By announcing that the state government will hand over the probe into sacrilege cases to the CBI, the SAD leadership has managed to kill several proverbial birds with one stone.
The move, even SAD critics concede, is a smart one. The Badals have very cleverly wriggled out of the tricky situation while bringing the hardliners face to face with a central agency— a clear bid to blunt the ongoing protests.
Sources said the first set of persons who were informed about the possibility of the probe being handed over to CBI were the ‘Panthic’ leaders assembled outside the Amb Sahib Gurdwara in Mohali on Friday night. The hardliners were waiting to be allowed to enter Chandigarh and march towards the chief minister’s residence. The march was part of the nine-point programme chalked out by hardliners at Bargari on October 25 — when the ‘bhog’ of the two persons killed in police firing was organised.
The protesters were demanding the unconditional release of the two brothers arrested by police for the Bargari sacrilege. Radical leaders were told by SAD representatives that if they believed that the two brothers were innocent and they had no faith in Punjab Police, then the next option was to let the CBI find out who committed these crimes. At that point, the ‘Panthic’ leaders were taken by surprise and could not oppose the offer, said sources.
Moving quickly, and sensing the impact, the government used a stray representation given by the relatives of the two brothers to the Punjab governor, demanding a CBI probe, to make it look like as it was conceding to their request.
After the decision to hand over the cases to the CBI was taken, Punjab Police on Monday moved court, saying it no longer wanted the two brothers in judicial custody. The court ordered their release, leaving the hardliners, who were planning black flag demonstrations on roadside from Tuesday, without a solid reason to protest.
The move to shift the cases to the CBI has also come as a relief for the state police that no longer has to prove itself as competent in the eyes of the public that sees it as a highly politicised and corrupt force. The probe by police into the case had reached a dead-end. The special investigation team of Punjab Police had no corroborative evidence against the brothers.
The team realised that in the absence of any corroborative evidence, it won’t be able to recover the ‘bir’ from which the pages were allegedly torn on October 12. The SIT also found that the pages found strewn at Bargari village were not of the bir stolen on June 1 at Burj Jwahar Singh Wala. The stolen ‘bir’ had been brought into the village in 2007-08, while the strewn pages were from a ‘bir’ which had been printed after 2010. This along with the unsolved case of Guru Sar village where 157 pages of a ‘bir’ were recovered on October 20, meant that there were at least three birs with thousands of pages still in the hands of alleged perpetrators.
Police could not have moved forward in any of these cases (which could have involved Sikhs among the accused) without their intentions being constantly questioned by the hardliners besides facing the danger of dividing the force on communal lines.