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Operation Blue Star anniversary gets Punjab edgy even now

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 6 June 2017, 10:26 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

Punjab is on the edge again, what with the 33rd anniversary of Operation Blue Star on Tueday, 6 June. Several factors have led to a tense build-up in the order state.

While Khalistan continues to be a part of the political discourse with more voices being raised in Canada by the day, its repercussions are being felt back home. Meanwhile, the Punjab Police claim to have busted a couple of Khalistan terror modules.

Then there are the continuing instances of sacrilege of holy texts and the failure of the new government, led by Captain Amarinder Singh, in being able to tackle the issue so far.

The hardline outfit Dal Khalsa has once again given a call for Amritsar Bandh on 6 June to protest against the 1984 Operation Blue Star. This time also it will be a tough task for the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) to make it a peaceful occasion.

According to reports, seven companies of paramilitary forces – two of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) and five of CRPF – have been deployed in Amritsar and around 2,000 police personnel from neighbouring districts have also been deployed in and around the city.

Organisations like Dal Khalsa, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and All India Sikh Student Federation led by Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad are expected to hold marches across the city. The task force of the SGPC is also reportedly gearing up for the day.

Tackling terror

The terror modules the Punjab Police claim to have busted lead to the arrest of four youths, including one woman. The cops said that the accused were planning to indulge in large-scale violence and targeted killings under the banner of `Khalistan Zindabad’ to fan communal violence in the sensitive border state.

According to the cops, the youth had come together to form the group – Khalistan Zindabad – after being radicalised over Facebook and other social media platforms. The influencers are allegedly individuals based in Pakistan, various Middle Eastern countries and the United Kingdom.

A police spokesperson said that on the radar of these 'highly radicalised' youth were Congress leaders Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar who are accused in anti-Sikh riots of 1984, along with those responsible for incidents of sacrilege and desecration of holy texts over the last two years.

The police claimed that these arrests have come close on the heels of the apprehension of five other members of the group, who were nabbed on 26 May from Bathinda district.

Working in close collaboration with their handlers and associates based in India and abroad, the youth were in the process of mobilising funds, procuring militant hardware, such as weapons, and arranging training for its members. And this was when the Mohali police swooped n on them in an intelligence operation spread over 29 and 30 May.

Those arrested have been identified as Harbarinder Singh of Amritsar, Amritpal Kaur of Ludhiana, Jarnail Singh of Kalanaur in Gurdaspur and Randeep Singh of Gurdaspur.

Unrest in the city

Meanwhile, Patiala police too claim to have busted a pressure cooker bomb-making unit in the city.

While the police managed to arrest one Harpreet Singh, his son Rajatvir Singh shot himself dead after escaping from the police near Falauli village on Wednesday night. Rajatvir's body was found in his house the next morning.

The fact that a similar bomb had been used in the Maur Mandi blast on 20 January, the possibility of the busted unit being part of a bigger terror module is not being ruled out.

On the other hand, the 'parallel' Jathedars (Takht chiefs) that had been appointed at a Sarbat Khalsa at Chaba village in Amritsar on 10 November 2015, have turned the heat on the Amarinder government demanding arrest the accused in cases of desecration of holy texts.

According to reports the Jathedars passed resolutions at a recent gathering at Faridkot’s Bargari village reminding Amarinder of his poll promises that included –

– Punishing those responsible for the theft of Guru Granth Sahib from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village

– Action against the desecration incidents in Bargari and other places

– Action against those involved in death of two Sikh protestors during police firing in Behbal Kalan in October 2015

Time for action?

Amarinder has responded with a vow to ensure that anyone found guilty of involvement in the Bargari firing and other incidents related to religious sacrilege and desecration would face strong and exemplary punishment.

“Not a single person will be spared. We will make sure that every one of them is brought to book, whether directly involved or guilty of protecting the culprits,” he said.

He has urged the Centre to ask the CBI to expedite investigations into the three cases related to sacrilege and desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib that it had taken over in November 2015.

Amarinder has also attacked the erstwhile Badal government for recommending an extension of service to SSP Charanjit Singh Sharma who had ordered firing in Bargari.

He said that he had rejected the same and the officer had retired from the force and added that the officer too will have to face the consequences for his act.

Amarinder claimed that the fresh Commission of Inquiry, instituted by his government under the chairmanship of Justice (Retired) Ranjit Singh to investigate all cases of sacrilege, is probing every incident including the Bargari one. The role of the controversial SSP Sharma is also under scrutiny.

The state government had instituted a new commission after scrapping the report of the previous commission based on legal opinion.

The state advocate general, Atul Nanda had advised the government that the Zora Singh Commission report had not answered the very substance of its reference which was a probe into the incidents of sacrilege.

In that probe, eye-witness accounts and other investigations had suggested the involvement of 'big people' and had concluded that the police firing was 'unwarranted and not in self-defence'.

Counter attacks

Former chief minister and Akali supremo Parkash Singh Badal too had recently hit out at the Amarinder government on the issue describing the first two months of the Congress government as – “The summer of broken promises, failures, lawlessness, sacrileges, murders and vendetta against political rivals. Three dozen suicides and a sacrilege every other day is the highlight of this period during which government has already thrown all its promises into the dustbin”.

Meanwhile, new aspects related to Punjab's troubled past and its continuing fallout keeps on emerging.

About a fortnight ago at the launch of his book The 36th Sikhs in the Tirah Campaign 1897-98 – Saragarhi and the defence of the Samana Forts and the unveiling of his authorised biography The People’s Maharaja, Amarinder had spoken about the alleged Khalistani leanings of the Canadian authorities.

He had reiterated that the Justin Trudeau government had several members who were Khalistani supporters.

He also referred to an episode in his biography saying that he never spoke to then Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar after he found out that 21 Khalistani terrorists, who he (Amarinder) had arranged to surrender, had been shot dead six months later.

He saw this as a betrayal by the prime minister and never met him after that.

Coming back to the Blue Star anniversary, veteran political observer Jagtar Singh has pointed in one of his recent write-ups –

“The wounds are raw, the pain is fresh and the struggle continues. This is with reference to Operation Blue Star, the brutal and avoidable army action in the Golden Temple complex in the first week of June 1984 and the organisation making this assertion is Dal Khalsa. This happens to be the only organisation after it resurfaced and pledged to carry on the struggle peacefully that has been inspiring young men and women to stage protest every June against this barbaric assault by the Indian state on its ‘own people’. The biggest democracy in the world was in a state of ‘war’ in Punjab for years to crush the armed struggle launched by a section of the Sikh community for the political objective that was nebulous. That bloody phase is still to witness closure and the initiative has to come from the government at the centre.”

The Punjab Police have also claimed to have arrested three terrorists and busted a terror module having direct links with Pakistan’s ISI-backed banned terror outfit, International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) on Saturday.

The arrested terrorists, Gurdial Singh, Jagroop Singh and Satwinder Singh, had allegedly been trained and tasked by the ISI to carry out terror attacks and target various ‘anti-Panthic and anti-Sikh forces and individuals’ by Pakistan-based ISYF chief Lakhbir Rode, and Harmeet Singh alias Happy alias PHD.

The police claimed that investigations have revealed that a part of the consignment of arms and ammunition seized by the BSF on 21 May this year, close to the international border in Amritsar, was supplied by ISYF.

Two terrorists, Maan Singh and Sher Singh, had been arrested by the BSF last month, while they were attempting to pick up the said consignment.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 5 June 2017, 17:22 IST