Religion has been made a matter of politics over years. This time it is Sikhism which finds itself at the epicentre of the same. The entire debate over Punjab Blockade has been grossly politicized with divergent opinions coming from different segment of masses.
In a nation of billions practising various religions, some people tend to misuse it. People use religion as a weapon to hurt religious sentiments of others and cause mass unrest in the country. Latest example being the Punjab Unrest which somehow brings back the bad memories of 1984. The era of 1984 is seen as the darkest period in the history of Punjab.
In 1973 when Akali Dal and some other Sikh organisation passed a resolution for independent country for Sikhs, the central government denied this request and dissolved the then Punjab government. The Sikh organization, disappointed with the actions of the central government, decided to take up violence to get heard. The era saw killing of thousands of Hindus living in Punjab. Followed these killing was the blue star operation in 1984 which saw military forces marching in the Golden Temple at Amritsar, this operation followed killing various Sikhs militants. These killings spread a mass anger amongst the Sikh community which saw the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her own Sikh Bodyguards. The assassination was followed by killing of Sikhs by Hindu radical groups.
Era of 1984 saw violation of various fundamental rights given to the citizen by the Indian constitution. Article 25 which provides freedom of religion was used in an inappropriate manner by various Sikhs and provoking groups who killed thousands of innocents just in the name of religion. These killings followed violation of article 19 which guarantees various freedom rights and article 21 which provides with right to life.
Today the situation in Punjab reminds people of the era of 1984 which might burn the state again if not controlled. The events of mass protests began in the state when a religious faction publicly desecrated the Sikh holy book of Guru Granth Sahib. Article 25 protects the Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion. Desecrating of the holy books was disrespect towards the religion as Sikhs are sole worshipers of the holy book and the same act violates the right conferred under article 25. Sikhs responded by organizing protests and demanded that those responsible should be arrested. The Police arrested few suspects but even after that torn pages of the holy book were found in various districts of Punjab.
People who are using highways in the state are not allowed to travel for hours as the highways were being blocked by the protestors. Freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India which is conferred to the citizens by the Indian constitution under Article 19(1)(d) was violated. The method of protests used by Sikhs was wrong as to claim their rights, they violated rights of majority.
State government gave Police the charge of controlling these protests but these protests were marred when police opened fire on the protestors. Sikhs who protested exercising their right of freedom of expression given under article 19 (1) (a), violating this right police replied with a disproportionately and unnecessarily violent manner. This firing left behind few killed and many injured. The government responded by calling in the Indian Army and ordering a media blackout. Killing of protestors by police firing was violation of right to life protected under article 21. State which is responsible for the protection of the life of its citizen was responsible for killing them.
Currently in Punjab, the state government has ordered a media blackout, which has resulted in multihued rumours being spread in the state with no reasonable source of information available with the public. As media is not allowed to cover any matter of the state, it has causedmass chaos. In the case of Union of India v. Association of Democratic Reforms (2002) 5 SCC 294, the Hon’ble Apex court said “ one sided information, disinformation, misinformation and non information, all equally create an uninformed citizenry which makes democracy a farce.” Article 19 (1) (a) of the media was violated as they are not allow to publish any information and express their views in relation to the situation in Punjab.
It is the failure on the part of government machinery as it is unable to fulfill its constitutional obligation to protect the lives and properties of its citizenry. It is a need of an hour that government should take serious action against those who are disrupting the peace and harmony of the state. Religious violence is never beneficial for any religion as this violence only leaves behind aggrieved families. The state shall compensate people who have suffered in these events and should allow media coverage. Media coverage is important as the public will be made aware of the actions taken by government so that no rumours disrupt the state again. The government should make sure that peace is restored and situation like 1984 does not arise ‘again’.
By Lovish Mittal in indiaopines blog