In December 2015, I wrote about the leaderless Punjab struggling with the political, economic and social turmoil. So far in the last six or seven months nothing much have changed except the increase in aggressiveness of political statements, at least one attempted assassination and organized media blitz with an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the global Punjabi audience into believing that there is no “drug problem” in Punjab. As the joke on social media, being circulated paints a grim picture of Punjab and its drug issue: “It is correct that there is no drug problem in Punjab, Illegal drugs are easily accessible.” Next state elections are being held in matter of months and I fear that 2017 may not be the Sikh year.
Punjab, the North Indian farmland state is the place Sikhs call homeland. Sikhs lost their only Sikh Kingdom during mid 1800’s and were left with Punjab as a living place under the rule of Queen Victoria. In 1947, Punjab province was further chopped off into two pieces as East Punjab (India) and West Punjab (Pakistan). Sikhs choose to stay with India after assurances to receive special privileges under the Indian constitution. Later, once again during Punjabi Suba, Punjab was made a smaller geographical space by taking its land and creating Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and parts of Rajasthan. Using the brilliant strategy and blue print the Sikhs were packed into a smaller area and illegally deprived of their only major resource – the river water. Now, Sikhs were easy to control, manipulated, misguided and eventually eliminated. Off course all this was being done using political maneuvering and finally the use of force resulting in 1984 June army attack.
During the two decade long civil war hundred thousands of Sikhs were systematically eliminated by the police, army, Para-military forces and the secret state supported gangs of criminals known as “black cats”. These gangs of black cat killers operated under the direct command of senior Police officers. Presently, the Sikh youth of Punjab is being drowned into the systematic flood of drugs making them incapable to make any educated political decision.
The final takeover of Sikhs and their region consists to end the Sikh control over their own religious institutions and the political parties. This takeover has already occurred to a degree with the infiltration of fundamental Hindu ideology with century old genocidal approach. One must read the history of Hindu fundamentalist rise in India to understand their strategy and approach to either eliminate the other cultures or fade their identity to mere nothing. Punjab is holding its state elections in 2017 and Sikhs are left with no party which holds the Sikh interest in high esteem. Every major political party is run or controlled by Hindu fundamentalist thought or directly works with BJP, the Hindu Fundamentalist political party which is in central power. BJP and RSS are in the direct control of India’s resources and the largest army in South Asia, one could imagine the fear full state of mind for the minorities living in the region.
With no Political party catering to Sikh interest, the question arises as to how should Sikhs vote in 2017 Punjab elections? This question seems to boggle every thinking Sikh in Punjab and abroad including me. The biggest fear which silently hangs around in conversations is that nothing may change and status quo might prevail again, meaning the present Akali-BJP joint government may come in power once again.
In my opinion, the only feasible outcome that may slow down the takeover process could come out of a Minority or a coalition government. The best possible outcome could be Congress-AAP joint government. However, Congress is already losing steam in their campaign along with major miscalculated steps that they took recently.
I would not want to see a majority in Punjab including AAP (Aam Adami Party) majority as it is also born out of Nationalistic Hindu dominated political thought. AAP is already giving signals of anti-Punjab feelings by not stating a clear stand on the Punjab waters and filling the Punjab AAP’s senior positons with anti-Sikh opportunist career politicians. It seems Sikhs would require to choose a lesser evil and may follow the saying, “stick with the devil you know.” AAP is a new devil on the block whom Sikhs don’t know.
I fear that thoughtful Sikhs may once again feel helpless and cornered. I continue to fear that 2017 may not be the Sikh year. Their struggle to retain the special privileges as promised in 1947 and to live without fear maybe far from being accomplished.
I suggest that the Sikh voter in Punjab should vote for an individual candidate rather than aligning themselves with a political party. Sikhs should consider voting for a best suited candidate who has shown a past track record to stand for the Sikh interests. Sikh voter should be asking parties and their candidates to commit on paper for the following Sikh and Punjab issues and asking them to make these issues part of their party policy paper:
1. To open criminal investigations against Police officers and punish them who unlawfully killed Sikh youth during the Sikh uprising (fake police encounters)?
2. To stop the illegal diversions of Punjab waters and address the water crisis? And how?
3. To provide help for the Punjab farmers, who are committing suicide on daily basis, on a highest priority and what would be their plan to help them?
4. What is their plan to address the Punjab drug problem?
5. How do they plan to create employment for youth of Punjab?
6. What will they do to eliminate judicial and government red tape giving public relief from corruption and maltreatment?
7. What is their policy and plan around cleaning up pollution and traffic chaos?
8. How do they plan to empower common Punjabi economically and socially?
9. What steps will they take to empower women in Punjab?
10. What immediate steps will they take to drastically improve law and order?
I feel at least these ten questions should be asked of all the political parties and seek their written policy level stand on each issue. I also feel that these minimum of ten questions would help voter clear the utter confusion as to whom to vote for in the Punjab 2017 elections. I am hopeful the Punjabi voter and specifically the Sikh voter will bring a truly democratic government. I will wait with my fingers crossed to have my fears proven wrong.