Minority Sikhs being robbed off their land in Karahal due to petty politics

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A Sikh family stands in front of their demolished house at Karahal, Madhya Pradesh. (Photo: HT)
A Sikh family stands in front of their demolished house at Karahal, Madhya Pradesh. (Photo: HT)

It seems no political party is willing to earn the ire of locals in Karahal, Madhya Pradesh by assisting the few Sikh families. Locals are eyeing high value land, if the minority Sikhs are driven out. Politicians are making empty noise but have left the Sikhs to their sorry plight.

Woes of the minority Sikhs who have settled in Karahal Tehsil of Madhya Pradesh do not seem to be ending even as political exploitation of their beleaguered condition continues in the most abhorrent manner.

More than three decades ago, a few Sikh families migrated to the Karahal region from Punjab and Haryana and acquired some land legally. They worked very hard to make it cultivable. These hapless families had to leave their new found home in 1984 in the wake of the anti-Sikh riots. Almost a decade later some families once again went back to Karahal and re-acquired their lands. Now their land holdings are productive agriculture units and they give employment to locals and boost the economy.

The small but hardworking community of Sikhs that has done so much for local development in this remote rural area is now facing eviction for the second time. The Kamal Nath-led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh has targeted the Sikhs under its so called drive against “encroachments in tribal areas.” The holdings of about 11 Sikh families in Karahal have been declared illegal. In the most brutal and insensitive manner their farm houses have been razed to the ground and their standing crops destroyed. And all this happened between the ten days from December 21 to December 31, 2019. Everything that they worked so hard for, has been wrested away from them.

Several institutions and political parties have sent teams and delegations to Madhya Pradesh and the affected region of Karahal to find the facts so that the justifiable cause of Sikhs could be taken up.

The latest to go there is a “Fact Finding Team” of the Government of Punjab, chosen and despatched by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh personally. The high profile team was led by the Revenue Minister of Punjab, Gurpreet Singh Kangar, and it was reported to have visited Karahal on 22nd January.

Post the visit, the team leader has come out with an obnoxious statement that reeks of political doublespeak. In the first part of the statement the minister does admit that injustice is being done to the Sikh families. “After our meeting with the affected families, it’s clear that the Sikhs were singled out to persecute them with cruelty by razing their houses despite the fact they all have legal ownership of the land,” he said. However, it is the second part of his statement that is absolutely insufferable since he is attempting to put the blame of the pathetic condition squarely on the BJP. “The officers responsible for such cruelty are working for the BJP,” he said without blinking an eyelid, adding that the Kamal Nath government was not to blame for the action since the officers did this to defame the government in the eyes of the Sikhs.

The motivation of the Punjab minister to make statements of this nature is not difficult to find. He belongs to the Congress and has shown allegiance to his party which is also the ruling party in Madhya Pradesh. Also, his boss Captain Amarinder Singh is an old friend and school mate of Kamal Nath and has probably sent him to Madhya Pradesh to do some damage control in favour of the latter. Can political opportunism get worse than this?

The Congress is admitting that in its own rule the BJP is using official machinery to “persecute minorities.” One would like to remind the minister and his cronies that responsibility for failure of law and order rests on the government and not the opposition. The government cannot absolve itself by blaming rival political parties. The Punjab minister should contemplate on the devastation that his loaded political statements would cause to the families of the Sikhs whose interests he is supposed to be protecting.

Other political parties were equally adept in using the incident for political ends. SAD (Shiromani Akali Dal) leader Prem Singh Chandumajra who was part of the party’s delegation sent for a similar fact finding mission said, “This was all done at the instructions of Kamal Nath government as Kamal Nath is anti-Sikh. If action was not taken against guilty officers and compensation not given to the affected families SAD will launch an agitation in this regard.”

Well, Prem Singh Chandumajra could have issued a statement that rose above political blame game and given a more detailed account of the plight of the devastated families. He could have spoken about what needs to be done to expedite the process of rehabilitation. Instead he chose to make a few irrelevant brownie points by political targeting of the ruling party and left the matter at that.

Rajneesh Agrawal, BJP spokesperson Madhya Pradesh said, “The Sikhs were victimised at the instance of Kamal Nath government. The BJP has already been raising the issue since the state government launched the drive that the real mafia is being shielded and innocents are being victimised. There are also reports about extortion by the government personnel in the name of anti-mafia drive.” One would now expect the BJP to take a more proactive position on ground of being the largest opposition party in the state.

There is talk of a few junior officials being suspended but Sheopur collector Pratibha Pal is quite sure that what has been done was above board. “The teams assessed the situation at their own level. We apprised them of the ground and facts based on which the action was taken. Our action is absolutely correct and we apprised the teams of the facts relating to the each and every case,” she is reported to have stated.

In this evil play of political subterfuge, the future of the beleaguered families is not being mentioned at all. Nobody has said a word about their rehabilitation whether it is on their own land or someplace else. It can be reasonably assumed that, post the theatrics and the media circus, the victimised families cannot expect any sort of relief. This is also in concert with real-politic since assisting the few families and earning the ire of the local people who are coveting the land because of its high value would not serve the electoral prospects of any party; hence, the proclivity to make a lot of noise and then leave the victims to their sorry plight. 

Indian politics is facing a serious crisis. Politicians have become adept at shirking responsibility under the garb of blame games. The citizens, instead of making politicians accountable are fighting with each other in support of some party or the other. The Karahal episode needs to be converted into a test case of compelling the political class across the board to shun vote politics and come up with utmost honesty to assist the minority Sikhs and thus prove their “secular credentials.”

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