The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has told the Gujarat government to stop the displacement of Sikh farmers from Kutch; and Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa also has called it "anti-minority".
However, always accused of being anti-minority, the Gujarat chief minister, Narendera Modi, would be pleased to know that his Punjab counterpart, Parkash Singh Badal, and his estranged nephew, People's Party of Punjab (PPP) president Manpreet Singh Badal, do not see the migration from the angle of discrimination. Both were in the city on Saturday, at different functions.
Asked if the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had been forced on the defensive by the alleged persecution of Sikh farmers by Modi, Badal said it wasn't so. Modi, as prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will lead the alliance's Lok Sabha election campaign. "The case is in Supreme Court," said Badal. "It is not the issue of Punjabi farmers alone; there are farmers from Haryana also. We have sympathy with all."
Asked if it was a case of discrimination against minorities in Gujarat, Badal said it was rather "a legal battle forced by someone's mistake". Asked if he would not intervene until the Supreme Court order, CM said he would speak with Modi and BJP national president Rajnath Singh.
"The SAD saved the Indian farmers by opposing the property tax on agricultural land near urban areas. If that tax were imposed, farmers would have been forced to sell all their land. Similarly, we'll look into farmers' issue in Gujarat," said the Punjab CM.
'It was Shastri's idea to settle Sikhs in Kutch'
To PPP president Manpreet Singh Badal, a better strategy would be to take it as the right of every Indian to work in any part of the country.
"There was no habitation in Kutch and Pakistani soldiers used to enter it at will when the-then prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, gave the idea of settling Punjabis over in the Gujarat region to help the army during war. The hardworking farming families settled there to give logistic support to the defense network and nurtured a barren land to fertile. It's unfortunately that now they were told to leave," he said.
"Don' say it's a problem of just Punjabis in Gujarat and Biharis in Maharashtra. Every Indians has the right to stay and work in any part of the country," Manpreet added.
Order to encourage vendetta, fears Badal
The Supreme Court order barring convicted people from contesting elections might be used to settle political scores, fears the Punjab CM. "Candidates will be debarred even if not convicted yet," said Badal. "Mere registration of a case doesn't make a person guilty. We are not into dirty politics but our opponents can try to use the verdict to frame us," he said. Manpreet Badal welcomed the apex court order.