The violence that gripped the Golden Temple on Operation Bluestar anniversary on June 6 was not the handiwork of any organised panthic (Sikh) group or party. It was the result of spontaneous out-pouring of emotions by ‘social media savvy’ youth swayed by ‘hate propaganda on the internet,’ it has emerged.
As many as 31 youth — one of whom is from London — and almost all in their early 20s were arrested after a clash with members of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) task force.
The arrested youth gave vent to their feelings --- that the June 1984 Army operation was a wrong done to the Sikh community --- by raising pro-Khalistan and pro-Bhindrawale slogans, flashing swords inside the shrine.
After the arrest, investigators were most concerned on who motivated these youngsters.
“None of the youth has any past criminal record. Nor are they members of any Sikh radical group or of any political party. The senseless and unchecked hate propaganda being spread through the social media is at the root of the problem,” a top Punjab police sources in Chandigarh told HT.
Influence by social media
During questioning, it came to the fore that a sizeable section of the youngsters were linked to religious groups formed on social websites and applications.
“The Khalistan concept and hailing Bhindrawale (Jarnail Singh) as a hero of the Sikh struggle — were views acquired through the social media,” said a police official involved in questioning the arrested youth.
Karnail Singh, who hails from Kauli village in Patiala district, admitted that he came to attend the Operation Bluestar anniversary as he was motivated by Khalistani groups with whom he had come in touch through the social media.
Others said that they had come to ‘defend’ the Golden Temple following a message that went viral about a group that was planning to stage a protest outside the shrine against the Operation Bluestar anniversary function.
They admitted to receiving messages on their mobile about certain anti-Sikh groups heading to Amritsar and of threats that posters of Bhindrawale would be burnt in Amritsar.
Most of the arrested youth born after 1984 and referred to as “internet di paneeri” by cops, told their investigators that they viewed Operation Bluestar as an attempt to suppress and subdue the Sikhs.
One 19-year-old admitted to having undergone a complete transformation after knowing about the “injustices” done to the Sikhs’ through the internet and became baptised.
The majority of the arrested youths, despite their young age, were baptised, while two Sikh youth with shorn hair vowed never to cut their hair.
Barring a few, the majority of the youth belong to lower middle class families in rural areas. Most of them have not pursued studies beyond Class 12.
Four or five youngsters were working as mechanics in automobile shops while a few worked in small industrial units on daily wages.
Not affiliated to any group
Police sources say none of the arrested youth belonged to any political party or are affiliated to any radical Sikh group. They claimed to have informed their family members before coming to Amritsar.
They told the police that they had no intention of raising slogans inside the shrine but got carried away when the sloganeering started.
“I saw a group raising slogans and holding swords in the air, so I decided to follow,” said Deepinder Singh, a 31-year-old who hails from Derby in England. However, there were a few who did ‘Sewa’ in ‘deras’ run by ‘babas’ (religious leaders) and admitted to a change in thought process. In militancy days these ‘deras’ were considered as one of the breeding ground for terrorists.