The dust kicked up by the hostile reception to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) ministers in North America is refusing to die down. This is primarily because the SAD refuses to accept the writing on the wall – that the anti-incumbency in Punjab is manifesting itself in a much stronger way abroad. Deputy CM and SAD President, Sukhbir Singh Badal, said that these “sporadic incidents” were caused by “anti-India and anti-Punjab” persons. He also said that the opposition from people holding pro-Khalistan flags does not matter. Another Akali leader said that this was the handiwork of the radical elements abroad.

Yet, another SAD leader from Delhi hinted at inquiries against those who had sought political asylum in foreign lands. In presuming all this, the SAD leaders are only further isolating themselves from the harsh reality.

The harsh reality is that those opposing the Akalis are not just radicals and separatists who moved out during the militancy period. There is no doubt that many of them sought political asylum but the fact of the matter is that for many of them this was an easy route to seeking economic betterment.

Many of the Punjabis overseas opposing the Akalis are the vast majority of those who were forced by circumstances to migrate abroad. Many of them carry bitter memories of joblessness here and this feeling of alienation has been strengthened by the dismal state of things that they see during their visits. Continuing unemployment, power cuts, pollution, sorry state of education and health, road accidents, rampant corruption, nepotism, police highhandedness in dealing with agitators are things that bother them. They compare things in Punjab with their new abodes. Since they are exposed to democratic traditions abroad, they are also aghast at government’s insensitivity to issues of human rights.

They also rue SAD’s action of “inactivity” in pursuing cases against the perpetrators of 1984 anti-Sikh violence, besides many other things. Sukhbir Singh Badal should know that it is these things that make people abroad oppose him and his ilk. Many of us even in India share this feeling. If all this makes them and us all anti-national, it is better to be anti-national than to be a nationalist like Sukhbir.

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