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Is Punjab Returning to the Insurgency Period?
Gaurav Kumar
2018-11-28
Region : Asia, South Asia, India,
Issue : Security, Terrorism, Democracy, Politics,
Weeks after the Indian Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat warned about the attempts being made through "external linkages" to” revive insurgency in Punjab and it will be too late if action is not taken soon, the terrorist striked with a grenade attack at Nirankari congregation at the Nirankari Bhawan in Amritsar's Rajasansi village on Nov 19. Three people were killed and ten injured in the grenade attack.The subsequent investigation has revealed involvement of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and some of the terrorist organisations from Pakistan. The chief minister of Punjab had earlier claimed that the grenades were made in Pakistan.
In a major breakthrough, the Punjab Police has been able to arrest the main accused Avtar Singh, the man who allegedly threw the grenade on the congregation, as well as recoverweapons and ammunition from the accused.On Nov 21, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh disclosed that the suspect, Bikramjit was arrested early this morning from near Loharka village.Bikram is considered to be an operative of Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), which has links with Pakistan based intelligence organisation and some of the pro-Khalistan groups operating from Pakistan. The DGP, Punjab claimed that Avtar had links with a person called Javed in Pakistan and a Khalistan sympathizer Paramjit Singh Baba in Italy . The investigation has also come up with the name of ‘Happy,’ who againis believed to bethe Pak based KLF Chief, Harmeet Singh Happy @ Ph.D, who had earlier masterminded the conspiracy to carry out the targeted killings of RSS/Shiv Sena/DSS leaders and workers (and a Christian Pastor) in Ludhiana and Jalandhar in 2016-2017, in active collaboration with Pakistani establishment and the ISI .
2018: A year of Volatility
Rajasansi village incident was the second terrorist attack in Punjab in 2018. The first one was carried out by the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGH), a Kashmir-based terrorist outfit, allegedly linked to Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), at Maqsudan Police Station, Jalandhar on Sept 14. In the Sept 14 attack too, the terrorist had lobbed hand-grenades.A pro Khalistani terrorist group 'Bhindranwale Tigers Force of Khalistan' had taken the responsibility of the four low-intensity blasts that took place at the Maqsudan police station. The Interrogation of the accused of Maksudan Police Station blast in Jalandhar has revealed the nexus of Kashmir-based militants and Khalistani militants, with intentions to revive militancy in Punjab with the support from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency . The involvement of Kashmir based groups in recent attacks in Punjab appears to be a handiwork of the ISI under its K2 plan, where it wants to increase unity of operation between the groups operating in two strategically crucial yet vulnerable to external influence bordering states of India.
Link between the ISI and the Khalistani operatives in India and abroad dates back to the Punjab insurgency period in 1980s and 90s. The IS had aptly used the independent Khalistan movement, along with terrorism in Kashmir to bleed India through thousand cuts during the period. The active support for the Khalistan movement and its proponents was one of the earliest experiments by the ISI in its proxy war against India. The resultant success in the theatres of conflict in Punjab and Kashmir had only emboldened it to expand its malicious involvement in other theatres of the region.
However, any suggestion that the current nexus between the Khalistanis and the ISI can push Punjab back to the bloody insurgency period is highly exaggerated interpretation and extrapolation of circumstances and ground realties in Punjab. The recent events including the grenade attack at the Nirankari congregation can best be interpreted as an attempt at kindling some kind of chaos in the region, and should not be construed as revival of the insurgency in Punjab.
The intent behind the attempt by both ISI and the Khalistanis may be to review the insurgency, but the underlining context, trigger factor and favourable circumstances in Punjab is completely missing. The most powerful factor during the 80s and early 90s were the chaotic political instability prevailing hand in hand with religious fervency, which is not the current situation in Punjab. Although, between 2008 and 2015, the Khalistanis failed to inflict even a single fatality in the Punjab, but three years in a row, since 2016, lethal terrorist strikes have been mounted .Still, it can be safely concluded that there is no concrete trend to the violence, and all the events cannot be clubbed together under the single Khalistan related activities. Above all, the attacks are very sporadic in nature, with random elements involving in attacks for minor political or religious gain. Most importantly, there is not a single tall leader, like Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, at political or religious level; nor are there any powerful competing religio-political interests that can give wind to the ethno-religious movement.
Since March 2017, Punjab police has busted 17 terror modules and arrested 18 people related to terrorism related activities. They have also seized a large cache of arms and ammunition from the arrested operatives . The Punjab police appear to be more organised and capable than it was during the early period of insurgency. Therefore, Punjab may witness similar kind of attacks in near future which will be aimed to bring some kind of religious tension and chaos to divide society at communal, political and ideological lines, before ISI and pro-Khalistani elements can revive insurgencyin the region. It is up to the political and religious players of Punjab to avoid pushing Punjab towards a political and religious instability in order to avoid violence to spiral out of hands.

End Notes:
1. "Cops Arrest Main Accused In Amritsar Grenade Attack That Killed 3." NDTV.com. November 24, 2018. Accessed November 25, 2018.https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/amritsar-grenade-attack-case-main-accused-avtar-singh-arrested-1952845
2. "Punjab Police Crack Nirankari Bhawan Grenade Attack Case."Tehelka. November 21, 2018. Accessed November 26, 2018.http://tehelka.com/punjab-police-crack-nirankari-bhawan-grenade-attack/
3. http://www.satp.org/terrorism-update/maksudan-police-station-blast-accused-reveals-terror-network-in-punjab-says-report
4. http://www.satp.org/icm-commentry-Details/india-punjab-makbelieve-a-real-threat
5. Punjab Police Solve Nirankari Bhavan Attack case with Arrest of One, Yes Punjab. November 21. Accessed November 26, 2018.http://www.yespunjab.com/punjab/news/item/163641-punjab-police-solve-nirankari-bhawan-grenade-attack-case-with-arrest-of-one

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