‘Waris Punjab De’ was formed to unite the youth of Punjab under one platform and to further the rights of Punjab as a state and its people. It was supposed to be an exercise to strengthen the federal nature of Indian polity and to protect rights of the state from encroachment. The late actor, Deep Sidhu, was also passionate about reforming Punjab’s educational system and bringing autonomy to top educational institution. He expressed concerns for religious conversions through greed, by enticing people to better health or educational facilities. He understood the need for cultural rejuvenation in Punjab by reviving Gurmukhi in the public sphere. He made it clear that ‘Waris Punjab De’ is not supposed to be a stepping stone attainment of some political gains, but it should rather act as a “pressure group” to guide political parties about the social consciousness of Punjabi youth and to make them aware of their aspirations.
However, after Deep Sidhu’s demise, the organization seems to have shifted its course. The first hint is the inclusion of Amritpal Singh as its head, a vocal supporter of separatism in Punjab. The ceremony for this took place in Rode village of Moga. This location was chosen as it was the ancestral home of Jarnail Singh Bhindrawala, the most recognised face of Punjab’s militant insurgency of 1970s and 80s. Amritpal is an open admirer of Bhindranwala and says that he wants to celebrate him as a “youth icon”. To the large crowd gathered at ‘dastarbandi’ where he was named as a successor, he proudly announced that it was at this place that struggle was once launched and they will “again lead the struggle” for “panth’s azadi”. After this, many of the organization’s original founders and followers left.
The burning issues facing Punjab nowhere appears to be on the agenda. Instead, the organization has taken a fast-track route to radicalism and violence. It is no longer a “pressure group” that aims to attain its agenda using peaceful means. They are more than willing to the threat of violence to attain their ends. The organization claims that most of its resources are being used to social causes, but the claim is increasingly contestable, given the multiple reports circulating in the media.
As recently as this month, the supporters of the organisation vandalised a Gurudwara in Jalandhar. To rally support for the organisation, its members has launched a state-wide march called “Khalsa Wahir” and as part of it, Amritpal went to Model Sikh Gurdwara in Jalandhar where they saw chairs and sofas laid out. Amritpal stated that Gurdwaras as being converted into palaces. As if on cue, things escalated from here on and his supporters began to damage chairs and sofas. After some hooliganism, they collected the furniture, threw them out outside and set it on fire.
The officials of the Gurudwara made their stance clear. They took the matter to the police and a spokesperson said the chairs were installed specifically for the facilitation of elderly people, people with disabilities and pregnant women, but the members of the organisation were in no mood to listen. The supporters of the organization have also been accused of promoting gun culture and leading the youth astray. In another incident, police filed a complaint against Bhagwant Singh, an aide of Amritpal Singh for flaunting a weapon on social media. On one hand, the organisation talks about Sikh sovereignty, and on the other, it tries to get its own leaders elected in the system maintained by the government. Amritpal has stated in an interview that for him, “this is modern warfare” and he will use all means possible at this disposal to attain his goals. Unfortunately for Punjab, those goals doesn’t appear to further the welfare of the people, but seems to inwardly focussed on control and violent power-grabbing.