The MLA Sarabjit Kaur Manuke bungalow grab controversy has more to it than just the political and criminal angle as it also brings into sharp focus the caste contradictions, especially among the Sikhs. To top it all is the official apathy of police, until recently, refusing to act against fraudsters.
While the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leadership in Punjab remains intriguingly mum, Bibi Manuke represents the Dalit community in the state and the NRI family of Amarjit Kaur Singh, whose bungalow stands usurped by a gang of grabbers closely associated with the scheduled caste MLA of the ruling party. On the other hand, the victim is from the traditionally dominant Jat Sikh community against whom a ‘Reservation Chor Fado Morcha’ by Dalits has been continuing at Mohali for the last about 2 months.
The pressure mounted by the Morcha exposed the father of a popular Punjabi Jat Sikh singer, Amrit Mann, for having remained in service as a teacher – selected in 1989 on the basis of an SC certificate – in a government school. He served the state government for 34 years.
Another non-Dalit Sikh exposed recently is Harprit K Singh IAS (Allied), who also entered central civil services using an SC certificate issued by an executive magistrate. The list of Jats, Brahmins, Khatris, Aroras, Rajputs and members of other so-called ‘Swaran jatis’ who took jobs posing as SCs has been brought to the notice of Punjab government.
As the Morcha activities gained momentum, the Punjab government took cognisance of the usurping of Dalit rights by the ‘upper castes.’ A time-bound inquiry stands ordered and in many cases, the SC certificates of the officers enjoying the benefits of plum government jobs for decades are on the brink of termination.
As Manuke’s fraudulently taking possession of a Jat Sikh’s bungalow hit the headlines, it resulted in inter-caste consternation with hostility spilling over to social media. And rightly so, if the cheats among the so-called upper castes are being proceeded against, then the people of the same ilk among the Dalits, snatching the rights of the Jats, also need to be penalised.
As the Dalit internet pages and those run by Jat Sikhs spewed venom on each other, this journalist received a telephone call from a person who identified himself as a Jat Sikh residing in the Bhawanigarh sub-division of Sangrur district. He categorically asked me that “You as a journalist, are duty bound to highlight the atrocity committed by a Dalit on Jat family, as is evident from the bungalow grabbing episode of Jagraon city.
The sentiment of the Jats was promptly conveyed to the Dalit leaders spearheading the Morcha. In private they agreed with the Bhawanigarh man’s contention but in reality did not issue a public statement to condemn the avtion of the Dalit MLA.
At the same time when singer Amrit Mann’s father Sarbjit Singh was exposed, social media was abuzz with infinite posts by Dalits abusing the Jat Sikh community in the filthiest of words. And no less despicable were the posts by the Jats after the coming to the fore of the Manuke house grab scandal. Evidently, the relations between the Jat Sikhs and the Dalit Sikhs touched their nadir.
As the public and media pressure mounted, the MLA vacated the bungalow and handed it over to Karam Singh who had become the owner of the house on the basis of a fake power of attorney. After much dilly-dallying, the Jagraon police finally intervened resulting in Karam Singh giving an affidavit that his ownership was fake. He handed over the possession of the bungalow to the NRI family. But the police have not registered an FIR against any of the fraudsters.
To conclude, one needs to consider the current behaviour of the historically beleaguered Dalits and presently affected Jats, which will make it clear that the Bibi Manuke controversy has stirred hatred and ill will between the two communities. In these circumstances, peace and tranquillity are bound to become susceptible. The fraud played by Bibi through her lackeys can not be seen in isolation or disconnected from the aberration of the use of fake SC certificates by the ‘Swaran jatis.’ Both require the wiser lot among Dalits and Jats to rise above caste contradictions and work together towards bonhomie among the Sikhs, nay the Punjabis.