Trouble Within Trouble: How Long Till Dissent Sees The Lighthouse In India

The International system contemporarily is taking an unchartered voyage into the loophole of democratic vs. semi-or non-democratic states, and while their navigation tends to appraise states like India as being the world’s largest democracy, the ship is continuously failing to moor into the direction of highly revered path of individualism or to be more specific the fundamental human rights, the foremost feature of coherence or consolidation in any state, and hence this is what explains the festering of nation-state dilemma in the world of today.

India is no exception. It has a history of riding unchartered waters with accounts brewing of systematic loopholes and structural indifference. This is what explains the revival of the simmering Khalistan spirit as well as the events surrounding the manhunt for Amritpal Singh. Singh rose to prominence after confrontation with police of Ajnala police station this February, demanding release of his illegally detained party’s (Waris Punjab De) aide. Protesters (with Singh) then were baton-charged whereby Police blamed them for instigating the violence there.

In the subsequent (and ongoing) manhunt for a single individual (Amritpal Singh), India,  deploying its traditional tactics has shut down the internet and communication services for the entire 27 million people of Punjab, which in itself falls under the category of human rights violations-as entailed by the United Nations Office for Human Rights. Tens of thousands of paramilitary troops have been deployed with gatherings of more than four people banned. In depriving the people of Punjab-58% of whom is Sikh population-India itself is giving the Khalistan Movement legitimacy by ensuring upon the Sikh populace that they do, in fact, stand as a nation, at least, in sharing a collective sense of deprivation, prejudice and indifference on the part of state.

But even more troubling here is Twitter-being an International social media platform operating de facto, on charter of freedom of expression- pledging allegiance to Indian state’s systematic repressive practices by blocking access to accounts of various prominent Sikh leaders, personnel and other activists, the entities that tend to serve as an eye-opener into BJP-lead Indian state systematic prejudice, racial segregation, and religious extremism in the pursuit of their achievement of Hindutva ideologue. By doing so such social media platforms tend to buy the pro-Indian narrative of national security threat- discourse that India has used repeatedly to legitimize its excessive use of force against the dissent while there is much little debate as to why respected human rights’ lawyer Jaspal Singh Manjhpur was detained, and hundreds of Sikhs arrested. If the problem is a single individual, how come the entire Sikh populace pays the price?

It appears as if the navigation pointer in this case hints towards changing the course-route.  It is primarily because what India is fighting today ‘with all its might’ is not a National Security Threat but its very own created National Security Chaos and if one is to contemplate on the logic of the entire voyage, the waves in a splash show precedents of systematic repression, structural prejudice and Indian state’s indifference to other minority or religious groups, in particular.

In case of Sikh populace, India, keeping up with the divide-and-rule politics of colonizers and in utter disregard to the their demands of forming a one single province for all Punjabis passed the Punjab Reorganization Act on September 7, 1966, bifurcating the state of Punjab into two provinces of Punjab and Haryana and making Chandigarh, their joint capital-a Union Territory that is governed directly by the Centre. The resentment further festered when Canal System constituted over the Punjab rivers of Ravi, Beas and Sutlej left Sikh-dominated Punjab with only 23% of water in total. The fact that the issue would not be revisited brought an additional turmoil to the Sikh resentment. It was due to such systematic inconsideration that in 1973 Anandpur Sahib Resolution was passed by Akali Dal becoming one of the pre-requisites of the militant Sikh insurgency of the 1980s. Such ‘not-to-be-heard’ tactics deployed by Indian authorities continue to fester wounds of the Sikh minority living in India and abroad.

It seems as if India has  failed to learn its lessons to date as by such instances where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi instead of addressing their grievances would call the farmers protesting the agricultural laws ‘parasites’ before succumbing to their demands a year later. The controversial agricultural laws, the farmers said would have left them at the mercy of big corporations who would have then dictated prices to them. Most Indian farmers, sell much of their produce at government-controlled wholesale markets or mandis at assured floor prices (also known as minimum support price or MSP).

It is said that history repeats itself at least until lessons learnt and solutions, the durable ones, implemented. But to the dismay of many, the pattern of systematic human and basic rights violations continues in India. The Indian ship is riding unchartered turbulent waters. The captain and the crew voluntarily refuse to see the lighthouse. The passengers, the poor ones, specifically, continue to bear the consequences. The simmering tornado is to dictate HOW LONG TILL DISSENT SEES THE LIGHT HOUSE IN INDIA.

Sana Hamid
Sana Hamid
Author is an IR scholar having experience working with two top notch think tanks, namely IPRI and SDPI. She has numerous articles in her credits. She tweets @sana_hamid_here