Developments on the socio-political landscape of Punjab in the wake of a Chandigarh sessions court order to execute Balwant Singh Rajoana case is a wake-up call to all those who cherish peace and tranquility in the state.
Carefully joining the dots will help us not only get a clear picture of ground realities and potential trouble spots but also search for solutions to the same.
That Rajoana case has the potential to disturb peace in the state is a foregone conclusion. A whopping 83 per cent of those who participated in the webpoll conducted by Hindustan Times on March 30 agreed that the emotive issue was a threat to peace in Punjab.
Rajoana case is a god-sent opportunity for unscrupulous elements - and there are lots of them - to politically milk the situation to one's advantage. This is something that has to be guarded against.
Reports of skirmishes between Rajoana supporters who shouted provocative slogans to enforce a bandh on March 28 and its opposition by a section of people with right-wing leanings in Patiala, Phagwara and Gurdaspur indicate that there are fringe elements in both major communities in Punjab who are ever ready to take law in their hands or add fuel to fire at the first given opportunity.
This holds dangerous portents for the much-cherished peace and communal harmony in Punjab, which is still in the throes of pain, angst and a sense of wrong felt by a section of people, at least at the sub-conscious level, in the aftermath of dark days of terrorism.
As handling of minor skirmishes during Punjab bandh clearly demonstrated, a restrained and calibrated approach of police authorities in baton-charging and tear-gassing anti-social elements hell bent on creating law and order situations had the desired effect. And that too without raising the hackles of anyone!
Making preventive detentions of radical political and religious leaders before a march to protest the hanging of Rajoana was a good move, which paid the desired dividends without inviting a backlash from the Sikh community.
On the other hand, inept handling of the volatile situation in Gurdaspur by civil and police officials aggravated it, which culminated in the unnecessary loss of a human life. The firing incident and its reverberations would haunt the establishment for weeks to come.
Strict action against delinquent officials, who exceed their brief, and simultaneous efforts on part of the political-administrative system to redress the grievances of kith and kin of the victim youths would go a long way in strengthening peace and harmony in the state.
The Akal Takht's call to showcase support for Rajoana might be construed as an attempt to influence political and judicial systems in the country. It would have been better if the call for putting up yellow flags to show support for the condemned convict had come from the Akalis, who are the main players in the political field.
By taking up the Rajoana issue -- perhaps in the face of strong sentiments in the community -- the Akal Takht has entered into a purely political domain. The whole issue was made to look like a government-versus-Sikhs matter, which again is a minefield fraught with dangerous ramifications.
It could be that by not calling for support for the condemned prisoner, the Sikh clergy did not want to be seen as impervious to the undercurrents within the community on Rajoana issue.
It is pertinent to mention here that discontent among the Sikhs over the absence of worthwhile action against the perpetrators of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots helped rally the community behind Rajoana, who has so far not expressed any inclination to seek clemency for himself from the President or the judicial system.
No doubt that the Sikhs are cross over the fact that while the likes of Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler roam free due to rigmarole of Indian judicial system and despite serious allegations of complicity in the massacre of Sikhs, cases of Jagtar Singh Hawara, Davinder Singh Bhullar and Rajoana have reached the doors of Supreme Court for adjudication.
Frustrated youths, high on drugs and alcohol and with no way to go, are a virtual ticking bomb that can blow up the tranquility in Punjab within no time.
Channeling their energies for the betterment of society should be of paramount importance to the political leadership in the state.
Merely paying lip service to the creation of jobs and conveniently shifting the blame on the Centre, as was done recently by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, is not the best recourse one would expect from a seasoned politician like Badal.
The recent statement of senior police officer Shashi Kant about availability of drugs in jails and drug mafia operating in the state with strong backing of powers that be needs to be taken seriously and such elements exposed conscientiously.
Needless to say, curbing drug menace and creating ample job opportunities for youths should be the top most priority of the state apparatus.
Rajoana episode has only helped point out its urgency. Ignoring it would not only imperil the political fortunes of many, but also lead to unsavoury happenings that can best be avoided with a little foresight and political prudence.