AMRITSAR: A decade of terrorism starting in the mid-1980s not only spelt doom for Punjab but also changed identities of many professionals. Brahmin police officials and journalists started growing a beard and sporting a turban as it allowed them to do their job better.
But the professional disguise has become an integral part of their lives today. Thirty years after Operation Bluestar shook the foundation of Punjab, at least three Brahmins have converted their Sikh mask into their real face.
Pathankot DSP (traffic) Vikram Sharma has set an aarti as his cellphone ring tone but his appearance is that of a Sikh. The cop not only fought against militants during the heydays of the violence in Punjab but is also a victim of terrorism.
“A Sikh appearance helped me gather more intelligence and create a better network of sources to crack down on terrorist dens,” he says. Sharma lost seven members of his family, including his parents and brother, in two separate terror attacks in 1989 and 1992.
His decision to change his appearance took his family by surprise. “My wife Vimal was shocked to see me in a turban but never objected to it,” he says. “This is who I am now. I can’t imagine my life without a turban.”
Harkanwal Korpal was a reporter with a Punjabi newspaper working in Amritsar during days of militancy. A Saraswat Brahim, Korpal also chose to wear turban and grow a beard, which helped him get scoops.
But after adopting Sikh attire, he also studied Sikhism. Korpal, a practising Sikh now, says he could have returned to his Hindu appearance but he chose to remain a Sikh. “I am amused when my Hindu relatives call me ‘Sardar ji’,” he smiles.
Sub-inspector, Crime Investigation Agency staff, Tarn Taran, Anil Kumar Sharma has also been sporting a turban since the militancy days. “A Sikh face helped me deal with militants,” he says and adds that the turban gradually became part of his life. Today, he is expert in the intricate art of tying a turban. “I believe in both Hindu and Sikh religions and regularly visit temples and gurdwaras,” he says.