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Amarinder faces the heat over unabated sacrilege incidents in Punjab

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 23 June 2017, 18:14 IST
(Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times/Getty Images)

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh is facing the heat over the Congress’ poll promises, particularly the guarantee that it would stop the sacrilege of holy texts in the state.

Among those calling for action on the issue is not only the Opposition - the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) - but also other political groups, who have asked the government to stop taking refuge behind probe panels and commissions of inquiry.

More so, claims made by the government that it has solved 12 of the 13 instances in the last three months, has not satisfied these groups.

Chalking out a plan

On 23 June, affiliates of United Akali Dal (UAD) met at Chandigarh under the leadership of president Bhai Mohkam Singh to chalk out its future course of action in the days to come.

Bhai Mohkam Singh was one of the key organisers of the Sarbat Khalsa held at Chaba village of Amritsar on 10 November 10 2015 where 'parallel' Jathedars to various Takhts had been announced in front of a congregation of one lakh people.

The issue of continuing incidents of desecration of holy books was one of the key issues on the agenda.

Hardline leaders like Wassan Singh Jaffarwal also attended the meeting at Chandigarh. The party later submitted a memorandum to the statement government listing its demands.

Jaffarwal attacked the Amarinder-led government, claiming it is seeking refuge in taking the commissions of inquiry route on the matter and is passing time while the incidents continue to occur.

The UAD spoke of how the wounds caused by such incidents that started two years ago are yet to be healed. They aired concern over even the CBI not coming out with something concrete on the matter pertaining to the incidents of desecration at Bargari and killing of protestors in police firing at Behbal Kalan village later.

Responding to a query over the government claims of having solved 12 of the 13 cases reported in the last three months, Bhai Mohkam Singh told Catch, “Has anything been done about the Behbal Kalan firing? Do the people know who had ordered the firing? What weapons were used? What was the purpose? The government cannot abdicate its responsibility in such a matter.”

Election season

The second pertinent issue raised by the UAD leadership at its meeting was the pending election to the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC).

The SGPC continues to remain under the influence of the Akalis.

“We must know why the polls have not been held over the last six years. Whether there are any plans to hold them and if yes when,” said Bhai Mohkam Singh.

Various groups are looking forward to the polls while striving to throw out Akali-backed candidates in this institutions.

It was just on the eve of the Operation Bluestar anniversary this year that the 'parallel' Jathedars appointed at the Sarbat Khalsa in 2015 had gathered at Bargari village and had passed a resolution asking Amarinder to deliver on his poll promises that include punishing those responsible for the theft of Guru Granth Sahib from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village, desecration incidents in Bargari and other places and action against those involved in death of two Sikh protestors during police firing in Behbal Kalan in October 2015.

Probing the incidents

Amarinder recently claimed that the new commission of inquiry instituted under the chairmanship of Justice (Retired) Ranjit Singh to investigate all cases of sacrilege is probing every incident, including Bargari.

The new commission was instituted after scrapping the report of the previous commission based on legal opinion given by the state advocate general Atul Nanda who had advised the government that the report of the Zora Singh Commission instituted by the Parkash Singh Badal led SAD-BJP combine government had not answered the very substance of its reference which was a probe into the incidents of sacrilege, in which eye-witness accounts and other investigations had suggested the involvement of 'big people' and concluded that the police firing was 'unwarranted and not in self-defence'.

Taking steps

With another incident of sacrilege being reported from Jalandhar on 22 June where two motorcycle-borne persons threw torn pages of a holy Sikh scripture along a canal, Amarinder immediately directed the DGP Suresh Arora to order a thorough inquiry and ensure that the culprits are immediately identified.

He also asked the police chief to take all possible steps to prevent vitiation of the secular environment. The pages of the holy text were thrown along a canal over a distance of around 250 to 300 metres.

Amarinder has also instructed the security personnel to liaison closely with religious groups to maintain religious harmony while deploying all resources at their disposal to trace the culprits.

He has promised that once the commission of inquiry set up to probe all such cases submits its report, things would be taken to their logical conclusion, with severe action against the guilty.

‘The summer of broken promises’

Things have come to such a pass that even the SAD, which had miserably failed on this front during its tenure when the incidents of sacrilege started, is now trying to corner Amarinder on the issue.

In its 'Genuine Super White Paper' that the party recently brought out as a counter to the one released by the state government on the mess it has inherited from the Akalis, the SAD said, “But even by its own abysmal standards, the party surpassed its own capacity for falsehood on highly sensitive issues like incidents of sacrilege of the holy scriptures, outrageous lying on the problem of drugs in the state etc.”

Recently, Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal had hit out at the Amarinder government, describing his tenure as “the summer of broken promises, failures, lawlessness, sacrileges, murders and vendetta against political rivals. Three dozen suicides and a sacrilege every other day is the highlight of this period during which government has already thrown all its promises into the dustbin.”

First published: 23 June 2017, 18:14 IST