There are striking similarities between the first, which also happened around the same time just after the 2012 elections, and the later mass mobilization and manifestation of panthic sentiment.
However, although these mobilizations, all of which remained peaceful, partially or totally achieved their immediate objectives, they did not result in any political or alternative formation.
SAD Patriarch Parkash Singh Badal had just returned to power for the fifth time and was sworn in on March 14, 2012, and most political commentators had written off the significance of the panthic factor and politics as Badal contested on the board development and had won for consecutive terms. However, within days, the state government was witnessing a huge mobilization of Sikhs against the impending hanging of Balwant Singh Rajoana.
Sikhs took to the roads in large numbers and there were demonstrations in cities, towns and even villages. The large number of people taking to the road took everyone by surprise, including the political and police establishment. Badal on March 23, 2012 remarked to Khatkar Kalan in Nawanshahr district, “How can we save him?
But within a week he had to rush to the President of India to ask for clemency in order to save him. In November–December 2013, Sikh activist Gurbax Singh Khalsa went on a hunger strike to demand the release of Sikh prisoners, which also resulted in an outpouring of support, including processions and rallies. The state government was initially reluctant on the issue and Badal senior initially argued that there was nothing the Punjab government could do. But, after an outpouring of support for the cause, his government turned around and recommended the parole of the three convicts and pleaded with the CMs of UP, Karnataka and Gujarat for the release of the three convicts.
Two years later, there were huge protests by Sikhs across the state after the Bargari sacrilege and Behbal Kalan police shootings in which two Sikhs were killed. After gathering thousands of people at Antim Ardas in Bargari on October 25, 2015, in memory of two Sikhs killed by police gunfire, Sarbat Khalsa was held in Chabba village in Amritsar district on November 10 and the turnout was estimated at six figures. Nor could the organizers of Sarbat Khalsa offer a viable panthic political alternative.
Bargari Morcha from June 1 to December 9, 2018 was another big mass mobilization of Sikhs in which two huge rallies were also held in October. It was only after this morcha was started by parallel Akal Takht acting Jathedar Dhian Singh Mand that the sacrilege case was cracked open, and the investigation led Sirsa dera supporters and police officers responsible for the shootings to Behbal Kalan also started to face the heat. Even though this morcha managed to achieve results without causing harm to community members, it also could not offer a panthic-political alternative as people expected.
The agricultural unrest in 2020-21 was the fifth major mass mobilization in Punjab. Although it was not for a Sikh cause, Sikh farmers took it to heart and the wider Sikh community supported it. Although this agitation resulted in the repeal of the agricultural laws, it could not create a political alternative either, even though about twenty groups formed Sanykt Samaj Morcha.
Like the previous ones, the huge turnout at the last prayers for Deep Sidhu, who was the latest in Sikh political activism, was also a manifestation of panthic political sentiment.
While the three mass mobilizations – Sarbat Khalsa in 2015, Bargari Morcha in 2018 and the recent agricultural unrest – have failed to launch a Punjab-centric political alternative despite all the potential, the Aam Aadmi party has been the most a big beneficiary of the political fluidity caused by these unrest among Sikhs, of which farmers have always been a major component, in three elections – Parliamentary 2014, Punjab Assembly 2017 and assembly elections now.