On the 28th anniversary of Operation Bluestar, Akal Takht honoured Balwant Singh Rajoana — convicted for the assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh – with the title of “zinda shaheed”.
On behalf of Rajoana, his sister Kiranpreet Kaur received the title comprising a silver plaque, a shawl and a siropa from the Akal Takht head on Wednesday.
A controversial figure, Rajoana evokes strong sentiments in Punjab — more so because he had refused to put up a defence for his crime or seek clemency for his death sentence, which was to be carried out on March 31.
But on March 28, following pressure from the Punjab government, the Centre stayed his death sentence.
Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal met President Pratibha Patil to seek clemency — at the behest of Akal Takht — for which the state government was later pulled up by the Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, SAD leaders were conspicuous by their absence at the ceremony to honour Rajoana and lay the symbolic foundation stone for the Bluestar memorial, even though the ruling party had favoured its construction.
Even the alliance partner BJP, in response to Congress chief Amarinder Singh’s poser, said people of the state want peace and tranquility and it is better to keep that chapter closed.
Regarding the felicitation for Rajoana, BJP legislator and spokesperson Manoranjan Kalia evaded a direct reply.
The Sikh clergy had conferred the title on Rajoana in March, after the Chandigarh court fixed the date of his execution. Initially Rajoana had rejected the title, but later relented after Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh made it clear that the decision will not be withdrawn.
The decision to build a memorial for those killed in 1984 was taken by the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee in 2002, but it was given shape last year following pressure from radical groups.