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The Yuba City Attack on Manjit Singh GK & General Sambit Patra
- S Pal
The Yuba City Attack on Manjit Singh GK & General Sambit Patra



EVERY EVENING, on prime time news television in India, spokespersons of various rightwing outfits defend the most reprehensible acts, statements and claims. They defend rapes and murder, threats to rape and murder, the culture of lynch mobs policing the streets, and worse. 

On certain television channels, their task is facilitated by the anchors; on others, they spew venom to the utter frustration of the news anchor.

This is the new India that is increasingly more acceptable, either because the liberal and moderate voices have been threatened or muscled out, or the ultra-nationalist muscular version of nationalism is finding new takers among the uneducated, unemployed, frustrated hordes of India's younger demographic.

However, this discourse of hatred is not finding resonance in Punjab, thanks to the unique history, experience, legacy and demography of the state. "Where in Punjab did you find a single communal riot during the entire dark period of militancy?" asked Prof Ishwar Dayal Gaur in a recent television debate, adding, "We should understand that Punjab cannot be equated with the rest of India; it is a special case, and has a unique temperament."
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Punjabis are angry with the traditional leadership, and that anger did find an outlet at times. Politics got heated, but it never went the Sambit Patra way. The opposition was aggressive, but we stopped short of becoming lynch mobs.
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The fact is that today's Punjab has moved beyond geographical boundaries. From Mississauga to Mansa, from Toronto to Tarn Taran, from Sialkot to Seattle, from Bathinda to Boston, Punjabis are moving, sharing their experiences, talking politics, slamming or praising Badals or Amarinder Singh, angry with the AAP leadership for its internal feud, and forever hoping that Punjab will find its destiny and a political leadership that it deserves.

Punjabis are angry with the traditional leadership, and that anger finds an outlet now and then, either by electing four MPs of a new upstart political party, or by overawing the ruling Akali Dal with sheer crowd power in the wake of incidents of sacrilege of Sikh scriptures or by refusing to buy the tall claims of ending the drug menace in four weeks.

Politics got heated, but it never went the way of a Sambit Patra. The opposition was aggressive, but we stopped short of becoming lynch mobs. At times, Akali Dal leaders find it hard to make an uninterrupted speech, but no one moved around with a lathi in hand.

It could not have gotten more provocative than when Gurmit Ram Rahim brought things to a brink, but Punjab still did not mirror the culture of a mob beating to pulp innocent citizens on suspicion that the black buffalo in the truck may actually be a white cow painted dark.

This may soon change, though. We are decisively moving towards starting to refer to that fellow on prime time television as Dr. Sambit Patra, or Prof. Rakesh Sinha, the hon'ble Member of Parliament.

The fact is that we are fast becoming a lynch mob. 
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From a slipper thrown at a leader, it is a short distance to firing a gun shot at a Dabholkar, a Kalburgi, a Pansare, a Lankesh.
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We do not like a certain leader, so we think it is alright if someone in the crowd throws ink on his face, or slaps him. We rationalise it as an expression of the people's legitimate anger. From a slipper thrown at a leader, it is a short distance to firing a gun shot at a Dabholkar, a Kalburgi, a Pansare, a Lankesh. 

Our anger needs a spectacular outlet, so bashing up a Manjit Singh GK in Yuba City, California becomes a supremely panthic act, an adventure undertaken for the panth, for the aan-baan-shaan of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

It is an action that makes a Dr Sambit Patra proud. The crowd that parades in favour of the rapists and killers of an eight year old girl in Kathua is desperate to recruit supporters. It needs a people weaned on hatred. Its survival depends on supply of poisoned minds ready to take direct action.

The ilk of the hatemonger is increasing exponentially, and the rowdy loutish elements whose argument flows from super protein-fed muscles and a mother-sister-abuse-laced invective, are now finding brothers-in-arms among certain sections of the Sikhs.

They won't listen to an opponent, they won't even let the opponent speak. They won't let the opponent address his own people, they won't engage. They have come with their minds made up, their line of action clear. The turban must come off and fall on the road, and some fisticuffs must find their target.
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Our anger needs a spectacular outlet, so bashing up a Manjit Singh GK in Yuba City, California becomes a supremely panthic act, an adventure undertaken for the panth, for the aan-baan-shaan of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
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In the true lynchmob tradition, now sanctified by the gau rakshaks and Muslim haters, a video must be made and it must go viral. Then breathless spokespersons will pick up the narrative: "Ajj DSGMC wale Manjit GK da keeta giya kuttapa. Vekho video."

So much for the people of the book, the Ahl-e-Kitab. The people of shabad vichar. The people whose guru is a granth. Granth Sahib. Sri Guru Granth Sahib. 

You can stand on any side of the ideological fence, but you cannot defend what that bunch did to a young Sikh face in Yuba City. That, too, inside the premises of a gurdwara.

The tales of what happened inside the premises of one of the holiest shrines of the Sikh community in the mid-eighties are too horrific. The lynchmobs are ideological comrades. From a Sambit Patra on Republic TV to a group of people teaching panthic maryada to Manjit Singh GK, it is one big baradari shutting out the sane and sanity.

Any 20 people can beat any one person anywhere in the world. That only proves that 20 people can beat a person. It does not settle any other argument.

For that, we have Sri Guru Granth Sahib. There is one in that gurdwara in Yuba City. It is time we measured our actions in the light of the tradition of goshthi that the guru taught us.
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Any 20 people can beat any one person anywhere in the world. That only proves that 20 people can beat a person. It does not settle any other argument.
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Back in 1994, a mosque was burnt in an act of arson just days after it was completed by the local Muslims at the cost of an estimated $1.8 million and many hours of donated work. The local Sikhs, Mormons, Christians, and other groups got together to rebuild that mosque, a story told beautifully in the 2012 documentary, "An American Mosque." That day, the Sikhs reclaimed their Sikhi.

Today, the louts are taking us back to rogue times. If you feel like agreeing with them, you are being recruited as a footsoldier in the army of General Patra. We know your salute also. They teach it in Nagpur, but you can learn the same in the Berlin of 1930s and early 1940s. Practice will make you perfect. "Agli baar bach ke na jaane paye.” 

For how many times must they have pretended with eyes closed, hands folded, their lips syncing perfectly: "Sikhan da mann neevan, mat uchi; Mat pat da rakha aap waheguru!
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

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