Gurdaspur the beginning? Akalis' soft stand on militancy could revive terrorism in Punjab
The terrorist attack in Gurdaspur in Punjab on Monday resulting in the death of more than a dozen people may be the first such instance in the state.
Chandigarh: The terrorist attack in Gurdaspur in Punjab on Monday resulting in the death of more than a dozen people may be the first such instance in the state in the last two decades, but it is a clear indication that there may be troubled times ahead for the state if the alarming situation is not nipped in the bud at once. For Punjab, which suffered years of agony under terrorism in the eighties and nineties, it would be a great tragedy if terrorism is revived.
Punjab had remained peaceful for a long time before the latest attack. But in the recent past, there have been indications that terrorism could raise its head again. Worse, the ruling Akali Dal, which has been in power in the state for the last seven years, could be indirectly responsible for the creation of a situation which may lead to the revival of ugly days of terrorism in Punjab. The terror attack may not be the handiwork of the Khalistani terror forces that once troubled and devastated Punjab, but it could still be a nefarious design to foment further trouble in the state.
The BJP government at the Centre too is wary of the Punjab government’s stand of espousing the militants’ cause. The Centre fears that such a stand could lead to the possible revival of the Khalistan movement in Punjab which had been quelled earlier with such great difficulty. No wonder the Union Home Ministry even wrote to the Punjab government recently to take immediate action to check the threat of Khalistan movement.. When the Punjab government did not respond positively to the central government’s alert, the Centre wrote a second letter to the Akali Dal government in the state on the same lines.
The Centre felt concerned that many hardliners observed death anniversary of Khalistani militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale recently. They also observed anniversary of `Operation Bluestar.’ The Centre took exception to the fact that some Sikh groups had earlier observed the 2015 Republic Day as 'black day'. For quite some time now, the Akalis are being blamed for having a soft corner for the Khalistani terrorists. Many in Punjab, who suffered the agony of the Khalistan movement, feel that many Khalistani terrorists who were involved in brutal killings of people are being eulogised by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, which is now seeking their release.
The BJP, which happens to be the coalition partner of the Akalis in Punjab, has strongly opposed the Akalis’ demand for release of these people. But the Akalis submitted a memorandum to Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi early this year to seek the release of 13 Sikh prisoners who are jailed in other states of the country. The Akalis’ list of terrorists whose release was sought also included Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, a Khalistani terrorist who has been convicted in the assassination attempt on former Youth Congress President Maninderjit Singh Bitta in 1993. Badal government got Bhullar shifted to Amritsar jail recently from Tihar jail. The Punjab BJP president Kamal Sharma opposed the move and stated that their party was against any such move which could disrupt peace in the state.
Names of Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) terrorist Jagtar Singh Hawara and Paramjit Singh Bheora also made it to list of the Akalis for their premature release. Hawara, Bheora and Jagtar Singh Tara had escaped from the Chandigarh’s high security Burail jail in January 2004. Hawara and Bheora had been convicted in the assassination of the late Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh by a human bomb, in a first such attack in India in August 1995.
Meanwhile, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), which is known to be under the influence of the Akalis, is also considered to be a sympathiser of the convicted militants who have completed their terms. SGPC prepared its own list of 120 Sikhs who have been in various jails of the country despite having completed their prison term. The Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (HSGPC), which has been at loggerheads with the parent SGPC ever since its separation, also extended support to the Akalis demand of release of the Khalistani militants in jail.
Talking to Firstpost, Vikramjit Singh Chaudhary, Punjab Youth Congress President, condemned the Akali Dal’s alleged soft stand on the militants. "Whenever the Akalis think they are losing support among the masses, they start encouraging Panthic issues. When we opposed the anti-national film Kaum De Heere, the Akalis showed ignorance on the issue. Who will suffer if the Akalis allow the terrorist groups to grow? The Akalis have even supported installing of a memorial and photographs of militant in Darbar Sahib. The Akalis must have the interest of the state and the nation in mind before supporting former Khalistani militants," he said.
Vikramjit Singh said by supporting former militants, the Akalis are encouraging unrest in the country. "We strongly condemn any such move. The Akalis are doing this to strengthen their vote bank and the BJP is equally responsible for any consequences arising out of this."
Dr Dharambir Gandhi, AAP MP from Patiala, told Firstpost the Akalis may be accused of many wrong things, including promotion of drugs in Punjab, but they will not stoop to the level of supporting militants. "On humanitarian grounds, all those people who have completed their sentences should be released, irrespective of the caste, class or religion. But I am strongly opposed to Akali demand of releasing militants prematurely. First the accused should complete their sentence," said Gandhi.
"I am for immediate release of terrorist Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar as even the doctors have certified him mentally unsound. Everybody is equal in the eyes of the law. No discrimination should be done if the accused terrorist is a Sikh. Who defines terrorism anyway? The state terrorism in the present Akali-BJP government is frightening," Manjit Singh, former Panjab University lecturer, told Firstpost.
Pawan Jain, Haryana Congress spokesman, told Firstpost a wrong message will go in Punjab if the Akalis are soft towards the former militants. "This will further encourage militancy in Punjab," he said. "The real motive of the Badals for adopting such a Panthic agenda was to divert the attention of people from their total failure in governance and growing drug menace in the state, in which their own leaders are allegedly involved," he added.
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