Traditional temple

Lynching of the Golden Temple: Dark days could revisit Punjab

This sacrilege inside the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple could snowball into an electoral issue seems inevitable. Hear from Congress in the run-up to the 2017 Punjab legislative elections. “We will hold the culprits to account and punish those who protect the accused,” promised Amarinder Singh, then campaign leader of the Congress party. The latter was an obvious reference to the Badals of Shiromani Akali Dal.

The lesson from the 2017 election campaign is simple. In the interest of peace in the Punjab, the issue must not turn into a political game to garner votes in the next elections. And that this should not disturb the communal harmony that exists in this state where Sikhs and Hindus live side by side and lived through the most tumultuous period in history between 1980 and 1993, when the separatist movement was at its peak.

However, it is essential to keep in mind the recent history of Punjab. In 1978, when the sacrilege took place, it led to clashes between traditional Sikhs and Nirankaris. The incident gave birth to the separatist movement in Punjab and marked the emergence of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The Nirankari are a movement within Sikhism that believes in a living guru and not a scriptural guru, the Sikh holy book by guru Granth Sahib.

In 1978, the Sikhs led by Bhindranwale were agitated with Nirankari leader Gurbachan Singh for holding a convention in Amritsar. The Sikhs were at daggers drawn with the Nirankaris on several issues, including the sect’s belief in seeing its leader as a “satguru”. Sikhs, on the other hand, regard Guru Granth Sahib as their living guru after the tenth Sikh guru Guru Gobind Singh.

Read also | Man beaten to death for attempted “sacrilege” at the Golden Temple

There were also other problems, such as the Nirankari sect which had seven “sitare”, a kind of parallel with the principle of “panj pyaras” of the Sikh religion. Sikhs viewed this as blasphemy, and it all culminated on April 13, 1978, when 13 Sikhs were killed in a clash between Sikhs and Nirankari. The trial of the case was moved to Haryana, where a court acquitted Nirankari’s men on the grounds that they had acted in “self-defense”, leading Bhindranwale to announce that there would be a fight for the justice. On April 24, 1980, the leader of the Nirankari sect Gurbachan Singh was assassinated.

To put it plainly, this sacrilegious incident, although contested by Nirankaris, sparked a fire that led to 13 years of separatist movement in the Punjab, which experienced unprecedented bloodshed for the first time after the 1947 partition. Making political gains on blasphemy issues, something Indira Gandhi and her Congress were accused of in 1980, could prove counterproductive and push the Punjab, once India’s most prosperous state, back into the country. on dark days.

Not that Congress has made a mistake only once and learned from it. It seems incorrigible to repeatedly want to play with fire. In 2017, Amarinder Singh first criticized the Badals for protecting those accused of beadbi (religious sacrilege). As the polls approached, he promised that he would put in the book those who protected the culprits, i.e. the Badals. Five years later, in an interview with a news channel, he said: “How can you act without proof? Navjot Singh Sidhu subsequently accused Amarinder Singh of colluding with the Badal.

We are now likely to see candidates attempting to address the sacrilege issue of votes in their election campaign by promising that they will bring the culprits to justice even though the power to investigate rests with law enforcement. Law enforcement, which reports to the government, find themselves in a catch-22 situation while pulling the chain back towards the conspirators or those protecting the accused. Since members of the government have publicly declared who are the culprits at the time of the campaign.

As for the latest case of sacrilege, the man who committed blasphemy was killed, which could prove to be the biggest problem in gaining a better understanding of who the conspirators were. It doesn’t sound like a one-person job. There has been a series of such sacrileges since June 2015, and all of them appear to be deliberate and well-planned acts. All political parties should pledge that whoever comes to power will track down the culprits without seeking credit. See it as a service to God.

(The writer is a journalist based in Chandigarh)

Warning: The opinions expressed above are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

Watch the latest DH videos here: