August 08, 2016 05:07 AM

Chandigarh (Manish Tiwari)   

Over a dozen cases of desecration of holy books and a series of attacks on Sikh preachers and RSS leaders, including the murderous attack on senior RSS leader Brig (Retd) Jagdish Gagneja in Jalandhar on Saturday, have not only exposed chinks in police preparedness in maintaining law and order in Punjab, but also injected fear in the minds of the common man in the run up to the 2017 Assembly polls. Within hours of the firing at Brig Gagneja, the Punjab DGP, Suresh Arora, was quick to set up another Special Investigation Team (SIT) to identify and nab the culprits, but the failure of these SITs in cracking earlier cases and bringing the culprits to book, has eroded people’s confidence in the state police as well as the government. Since January, there has been a spurt in violent attacks on important religious and RSS leaders, such as a RSS volunteer in Ludhiana (January 18); Chand Kaur, wife of former head of the Namdhari Sect in Ludhiana (April 4), Punjab Shiv Sena leader Durga Prasad Gupta at Khanna (April 23) and Sikh preacher Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale (May 17). During the past six months itself, the government has set up 12 SITs to probe the cases, but their abysmal performance in cracking these sensitive cases have put a question mark on the state police’s ‘intention’ as well as its ability to deal with the criminals. In fact, over 30 SITs have been set up by the Badal government during the past two-and-a- half years, but why the police have failed to crack most of these cases could be anybody’s guess!

Who could be behind these attacks — Pakistan, some political outfit wanting to influence the elections by polarising voters or state or non-state actors within the state itself wanting to destabilise the government? Or could these be police CATs — terrorists living with their names/identities changed or who were shown as ‘dead’ in police records during the dark days of terrorism and used to neutralise their associates.Of late, this alarming rise in the number of attacks and killings in Punjab has vitiated the hard-earned peaceful atmosphere and is infusing fear in the minds of the people.The state government is already grappling with the menace of drugs, prostitution and gangsters — operating from inside and outside the jails of Punjab, reportedly in active connivance with their police and political masters. “Over the years, the police system has been punched full of holes due to political interference. This has left them with their hands tied when it comes to dealing with gangsters and criminals,” confided a top Punjab police officer.The state police fought valiantly against terrorism as a cohesive force once, but today, there exists a divide within that is not letting the force operate as a team. The five-time Chief Minister of Punjab and one of the oldest politicians in the country, Parkash Singh Badal likes to maintain during his interactions with the media that his biggest contribution to the state has been ensuring peace. But, almost 21 years after terrorism was wiped out from this sensitive border state, letting a handful of criminals and gangsters flourish and carry out targetted attacks and killings of religious leaders and preachers in quick succession could further divide Hindus and Sikhs in the run up to the polls, something that Punjab can ill afford at this juncture. Will the govy. introspect?  (manish@dailyworld.in)

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