In a bad decision that would have far reaching negative impacts on the polity of India, the government of Punjab led by Amarinder Singh carved out Malerkota as the Muslim majority district of the state. Part of the Sangrur district, Malerkota houses the majority of Indian Punjab’s minuscule Muslim population, and it has been declared the 23rd district of the state by the Amarinder Singh government.
“I know this has been a long-pending demand,” Amarinder Singh said through video conference.
In a tweet later, he said, “Happy to share that on the auspicious occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr, my govt has announced Malerkotla as the newest district in the state. The 23rd district holds huge historical significance. Have ordered to immediately locate a suitable site for the district administrative complex.”
Punjab has a very bloody history, and the major reason behind this is religion. Be it partition or post-partition Hindu-Muslim fight or the brutal killings of Hindus by Khalistani elements, the religious faultlines have become the reason behind separatism in Punjab for decades. However, Amarinder Singh ignored the bloody history and refused to learn a lesson from that in order to appease the Muslims for the 2022 assembly election which is expected to be a multi-party fight.
The significant presence of Congress, BJP, AAP and Akali Dal in Punjab makes every seat in Punjab crucial for Amarinder Singh. Moreover, the fight within the Congress party between the Amarinder faction and Sidhu faction has made it even more competitive. Thus, in order to appease the Muslims, who have a very small population in Punjab but are influential vote base for few seats due to population concentration, the Singh government has announced this disastrous policy.
Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, was among the first big leaders to criticize the move of the Amarinder Singh government. “Any distinction based on faith and religion is contrary to the spirit of India’s Constitution. At this time, the formation of Malerkotla (Punjab) is a reflection of the divisive policy of the Congress,” Yogi Adityanath tweeted in Hindi, a day after Amarinder Singh made the announcement.
The state has a 38.5 per cent Hindu population and 57.7 per cent Sikh population, of which only 21 per cent are Jat Sikhs who are at the forefront of the fake farmer protest. The Dalit Sikhs, who constitute a large percentage of the population (31 per cent), have traditionally voted for the Congress party, and this is the reason that the grand old party repeatedly comes to power in the state despite the stain of its involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
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The Jat Sikhs, who predominantly vote for Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), enjoy a disproportionate share of political and economic power in the state. While the 33 per cent Dalit Sikhs have claim over just 3 per cent of the state’s total landholdings, the Jat Sikhs have claimed 80 per cent arable land with just 21 per cent of the population.
The Congress party often comes to power in the state with the support of Hindus and Dalits Sikhs, because both want to keep Akali Dal, supported by radical Sikhs, out of power.
However, the Hindus are expected to vote for BJP in the 2022 assembly election due to anti-Hindu policies by Akali Dal and Congress’s inability to protect Hindus during the farmer’s protest. Thus, Amarinder Singh is trying to ensure that he wins all the Muslim dominated seats with the creation of a Muslim majority district.