To the Sikh protesters: We are with you

The blame for recent Punjab Police brutality in Kotkapura, which led to two deaths and dozens of seriously injured Sikhs, rests squarely on the Punjab Government of Parkash Badal.
The mishandling of a very sensitive religious issue shows the failure of the Badal administration to take prompt action when a Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture, was stolen by some miscreants three months ago. And, when the Guru Granth Sahib was found desecrated last week, Punjab authorities again failed to take action to assuage the sentiments of the peaceful protestors.
Instead, they sanctioned the use of brute force to disperse the protestors who were peacefully expressing their outrage at the sacrilegious act, and asking for administrative action to find the perpetrators of this crime. How was that a problem? 
People have the right to protest. The police should have exercised more restraint and allowed them to gather and ask for an official response. 
Surprisingly, the police did not take any action against the followers of the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda when they stopped train and road traffic for at least two days last month, protesting Punjab’s unofficial ban of a movie released by their cult leader, Gurmeet Ram Rahim. 
But, the police did use full force to disperse peaceful Sikh protesters, even though they did not block any traffic in the state. Why did the police use harsh measures such as water cannon and gunfire to disperse the peaceful crowd? 
Assaulting protestors with severity is totally unacceptable. Several videos have surfaced of police officers beating people and rendering them unconscious. This is totally condemnable. The blame completely lies at the footsteps of the Punjab government. 
The government cannot blame the protesters for being violent or for causing this disturbance. There was no violence committed on their part. 
The media also is reporting the unrest wrongly and misleading the public. 
The Sikhs were led by several respectable and well-known parcharaks. This was not a protest by people with questionable motives. In fact, they represent the sentiments of the Sikhs worldwide. 
Government of Punjab must reign in this kind of irresponsible action by its security forces, and no loss of life should take place in any police action.
Its announcement of an award of 1 crore (Rs. 10,000,000), more than three months after the original crime and the ensuing statewide protests, sounds totally disingenuous.
The recent hurried pardoning of the Sirsa dera-chief shows poor judgment by Sikh religious and political leaders. The overwhelming perception they have created is that all their decisions are made for political gain rather than for what is right. 
This kind of political machinations must cease and desist. Akali political activity cannot be allowed to envelope and engulf the Sikhs and the status of Sikhism in the world. 
There is lot of resentment in the Panth against those in positions of power at Sikh institutions such as the Akal Takhat and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. They all stand discredited. 
There is a critical need to restore the confidence of the Sikh people. Any future plans of action should be considered by Sikhs with interests solely based in Gurmat. That is the only course of action.
We appeal to all granthees and parcharaks to calm the public and positively channel their energy. We all should perform an act of sewa in the name of the Guru Granth Sahib. Do not allow anyone to exploit our sentiments. 

About the authors: Rajwant Singh is chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education. Inderpaul Singh Gadh is chairman of Gurdwara Guru Gobind Singh Foundation. Both organizations are based in Maryland.

Commentaries are the opinions of the authors, and not necessarily that of Sikh Free Press.



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