ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Searching for Democracy

Punjab at the Crossroads

What lies behind the recent unrest in Punjab following an incident involving the desecration of a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib? This article situates the protests following the incident in their social, economic and political contexts and argues that the turmoil has its roots in the erosion of credibility of religious and political institutions in the state.

In recent months, Punjab has witnessed a very large number of protests. Students, unemployed youth, teachers and farmers have held dharnas and disrupted functions of leaders of Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) (SAD(B))—which, in a coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party, is the ruling party of the state. Protests in response to the desecration of a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib paralysed the state for more than 10 days. This article first traces the sequence of events and then situates them in the larger social, economic and political contexts.

On the afternoon of 1 June 2015, a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib went missing from a gurudwara in Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village in Faridkot District. The police failed to recover the holy book and on 5 June, a number of religious preachers and groups joined the protestors at the village and gave an ultimatum to the state government to trace the Guru Granth Sahib or face an agitation. But after a few days, normalcy was restored.

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