In the name of controlling the situation in Punjab, the ruling party has used its brute majority in the Parliament to destroy the democratic character of the Indian Constitution. It has been provided through a special bill that a state of emergency can be declared in the event of “internal disturbances” also. This provision was deleted during the Janata party’s rule in view of its misuse by Indira Gandhi in 1975 who declared emergency solely to save her tottering position as Prime Minister.

The Constitution has been amended to resurrect this dead clause and exercising the newly acquired powers, the Home Minister; Mr. Buta Singh has extended the President’s rule in Punjab by two years and imposed a state of emergency on the state. The motive behind this exercise appears to be more sinister than meets the eye. Because for over four years now, the state of Punjab has been reeling under a regime that in sheer savagery and ruthlessness has no parallel in the whole range of Indian history. There is total censorship on the media. Foreign journalists remain barred from entering Punjab. Judiciary stands grossly subverted. It has virtually become an accomplice in the murders of innocent Sikh young men. Special courts hold trials in camera. Not to talk of cross examining the prosecution witnesses, the defense attorneys have no right even to know their identity. Confession extracted by the police through brutal third degree tortures cannot be questioned and judges have no option but to accept them on their face value. Police and paramilitary forces have been vested with such sweeping powers as would make the KGB and Nazi Gestapo pale into oblivion. For all intents and purposes, the Punjab, today, is much worse than a police state.

The police chief, Mr. Ribeiro operates through his own Mafia gangs that kill unarmed Sikhs in broad day light. Only the other day, three unarmed Sikh young men were gunned down at a local bust and in the heart of Chandigarh city by one such gang, which when pursued by the city police sought shelter in Ribeiro’s official residence. The murderers were not arrested. Instead the Police Chief declared, in the characteristic tone of a medieval autocrat, that the young men were killed in an “encounter”. Next day the so called “free press” faithfully carried the Ribeiro’s “encounter” story on the front pages despite the fact that a large number of eyewitnesses kept saying that the boys were unarmed and were waiting for a bus when they were shot dead in cold blood by persons in civilian clothes from within a car.

No “free press” reporter dared to ask Ribeiro as to why did the Chandigarh police chase “his men” if the boys were killed in an encounter. But, then, India is a unique “democracy” where such questions often prove fatal. It is a territory where angels fear to tread. Besides, Ribeiro is an “honorable” man and “gentleman” of the “free press” considers it prudent not to ask uncomfortable questions. In such a climate, what can Buta Singh hope to achieve by enacting the hollow farce of imposing emergency? Is it simply to curtail the civil liberties and fundamental rights? Or does it portend a deadlier and grimmer fate for the Sikhs? BJP and other Hindu organizations have been clamoring for army rule in Punjab. These organizations have always worked in close coordination with the ruling party. Other opposition parties also grow deaf and dumb. Whenever the government introduces still more draconian measures to further strangle the Sikhs. Little do they realize that Rajiv Gandhiis using Punjab as a laboratory to perfect his fascist techniques.

The opposition leaders did not react when Supreme Court judges were used by the government to short circuit the legal and Constitutional rights of the Sikhs through frauds like Dass Commission, Sarkaria Commission, Iradi Tribunal, Mishra Commission etc. etc. Their shock at the judgment of the Thakkar Natarajan Commission now looks rather childish. The emergency in Punjab is only a beginning which would inevitably pave the way for the perpetuation of the dynastic rule. The life and the liberty of every Indian are as much at stake as that of the Sikhs in Punjab. Let there be no mistake about it.

Article extracted from this publication >> March 18, 1988