Does Kejriwal truly understand Punjab's woes?

Kishwar Desai
Kishwar DesaiMar 13, 2016 | 13:37

Does Kejriwal truly understand Punjab's woes?

As Punjab gets closer to the polling date, there will undoubtedly be far too many politicians who will air their views about the state. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has expressed his opinion, but does he really appreciate what Punjab has been through, situated at the border? And even before it had a border, does he remember how much the state had suffered, or even understand Punjab's role, considering that this was where all invaders first landed and tried to tame India?


Frustratingly, most politicians take the short-term view. They do not speak with their hand on history... And here I am talking not just about recent incidents of terrorism and the anti-Sikh riots in 1984, but also about suffering the brunt of Partition. Punjab deserves much more respect and sympathy than it has ever received.

While recently in Amritsar to give a talk on the Golden Temple and Sikh history, I realised that people have to be reminded about the difficulties faced by the state, as only then would they be sympathetic about how tough it has been for Punjab, and more so for the Sikhs.

The group I was speaking to was of visitors, a group of high-powered women. And they frankly said that they had imagined Amritsar offered little beyond the Golden Temple, Wagah border and a whole lot of food, shopping and wadians.

But in reality, there are so many hidden historic aspects to the state. The nuances felt by the local population or anyone who even reads or studies about the state would prove that there is much more behind that bravado that the Punjabis relish so much. Even the entire protracted battle which carried on for centuries between the Sikh gurus and Mughal emperors made the ordinary Punjabi pay a heavy price.


Can those collective memories be wiped out? Or can we completely rule out that those same forces which nurtured Khalistan might still be pulling the strings, sitting in another country?

Very bluntly, one can even perhaps contradict Arvind Kejriwal or Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi when they speak about the drug menace, as not everyone here is a drug addict... but yes, there are many who suspect that the proliferation of drugs has become a form of terrorism, smuggled in from across the border. Narco-terrorism just might have begun to take root, and the state has to be very vigilant.

Since Punjabis are immensely proud of their achievements and their hardy spirit, they rarely stop to mourn, or complain: this might lead one to presume that their sufferings are self-inflicted. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. This beautiful state, and even the city of Amritsar, was meant to have a peaceful existence, when it was established by Guru Ram Das in the 16th century.

And yet, even in the 20th century, in another round of tragedies, the city of Amritsar faced brutality at the Jallianwala Bagh, followed by the trauma of Partition. Peace seemed elusive for a long time.


And then there was a further escalation of brute force in 1984, when even portions of the Akal Takht were blown up. This was followed by the massacre of the Sikhs.

The state and its people have suffered a lot. Much of it is because Punjab is situated at the border and takes the brunt of any assault. Shouldn't it be more deserving of our sympathy and not just criticism?

Last updated: March 14, 2016 | 18:22
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