Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Amritsar Under Siege

This isn't the first time since I've been there that there have been similar situations occur in Amritsar. During voting the streets were deemed mostly unsafe due to the drinking and behavior that occurs during elections. Thankfully this election season was not nearly as bad as the news had anticipated. There have been other smaller and less memorable occasions where the streets were deemed unsafe by the citizens, the media, etc.

Today is probably the worst I've heard of since coming here (and since I didn't pay attention before that it's the worst I've ever heard as well). Schools are closed, businesses are closed and most citizens won't be leaving their house today or tomorrow. Why you ask?

**DISCLAIMER** I don't know much about this case, haven't studied it and don't plan to because it's not online and I have no access to the court records. I also do not study Sikh politics nor do I have time to participate in any activism at this time. The point of this post is not about the case nor the convicts innocence or guilt, I'm leaving that for my other blog where it belongs.

A Sikh man is scheduled to be hung as execution for the assassination of Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh. The All India Sikh Conference has decided to protest this. There are several other groups protesting as well and there has already been a serious indication of expected violence. There have been rumors that radical groups (I don't personally know which ones) are calling for the murder of all Hindus. In anticipation of violence, riots and other disturbances the military presence has been increased and the threat level raised among other government initiatives to protect the citizens.

The convicted criminal, Balwant Singh Rajoana , has said he supports his execution and wants it to continue. He also said he doesn't support one protesting group, the Akalis, nor does he want them seeking his clemency.

My concern is this: Why, after so many years did everyone wait until days before his execution to start these protests? And in addition to that who does it benefit to instill fear in an entire city (or state)? You only lose support, create animosity towards your group or cause and you lose respect. Business men can't make money to support their families because they've had to close their shops. Families have to fear leaving their homes for basic things like food or daily errands.

There seems to be an intense culture of fear that is promoted heavily in Amritsar. Fear is taught to young children as a way to keep them from ever participating in anything the parents don't want. Fear is used to keep children at home and under the parental wing. Fear is used to keep women from leaving the home, talking to neighbors too much, sitting in certain places, etc. Many of these fears are unreasonable but until the time has passed you can't know that. After all, Amritsar has a pretty severe history of violence.

Incidents just like what is being threatened now have happened and not that long ago. In 1984 some of these same groups protesting were born out of the anti-Sikh riots that left 5000 people dead here. So how can you say it won't happen again, only this time to the Hindu's as threatened? You would think society would have advanced past behaviors like this but that is not the reality in Amritsar. It's a very sad day indeed.

Tribune India: Protests Continue
Tribune India: Rajoana adamant, wants to be hanged
Economic Times: Hang Balwant Singh Rajoana as scheduled on March 31: Court
NDTV: Will Balwant Singh Rajoana Be Hanged on Saturday?

4 comments:

  1. You
    have touched a very pertinent point. In general Indian society uses
    fear as a tool of "maintenance". It gets more brutal the north you move
    up as well as the west you move. Punjab being to the northwest gets it
    pretty bad. You just have to hop over your backyard to enter Pakistan
    which is the acknowledged world leader in hate/fear mongering. Not that
    east and south fare much better anyway. The only difference is that
    south is predominantly caste segregated while north is caste+feudally
    segregated. Not a very happy diagnosis for the aspiring superpower and
    Security Council claimant.Rampant denial and hypocrisy burnishes
    the democratic credentials of India even more. Add discrimination (of
    all possible types) and you have a perfect medieval society. If anything
    is left, it is complemented by off and on violence. >{And in addition to that who does it benefit to instill fear in an entire
    city (or state)? You only lose support, create animosity towards your
    group}

    That is precisely the objective. Now the
    cuban/kambodian/maoist/khomeniean inspired ethos has penetrated Indian
    polity to such an extent that the above looks entirely normal.

    The truth is that India has rapidly slid from one the most promising
    nations to a Pak+China+Khmer-rouge wannabe. All in just 5-6 years. If
    you read the lofty ideals of India's freedom struggle, it would seem
    that paradise on earth was just about to be created and by jove, Nehru
    almost made it look like for the first 15 years. Even though his
    policies were a communism-pretense, it was probably correct for the
    time. After that it is a case of aimless drift. At the dawn of the new
    millennium, optimism built up once again and it seemed that India will
    come out of the morass of socialist hell, only to be proven wrong by
    2009. It only proves that mere voting rights does not guarantee a
    democracy. Eternal vigil from the vigilant is even more important than
    democracy. And we seem to be much wanting in that regard. 

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  2.  I doubt it. There is an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment in india. So while the court is sentencing people to death, the execution part is never actually carried out.

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  3. I don't understand why India is so busy adopting all these other cultures and western ideals. They seem to be grasping onto all the wrong ones, all the while saying how great India is. India culture is fascinating and it doesn't need to be polluted by the crap they're dragging in here. It's just so strange to see cities like Delhi and Gurgaon advancing so quickly and then see cities like Amritsar moving backwards equally as fast. I was here in 2009 and this city was not like this. I can't believe how bad it's gotten since then. I've even watched things deteriorate just in the year I've been here. I still hold out hope that it will get better but that's becoming difficult.

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  4. I'm anti-death penalty unless the circumstances are extreme (like serial killers who can't be rehabilitated). It really should only be used extremely sparingly. I think the fact India has a moratorium on the death penalty now should have been sufficient in this case and the violence and protesting weren't necessary at all. But, like all things in life, a few over zealous people ruin things for everyone.

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