Sikhs In India To Be Under ‘Surveillance’All Over Again After The Tumultuous 1980s

Co-Written by Dr. P. S. Sahni & Shobha Aggarwal

 gazette of india



The above Gazette Notification No. 2387 issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on 22 July, 2019 states:

“Whereas, in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-sections (1) and (3) of section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (37 of 1967), the Central Government has declared the Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) to be an unlawful association vide notification number S.O. 2469(E) dated 10th July, 2019, published in the Gazette of India, Extraordinary, Part II, Section 3, Sub-section (ii), dated the 10th July, 2019;

Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by section 42 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (37 of 1967), the Central Government hereby directs that all powers exercisable by it under section 7 and section 8 of the said Act shall be exercised also by the State Governments of Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi and Chandigarh Administration in relation to the above said unlawful association.”

On 26.07.2019 The Economic Timesreported:

“Centre doesn’t have the wherewithal or jurisdiction to implement the notification in these states. This notification deals with only those states which have a sizeable Sikh population and where the organisations like SFJ can play foul and try to brainwash Sikh community in favor of the Khalistan movement, through various means,” a senior home ministry official told ET.

How would the administration ensure that 99% or more of Sikhs who may have nothing to do with the issue at hand or may have no view on the issue are not harassed by the police?

The following crucial questions arise:

  • Why should the entire Sikh community be treated with suspicion?
  • Has the administration factored in the possibility of harassment/humiliation or hunting down/hounding out of innocent people at a mass scale by overzealous officials?

If the past record is any benchmark to go by, then danger lurks for the community. During the mid-1980s when militancy in Punjab was being ‘dealt’ with, the Army’s obsession with Amritdharis became clear from a Circular (No. 153) issued in the July 1984 issue of ‘Baat Cheet’an official magazine circulated throughout the Army. The Circular read:

“Any knowledge of the Amritdharis who are dangerous people and pledge to commit murders, arson and acts of terrorism should immediatelybe brought to the notice of the authorities. These people may appear harmless from the outside but they are basically committed to terrorism. In the interest of all of us, their identity and whereabouts must always be disclosed.”

[Source: Truth About Punjab: SGPCWhite Paper by Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, 1996]

This circular was retracted in the early 1990s but by then harassment, humiliation was faced by innumerable innocent people, who were hounded and hunted out as if just by being a baptized Sikh you become a criminal/terrorist.

The report “Oppression in Punjab: Report to the Nation” brought out in 1985 by Citizens for Democracy (CFD) documented inter alia how innocent people were targeted on the pretext of being Amritdharis. However upon release the 150-paged report was banned by the Delhi Administration which ordered seizure and destruction of all available copies. The authors of the report N.D. Pancholi, Aurobindo Ghosh, Tejinder Singh Ahuja were arrested and later let off on bail. The 70 year old Ms. Amiya Rao was granted anticipatory bail by the Supreme Court. Sunil Bhattacharya, the fifth member of the CFD team was not booked by the police. O.P. Gupta, the printer was simultaneously arrested along with N. D. Pancholi. The forward to the report was written by Justice V.M. Tarkunde. Police filed sedition charges against the accused.

oppression in punjab

As the report was banned by the Indian National Congress government of Rajiv Gandhi, the Hind MazdoorKisanPanchayatsoon thereafter brought out copies of the report “Oppression in Punjab: Report to the Nation” with a preface by George Fernandes; the latter rose to be the Union Defence Minister in the BJP led NDA government headed by Shri AtalBihari Vajpayee.

Key: SGPC: ShiromaniGurdwaraParbandhak Committee

[Dr. P. S. Sahni & Shobha Aggarwal are members of PIL Watch Group. The group established in 2004, participates in protests against discrimination on grounds of gender, caste, class, race, sexuality, disability, religion. It supports campaignsonanti-war, human rights issues; autonomy/federalism as envisioned in the Indian Constitution. Members work in an honorary capacity pooling in their own resources. Email: [email protected]]


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