First robberies and murders and now the murderous attack on Sikh preacher Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale and his verbal duel since with Sikh radical leader Harnam Singh Dhumma have made the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre wake up to the deteriorating law-and-order situation in Punjab. HT asked state BJP president and Union minister Vijay Sampla about the party’s stand, its reason for holding a special core-committee meeting on this issue, and taking these concerns to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, later. He was worried that some Sikh groups were challenging each other openly and some Shiv Sena leaders were also escalating religious tension.
HT: Why is the BJP is so upset suddenly over the law and order situation in Punjab?
Sampla: The continuing spate of loots and murders and the escalating religious tension between various groups is the reason. Even in a peaceful area of my constituency, Hoshiapur, a college youth was murdered and the crime reoccurred in Jalandhar a day later. At our monthly core-committee meeting, senior BJP leaders raised serious questions about the law-and-order situation and decided to highlight these to the chief minister on Friday.
Do you think police have failed to deal with the situation?
I don’t. Police are doing their best but look at the YouTube videos of different Sikh and Shiv Sena groups, in which they are challenging each other openly — as if they have no fear of the law. Our concern is to deal in advance with the anti-social elements that might try to exploit this situation. What we are calling “small and ordinary incidents” can turn big in no time.
Why do you fear that the religious tension in the state is going to get dangerous?
Our fears are genuine. Earlier, it’s used to be Hindus versus Sikhs or between some other communities but now it’s Sikh versus Sikh, and the Damdami Taksal head has even claimed before camera and accepted in text messages that his men were behind the attack on Dhadrianwale. Police may have arrested 14 accused but open acceptance of the crime makes us worry. How can anybody threaten the state’s peace and get away. We are opposed equally to a few Shiv Sena leaders provoking the Sikh groups.
The CM has termed your concerns baseless and claimed Punjab to be the most peaceful state. What did he tell your delegation on Friday?
When did the BJP say Punjab wasn’t peaceful? We never said the situation had gone volatile. I don’t know what the CM told the media but he appreciated our concerns and assured us remedial action. We are sure he will act swiftly to diffuse this tension.