Holding Parkash Singh Badal responsible for the Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan firing incidents, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Tuesday accused the Akali veteran of “ruining” the state and vowed to go “hammer and tongs” to “fix” him.
Singh said it was not possible that Badal, as the then chief minister, was not aware of the police firing and asserted the truth would come out when the SIT probe report into the incident would go to the courts. He said the decision to withdraw the case from the CBI and hand it over to a Punjab police Special Investigation Team (SIT) was taken by the state assembly, which felt the BJP-led government at the Centre could influence the central agency as the BJP was an ally of Badals’ Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
The Ranjit Singh Commission set up to probe the sacrilege cases and firing incidents at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura had suggested further investigation, which was why the SIT is being set up, said Singh. The Ranjit Singh Commission was a fact-finding panel which did a thorough job to get to the bottom of the events that led to the senseless and deliberate firing on innocent people, he added. Singh dismissed as a “gimmick” and diversionary tactic Badal’s assertion that he was ready to swear that he did not know about the firing.
“How many times has he falsely sworn at the Akal Takht,” asked Singh. “How is it possible that (the then) chief minister did not know about the firing,” Singh said, pointing out that former DGP Sumedh Singh Saini had clearly stated before the Ranjit Singh Commission that Badal had asked him to disperse the crowd forcibly. “If something happens in my state then as chief minister I cannot take refuge in such lies and should be thrown out if I am not aware of what is happening right under my nose,” Singh asserted, adding that as per the findings of the Commission, 22 calls were made to Badal before firing took place. Singh accused Badal of “manufacturing lies”, claiming that he knew him “personally and closely”.
The chief minister pointed out that Badal did not even take action on the findings of the Zora Commission, which was set up by his own government to investigate the Bargari sacrilege and the subsequent firing incidents. The chief minister dubbed Badal as a “coward” who is used to running away whenever he has to face the people, and recalled that when Sikhs were under attack at the time of Operation Bluestar, the former SAD chief had “run away” to Uttar Pradesh.
He also challenged the Akali leadership for a debate and alleged they had “run away” on the day his government tabled the Ranjit Singh Commission report in the state assembly. Vowing strict action against anyone trying to create a communal strife in the state, Singh said his government’s move to strengthen the blasphemy law was aimed at ensuring that the state’s peace was maintained at all costs. On the resignation threat of AAP leader HS Phoolka, the Chief Minister said he was just indulging in “cheap gimmicks” to remain in limelight.
The government, he said, was aggressively pursuing the cases but did not have a magic wand to deliver overnight, warning both the AAP and the SAD against politicising a sensitive matter like the sacrilege cases. “The people of Punjab were fully aware of the Badals’ strategy of inciting communal clashes in the state ahead of any election”, he said, adding the Akalis were playing into the hands of Pakistan’s ISI, which wanted to disturb the peace in Punjab.
He said his government was aware of the attempts being made to foment trouble in the state and would ensure that the nefarious forces making such attempts do not succeed.