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Punjab needs to be secured from all fronts as ‘Khalistan’ calls reverberate

What really marked the end of terrorist violence was the restoration of Hindu-Sikh unity

Punjab needs to be secured from all fronts as ‘Khalistan’ calls reverberate

The assault on a Granthi or desecration of Guru Granth Sahib have to be guarded against as they could prove to be the flashpoints to trigger trouble. There is an organised attempt by the adversary to step up induction of narcotics into Punjab from across the border

The nation can still recall how Punjab was caught in the grip of terrorism in the second half of the 1980s; something that could be countered only through sustained use of armed police, socio-political efforts at restoring peace and the diplomatic initiatives taken for mobilising world opinion against the call of 'Khalistan'.

The environment of hurt feelings amongst Sikhs created by Op Blue Star at the Golden Temple, the rise of SantJarnail Singh Bhindranwale as the fulcrum of the 'Khalistan movement' in the state, and the full exploitation of the situation by Pakistan which pumped in arms, explosives and trained militants into Punjab had all combined at that time to push the level of terrorist violence all over the state to an unprecedented high with things coming to a pass where people in Chandigarh and Mohali stopped leaving their houses after sunset.

The comprehensive countermeasures of the state did succeed by the turn of the decade -- the execution of Operation Black Thunder in 1988, which was based on two fundamental precepts that no policeman would enter the premises of the Golden Temple and no bullet would be fired from outside towards the Temple, played a major part in turning the things around for the eventual return of peace to Punjab.

What really marked the end of the chapter of terrorist violence in the border state was the restoration of Hindu-Sikh unity against the machinations of the external enemy to permanently damage their brotherly relations by instigating targeted killings on communal lines. This ground reality of peace rooted in Hindu-Sikh unity has held on for decades -- it found validation in the political alliance between the BJP and Akali Dal in recent times. Punjab happily is once more acknowledged as the prime contributor to the nation’s defence as well as the country’s food economy.

The border state, however, is again being targeted by forces inimical to India.The situation in Punjab, with its strategic location, is becoming vulnerable in the face of the evil designs of the adversaries to revive the call of Khalistan outside India in the hope that this would produce an induction effect within the state.

The people of Punjab are averse to any disruptive ideas and remain united in faith.

The Khalistan movement is being revived in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK by enemy agents trying to work on the Sikh diaspora, particularly among the more vulnerable younger generations who had remained somewhat cut off from Punjab, the land of their origin, possibly losing some emotional attachment with India as well.

In Punjab, sporadic attempts to use Gurudwaras to revive the Amritdhari cult have come to notice. The assault on a Granthi or desecration of Guru Granth Sahib has to be guarded against as they could prove to be the flashpoints to trigger trouble. There is an organised attempt by the adversary to step up induction of narcotics into Punjab from across the border.

Vandalism against India’s diplomatic missions, defacing of temples and glorifying past incidents pertaining to Khalistan terror in India have been resorted to in a planned manner. These subversive activities abroad have been accompanied by some violent actions on Indian soil as well.

Meanwhile, Amritpal Singh, a known Khalistan protagonist who had links with the US-based Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), along with thousands of supporters carrying a copy of Guru Granth Sahib and firearms, raided Ajnalapolice station near Amritsar on February 23, 2023, and forcibly secured the release of Loveprit Singh Toofan, an aide of Amritpal, arrested earlier in a case of violence.

Amritpal Singh, the leader of self-styled Waris Punjab De, is known to have been trained by Pak ISI and housed in Dubai. He visited Rode village in Moga district, the birthplace of Bhindranwale in an attempt to emulate the latter. He was finally arrested in April 2023 and shifted to Dibrugarh jail in Assam considering his potential for whipping up violence in Punjab.

The Sino-Pak axis remains hostile to India and has become much more active after the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian Parliament.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through the northern part of PoK and it was vehemently opposed by India.

There are reports of Pak-based Islamic militant outfits being used for building contacts with Sikh extremist elements in Punjab. Pak ISI is likely to repeat its modus operandi in Punjab and do a few things that had helped it in the 1980s to build terrorism in the state. Gurudwaras were used for indoctrinating and even sheltering militants, training in techniques of making IEDs was imparted -- cycle bombs made by packing RDx into the cylinders of a cycle and fitting it with a timer became a trademark of terror at that time -- and Hindu-Sikh enmity and distrust was whipped up by directing targeted killings of Hindus. Any beginnings of this kind of violence should be promptly noticed.

It would be prudent to set off coordinated measures in Punjab to mitigate any chances of the revival of the Khalistan idea in the state.Punjab needs to be put in charge of a Governor with a national security background, who is well versed about how the terrorist problem was handled in the past. An important function of the Head of the state would be to guide and educate the state government about the operational measures needed to be put in place, particularly in a border state and the socio-political environment that had to be created to mitigate the threat of separatism in the name of Khalistan.

Security of the border state has to be kept above party politics.

Efforts must be made to extradite leaders of Indian origin actively engaged in promoting the call of Khalistan in the US and Canada to face legal action here.

India has launched a diplomatic effort to counter the anti-India activity abroad and called the ruling elites in the concerned countries to check the same.

Democratic forces at home have to be encouraged to speak up against the subversive call of Khalistan and uphold the unity of India.

We have to be ahead of the troublemakers within the country and outside in countering any threats to national security, integrity and sovereignty.

(The writer is a former director of the Intelligence Bureau. Views are personal)

Dc Pathak
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