of Chandigarh. The refusal of the government to allow us to protest peacefully and democratically shows that both the state government led by Captain Amarinder Singh and the central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are on the same platform when it comes to denying people their democratic rights,” said Namita of Naujawan Bharat Sabha who was leading the protest at Amb Sahib Gurudwara in Mohali that is right next to the spot where the rally was proposed.
One needs to place in context why Punjabis are speaking out for Kashmiris. Right from the day the build up to the Centre’s action on Kashmir began when tourists were asked to move out and the communication links were snapped, Punjabis had started drawing parallels with what had happened during the build up to Operation Bluestar in 1984.
Veteran political observers like Jagtar Singh have been pointing out that one of the important factors that needs to be kept in mind is that the two northern neighbours of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir are places where national minorities are in majority. Their being border states adds to the complexity of the situation and in addition to this both have witnessed divides between communities. “But while Punjab has displayed composite culture, things have quite the other way round in Kashmir for the last few decades. Another important factor at play is that while Kashmir has witnessed direct involvement of Pakistan, this was never the case with Punjab.”
Many political observers point out that the man on the ground across Punjab feels that humiliation of any community always backfires. Those politically aware say that by its act in Kashmir, the government has created another Gaza on the globe.
The strong response from Punjabis to the developments in Kashmir can be gauged from the statement that came from one of the Akal Takht Jathedars Giani Harpreet Singh in response to the comments from Hindutva elements about Kashmiri women. He had said, “These are serious offences against all women that cannot be ignored.” Recalling how the Sikh women were treated by people of the same mentality in 1984, he underlined that Sikhs will not allow anyone to repeat 1984 with Kashmiri women.
The most interesting has been the support for Kashmiris coming from the rural Punjab, particularly the farmers and farm labourers. One would ask why these sections of Punjabi society are turning out to be the most vocal on the issue.
The most interesting explanation comes from the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) leader Joginder Singh who says that people foresee turmoil in the days to come as both agriculture and economy in general are in doldrums. There are apprehensions of a crackdown on the lines of Kashmir in Punjab also when people decide to raise the banner of dissent.
“The people are very touchy about their democratic space which they do not want to lose at any cost. They see the robbing of democratic and federal rights of Kashmiris as a big blow to democracy and feel that the action in Kashmir by the Centre can be repeated in any state in India. This would mean use of laws like Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) can be used against the people with impunity,” he said.
Punjabis also feel that the trampling of rights of Kashmiris by the Centre has a lot to do with suppressing the minorities.
As social thinker Navsharan Kaur points out that the voices being raised in Punjab are a big challenge to the government that has suppressed the Kashmiris. “The government is peddling false claims that the people across India are supportive of its actions in Kashmir. But the fact is that the people are not being allowed to speak. The human and democratic rights of the Kashmiris are being trampled upon,” she said at an interaction with the mediapersons in Mohali on Sunday. She added that it is for the first time that the Centre has adopted a four-pronged strategy for Kashmir wherein it has used the force, constitution, judiciary and punitive measures. She pointed at the lack of decisions coming on Habeas Corpus writs.
“We do not stand for denial of democratic and federal rights of Kashmiris,” she said.
Meanwhile, Amolakh of Punjab Lok Sabhyacharak Manch raised the all important question saying,” What kind of democracy is this where people are not allowed to show solidarity with their fellow countrymen?”
He said that it is the duty of every intellectual, writer, student and social activist to stand up for the right of Kashmiris. Commenting on the scenario emerging in Punjab, he added, “The most positive thing is that it is the farmers and labourers standing at the forefront. Ideally this space should have been occupied by activists and intellectuals. The message that is going out from Punjab is that the people refuse to be cowered down. They would keep struggling against the dictatorial attitude of the government.”