When former Punjab Police Chief KPS Gill passed away in May, the leaders of almost all the mainstream political parties of India paid rich tributes to the deceased and described him as a national hero who according to them had decimated terrorism in Punjab.
At an event organized in his memory, the leaders from both the left and the right side of the political spectrum spoke passionately for Gill. These included Maninderjit Singh Bitta- a self styled anti terrorism activist who vowed to keep Gill’s fight against terrorism alive and those associated with the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and a Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury.
Gill was the Director General of Police in Punjab that witnessed bloody conflict between early 1980s to early 1990s. It was a time when a movement for Khalistan, an imaginary Sikh homeland was at its peak. The Sikh extremists were involved in large scale violence against Hindus and their liberal critics within the Sikh community. In response, the Indian state gave free hand to officers like Gill to deal with the militants who were often killed by using extra judicial means. The ruthless policemen were duly rewarded with out of turn promotions. Thus, the militancy ended partly because of losing popular support due to excesses committed by the extremists and partly because of police repression.
Those blinded by nationalism continue to see Gill as a saviour, but they won’t see another dedicated police officer who had smashed the network of a terrorism of different kind with the same lens.
The late Hemant Karkare had died during a terror attack on Mumbai in 2008. The attack was blamed on Islamic extremists who had come from Pakistan and tried to take the entire city hostage.
Karkare had created headlines that year after he uncovered the activities of terrorists seeking to turn India into a Hindu theocracy in the state of Maharashtra. In one of the bombings done by the Hindu militants in Malegaon in September 2008, eight people had died and close to 100 people were injured. Though the attack was targeted at the Muslim community, the police had initially suspected the involvement of Jihadist extremists. Thanks to an honest investigation of Karkare who was with the Anti Terrorism Squad, the police were able to arrest the actual culprits.
However, Karkare had to face humiliation for arresting the extremists who belonged to the right wing Hindu organizations. He came under constant attack from the BJP and its supporters. The current Prime Minister Narendra Modi who used to be the Chief Minister of Gujarat back then too came to the defence of the Hindu extremists. Since the Congress party was in power in New Delhi, the BJP and other Hindu organizations tried to discredit Karkare by suggesting that the cases against Hindu extremists was a complete fabrication done under political pressure. This was despite the fact that Karkare was a practicing Hindu and was only trying to do his job professionally.
In November 2008 when Karkare died while fighting against Islamic extremists; though some believe that he was killed as part of a conspiracy, he became martyr for the BJP. Modi had offered a huge monetary award to his family that was turned down by Karkare’s widow.
In 2014 when Modi became the Prime Minister and the BJP grabbed the power in the center with a brute majority, the pressure started building up on the prosecutors pursuing the Melgaon case and similar other cases of terrorism. They were told to go slow and as was being apprehended some of those involved got bail as the National Investigation Agency began questioning the merits of Karkare’s investigation in the courts. The judges were told that the evidence was ascertained through coercion.
When one of the suspects, a serving army officer Lt. Colonel Srikant Purohit got the bail recently, the BJP began maligning Karkare in public.
This only reflects the double standards of the Indian nationalism which is in fact based on the principles of secularism and equality, but under the BJP its narrative has changed completely. Anyone who dares to challenge the majoritarian terrorism in a Hindu dominated India won’t get a similar respect that was received by police officers like Gill who were used to eliminate the threat of Sikh extremists who represented a minority community that makes only two percent of the Indian population.
But the BJP alone cannot be blamed as other political forces are no different when it comes to satisfy either the majority community or the collective conscience of the society.
Will Yechury dare to come out with a strong statement against calculated attempt to discredit Karkare, who stood against Hindu extremists? Will Biita utter a word against terrorism in the name of Hindu state? Aren’t Hindu extremists too a threat to the peace and unity of the country? Isn’t what they are doing unconstitutional and against national interest? The way Hindu extremism has grown in India under Modi and minorities continue to be attacked everyday can we expect the state to give free hand to the police to deal with the Hindu fanatics in a similar manner that was applied in Punjab to deal with the Sikh extremists? Why not kill the Hindu extremists also in staged shootouts and let the police pocket rewards to restore peace in India? Can we ask for another so called national hero like Gill who could take this challenge and use ruthless means to end terrorism of Hindu militants? If not, then India should acknowledge what it truly is – a Hindu state under the garb of secular democracy which has two different laws for terrorists belonging to two different communities.
[Gurpreet Singh is a Canada-based journalist and the founder of Radical Desi magazine that covers alternative politics. First published by countercurrents,org.]