Chandigarh: Hitting out at the Akali government's 'Punjabi Suba' celebrations, senior Congress leader Amarinder Singh on Tuesday said trifurcation of Punjab was "second partition for Punjabis after 1947".
He also hit out at the Akalis for shrinking the state to fulfill their own sectarian agenda. Punjab celebrated its 50th foundation day today. It was declared a separate state after Haryana and Himachal Pradesh were carved out of it on November 1, 1966. The Akali Dal and various other organisations had demanded for the creation of a Punjabi speaking state during the 1960s.
The Akali government celebrated the occasion in Amritsar with BJP President Amit Shah, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal attending the function.
The Congress leader, however, flayed the government for celebrating the occasion "which laid the foundation for the continuous decline of the state". "Rather than celebration, it should be a moment of penance and self-atonement for Akalis, who had effectively shrunk the state in such a manner as to deprive it of the rich resources and growth prospects which fell to the share of neighbouring Himachal Pradesh and Haryana in the process," he said in a statement here.
Though it was during the Congress regime when Punjab was trifurcated by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Amarinder said Punjab lost out on huge land tracts spanning 80 lakh acres.
He said the state also lost precious resources like water, hydroelectric power, forests and tourism to Himachal Pradesh, while large and well-planned industrial belts went to Haryana due to trifurcation of Punjab.
Amarinder said, "Thus, while Haryana prospered through industrial growth, particularly in Faridabad, Gurgaon and Panipat, Punjab was left struggling with a legacy of festering disputes, including the demand for Chandigarh as its exclusive capital and a commitment to provide Haryana with our precious water."
Amarinder said Punjab was yet to rid itself of the baggage it inherited from the "second partition" in 1966, adding that never in history have people of a state volunteered to reduce their land instead of expanding it. "And the very Akalis who were responsible for this shameful deed are now brazenly celebrating the occasion. No well meaning Punjabi could feel proud over what happened to Punjab 50 years ago," he charged.
The Punjab Congress chief challenged the Akalis to list out a single benefit resulting from the Punjabi Suba division.
"Recent years have witnessed a serious collapse of the state on all fronts, be it economic, agricultural, industrial or law and order," he said. Amarinder promised to restore the state to its pristine glory if Congress was voted to power in the 2017 state Assembly elections.
"From being one of India's most prosperous states, Punjab had been reduced to being the backward one," he said.
The Congress leader added that the Akalis seemed hell-bent on destroying the state completely and irrevocably and urged the people of Punjab to rise against their nefarious designs.