The recent arrest of Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu and Bhai Kulbir Singh Barapind by the Punjab government is really shocking and baffling.

Firstly they were taken away under preventative measures but by the next day they were charged with more serious offences and stringent sections of the law were applied against them. The response to the arrest is more baffling as no concerned person of eminence has raised his or her voice about this whole sorry episode in recent days. The present situation shows that our rulers consider themselves as a shadow of divinity on Earth and they tolerate no dissent no matter how negligible it is.

The charges for which Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu and Bhai Kulbir Singh Barapind have been arrested are being brought into question to some extent by some sections of the national media, but barring few Panthic fronts, nobody has really raised the issue. Punjab on the whole has moved away from the events that led to 1984 without any remorse or concern, but individuals and a few youth from that time who have survived the ordeal are being beaten up both morally and emotionally as well as physically on a regular basis in Punjab. Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu and Bhai Kulbir Singh Barapind are two of those individuals who after having completed long prison terms for standing up for Sikh pride and dignity are still bearing the brunt of State power so that any semblance of dignity is completely washed out.

India as a whole is fast changing into a closed society. The recent arrest of a cartoonist reflected badly on the ways of governance in the largest democracy in the world, whilst the lack of a distributor from India for salmon Rushdie’s novel-based-movie ‘The Midnight Children’ despite being taken by 121 different countries has not go unnoticed either (the movie is about India and its struggle during former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s time in power). The Indian democracy with many fault lines has become really intolerant to voices of their own people. This is more true with minorities like Sikhs who are so beaten down that any semblance of concern has totally collapsed from within.

The fragmentation in the Sikh panthic circles and reliance on hollow sloganeering has silenced all sane voices. A few months back when Kuldip Nayar published his memoirs in which he raised some issues about Sant Jarnail Singh Ji and others from the events of 1984, the Panthic leaders raised a lot of noise and even burnt copies of this book. But as was said at the time, we would do well to remember the famous German poet and essayist Heinrich Heine who remarked in his famous play ‘Almansor’ that the people who burn books will in the end burn people. The same can be related to the present Sikh state of affairs as a lack of proper and deep understanding in Sikh circles has created a huge gap between the people and those who ‘lead us’. This gap is being used to silence even a small remnant of Sikh dissent. The return to midnight knocks by the police is complete but has happened in a silent way, as is depicted by the arrest of Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu and Bhai Kulbir Singh Barapind. The lone voice raised by the wife of Bhai Kulbir Singh Barapind and some concerned villagers, is falling on deaf ears. Sikhs especially who feel a remote sense of any concern should stand up against these arbitrary detentions and the silent misuse of the law.