AAP Cornered in Punjab
Opposition unites on Ajnala incident
The Bhagwant Mann led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab stands cornered for the delay in taking action against those responsible for ‘taking over’ the Ajnala Police Station last week.
The incident included a violent attack on the Police personnel while using the Sikh holy book Guru Granth Sahib as a ‘shield’. With the law and order situation hitting rock bottom and heinous crimes being reported with regularity, the government is in a tight spot.
The clamour for action against radical self styled preacher Amritpal Singh continues to increase from the political quarters. The common people continue to grapple with insecurity amid claims of the government that things are under control.
The matter was flagged once again by Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring in a letter addressed to the state’s Director General of Police Gaurav Yadav. Warring tweeted, “The siege & attack on Ajnala Police station is an unprecedented incident & the guilty must be put behind bars. The inaction of @PunjabGovtIndia has demoralised our martial @PunjabPoliceInd.”
In his letter he has pointed out that he had warned of ‘dangerous’ and ‘nefarious’ activities of Amritpal four months ago in a communication and there was no action from the authorities.
Referring to the Ajnala episode, his letter states, “He has now got so emboldened that he had the audacity to lay siege to a Police Station in Ajnala and take away his aide who is accused of assaulting and kidnapping an individual.
This was something unprecedented and never heard of. Even during the dark days of terrorism never did such an incident occur. The Police never felt so much let down and demoralised even when they were facing the worst type of terrorism in the history of the state.”
The Congress has served an ultimatum that its workers will be taking to the streets if Amritpal is not arrested. The letter further states, “Such indifference and inaction at the highest level is not acceptable to us anymore and the reasons for this are best known to you that Amritpal has the audacity to do what he is doing.
“After all, the policemen who were attacked in Ajnala and suffered injuries were our own people.” Warring has gone on to state, “It is not just the Punjab Police. The incident has shaken the faith and confidence of common Punjabis in this government.
“They feel that if the Police are not safe themselves how can they protect the common man. So many policemen have suffered serious injuries and one of the officers, an internationally reputed Olympian, had to get 21 stitches on his head. And the irony is that those responsible are roaming scot free and cocking a snook at the government and the Police.”
Congress Parliamentarian Ravneet Singh Bittu, the grandson of former chief minister Beant Singh who was assassinated by militants in 1995, has threatened to stage a dharna outside Bhagwant Mann’s residence.
There have been reports of Bittu having received threats from radicals.
It is not about the Ajnala episode alone. The last few days have seen violent acts being reported from various corners. On Sunday two of the accused in the assassination of singer Sidhu Moosewala were killed in a clash of inmates inside the Goindwal Sahib central jail.
On Monday, a Congress leader and former chairman of the Patti Market Committee Major Singh Dhariwal was gunned down by a woman at his marriage palace in Sangwa village of Tarn Taran.
On the same day a computer engineering student was reportedly stabbed to death on the campus of the Punjabi University in Patiala.
Last week the Police had arrested two persons accused of chopping off the fingers of a youth in Mohali on February 8.
On February 20, a woman was attacked with sharp edged weapons by four assailants outside the district courts in Ferozepur where she had come for a gearing in a murder case. Reports say that two of her fingers had been chopped off.
In a series of tweets about the deteriorating law and order scenario, Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) president Sukhbir Singh Badal said, “Shameful that Punjab has descended into mayhem with a record four brutal murders occurring in a single day even as CM @BhagwantMann is busy defending corruption cases registered against AAP in Delhi. None is safe in today’s Punjab.
“Even in jail, executions are being done at will as was seen in execution of 2 gangsters involved in murder of #SidhuMooseWala. Such acts lend credence to claims @AamAadmiParty govt does not want truth in Moosewala case to be revealed.
“Punjab had also been hit by a spate of gruesome crimes in the last 10 days. Anti-social elements are also using breakdown in law and order to settle scores. The police force has been bottled down by the @AAPPunjab administration & has become demoralised.”
Warring and Sukhbir’s attack comes after Bhagwant Mann’s claims made at Bhavnagar in Gujarat on Sunday where he had vowed that the state government will maintain law and order and no one will be allowed to disturb its hard earned peace.
