A controversy has erupted over the Punjab government not according state honours to a two-time former minister and senior Congress leader Jasjit Singh Randawa at his funeral in Chandigarh on Saturday.
None of the deputy commissioners (DCs) or senior superintendents of police (SSPs) from Patiala and SAS Nagar (Mohali) was present at the cremation. Randhawa had represented Ghanaur, a part of Patiala district, in the assembly, while he resided in Mohali. No other official reached the crematorium either, and the contention was that the protocol did not allow such honour in the union territory of Chandigarh. However, it was apparently overlooked that Chandigarh is also the capital of Punjab.
The Punjab police expressly said the state government had asked them not to accord the ceremonial salute by lowering their weapons in honour of Randhawa, who died battling an illness in Sri Lanka recently.
Randhawa's family had brought the matter to the notice of the additional director general of police (ADGP), police administration, MK Tiwari, who had asked for a written request, which they had submitted. It had been sought despite the state administration usually taking suo motu notice in such matters.
When asked about it, inspector general of police (IGP), headquarters, Aprit Shukla informed: "I checked with the protocol department of the state government, which declined such an honour citing that Chandigarh is a UT."
But, on similar occasions, state honours have been accorded to several retired police officers at the same cremation ground, most recently to the father of Mohali SSP Gurpreet Singh Bhullar. The IGP said he could not comment on previous instances: "It's better to check with the director of protocol."
Chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal, when contacted, said, "As I was out of the state for three days, I was not aware of the demise of the former cabinet minister." He added that he would look into "every aspect and issue involved in this case".
But the Congress was unhappy. "It's horrendously shocking that the government has failed to accord departing state honours to a two-time cabinet minister. More shocking is the reason they cited, that Chandigarh is a UT. They have forgotten that Chandigarh is the capital of Punjab and Randhawa was a former minister of the Punjab government," said Congress leader and former deputy speaker of the assembly, Bir Devinder.
He demanded action against the protocol department, and the DCs and SSPs of Patiala and Mohali. "The despicable lapses on the part of the state government deserve to be treated with derision," he added, asking chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to issue "a categorical statement apologising to the grieving family".
The family remained incommunicado, while Randhawa's staff confirmed that they had indeed sent a request letter for the honours.