The Punjab Police Violence in Patiala is a Criminal Issue, Not a Communal One


The Punjab Police Violence in Patiala is a Criminal Issue, Not a Communal One

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

While calls for solidarity continue in the third week of the national lockdown, it seems as though a few citizens of the country haven’t got the memo.

The latest shocking display of indifference to the national lockdown was reported from Punjab. In a horrific video that’s been circulating on social media for the last few hours, a team of policemen, who are standing beside a checkpost, are seen being attacked by a group of criminals. At the end of the video, one of these goons is seen allegedly severing the hand of ASI Harman Singh with a sword.

The police officer was rushed to a hospital where he is undergoing surgery, reports said. Two other police officers were also injured in the brazen attack that was caught on camera.

The police chief later revealed, as reported by NDTV, that the vehicle was carrying Nihangs — members of a Sikh religious sect. The men apparently ignored the police team’s demands to see their curfew passes. In the video they can be seen crashing through the barricade before the violence breaks out.

Naturally, the incident has led to incessant debate online, much of it revolving around the religion of the attackers involved. Almost on cue, the hashtag “Khalistanis” too began appearing on timelines, as the video continued doing the rounds.

A few social media users, meanwhile, appealed that this not be turned into yet another communal issue, but be taken as it was — a criminal issue.

As one user pointed out, “Before the main stream channels project this as a Khalistani attack… A police party enforcing lockdown was attacked by goons in Sanaur Mandi, Patiala. The goons do not belong to any Sikh organization. The attackers have been arrested already instead of being garlanded.”

Another brought up the difference between “Khalistanis”, “ISIS” and Hindutva “nationalists”.

Either way, the incident was shocking enough to lead to condemnation and sharp reactions from social media users, who demanded that stringent action be taken against the men. The eight men fled after attacking the police officers with weapons, but were later surrounded and arrested from a nearby gurudwara.

It’s been just two days since Punjab extended its lockdown to May 1, and already tensions are high in the state. The coronavirus quarantine isn’t making things easy, but with incidents like this, things are likely to get a lot tougher.