Punjab is perhaps the only state where local people are on the streets protesting against the situation in Jammu & Kashmir.
Common people, farmers, workers, laborers and intellectuals are participating in protests, dharnas, processions and seminars.
Neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor Home Minister Amit Shah are taking cognisance of these developments in Punjab, nor their biggest ally in Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal, which was once a strong supporter of the Anandpur Sahib proposal and retaining Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
Many well-known organizations in Punjab have been active in protest against the repeal of Article 370. Prominent among these are: Naujawan Bharat Sabha, Lok Morcha Punjab, Reasonable Society, Punjab Student Union, Bharatiya Kisan Union, Factory Mazdoor Union, Textile Hosiery Workers Union, Pendu Mazdoor Union, Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Patriot Memorable Hall Committee, Punjab Employees Union and Desh Kisan Morcha.
These institutions have a good public impact in their respective areas.
On 15 September in Chandigarh, along with 15 other farmer organizations, these organizations staged a massive protest against the repeal of Section 370. The same day other cities like Bathinda, Mansa, Mukatsar, Faridkot, Tarn Taran, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Sangrur, Barnala, Patiala, Nabha and Nawanshahar also saw similar protests.
Such voices of resistance are getting louder.
When a delegation of some organizations tried to go to Kashmir, they were stopped at Pathankot before Jammu. Purushottam Lal of one such organization, ‘Pind Bachao’, said that he was stopped a little ahead of Pathankot by the central security forces which asked him to return for his own safety.
“When we protested and asked for written orders, we were humiliated.
It is clear that the Central Government is openly violating the fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution in Jammu and Kashmir on gunpoint and non-Kashmiris supporting them are also being oppressed,” he said.
Other organisations have equally strong views.
Amolak Singh, convenor of Lok Morcha Punjab and member of Patriot Memorabilia Hall Committee, says, “Kashmir has been forcibly taken over by the government.”
Sushil Kumar of Punjab Student Union says, “Now in the eyes of the central government every person is a traitor who has been logically opposing the excesses happening on Kashmiris.”
Legendary playwright late Gursharan Singh’s daughter Nav Kaur says, “It is deeply ironic that if you protest against the situation in Kashmir, it is seen as some sort of crime. What is happening with Kashmiris today could happen with anyone else tomorrow.””
Farmer leader Gurchetan Singh said: “Don't see the central government’s action limited to Kashmir only. I am afraid that tomorrow even Punjab can be divided into Majha, Malwa, Doaba areas and puppet chief ministers deployed there.
Farmers Struggle Committee leader Kanwaljit Singh Pannu says, “Punjab farmers view abrogation of Article 370 and 35A as a permission to outsiders to occupy as much land of Kashmir as possible. We, as farmers stand with our brothers in Kashmir over this issue.”
Such voices can be found all over the state.
Kashmir is a neighboring state of Punjab and has centuries old ties with it due to various reasons.
Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, the ninth Guru of the Sikhs, sacrificed his life to protect Kashmiri Pandits. In 1819, Maharaja Ranjit Singh made Kashmir a part of the Lahore court. During that time, many Punjabis settled in Kashmir and became part of the valley forever. Cultural and social relations from Kashmir to Punjab have been a norm, and trade exchanges have been very strong till August 5.
Many people are surprised at the complete change of stance of Shiromani Akali Dal, under the patronage of former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, which is now supporting the repealing of Article 370. Tthe Badal-led Akali Dal is basically considered to be the party of farmers, but the farmers of Punjab are participating in dharnas and protests against the repeal of Article 370 . No leader of the party was willing to speak on this aspect.
On the other hand, there are not only demonstrations on the streets in Punjab but also seminars and seminars are being held in Punjab. Almost all progressive intellectuals are opposed to abrogating 370 and writing fiercely against it. There is going to be a big seminar in Ludhiana in the first fortnight of October and after that there will be events in different cities of Punjab opposing the Kashmir policy of the BJP government at the Centre.
Punjab University at Chandigarh has had such a successful conference in the past. According to Aman, one of its organizers, “When we discussed the idea of
a protest against abolishing Article 370 in the university on August 13, the university and the Chandigarh administration stopped it, but later we managed to get their permission.”