Mann said that though some fissiparous forces are continuously trying to derail the peace and progress of the state, their nefarious designs will not be allowed to succeed.
Referring to the Ajnala episode, he said that this was an unpardonable crime which must be condemned by one and all. He asserted that Guru Granth Sahib is a source of inspiration for all and everyone must take inspiration from it rather than taking its cover for protection for unlawful activities.
Mann also claimed that some people who are being funded from across the border are trying to destabilise peace and progress in Punjab. He said that such people are acting as puppets in the hands of Pakistan to ruin the state. However, he said that the brave Punjab Police is capable of safeguarding the interests of the state and its people.
The possibility of a ‘Pakistani hand’ was also flagged by the former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh while responding to the Ajnala incident. He said that there was a particular pattern in these incidents, which does not bode well for the national security, particularly when Pakistan is there to encourage and exploit such a situation.
The former Congress chief minister who is now with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had raised questions over the competence of the state government in dealing with such a situation,
Meanwhile, Bhagwant Mann has said that anything, except hatred and divisiveness, can grow on the fertile land of the state. He claimed that the law and order in the state was perfect due to which companies from across the globe are making a beeline to invest in Punjab.
Apart from the deteriorating law and order scenario, a dampener came from the government in the form of Supreme Court shifting the trial in three cases against Dera Sacha Sauda leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim and seven others in connection with the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in 2015 in Bargari from Faridkot to Chandigarh.
This was sought by an accused who had pointed towards another accused and Dera follower being killed in Faridkot in November last year.
A scathing attack on this came from Congress leader Sukhpal Khaira who said in a tweet, “Gross & utter failure of @BhagwantMann to defend the most important matter of sacrilege in SC! It creates doubt on the efficiency & integrity on AG who once represented Dera head. Is this how @ArvindKejriwal promised to ensure justice in Beadbi cases by allowing trial out of PB?”
Meanwhile, a government spokesperson said that the Punjab government would soon present the challan in the court pertaining to the Behbal Kalan Police firing case on protestors in 2015.
A decision on this was taken in a meeting between the state government and representatives of the Qaumi Insaaf Morcha that has been holding a Morcha demanding the release of Sikh prisoners arrested during the days of militancy besides raising other demands.
This assurance comes barely five days after the filing of the charge sheet in the 2016 Kotkapura firing case of 2015 that had followed the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari and Burj Jawahar Singh Wala. The charge sheet named former Akali chief minister Parkash Singh Badal along with some others have been named in the charge sheet while also indicting Sukhbir Badal and the controversial former DGP Sumedh Saini.
The Akalis have hit back calling it a politically motivated act of the AAP. The timing of the decision to file a challan in the Behbal Kalan case also leaves much for political interpretation.
The government spokesperson further said that Cabinet ministers Harpal Singh Cheema and Aman Arora told a delegation of Amar Singh Chahal, Pal Singh France and Balwinder Singh that the state government has already flagged the issue of making stringent provisions in existing laws of Indian Penal Code related to sacrilege with the union home minister.
They said the matter is already under the active consideration of the state government and soon this issue will be raised before the President of India.
On the issue of Bandi Singhs, the ministers said that for the release of Gurdeep Singh Khaira and Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar, the state government will soon contact the Delhi and Karnataka governments. It was also decided that the government will accept the pleas of the families of Gurmeet Singh, Lakhwinder Singh and Shamsher for their early release and start the process accordingly. It was also decided that the remaining demands related to this will be considered in the second phase.
They also assured that the government will take legal advice on the plea of shifting all the cases related to the co-conspirator in Beant Singh assassination case Jagtar Singh Hawara to Mohali court. It was decided that the decision on this will be taken before March 31.
The spokesperson said that in view of the inconvenience being caused to people, the Morcha agreed to postpone the proposed march by 31 of its members towards the residence of the Chief Minister.
With the Budget session starting March 3 expected to be a stormy affair where the Bhagwant Mann government will have a lot of explaining to do on the law and order scenario, it remains to be seen whether it manages to wriggle out of the corner where it finds itself at present?