Insurgency simmering in Punjab

Chandigarh: While the country’s attention has remained focussed on alleged jihadi terrorism and the saffron wave of bomb blasts, or the Naxalite violence; no attention was made towards simmering Punjab which is on the brink of a volcanic eruption. Wide spread arrests and seizure of arms and ammunition has alerted the Punjab police to switch into action lest there should be a revival of the violence that had engulfed the state during the 80s of the last century.

A quick look at various flash points might be quite relevant to drive home the point. Sant Ramanand of Dera Sachkhand was shot dead inside a gurudwara in Vienna in May 2009. The Viena police also foiled an attack on GS Dhillon, chief of Radha Soami Dera. Lilly Kumar, a supporter of Dera Sacha Sauda was gunned down at Mansa. An operation at the railway station Ludhiana resulted in the arrest of Balbir Singh Bhootna. Rulda Singh of Rashtriya Sikh Sangat killed in Patiala led a police chase to UK leading to the arrests of four persons. The accused are British nationals. Intelligence reports suggest that about 300 militants belonging to separatist groups like Babbar Khalsa Internatinal (BKI), Khalistan Commando Force, Khalistan Zindabad Force, etc are operating from Germany, Pakistan, France, Switzerland, Britain and Denmark. Joint efforts of BKI and LeT enabled, the militants to receive training in Pakistan through various routes – Nepal, Malyasia and Thailand.

Harminder Singh, accused in the Shingar cinema blast in Ludhiana (2007) was the mastermind. The blast claimed seven lives. He, according to the intelligence reports, had been hiding in Pakistan and Nepal and was organising terror activities. He is reported to have received funds from Pakistan and England in lakhs. Funding thrives through drug and ammunition mafia. Out of three militants arrested last year two had been to Rajasthan to procure weapons. A drug peddler Sode Khan was arrested with 48 kgms of smuggled heroin worth Rs 48 crores. Rajasthan. ATS seized half-a-dozen 9 mm pistols. Sode Khan confessed that the drugs and weapons were for BKI. This assumes crucial importance in the wake of huge arms and ammunition pilfering from Rajasthan’s factory. While most of it seems to have gone to saffron brigade; its possibility of falling into Khalistani hands cannot be ruled out at the same. Two attempts to explode bombs at Nabha failed. Two kilograms of RDX was found in a car abandoned near a busy railway station in Amritsar. It had two packets of explosives with a detonator, two nine volt batteries, three meters of wiring and an LPG cylinder.

Does it imply that there would be a replay of the 70s and 80s of the last century? Many do not believe so because the circumstances today are totally different. At that time America was hostile towards India because of Indira Gandhi’s emergence. On the international arena she refused to be cowed down by American might. Hence a disrupted India was America’s cherished goal. With Soviet Union gone, there is no other threat to America. India is now America friendly. Hence America wants a stable India for its long term policy. Former Director General police KPS Gill feels that ISI was trying to infilterate as many militants as possible. It is waiting for an opportunity.

What could be the breeding causes of such militancy. The very obvious factor is its shattered economy. Punjab is not the golden bird of the past. Unemployment is rampant all over the state with corruption burdgeoning to new heights. The guaranteed employment under NAREGA has been gulped down by corrupt bureaucracy. State government welfare schemes of pensions for senior citizens or marriages of poor girls have been mismanaged and have flopped. Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, has remarked that Punjab should be removed from the list of developed states as backward states of the past Bihar and Madhya Pradesh had risen much higher in development. “Sick” Bihar registered 11 percent growth; Uttar Pradesh in the same period registered 6.9 percent. Unemployment seems to have pushed the youngmen towards delinquency who did not hesitate in looting even poor labourers. There is virtually a process of de-industrialisation. Of 127 textile processing units in 1990, Amritsar is left with only 20 now. Punjab which has 1.5 percent of country’s area produces almost 25 percent of India’s wheat and 15 percent of rice. Planting rice immediately after wheat has caused soil erosion. The water table has gone down. Use of pesticides has resulted not only in pollution but escalating diseases like asthma, cancer, Hepatitis C.

Alcohol and drug abuse has become a curse. Rich have too much money and nothing to do. The poor, on the other hand, are even unable to marry their daughters (dowry menace) and unable to pay debts. They resort to suicide.