A grenade attack on a religious congregation in Amritsar's Nirankari Bhawan on Sunday — which left three people dead and many injured — has drawn strong political reactions. While the Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh vowed that he will not let the "forces of terror" destroy the hard-earned peace in the state, the Opposition spearheaded by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) cornered him for "playing with fire".
SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal tweeted: "Peace and communal harmony in danger in Punjab under Congress rule. ...Cong govt should not play with fire and act to ensure Punjab does not slip back into vortex of violence." Badal cited that this was not the first instance of violence in the state as it followed the Maqsudan blast and Army Chief Bipin Rawat's warning to be alert of attempts to revive insurgency in the state.
While politicians and leaders reacted to Sunday's attack, AAP leader in Punjab HS Phoolka caused a stir with his statement accusing Army Chief Bipin Rawat of being "behind the attack".
#NewsAlert -- The Army Chief came to Punjab and gave a statement on terror attack, it is possible that he might be behind the attack to prove his statement right: Punjab MLA @hsphoolka | #AmritsarBlast pic.twitter.com/RoloBwHlaT
— News18 (@CNNnews18) November 18, 2018
However, later on Sunday, Phoolka apologised for his statement and expressed "regret". He tweeted that his statement was being "blown out of proportion."
Please see whole https://t.co/LTVCup8BTQ inadvertent statement made standing on road is being blown out of proportion.I have stated that history is evidence of that fact that governments in the past have caused violence to further their interest...1/2https://t.co/tU8xGYVvFZ — H S Phoolka (@hsphoolka) November 18, 2018
The chief minister appealed to the people of Punjab to maintain peace in wake of the blast and urged them not to panic and to remain calm. While making an appeal to the people "not to panic and remain calm," the chief minister tweeted: "We will not let the forces of terror destroy our hard-earned peace. I appeal to the people of Punjab to maintain peace in the wake of Amritsar bomb blast. I urge them not to panic and to remain calm." He also announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the kin of the victims and free treatment for the injured. "Have asked the district administration to extend all help," Singh tweeted.
Strongly condemn the bomb blast at Nirankari Bhawan in Amritsar. Have asked Home Secy and @PunjabPoliceInd DGP, DGP Intelligence and DGP Law & Order to rush to the spot to investigate.
— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) November 18, 2018
I appeal to the people of Punjab to maintain peace in wake of Amritsar bomb blast. I urge them not to panic and to remain calm. We will not let the forces of terror destroy our hard earned peace. — Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) November 18, 2018
Meanwhile, SAD leader and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal also lashed out at the Punjab government for failing to stop repeated violence in the state. “First bombs and now grenade attack in Amritsar, what next Raja saab?” she asked, referring to Singh. “When will you and your ministers stop encouraging elements bent on disturbing hard won peace? Stop playing politics and get down to serious governance. Punjabis do not want to go back into dark era.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh expressed his condolences for the blast victims saying that he was "deeply anguished by the act of violence". He said that he spoke to the Amarinder Singh to review the situation in the state and assured "strongest possible action against the perpetrators of the crime".
Deeply anguished by the death of innocent people in a grenade attack at Amritsar in Punjab today. It is a reprehensible act of violence. My condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones in this attack and prayers for speedy recovery of the injured. 1/2 — राजनाथ सिंह (@rajnathsingh) November 18, 2018
Spoke to the Chief Minister of Punjab, @capt_amarinder ji who has apprised me of the situation in the wake of grenade attack in Amritsar. Strongest possible action will be taken against the perpetrators of this crime. 2/2 — राजनाथ सिंह (@rajnathsingh) November 18, 2018
Union minister Arun Jaitley also reiterated that perpetrators of the act won't be spared by the government.
Grenade attack & killing of innocent people at Nirankari Satsang Bhawan in Rajasansi, Amritsar is highly condemnable. My thoughts are with the bereaved families, prayers for speedy recovery of those injured. Perpetrators of this heinous act will not be spared. — Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) November 18, 2018
Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jhakar called the incident an "attempt to disturb peace in Punjab" and said that "all the security agencies should stay alert and coordinate with each other to maintain peace (in the state)". Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala urged the people of Punjab to "stay calm and maintain peace" and said that "forces of terror shall never succeed in their nefarious designs".
Strongly condemn the blast in Nirankari Bhawan in Amritsar. Deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives. Urge and appeal, the people to stay calm and maintain peace. Forces of terror shall never succeed in their nefarious designs. — Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) November 18, 2018
Earlier, Punjab police chief Suresh Arora had said that the incident "appears to have a terror angle" and that the police will investigate it as a terrorist act. “It (this incident) appears to have a terror angle because it is against a group (of people) and not against any individual. There is no reason to throw a hand grenade on a group of people, so we will take it as a terrorist act. Till proven otherwise, prima facie we will take it like that,” Arora had said.
Punjab was on alert following an intelligence input claiming that a group of six to seven Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists were reportedly in the state, possibly in the Ferozepur area. The state was put on alert after four persons snatched an SUV from its driver at gunpoint near Madhopur in Pathankot district last week.
Updated Date: Nov 19, 2018 12:27 PM