Book analyses after-effects of militancy in Punjab

DW BUREAU / NEW DELHI

A new book details how militancy in Punjab affected judiciary by delaying trials, how it influenced the popular culture and how the youth today are still responding to conditions in the northern state. “The Legacy of Militancy in Punjab: Long Road to ‘Normalcy'” by civil rights activist Inderjit Singh Jaijee and journalist Dona Suri also aims at holding up a mirror to developments in post-militancy Punjab regarding politics, government policies, and functioning of police and courts among other things.

Militancy convulsed Punjab from roughly 1984 to 1994. The authors say that afterwards, politicians, government spokespersons and assorted intellectuals declared that ‘Khalistan’ was gone and the state was ‘returning to normalcy’ as though the state would suddenly find itself in some pleasant place of bygone era.

“But that is far from the truth. In reality, when the gunfire ceased, 10 years of turmoil left lasting scars and chronic afflictions,” Jaijee and Suri argue.

Reduced accountability warped administrative and executive ‘culture’ and threat perception coloured the attitude of the judiciary for years. Victimisation at the hands of both police and insurgents created risk-averse citizens who prioritised personal safety above all, while policies pertaining to state debt and industry impacted economic development, they say.

On resolution of cases they write, “For those who think that by now Punjab’s troubles are long forgotten, it would be reasonable to suppose that over the past 35 years all the cases would be cleared up one way or the other.” But that is not the case and several cases are pending, they say in the book, published by SAGE.

They also claim that instead of curbing lawlessness, the political masters and administrators excused it.

“As the crackle of gunfire subsided in Punjab, the quiet murmur of graft took over. Chasing around from village to village eliminating ‘all suspicious Sikhs’ through extrajudicial executions can be, at best, a fleeting thrill. More lasting satisfaction comes through making money,” the book says. “Moreover, making money is a pursuit that is open to officers of all departments, not just the police. As Punjab entered the post-militancy years, concerns about legality had long since been tossed out of the window and even the naturally timid officer was emboldened by the realisation that everybody is doing it,” it says.

(editor@dailyworld.in)

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