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Khalistanis baring their dangerous fangs again! Can Centre rely on Arvind Kejriwal to fight this menace in Punjab?

Author: Yuvraj Pokharna
Publication: Firstpost.com
Date: May 12, 2022
URL:      https://www.firstpost.com/opinion/khalistanis-baring-their-dangerous-fangs-again-can-centre-rely-on-arvind-kejriwal-to-fight-this-menace-in-punjab-10665411.html

The border state can’t be allowed to go back to the eighties, and for this whatever is necessary, the Centre, in coordination with the Punjab government, should do

At a toll booth in Karnal, Haryana Police detained four persons carrying three IEDs each weighing 2.5 kg. Khalistan flags were spotted mounted to the Himachal Pradesh Assembly Complex’s main gate in Dharamsala.

The use of made-in-Pakistan weapon in the rocket-propelled grenade attack on the Punjab Police Intelligence headquarters in Mohali was reported on 9 May, a day after state police recovered an IED filled with RDX wrapped in a metallic black box weighing approximately 2.5 kg from Naushehra Pannuan village in the Tarn Taran district.

The fact that these developments took place so soon after a religious clash between Sikh and Hindu groups in Patiala on 29 April raises serious security concerns. Both assaults were in reaction to calls made by Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the US-based founder of separatist organisation ‘Sikhs for Justice’. The revival of the Khalistan narrative is undeniable.

A former Punjab DGP said that these developments should be seen in the context of a new government coming to power in Punjab. “The rash of incidents in Punjab within days of the change of guard should have been expected,” he said.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), headed by Arvind Kejriwal, has won Punjab, the most talked-about border state, and has become the fastest-growing political party in the country, but the results should not have surprised any logical political observer. According to his critics, Kejriwal gained an edge in the state elections by catering to separatist elements in Punjab. Pro-Khalistan outfits backed Kejriwal's party during the Lok Sabha elections.

During the Punjab polls, Kumar Vishwas, one of the founding members of the AAP, had accused Kejriwal of having ties with Khalistani separatists for winning elections. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too criticised Kejriwal in February this year, stating that the AAP chief had spent a night at the ancestral home of a former Khalistani terrorist in Moga in 2017. Even Gul Panag warned Kejriwal and the AAP in the run-up to the 2017 Punjab Assembly elections about their infatuation with radical fringe groups and separatist movements.

In 2018, Gul Panag, a former AAP leader and actress, stated: “That was a clumsily planned flirtation. I warned you about this one. Repeatedly. It's because they don't comprehend or ‘get’ Punjab. The K gang was said to have political clout. We all knew better in Punjab. But alas!”

Kejriwal fails the ‘Vishwas' challenge, but he then goes on to declare himself the “world's loveliest terrorist" and compares himself to Bhagat Singh, alleging that Bhagat Singh was once considered a terrorist and that his follower is now suffering the same fate.

Even if one discounts Vishwas’ claim as a typical “he said, she said” scenario, how can one forget that this is the same Kejriwal who tried pollicising the Pulwama assault by alleging that it was carried out at the behest of the Modi government in order to bolster the BJP’s electoral prospects in the 2019 general elections.

“Everyone is asking whether Pakistan murdered 40 of our brave guys in Pulwama on 14 February, just before the polls, to promote Modi ji,” Kejriwal said, promoting the conspiracy theory.

In fact, in the aftermath of the Indian military's surgical strikes to avenge the death of the brave souls who died in the Uri attack, the AAP leader cleverly crafted a video congratulating the Indian government while simultaneously demanding confirmation that the surgical strikes took place.

The first rule of Gobbelsian propaganda, according to popular opinion, is to “accuse others of what you have done”. Kejriwal recognises the importance of good public relations and plays it safe to maintain his image as a muffler-wearing regular man who is completely honest. According to an RTI answer dated 8 April, the Kejriwal-led AAP government in Delhi spent about Rs 150 crore on public advertisements in only three months, from January to March 2021. In addition, in the preceding two years, the Kejriwal government spent over Rs 800 crore on advertising. He's been dubbed “ad-man” for obvious reasons.

Kejriwal is good with public relations, which might work in a semi-state like Delhi, but in Punjab, a border state with a history of militancy, it is a different ballgame.

Kejriwal's hypocrisy is further exposed when in Punjab he is vigorously pushing for a drug-free society, but in Delhi his stand is just the opposite. The AAP is building a spate of liquor shops in the National Capital, expanding the number from 250 to 850 on the one hand.

Furthermore, Delhi's new proposed liquor policy cuts the number of dry days from 21 to three each year, and also clears the proposal for home delivery of liquor.

The Khalistanis are baring their fangs again.

Keeping this in mind, the state government should form an “Anti-Terror Advisory Group” comprised retired police officers who were in the forefront of anti-terrorist operations in the 1980s and 1990s. Former police officers also recommend that, in the face of new dangers, the Monthly Intelligence Review (Pink Book), which was formed at the height of terrorism by former DGP Intelligence, OP Sharma, be relaunched and distributed to all districts.

