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Crusader Who Has Put Punjab Govt In A Bind

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Crusader who has put Punjab govt in a bind

I P Singh & Pardeep Rai, TNN - Dec 25, 2013, 05.21 AM IST

JALANDHAR/KURUKSHETRA: Another crusader from Haryana has shaken yet another state government. A farmer from Kurukshetra district, Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa, whom even people from his area didn't know, has left the Badal government Punjab jittery with his over-a-month-long fast at Mohali since November 14 to seek the release of six Sikh prisoners who have completed their jail terms.

His stand has won him support from all quarters, including top Punjabi singers, and has had Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal hasten to assure that he supports parole for assassins.

Till 40 days back, nobody knew Gurbaksh, a small farmer from Thaintal village of Kurukshetra. The SAD-BJP government, which initially ignored Gurbaksh and even sent him to jail after the police picked him up in a midnight swoop on December 5, is now bending backwards to assure its support for his cause.

After the authorities opposed the release of three of Sikh convicts even on parole, Badal is not only advocating their release but has also fast-tracked the processing of their applications. He has even spoken to CMs of UP, Karnataka and Gujarat to ensure release of three other detainees.

A follower of Damdami Taksal, the most influential Sikh seminary that guided the militant movement in Punjab, Gurbaksh has been convicted in an arms recovery case and is currently out on bail.

Despite his Taksal moorings, he has stuck to the Gandhian path and swears by the power of the pen and peaceful agitation. He has already made it a point not to raise any separatist issue, frustrating some protagonists of Khalistan.

He made it amply clear on Monday evening. Gurbaksh grabbed a pen from Dal Khalsa leader Satnam Singh Paonta Sahib, who was standing near him, and held it up before the people and said, "Identify its might, you can change the government with this. Now the change will come with the pen."

Farmer turned crusader Gurbaksh Singh has stuck to Gandhian methods and swears by the power of the pen and peaceful agitation. Though Gurbaksh's grit is akin to that of Maharashtra's Gandhian social reformer Anna Hazare, the difference lies in the fact that multitudes have come to lend him support despite the national TV news channels staying away from his protest.

Not just the political class, even the Sikh clergy has faced heat over his agitation. Breaking his initial silence on the issue, even Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh and other Sikh high priests have come out in his support. While hundreds of Sikhs from Haryana are now visiting Gurbaksh, even those living in Shahbad block of Kurukshetra were unaware of him intil sometime back. "I have been active in Sikh politics in Kurukshetra for the past 12 years. I never saw Gurbaksh taking part in any movement. I always saw him as a simple farmer and man of few words. He spent most of his time in religious activities," said Kanwal Jit Singh Ajrana, a Sikh leader who had been associated with various Sikh bodies.

Persons close to him say he felt anguished by the plight of Sikhs languishing in jails even after completing their sentences, as he too was allegedly jailed without any valid reason. Villagers are surprised at his ability to mobilize thousands in a day.

A veteran Sikh preacher, Giani Sahib Singh Shahbad Markanda, who has known Gurbaksh for long, said, "I remember how a simple youth like him was put behind the bars, considering him to be a terrorist. But nothing was found against him."

Prof Sumel Singh Sidhu, a lecturer of history at Khalsa College, Delhi, who has been working on social history of Punjab, said Gurbaksh posed a major moral question to the Punjab government and people of the state with a well-defined issue and a non-violent protest. "It is a welcome step, which demonstrates the importance of non-violent method of agitation," he said. Former Punjab DGP (prisons) Shashi Kant, who is spearheading a movement against drugs, said, "His hunger strike has exposed the government, which remains immune to issues of the people and even basic human rights, and people of Punjab need to support the cause cutting across community lines."

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Crusader-who-has-put-Punjab-govt-in-a-bind/articleshow/27875508.cms

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