The demand for an independent country of Khalistan has become a new national security threat, and its proponent Amritpal Singh the most wanted man. This is what one can make out while listening to corporate-owned and controlled, electronic and print media at national level these days.

In India, it doesn’t require rocket science to understand what the government was trying to plant in the heads of people, while it continues its anti-people, pro-corporate agenda and demolishes one institution after the other. Just switch on the TV channels in the evening and it would be amply clear to any sane person.

Notwithstanding the peace and tranquillity for decades in Punjab, why suddenly is this issue of Khalistan dominating the narrative on national media? The last time this narrative was peddled by the same media outlets was when farmer’s agitation had sent the government of India in a panic mode.

It was thought that the bogey of Khalistan was the only way the government could defame an agitation that originated from Punjab and Haryana, and found resonance among farmers across the country.

At that time, the farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, supported by more than 400 farmer organisations across the country, were up in arms against the three controversial pro-corporate farm laws. The government was determined not to revoke the laws and was seeking a narrative to justify its use of excessive force against farmers and erecting multi layered barriers on the borders of Delhi.

Nothing worked for the government. Singhu and Tikri borders became symbols of communal harmony with farmers of all communities joining hands for a demand that was essentially economic and hence secular.

The government finally found an opportunity, when farmer organisations sought permission from Delhi Police to celebrate the Republic Day in 2021 in their own way by taking out a tractor parade.

Rather than facilitating the same, the government through Delhi Police dilly dallied the matter for days and then gave a route on the periphery of Delhi. But the real mischief and deception was the use of Deep Sidhu.

Deep Sidhu was not a part of Samyukta Kisan Morcha, and was in fact barred from using Morcha’s platform. He suddenly and surreptitiously landed up at a well-guarded and well-protected Red Fort in the heart of Delhi with his supporters unobstructed by Delhi Police.

This eventually fizzled out, as photographs of Deep Sidhu with top leaders in government appeared on social media suggesting possible connections with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Nevertheless, the visuals of the religious flag atop ramparts of Red Fort were exploited for many days by the corporate controlled media to justify and substantiate its Khalistan narrative. Not limited to Delhi protests, the media had also used the same narrative to sort of justify deliberate mowing down of farmer protesters at Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3, 2021 allegedly by the son of union minister Ajay Kumar Mishra.

The reality is that the demand for Khalistan doesn’t exist on the ground in Punjab. Therefore, there is a deep suspicion in the minds of people of Punjab as to why Khalistan and Amritpal have become issues now?

Incidentally, Amritpal Singh had hijacked the same organisation “Waris Punjab De” that was floated by Deep Sidhu before his death. Who facilitated the return of Amritpal Singh from Dubai and taking over the reins of “Waris Punjab De”?

Why have all close associates of Amritpal, who could throw light about the people behind him, been taken to Dibrugarh jail? What are the governments of India and Punjab trying to hide about Amritpal? The mystery is only deepening.

Nevertheless, let me try to answer the crucial question as to why this sudden need for the Khalistan narrative? Agreed that the only time the central government had to eat a humble pie in the last nine years was when it had to revoke the three controversial farm laws.

But now Samyukta Kisan Morcha is no more Samyukta and there is no immediate threat of another mass movement of the kind witnessed in 2020-21 in near future. So, that means that the present media onslaught is not meant to sow the seeds of disunity among farmer organisations.

The second possibility is that this narrative could be useful for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in 2024 general elections projecting it as a threat to national security and how the government has successfully dealt with it by neutralising the threat. Like the Balakote strike before the 2019 general elections.

Unfortunately for the BJP, it can’t replay the old script on Pakistan anymore. Backed by the United States and brokered by the United Arab Emirates, the ceasefire on the international border and line of control with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir still holds and there is so far no excuse to call it off.

Coming back to Amritpal Singh and his demand for Khalistan. What happened at Ajnala Police Station last month was a simple law-and-order issue that could have been effectively dealt with at the level of the police station, or at the most superintendent of police. And I am sure Punjab Police has enough competent officers to deal with such issues.

But the political incompetence at the state level and mischievous manoeuvrings from Delhi have made things complicated. I don’t know what price the people of the country, particularly Punjab, will pay for it, but I am sure that no one would ever come to know about the real players behind this pawn called Amritpal Singh.

Avinash Mohananey is former Director General of Police of Sikkim. Views expressed here are the writer’s own.