With leaders of Haryana opposition party Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) announcing to restart construction of the controversial Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal on February 23 on the state’s border with Punjab, and at least two outfits declaring to confront them if they enter Punjab, the administrations on both sides are on their toes.
The focus is squarely on Punjab’s Kapuri village bordering Haryana — the village where the foundation of the canal was laid — and the state government has decided to seal the border with Haryana from February 21 onwards. Punjab has also sought 20 companies of reserve forces from the central government, apart from deputing its own reserve battalions in Patiala, SAS Nagal and Sangrur to keep a tab. Security specifically in Kapuri and nearby areas has already been heightened.
The INLD’s plan is to converge at the Ambala vegetable market, from where the cadres will move to the Punjab border to dig the canal. Radical organisations Dal Khalsa and All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) have announced to gather at Kapuri to challenge the INLD workers, to stop them from any type of construction in Punjab.
- At Kapuri, villagers said the latest round of confrontation is just another bout of political upmanship, and nothing will happen. The village was recently in focus as the Punjab government, after passing a bill in the assembly, had “returned” the SYL land to farmers. And the government also held a function here to give farmers papers of revenue records, which now show the farmers as owners of the land.
- “It’s another political gimmick. We are witnessing such events for the last 40 years. If the INLD was so serious, why had it not announced its agitation when elections were on? As the Punjab elections were completed, Abhay Chahutala has started statements of launching a movement. It’s just put Haryana’s BJP government on the back foot. Everyone knows they won’t be able to enter Punjab,” said Jagroop Singh, a Kapuri resident.
Patiala deputy commissioner Ramvir Singh has asked the police to ensure the sealing of the border from February 21 night onwards. Sources said the DC of Amabla had written to the DC of Patiala, asking him to increase vigil and seal the border.
Ramvir said, “No one will be allowed to breach peace. Higher officials are keeping a close eye, and we are coordinating with the DC of Ambala to check any untoward situation. The borders will be sealed and no one will be allowed to enter Punjab near the SYL canal site.”
The Supreme Court, which has ordered status quo on SYL canal, has fixed February 22 as next date of hearing of the SYL case. Punjab had urged that the case be heard after the March 11 results of the assembly elections, but the court rejected that plea. Haryana has filed the case for completion of construction of the canal which was started in April 1982, but work was stopped after outrage in Punjab over sharing of water from the Ravi and Beas. All principal political parties of Punjab have opposed the canal.