May 25, 2016
India - Punjab: Politics over murderous attack on Sikh preacher (Editorial, The Tribune)
The Tribune, May 25, 2016
Badals and Babas
Politics over murderous attack on Sikh preacher
Ever since Chief Minister Badal demolished the established police structure by making SHOs report to Akali leaders, application of the law has become selective. The empowered tehsil-level Akalis use the police as a private force. Now the Akali leadership is caught in a trap of its own making. It does not seem to know how to handle a crime in which it cannot afford to annoy either party. There are two Babas, both have large followings and both are useful.
The attack on Sikh preacher Dhandrianwale comes days after Home Minister Sukhbir Badal’s boastful claim that Punjab is among the safest states in the country. Daily incidents of lawlessness apart, the unsolved murder of the Namdhari Mata still mocks his claims of police efficiency. In the Dhandrianwale case the police has acted but selectively, suspectedly at the behest of the political leadership. It has arrested eight suspects, but the mastermind, according to the Ludhiana police, is yet to be identified. The victim has left no one in doubt who the mastermind is. There is a self-confessed patron of the assailants Harnam Singh Dhumma, head of the Damdami Taksal. And Dhumma has publicly admitted to the Taksal hand in the attack. He has owned the assailants and offered them legal help. One of the vehicles used in the crime has been recovered and its ownership is attributed by the police to Dhumma. The latter has not denied it.
Dhumma has made the task of the police simpler by also disclosing the motive of the crime: “The attack on Dhandrianwale is the result of his objectionable remarks on the Taksal’s ‘dastar’ (turban) and false propaganda being carried out by him inside and outside the country”. And yet he has not been questioned. The Badals seem to be weighing the political gains and losses of enforcing the rule of law. All citizens are supposed to be equal before law. The way the police deals with ordinary mortals caught in such situations needs no elaboration. The incident and its handling are reminiscent of the pre-militancy days. The baneful consequences of political patronage for a little-known Baba should not be forgotten.