The present situation in Punjab started off owing to the alleged violation of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of the Sikhs, at Bargari village. Ever since, Sikhs in the state have been protesting and demonstrating vehemently against the incident. For many of them, this has been akin to a willing attempt to provoke them. Similar incidents have occurred outside six other shrines in Punjab where copies of the Guru Granth Sahib have been found in a torn-up state. Sikhs in the north Indian state have also arranged sit-ins and road blocks in order to vent their ire.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
The leader of a local group has been in the midst of the storm as Sikhs believe he is guilty of insulting Guru Gobind Singh, also regarded as one of the most important leaders in the Sikh religion. This is why the pardon granted to him has incensed people to no end. A lot of them have sought an apology from the popular leader. Incidentally, Singh had appeared as Guru Gobind Singh, the last Sikh guru in an advertisement. The matter was being dealt at courts. It is in such a situation that the Akal Takht, which is at the pinnacle of religious authority among Sikhs, chose to let him go scot free.
Reaction of Sikhs all around
This unlikely pardon has brought forth the ire of Sikhs living in India as well as outside the country. Things have reached such a head that the Akal Takht, a body comprising five members, was being accused of betrayal. Later on, they decided to revoke the pardon but not before some damage had been done. However, some prominent members of the community are of the opinion that the main reason for such protests is something else.
Disillusionment with government
A lot of Sikhs have even blocked the national highways in the state and the government has reacted to this chain of incidents by increasing the security arrangements in the region. It is being said that a lot of Sikhs are not at all happy with the way the government is functioning or dealing with the issue. These views have also been echoed by Karanjit Kaur, a Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee – an entity that takes care of Sikh temples. She is of the opinion that even though the recent happenings may have added fuel to the fire, in actuality they are displays of issues with the government that go deep.
At present, the government in Punjab is a coalition between the BJP – ruling party at the centre – and Akali Dal – a regional powerhouse. Kaur has further stated that the Sikh community considers the present government to be a failure in social and economic areas. Even though Punjab is an agricultural state, its farmers are finding it hard as manure and seeds have become costlier. There are other factors as well like decreasing prices of agricultural produce and sizes of farms. In the last couple of months, farmers, who cultivate cotton, rice and sugarcane, have been organizing protests against the government.
There have been many incidents of farmers committing suicides as well as they have not been able to cope with the predicament. A farmer named Balwinder Singh, who used to live in the vicinity of Amritsar, committed suicide in September, following his failure to procure decent price for his paddy. He was the only earning member in his family. His teenage son named Lovepreet Singh has made it clear that farming is all about loss these days and this is why he will not become a farmer like his deceased father when he grows up and completes his studies.
Present state of Punjab
There was a time when Punjab was one of the top states in India in terms of prosperity. These days, however, it has fallen far back in the pecking order. Its per capita income is bettered by 10 other states in India. A lot of people do not have jobs and the youngsters are doing drugs en masse – a situation that the state government is trying to deal with.
Problems with religious bodies
It is also common to see religious entities such as Akal Takht and SGPC getting drawn into the political quagmire. The state government has been blamed for poking its nose in their affairs by the followers of the aforementioned bodies. A lot of people have blamed the government for the pardon granted to Ram Rahim Singh but the Punjab Government has outright denied any involvement in the matter. It has also been stated that the problems with the religious bodies is one of the major reasons behind the ongoing turmoil. A local religious leader named Kewal Singh has stated that the Akal Takht has now aligned itself with the ruling faction and the SGPC is basically following the government’s orders.
Reaction of state government
Some people have also not ruled out the question of a power struggle between influential members of the Sikh diaspora outside India and the Akali Dal. The state government has incidentally said that a foreign entity may have caused the Sikh scriptures to be desecrated. This can jolly well be interpreted as an attack on the community diaspora without naming them as such and thus also confirms the theory stated already.