The BJP may have rejected Punjab chief minister and ally Shiromani Akali Dal’s top leader Parkash Singh Badal’s demand that jailed Sikh militants who have “served their sentence” be released, but an affiliate of the Sangh Parivar working among Sikhs has been echoing Badal’s demand.
Days back, top leaders of the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, seen as an organisation allied with the RSS, submitted a list of 78 names to union home minister Rajnath Singh, requesting their release.
They also said that Sikhs who were blacklisted and thus disallowed from entering India for their support to Khalistan abroad wanted permission to come back. The delegation requested the government to allow them back and stand trial if there were pending cases against them.
The Sikh Sangat was set up in 1986 with the stated purpose to strengthen the links between Sikhs and the larger society in times of militancy. Former RSS chief Rajendra Singh (Rajju Bhaiyya) had taken part in its first convention. Later conventions have seen former Sangh chief KS Sudarshan and even BJP stalwart LK Advani take part. The organisation is deeply critical of Nehruvian secularism.
“Some people who are in jails for Punjab militancy are between 65 and 85 and some have been in jail for over 20 years. Punjab militancy is anyway a thing of the past,” a Sikh Sangat release prepared after the meeting said. “In such circumstances, these Sikhs should be freed.”
This demand is in line with Badal’s demand and contrary to the stated position of BJP chief Amit Shah. The Badals have been demanding that those militants “who have served their jail terms” be set free. Rajnath hasn’t taken a clear line on the issue yet, saying he will take Badal in the loop when he takes a call.
A Sikh Sangat leader, however, claimed that while the SAD’s demand was “political”, the organisation was more interested in the social and religious aspects. “There were people who went astray during militancy days but want to return to the mainstream. We should give those who have served their jail terms a chance,” the leader said, on condition of anonymity.
When contacted, the RSS refused to comment on the issue.