Affirming rule of law needs political will
The new Amritsar police leadership will need to focus on affirming law and order, and figure out a gameplan to checkmate provocative strategies used by protesters, such as the use of the Sikh holy book as a defensive shield
Five days after protests by radical Sikh leader Amritpal Singh and his followers forced Punjab Police to capitulate and release a man wanted in an abduction and assault case in Amritsar, the state government effected a reshuffle in the police ranks. Eighteen police officers, including Amritsar police commissioner Jaskaran Singh, were transferred on Tuesday, and additional director-general of police Naunihal Singh was appointed as the new commissioner. The move assumes importance against the backdrop of last week’s events. On Thursday, Amritpal Singh’s supporters marched into Ajnala, clashed with the police and laid siege to the local police station. The stir was withdrawn only after the police promised that Amritpal Singh’s aide, Lovepreet Singh “Toofan”, would be released. The next day, the police told a court that “Toofan” was not guilty, appearing to have dubiously accepted “proof” from Amritpal Singh’s supporters.
The new police leadership will need to focus on affirming law and order, and figure out a game plan to checkmate provocative strategies used by protesters, such as the use of the Sikh holy book as a defensive shield. But Amritpal Singh’s troubling rise and growing clout is a political problem, and tackling it will need political will. The weaponisation of public disaffection and the mobilisation of young people on emotive issues can only be countered when the state government, political establishment, and religious leaders come together to engage with the grassroots to nix such efforts. A firm foot forward by the government will also encourage the police to not give into extrajudicial demands and ensure that a sensitive state doesn’t careen any further into instability.