It’s disturbing that mobile internet access was thought best shut off in Punjab during the police manhunt for Amritpal Singh, a separatist leader. It’s clear that calls for a Sikh state mustn’t find listeners. A return to the turmoil of the 1980s would only cause misery. A large mob mobilized by Singh last month to defy law enforcers, however, may have fed fears of sizeable solidarity with him. “If one can talk about a Hindu rashtra and raise slogans for it, if Communists can aspire to create a Communist state,» Singh had argued, “why have peaceful aspirations of Khalistan been criminalized?» For one, that mob was armed; it stormed a police station and interfered with law enforcement. For another, nationhood based on religion—which must play a private and not public role—is an ill-advised concept: it’s likely to end up fragile and fundamentalist. Crucially, India’s map cannot be redrawn in blood. National integrity demands no quarter be given to any armed insurgency. Our Constitution offers space for diverse aspirations. But the web snap-off was a bad decision for the anxiety it betrayed over news getting around. Singh wasn’t nabbed. Instead, he was the talk of Punjab and beyond.
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