The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Tuesday did a U-turn on its January 5 protests scheduled "to press the Border Security Force (BSF)" to check the inflow of drugs from across the India-Pakistan border along Punjab, converting the programme into "mass awareness campaign for a drug-free nation".
The decision came at the SAD core committee meeting where party patron and chief minister Parkash Singh Badal faced a voice of dissent for "not taking the other SAD leaders into confidence" while announcing such protests.
"It will be an awareness campaign without any disturbance as I have asked (the SAD cadres) to maintain peace without disturbing or blocking any traffic on roads," Badal told reporters after the meeting. There would be no slogans against the BSF, he clarified.
"The SAD will now hold three dharnas near the international border check points to create awareness about drugs as well as focus on the need for greater vigilance along the border with Pakistan," SAD spokespersons Dr Daljeet Singh Cheema and Maheshinder Singh Grewal later said in a press note.
Voice of dissent
Inside the SAD core committee meeting, party secretary general Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa set the ball rolling on reviewing Sunday's announcement for the anti-BSF protests. Dhindsa said the party's entire leadership should have been taken into confidence on such announcements, party sources said.
SAD president Sukhbir Badal, who had announced the protests blaming the Centre for not checking the drug inflow along the border, was not present at the core committee meeting.
Dhindsa reportedly pointed out that being part of the government both at the Centre and in the state, the Akali ministers or MLAs could lead to a controversy for protesting against security agencies like the BSF and it could also be considered "unconstitutional".
Besides Dhindsa, Tota Singh and Balwinder Singh Bhunder also put forth their views in the meeting, following which it was decided not to hold any vociferous protests against the Centre.
The party press note quoted Badal as saying, "The fight against drugs is a shared responsibility of the Centre and state governments and the people of the country. The SAD is not against the Centre or the BSF. However, sometimes you even have to make your own police (BSF) aware."
Badal wondered if new techniques could be used to increase surveillance at the border to end entry of drugs from across the barbed wire fencing.
"We want to make everyone aware of the danger posed by the penetration of drugs from Afghanistan into Punjab and engage everyone in this war against drugs and give a clarion call for a "nasha-mukt Bharat," Badal said.