Given the state’s insurgent past and its strategic border status, and with allegations of Kejriwal being soft on Khalistanis, it’s time for the nation to be on high alert. While the Central government should follow the spirit of federalism, it should equally avoid becoming a sitting duck. This border state can’t be allowed to go back to the eighties, and for this whatever is necessary, the Centre, in coordination with the Punjab government, should do.

 

-The author is an independent journalist and columnist. Views expressed are personal.
 
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Author: Alka Dhupkar
Publication: The Times of India
Date: May 2, 2022
URL:      https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/loudspeaker-lessons-for-india-from-a-maharashtra-village/articleshow/91259002.cms

The villagers of Barad have passed a resolution to stop the use of loudspeakers

Barad shows that strong-arm tactics are not needed to curb noise pollution; a simple matter of sitting across a table and discussing can do wonders

Barad is a biggish village in Nanded district of Maharashtra with a population of around 15,000. It is roughly 20km from Nanded city. Over time, the village has prospered and places of worship, among other buildings, have been renovated.

The village has 15 religious places — 12 Hindu temples and a place of worship each for Buddhist, Jain and Muslim communities. In some neighbourhoods, these religious places are in close proximity. No problem there.

It was only when these places started using loudspeakers to broadcast sermons, aartis and bhajans that the problem started. It became a veritable Tower of Babel — all noise and confusion.

“Since five in the morning, we used to play songs. In some places, one couldn’t hear the other’s songs or for that matter what was played in our temple,” says Suresh Deshmukh, a trustee of the local Hanuman temple.

For days on end, farmer Sharad Kawle’s 80-year-old grandmother couldn’t get a peaceful night’s sleep because of the rampant use of loudspeakers in the village.

But all this is in the past now. In charged times like these, Barad stands out as a model of communal harmony. Back in 2018, the villagers unanimously decided to remove loudspeakers from all religious places.

So, what happened in 2018?

According to deputy sarpanch Balasaheb Shankarao Deshmukh, sometime in December 2017, a Ganesh temple was using loudspeakers to broadcast maha aarti and a Buddha vihar nearby was playing religious songs. This went on till late at night.

“Groups from both sides started raising voices against each other, asking that the volume be lowered. Harmony in the village was completely disturbed,” he says. “Somehow we managed to cool tempers, but the tension simmered.”

But this wasn’t the only incident. A local school kept complaining about noise pollution to the Shiva temple trust and others in their area. The students couldn’t concentrate on studies because there was a kind of competition in using loudspeakers till late night and early mornings among all the religions.

The villagers were fed up. Some of them met after the tension escalated between Buddha and Ganpati followers. During a meeting with the local police, they discussed the proposal of removing all loudspeakers.

Thereafter, the villagers held a meeting with all the religious groups separately. Everybody accepted that the use of loudspeakers was a cause for concern and social discord. The religious trusts said if it was mandatory for all religious groups then they would also stop using loudspeakers.

After the consultations, a special gram sabha was called and a unanimous resolution was passed.

The villagers agreed to use sound boxes instead of loudspeakers. The only caveat: the volume of the sound box should be maintained at a pre-mandated level so the sound does not go beyond the walls of the holy place.

The gram panchayat has already installed around 40 small sound boxes for local announcements such as deaths, vaccination or other government programmes.

After the noise, peace

Yogesh Ratnparakhi, who runs Om Sai Coaching Classes in Barad, says, “In my centre, there are around 100 students and I can’t tell you how happy we all are that the loudspeakers have finally stopped. Earlier, students would use unending noise as an excuse not to study. Now, they properly focus on studies.”

Kiran Mahajan, a trustee of Chandra Prabhu Digambar Jain temple, says, “Ours is a private temple that is open to the public. We too had installed a loudspeaker because others installed it too. But after the removal of loudspeakers, we didn’t lose any devotees. Loudspeakers actually don’t matter.”

Sharad Kawle, the farmer, says, “Many of us in this village are followers of the Varkari bhakti movement. I believe that your religious activity should not disturb others. Keep it personal, so we all supported this proposal.”

His views are echoed by Sardar Sattar Khan Pathan of Jama Masjid in Barad. “We respect festivals of all communities. The kind of communal harmony we have maintained would not have been possible with loudspeakers at each religious place in the village.”

According to Vasant Lalme, a trustee of the Shiva temple, loudspeakers are not essential for singing bhajans or kirtans. “Devotion is a very personal feeling. It can be attained without loudspeakers. We have proved it.”

Model village

Deputy sarpanch Deshmukh, however, is disappointed that his village has not been given due recognition for the innovative solution to the menace of unchecked loudspeakers. The village doesn’t encourage the use of loudspeakers even for political rallies, weddings or other celebrations.

In other ways, too, Barad can be touted as a model village. It has received state awards for cleanliness and drinking water distribution management, open defecation-free status, success of ‘tanta mukti’ yojana (a scheme to clear local disputes at the village level) and other achievements.

The village has 20 CCTV cameras, which have helped curb theft, sexual harassment and other crimes. The village has developed a proper watershed system; a dormitory near a rural hospital is a unique feature of the village. It has also built a hostel for girl students, it has a zilla parishad school, multiple anganwadis, among other facilities.

As the noise over the use of loudspeakers at religious places grows louder and various state governments are using strong-arm tactics, perhaps it is Barad’s use of consultation that stands out more than its other achievements.