With realpolitik hijacking the issue of release of militants raised by fasting militant-turned-activist Gurbaksh Singh, the family of slain former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh also seems to be doing a flip-flop on the issue.
Beant’s grandson, Ludhiana MP Ravneet Bittu, who on Wednesday had threatened to undertake a fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar if any of the terrorists whose release had been sought by different quarters was allowed to walk free “under blackmail”, on Thursday said he had no objection to their release if the jailed militants express “regret and guilt” at their actions.
“I will oppose their release if they try to secure it through blackmail and by putting pressure on the government. Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is raking it to deflect attention from the raging issue of drugs and trying to armtwist ally BJP. If the militants are sorry for their past deeds and vow not to flare up terrorism again in the state, our family has no objection to their release,” Bittu, who had won the Ludhiana seat by garnering a substantial chunk of Hindu votes, told HT.
He also demanded relief for all families affected by terrorism on his Facebook page on Thursday. It reads, “All those convicted of terrorism and its activities have the right under the Constitution to get a reprieve or get released by following due process of law vested in judiciary, executive and legislative institutions of the country, and not by blackmail. How will the unity and integrity of the nation remain intact if the constitutionally elected governments themselves start pleading for the release of anti-national elements? Everyone has the right to uphold his point of view and even lobby for it legitimately. However, Punjab cannot be pushed into inferno of communal tension and the brotherhood cannot be destroyed by a few fringe elements.”
He denied any rift in the family on the issue, saying the stand of Beant’s other grandson, Congress MLA Gurkirat Singh Kotli was also the same. Gurkirat had in March 2012 supported clemency for Balwant Singh Rajoana, a Babbar Khalsa International terrorist, facing death sentence for the former chief minister’s assassination. He had said the family’s main concern was that the hard-earned peace in Punjab should not be disturbed.
Gurkirat, when contacted, said both their stands, then and now, are for the sake of Punjab’s peace. “If those who have had a good conduct in jail and want to lead a peaceful life after completing their jail terms are released, we have no objection. But there are some who tried jailbreaks and are still in touch with militant outfits abroad. We cannot let the peace of Punjab be disturbed by allowing the release of such hardened militants. The Constitution of our country and its laws give them the right to seek release and it should be done under the laid-down provisions,” he said. Three of the militants in Gurbaksh’s list have been convicted in the assassination of Beant Singh.
Beant Singh killers on list
Of the 13 militants whose release Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal is seeking, five are in jail after conviction in the 1995 assassination of Beant Singh. While Gurbaksh Singh is seeking release of Lakhwinder Singh, Shamsher Singh and Gurmeet Singh who are serving life sentence in Burail Jail, the CM has also sought the release of Jagtar Singh Hawara and Paramjeet Singh Bheora, who are lodged in Tihar jail. Badal had earlier lobbied with the home ministry as well as then President Pratibha Patil for granting clemency to Balwant Singh Rajoana, a death row convict in the case. While Beant family’s stand has been inconsistent, opposition Congress has vehemently opposed Badal’s move saying the CM owed an explanation to the people of Punjab for showing “huge disrespect” to the sentiments of those who lost their family members to terrorism in Punjab.