Neither The Punjab Government nor the state police are taking action against the mob and BJP has been handling the situation with the utmost patience to maintain the social integrity, law and order in Punjab.
Another heinous act of politically motivated mob violence in Punjab has surfaced. Senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), while holding an internal meeting of the party in Rajpura, of Punjab, were chased, roughed up, and held hostage by an irate mob. The mob wished to be passed off as agitating farmers, but it was politically motivated and holding an agenda to suppress the BJP.
The mob comprised over 500 goons wielding weapons such as swords and staffs; weapons presence among the crowd cannot be ruled out.
Bhupesh Aggarwal, a BJP leader, chaired the meeting. It was held at the Bharat Vikas Parishad building near Rajpura's new grain market. As the mob started increasing police force intervened, but not to the extent of dispersing the mob.
Police told Bhupesh Aggarwal to conclude the meeting in 30 minutes, which can only be described as a complete failure of the police authority. That normal political activity anywhere within India would be thus curtailed by the very authorities that maintain law and order is appalling.
The police claim it was on top of the situation but, the reports and the videos coming from the site of the incident tell a very different story. They show half-hearted attempts by the police to control the unruly crowd while the BJP leaders were being heckled and humiliated.
It is now well known that one Prem Singh Bhangu, who professes to be a farm leader, was at the helm of the attack. It will be interesting to know what action the Police and administration take against the person and whether the Farm Agitation leadership will expel him for breaking the “peaceful agitation” code.
It is to the credit of the BJP leadership that they were persistent in their efforts despite the threat from the mob. Subhash Sharma, the BJP's state general secretary, bravely went to the incident to conduct a press conference. The mob also cordoned off the location of his media appearance, and he, along with other leaders, were held hostage for hours. Subhash Sharma claimed in a video recorded from the residence where he and other leaders were taken hostage, "It's like terrorism days in Punjab." Police are not acting against goons.” He did not mince any words in blaming Congress for the lawlessness and politics of violence that were being played out.
The statement made by Subhash Sharma was further reinforced by the BJP National General Secretary Tarun Chugh, who also slammed the State Government being led by Captain Amarinder Singh for allowing such elements a free run in the state. "These Goonda elements, in the name of farmers, have held the state to ransom and have plotted against the BJP," he said.
Creditably, the High Court of Punjab assembled in the middle of the night and directed the Director General Police (DGP) of the state to ensure the safety of the BJP leadership. It has given time to the police till 2 PM on 12 July to submit a reply. The court has also served notice to the government to ensure the security of the political leaders.
The directions passed by the High Court are to the eternal shame of the state administration. It has been fairly and squarely ticked off for abdication of duty. Despite this shame and public revulsion at the state of affairs, Chief Minister Amarinder has issued no statement to condemn the attack, nor has he given any assurance of a timely inquiry into the incident. This shows the complicity of the Congress in what is going on; it gives credibility to the statements made by Subhash Sharma and Tarun Chugh.
Such attacks have been going on ever since the Farmers agitation established camps on the borders of Delhi. The agitation leaders swear the agitation to be peaceful. The central government is dealing with the agitation with utmost patience. There have been no incidents of the state apparatus attempting to pressurize the agitators. Sadly, what is happening in Punjab is quite contrary to the assertion of the agitation being peaceful. The terrible attacks of the BJP cadre are being carried out on the shoulder of the agrarian farmers' agitation.
On 12 October 2020, Punjab BJP President Ashwani Sharma was attacked by a violent mob in Hoshiarpur while he was traveling from Jalandhar to Pathankot. A little after that, the houses of many BJP leaders were surrounded by violent mobs and, in one instance, tons of garbage was thrown outside the house of a senior BJP functionary. The state government did not take any action against the assailants who gained the confidence to carry out more such attacks.
The practice continued till the shameful incident on 27 March 2021 when BJP MLA from Abohar, Arun Narang, was attacked by a mob of so-called farmers, actually political activists. His clothes were torn, black ink was thrown upon him, and he was thrashed mercilessly. In this instance too, the police remained a mute spectator, refusing to take any action to control the crowd. “I have a hunch that the state government could be behind it. It needs a thorough investigation. I don’t trust Punjab police now,” said Narang forthrightly after the attack.
Then on 13 April 2021, a mob attacked the convoy of Shri Ram Gopal, who is the State head of “Haryaval Punjab,” a social welfare organization dedicated to promoting organic farming, sowing, and growing useful trees and greenery, management of plastic waste, and similar projects all over Punjab. He was targeted for being a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The frequency of the attacks has been increasing over time. Two factors are attributed to this situation.
The first is that the BJP cadre is not reacting to the attacks in strength; this is a mature and noble policy that helps to maintain peace and harmony in the state despite grave and unjustified provocation. But it is also building the confidence of the opposition to continue with its nefarious activity.
The second and more significant is the casualness and complicity of the administration, especially the state police, which seems to be the direct consequence of the directions from the top. The success of each attack has emboldened the mob to become larger, more irate, and aggressive.
It is very sad to note that some segments of the media are also glossing over the criticality of the situation. They have described the criminal attack at P Rajpura as, “a group of farmers protesting against the Centres farm laws chasing away a local BJP leader.” A media report cannot get more callous than this. Others have covered the incident by using the terminology of “reportedly and allegedly” when there is no doubt whatsoever about the incident having taken place. An attempt is being made to downplay such incidents intending to remove public perception from them and also ensuring that they can carry on in the future.
The author of this piece had made a plea to Captain Amarinder Singh a few days ago to put a stop to what he called "politics of violence" in Punjab. The very respectful appeal is available on his YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljGb_hwZhss&t=3s it is sad to note that the CM has given no credence to the appeal and, a series of attacks have taken place since then, the main being the one at Rajpura. It gives an impression that what is happening has his sanction.
In its aura of power, the ruling party in the state and its leader Captain Amarinder Singh are conveniently glossing over the fact that it is playing with fire. The social unification of Punjab, which is dear to every Punjabi, and the sanctity of the Indian Constitution are on the line. This aspect has been very aptly expressed by Ashwani Sharma, President BJP, Punjab, “This is an attack on democracy, and not BJP. There is complete lawlessness in Punjab, as police have become mute spectators,” he has said.
It is the right of all citizens of India to follow their political affiliations freely and without fear/intimidation; any attempt to subdue the same goes against democratic tenets and the spirit of the Indian Constitution.
The parties that oppose the BJP should fight a political battle within acceptable democratic norms and defeat the party fairly and squarely on the ballot during elections if they can. By resorting to such shameful and dishonorable tactics, they are showing their insecurity and lack of character.
What is happening in Punjab for the sake of political brinkmanship is reprehensible. It goes against the very tenets of the traditional brotherhood that Punjab has witnessed for centuries. It is a deep slur on the concept of “Punjabiat.”
The author is a social worker and a columnist.