India’s puppet government in Punjab has decided to send the state’s police force in strength to Assam, Andhra Pradesh and a few other states to suppress popular agitations there. The move originated more than two years ago. It was attributed to Punjab’s director-general of police, K. P. S. Gill. In India the publicized authorship of a proposal need not be true. It is entirely possible that Gill may not be really at the back of the idea. It may have come from India’s home ministry and intelligence outfits. Ever since India had an upper hand over armed Sikh militants some two years ago, a systematic effort was made to give disproportionate credit to K.P.S. Gill. The aim was to “decommunalise” the situation and to impress ordinary Sikhs with India’s “secular credentials.” Gill is ever willing to monopolize the dubious credit.

The fact, however, remains that the Punjab police is essentially a Sikh force although it is commanded at critical levels by Hindu officers. All said and done, the Punjab police has emerged as India’s gendarmes to fight the Sikh militancy. This force takes the cake in ruthlessness and anti-human rights actions. No wonder the ruling establishment in Delhi is keen on using this oppressive force to subdue political agitations surfacing from time to time in different states. Thus last year when the BJP planned a rally in Delhi in connection with the Ram temple issue, pictures of Sikh police officers discussing strategy about how to “deal” with the rally were displayed in the Indian media to create scare among the BJP rank and file. The Indian government subsequently used force to frustrate the rally. The B.J.P. blamed the Punjab police for excesses on the realists. K.P.S. Gill had denied the involvement of the Punjab police in the excesses against Hindus in Delhi. Recently, the Punjab force was sent to Dehradoon to crush the Uttarkhand movement. When a few months ago, the idea of Punjab police being sent to Assam was mooted, that state’s chief minister opposed it on the ground that the Punjab force would commit atrocities on the people there. But India’s home ministry is determined to use the Punjab police in Assam to crush the people’s agitation for freedom from India.

It is notable that most Sikhs living in Assam have been opposed to the induction of Punjab police in that state on the understandable ground that the actions of the force would create ill will towards Sikhs among the Assamese people. The SGPC chief endorsed the feeling of the people of Assam and issued a statement criticizing the move. But the idea was never pursued vigorously and the Indian Government has again resurrected the proposal.

The use by India of Punjab police or the Sikh army against national liberation movements in different parts of India is much too important an issue to be institutional leaders and the intelligentsia. There is no doubt that the role played by the Sikh army in suppressing the people of north-eastern states during the past few decades led to alienation o the common people of that region vis-a-vis the Sikh community. Historically, Sikhs never allowed themselves to be used by the Mughals against any region or regime. It appears the Sikhs had a high degree of political awareness during that period. The rot began during the British phase when Sikhs were inducted and used as a paid force in pursuance of political aims of the empire. The Hindu India perfected the art and made a Sikh as its first defense minister, to use the community as its fighting art.

Time has reached when Sikhs should understand the world- wide phenomenon of freedom and reassess their own role in the Indian contest. They should realize that India has been misusing the community’s capabilities in pursuance of a policy which is most unpopular and pits the Sikh community against national liberation movements. A systematic campaign of education will alone help. This campaign should be launched by the SGPC, other Sikh organizations and Sikh leaders operating in different countries. The role of Sikhs as gendarmes by colonial Indian power should become a subject by discussion and debate.

Article extracted from this publication >>  October 28, 1994