Political parties criticise AAP leader's support for Sikh 'referendum'; Punjab CM seeks clarification from Arvind Kejriwal

Chandigarh: Political parties in Punjab, including the ruling Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) , on Saturday strongly criticised Aam Aadmi Party senior leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira for reportedly supporting a Sikh "referendum" campaign for 2020.

File image of Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh. AFP

File image of Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh. AFP.

Congress leaders and legislators lashed out at Khaira, the leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly, for his "open and blatant support" to the campaign aimed at seceding Punjab from India and again dividing the country along religious lines.

Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh condemned Khaira for "backing secessionism" by supporting the campaign, propounded by Sikh radicals for a separate Sikh homeland.

On Friday, Khaira reportedly said: "I support the Sikh referendum 2020 movement as Sikhs have the right to demand justice against atrocities suffered by them."

In a statement, Singh said Khaira seemed to be indulging in political antics without any sense of the history of Punjab or any realisation of the possible consequences of his statement.

Other Congress leaders, including Ramanjit Singh Sikki, Harminder Singh Gill and Hardev Singh Ladi, in a joint statement sought clarification from AAP chief and Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal, asking him whether he subscribed to Khaira's stand. "You must sack Khaira from the party, and if you do not do that, it will amount to your consent and concurrence to the anti-national designs of Khaira," they said.

Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia called Khaira's statement "proof of the divisive politics played by AAP". Amid the barrage of criticisms, Khaira on Satuday responded to the Punjab chief minister in a tweet: "I am surprised a leader of your level is tweeting against me without checking his facts, I am not a votary of 2020, but I don't hesitate to point out a consistent policy of discrimination against Sikhs by central governments! Be it attack on Darbar Sahib, genocide of Sikhs leading to 2020."

File image of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Getty Images.

File image of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Getty Images.

But BJP leader Manoranjan Kalia said Khaira "double speaks" by simultaneously supporting the referendum as well as owing allegiance to the Constitution and supporting a united India. Kalia said it was an "open secret" that the campaign is a brainchild of Sikhs For Justice, a secessionist organisation headquartered in Canada. "Khaira declaring support for referendum 2020 establishes his links with secessionists supporting Khalistan," the former minister said.

In his statement, the Punjab chief minister said Khaira seemed to be completely unmindful of what the state had been through and the dangers of his ill-thought statement. He dismissed as hypocrisy Khaira's claim that he stood for India's unity while supporting the campaign, terming it a classic case of "running with the hares and hunting with the hounds".

Singh also demanded to know whether Khaira's statement had the backing of the AAP central leadership. This was important considering Kejriwal himself was hobnobbing with pro-Khalistanis when he was campaigning in Punjab in the run-up to the Assembly elections last year, he alleged.

The AAP leadership should clarify their stand on the sensitive issue, which has the potential to plunge Punjab back into the dark days of terrorism, the chief minister said.

Congress leaders said those fuelling secession through the referendum were sitting comfortably thousands of miles away in the West while trying to set Punjab on fire and push the youth towards disaster by using people like Khaira.

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Updated Date: Jun 16, 2018 19:18:20 IST

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