Voting for the Lok Sabha elections was held in Punjab on April 30, but tremors of political rivalry between the state’s ruling Akalis and opposition Congress can still be felt in Ferozepur and Muktsar. Several Congress workers have fled their homes fearing police brutality on the directions of political rivals.
A case in point is that of Malout Congress workers Captain Paramjit Singh and Jaskaran Singh, brothers, who are on the run since April 30 after they were booked in a case of attempt to murder following a fight with some local Akalis.
It began after a group of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) workers led by Surmukh Singh, Malout Truck Union vice-president Dhira Samag and Lovpreet Singh Lappy came along with some supporters and allegedly wanted to cast bogus votes; Paramjit, the Congress polling agent at the booth, objected, and a fight broke out.
The police slapped the case against Paramjit and six others. Parminder’s mother, Parwinder Kaur, said her sons had fled the house fearing arrest: “In their absence, the police now trouble my youngest son, who is a teacher and has nothing to do with politics.”
The shop of co-accused Bhupinder Singh has been lying shut, as he too is on the run, said his father Baldev Singh.
The accused include Satpal Sharma and his nephew Jagsir Kumar, who have been in hiding since April 30 too. Satpal’s wife, Ratnesh Sharma, said, “We have a small dairy in Patel Nagar that has been lying shut as the men are not around to look after the cattle.
Two of our cattle have already died, while three calves are sick.” Jagsir’s wife Raj Rani added, “The police conduct raids every day and night, and humiliate us. They threaten us with dire consequences if we fail to reveal the whereabouts of our husbands.”
Muktsar senior superintendent of police (SSP) Surjit Singh denied the charge of atrocities and rubbished the allegation that action against the Congressmen was taken under political pressure.
“We have set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the matter,” he noted. The Cong ress Lok Sabha candidate from Ferozepur, Sunil Kumar Jakhar, who is at present an MLA from Abohar and the leader of opposition in the assembly, has already met the state’s director general of police (DGP) and Election Commission officials to seek action over Akali highhandedness.
“SAD workers on polling day were trying to create fear psychosis among the people to ensure that they stayed away from the booths,” he said.
In another case, Jasbir Kaur and her son Harinder Pal Singh Har ry have been away from their house in Chakk Janisar village in Jalalabad since April 30, fearing arrest after the police booked Jasbir’s husband, Congress worker Harcharan Singh, for attempt to murder. As Harcharan remains on the run, the house is locked.
This case also relates to voting day, when local Akali leader Devinder Babbal, a for mer chairman of the Jalalab a d municipal committee, came along with his supporters to cast vote and sough to jump the queue. As Harry objected, it led to a scuffle. The case against Congressmen followed.
Babbal told HT that he had indeed tried to vote out of turn as he was “in a hurry” but had “committed no offence”. He gave no clear answer when asked to name the weapon by which he was allegedly attacked.
Jalalabad police station house officer (SHO) Harinder Si ngh Chameli denied that the police had acted on the behest of the Akalis, but added: “Everyone knows that in Chakk Janisar 90% of the people vote for the Akalis. Harcharan should not have picked a fight with Babbal.”