Radio Pakistan moaning about the plight of Sikhs in East Punjab exposed

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Ferozepur (Punjab), June 2 : Peals of Gurbani greet listeners every morning in the tiny hamlet of Roopnagar in Ferozepur District, which lies on the India-Pakistan border.

The "Punjabi Durbar" programme of Radio Pakistan's airing of these hymns suggests a feeling of brotherhood amid the turbulence that has dogged India-Pakistan ties for over six decades.

But a closer look, and the shabads and ragas quickly change to a moaning about the plight of Sikhs in East Punjab. What follows is a verbal joust of about 30-minutes, highlighting the ill treatment of Sikhs by other communities, especially by the Hindus.

In its latest diatribe in the "letters to the editor" section, one letter reveals a Punjabi Professor's wish to escape from India because he feels tortured. Nothing could be further from the truth, claims Mangi Ram, a resident of Roopnagar Village.

"Let alone a professor, even a lesser educated Indian would not write against his country like this," Mangi Ram emphatically says.

Reminding Sikhs of communal tensions that they experienced in the 1980s, Punjabi Durbar attacks the current Congress led government at the Centre for its anti-Sikh policies. It goes onto claim that the Sikh community was destroyed, along with East Punjab's educational, agricultural and health sectors.

Radio Pakistan, therefore, requires to be apprised about facts. Punjab, the grain bowl of the nation, has one of the fastest growing economies in the country, with a steady growth rate of between six to seven percent.

And, with more than 75 percent of the population educated, it cannot be classified as "backward" "The people here are aware, educated and intelligent. If they think they can take us for a ride, then they are mistaken. We want to live in peace, and such programmes are not welcome," says Ani Kumar, a local.

Defence experts say these kinds of programmes form part of a low-intensity warfare launched by Pakistan to spread communal tension. Funded by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, many such programmes are broadcast along areas on either side of the India-Pakistan border, calling on the people, especially the youth, to rise against the state.

The people in these localities are, however, sensible and have their feet firmly planted on the ground. They pray during the recitation of the Gurbani and from the Guru Granth Sahib on Radio Pakistan, and thereafter switch the radio off and go about their daily business.

To say that Hindus are hostile to Sikhs is an aberration of historical facts. The relationship between these two communities goes back centuries. The founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak, was born into a Hindu Khatri family, and spent his entire life of 70 years promoting the universality of faith and human interaction.

Today nearly seven centuries on, the first born in a Hindu family in Punjab, is ritually offered in name to a Sikh Guru, as an act of obeisance and a reflection of the camaraderie that prevails between the two communities. Key festivals of the two communities see their representatives joining in the fun, frolic and solemnity of the occasion like non other.

This does not take the fact that our British colonial rulers and vested interests sought to divide the two communities through propaganda in the latter half the 19th century and the early part of the 20th. But, eventually, reason and common sense prevailed, and the larger good was given due importance.

Radio Pakistan would, therefore, be well advised to have a relook and determine whether it is really necessary to promote this sort of aggravating propaganda with such regularity, given that the governments of the two countries are pulling out all stops to make a go of their bilateral ties.

ANI

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