An embarrassed Aam Aadmi Party expelled on Monday two men who brutally attacked Punjabi Dalit activist and singer Bant Singh Jhabbar, following widespread uproar over the duo joining the fledging party.
The AAP – which has surged in popularity in the border state ahead of assembly polls early next year – said the membership of the two men were suspended after complaints against them.
In January 2006, Bant Singh lost both his arms and a leg in a murderous assault by landlords in his native village of Jhabbar. The assault was said to have been a punishment for Bant’s fight for justice for his minor daughter who was gangraped.
One of his attackers Navdeep Singh, alias Appi, and his aide, joined the AAP at a Sunday event, which also saw Bant Singh pledge his support to the party. Both Navdeep and his aide – along with four others -- were convicted for the crime but have been out on bail since 2010.
The firebrand poet Bant Singh is a former CPI (ML) leader who has been singing ballads and songs for the past 40 years. His induction is supposed to help the AAP with Punjab’s Dalit community, which comprises a third of the state’s population.
On Sunday, Navdeep had joined the party in the presence of Sanjay Singh and claimed that the party’s local candidate Nazar Singh Manshahia had promised to strike a compromise with Bant to withdraw the case.
“Nazar Manshahia had promised that once our group and Bant Singh joins AAP, the ongoing case would be withdrawn after reaching a compromise. Bant was also convinced with the proposal,” Navdeep said. He further said he was unaware of the expulsion.
The AAP’s Bathinda zone in-charge Dr Vijay Singla said the party was not aware about the entire history of Bant’s case and the expulsion has come after senior leaders were apprised about the facts.
However Nazar Manshahiya contradicted this. “I was aware of the case history but Bant and Navdeep approached us. The party high command did not find it suitable and expelled the members.”
Manshahiya denied having promised either side a compromise. “Bant had no issues of his assaulters joining the party. Moreover his assaulter Navdeep Singh enjoys a good voter base in his area which impressed us.”