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Mutating Virus

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There is a reason why those with an understanding of Punjab politics were wary of the way the recent elections were contested. During his stint, former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had kept a tight lid on the Khalistan virus. The disruptive politics played by the Aam Aadmi Party to acquire power has emboldened radical elements to the extent that they actually came out on the roads in Patiala to defend the Khalistan cause. Unfortunately for the state, no ideological vaccination seems to have been developed to counter the mutations of this malaise. The state’s younger generation has absolutely no idea of what occurred during the Pakistan backed terrorist movement of the ‘80s. Instead, the radical elements have glorified the sick legacy of Bhindranwale through a carefully doctored narrative, mostly promoted by anti-Indian elements sheltered abroad, primarily the US and Canada.

And, strangely, the response from the political mainstream has been the usual escapist one. The Shiv Sena took no time in disassociating itself from its leader in Patiala, who had the courage to take out an anti-Khalistan march. This is the party that is otherwise ‘so courageous’ when it comes to beating up hawkers from UP and Bihar on the streets of Mumbai. The media, learning absolutely no lessons from the past, first reported the incident as it actually was – a clash between Shiv Sena and Khalistani supporters. Suddenly, however, the narrative morphed into a Sikh-Hindu clash, playing right into the hands of radicals – as though all Sikhs are Khalistan sympathisers. This is despite the fact that it was, ultimately, the Sikhs who quelled this scourge at the height of the movement.

Since it is an AAP Government in the state, it will have to very carefully prepare a strategy with the help of the Centre to counter this menace. Politics cannot be allowed to get in the way. The psyche of the misguided youth has to be cleansed by, first, telling the true story of what transpired in the past, and exposing the forces that lie behind the Khalistan demand. There was and is no heroism involved. On the contrary, almost every principle of Sikhism was violated and betrayed in the delusional quest. Punjab and the Sikhs paid a heavy price for it. This foolishness cannot be repeated and there can be no cowardly tip-toeing around the issue, as was done earlier by the establishment. The only ‘Khali-stan’, as was famously said, is in the radicals’ heads.