Saturday, March 25th, 2023 03:14:32

For Punjab, 2022 was a Year of Terror and High Profile Murders

By Dr. S. K. Agrawal Professor
Updated: March 15, 2023 4:52 pm

A udacious gangsterism, cross-border terror attacks and high profile murders dominated the AAP governed Punjab in 2022. In quite contrast to what AAP says crimes came down in the State under its rule, the year saw at least 3 cross-border terror attacks, murder of popular singer and a sacrilege accused, and a Hindu-Sikh clash. The statistics also offers little solace to the AAP that is being seen as having failed in keeping a tight grip on law and order.

Chief Minister of Punjab Bhagwant Mann has been facing mounting criticism since he assumed the Post in March for not being able to handle the situation with the maturity and firmness that is required in the sensitive border State. It seems that the AAP has taken Punjab to the brink of the revival of the Khalistani militancy.

This year Punjab witnessed at least three cross-border terror attacks when rocket-propelled grounds were launched and an IED blast took place, all in police buildings. The cold- blooded killings of Punjabi Singer Sidhu Moose Wala, Nationalist leader Sudhir Suri and sacrilege case accused Pardeep Singh  dominated the political narrative through the year 2022. The Hindu-Sikh clashes amid growing radicalization were also witnessed.

The year 2021 ended on an ominous note with a powerful bomb blast in the Ludhiana Civil Court in December. He blast led to the death of the former policeman. Gangster-turned-terrorist Harvinder Singh alias Rinda who is reportedly protected by Pakistani’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was said to be behind the attack. In January, 2022, the Punjab Police recovered a grenade launcher along with almost 4 kg of RDX in Gurdaspur ahead of Republic Day Celebrations, thwarting a possible terror attack. However, the Police could not prevent two subsequent RPG attacks, one on the Punjab Police Intelligence headquarters in Mohali in May and another on a police station complex in Sarhali village in Taran Taran district.

These were the first of their kind attacks in Punjab and brought into focus the growing links between gangsters and terrorists, and their increased ability to carry out grave crimes through a complex network of trigger youngsters, most of them being minors. The year ended with the police busting a terror module operating from the Philippines and recovering another RPG from three accused arrested from Taran Taran. Counted among the terror activities was the IED blast at a police post in Kalwa in Ropar on the eve of the declaration of assembly election results in March. 18 terror modules in total were busted by the Internal Security, and 119 terrorists arrested. As many as 13 Tiffin Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), 24.5 Kg of RDX and other explosives, 37 hand grenades, two sleeves of a disposed rocket launcher and 22 drones were recovered apart from pistols and rifles.

In April was created a specialized wing – the Anti-Gangster Task Force (AGTF) to deal with gangsters. The terrorists, however, remained a step ahead of the police through the year, executing high profile killings. In May, a gang-war led to the murder of singing sensation Sidhu Moose Wala. Canada based gangster Goldy Brar is believed to have been the mastermind behind the killing. More than two dozen gangsters and their accomplice allegedly involved in the killings have been arrested. In November, an eminent leader Sidhu Suri was killed in a busy Amritsar market where he sat in a protest outside the temple. He was accompanied by at least a dozen security men when he was shot dead. In less than a week after Suri’s killing, another police protectee, Pardeep Singh was shot dead outside his shop in Kotkapura. In the first week of December, a cloth trader Bhupinder Singh Timmy Chawla and his police guard Mandeep Singh were killed in a busy Market in Nakodar. The incident took place barely a kilometer away from the Police Station.

Barely a month after the Mann Government came to power, there were clashes between nationalist forces led by Shiv Sena leader Harish Singla who had decided to carry out an anti-khalistan march in Patiala. This was protested by the Khalistan advocates, culminating into the imposition of curfew in the area and shutting down internet services.

Radicalisation of Sikh Youths is certainly a matter of concern in the State. Amrit Pal Singh Sandhu, who claimed the legacy of actor-turned-khalistan ideologue Deep Sidhu after his demise in February, emerged on the Punjab scene in October and started moving around in villages to baptize Sikh Youth. Sandhu left his family, transport business in Dubai and returned to the State in August. Sandhu claims that he intends to bring the Sikh Youth back into the fold of religion and wean them away from drugs. Surrounded by armed men, Sandhu has also been espousing the cause of Khalistan, encouraging Sikh Youth to be ready to sacrifice their heads for their religion.

Thursday’s (February 23) siege by pro-khalistan Leader Amrit Pal Singh and his supporters is a clear indication that Punjab has entered another era of turbulent times. The sudden and mystifying rise of 29 year old Amritpal, who has positioned himself as the rightful claimant of Bhindranwale’s legacy has put the spotlight back on the radical elements in the State. The Waris Punjab De Chief has publicly made the demand for Khalistan, a separate Sikh State. Amritpal Singh claims that this is the only solution to the problems that Punjabi has been facing-be it river water dispute, drug addiction, mass migration to foreign countries or the dilution of Punjab culture.

This development is set to have several repercussions. First, it will increase spotlight on Amrit Pal and add to his popularity in Punjab. Second, the AAP government which has a bad track record on law and order will come under further pressure. Third, it has rightly given the Opposition Parties in Punjab an opportunity to slam the Bhagwant Singh Mann government.

The combination of religion with politics and faith with political power could prove to be highly combustile. Punjab is at the threshold of lawlessness and there are many agencies or actors seeking to gain from troubled waters.

Khalistan issue is a serious threat to India’s unity and integrity; it is hightime that the Government of India started treating it as an issue akin to terrorism in Kashmir. Strict measures shall be taken against those who take up arms against the nation. Those who want to bleed India with ‘thousand cuts’ should not be spared in the name of vote bank politics.

The law and order situations in Punjab is collapsing. The State which abuts Pakistan has witnessed a sudden rise of terrorism with visible support from abroad. What the Punjab need now is an effective government. The ‘green-horn’ government of AAP is now seen struggling to contain the evil of separatism which it unleased for vote bank politics.


By Dr. S. K. Agrawal Professor
(Centre for Comparative Literature and Transalation  Studies  Central University Of Gujarat Gandhi Nagar)

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