A day after an unemployed man hurled a shoe at Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal during a function at Issru village in Khanna near here, sparks flew across the political spectrum on Saturday, particularly as the police claimed the man was a "convener" of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and part of a "conspiracy". There was a heated "warning" from the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) even as the AAP denied him being an office-bearer.
The incident occurred at an Independence Day function held to commemorate the martyrdom of Master Karnail Singh Issru, the first Punjabi martyr of the Goa liberation movement, and Bhupinder Singh Issru, who had sacrificed his life for peasantry's cause. The shoe missed its target, landing 40 feet away from the stage, and the police arrested the man, Bikram, 36, a native of Dhanaula in Barnala. Even as the CM later said he would ask police not to take action, on Saturday the man was sent in judicial custody despite Congress leader Sukhpal Khaira making noises in his support.
It was just as Badal had started addressing the gathering that Bikram raised slogans of 'Inquilab Zindabad' and took off his shoe, hurling it at the CM. Later, talking to the media, Bikram said he only wanted to mark his protest against the corrupt system. "I am an inqualabi (revolutionary), and do not practise any religion, nor do I believe in caste," Bikram, who said he goes by one name, added. "I do not belong to any political party. I am just a common Punjabi… As an individual, I respect Parkash Singh Badal, but I had come to mark my protest against the system."
Police later claimed Bikram had "admitted" that he is an AAP convener at Dhanaula. Ludhiana range deputy inspector general of police (DIG) Gurinder Singh Dhillon said, "Four persons hatched the conspiracy to throw a shoe at the CM." Dhillon said Bikram, father of two, worked at a cloth shop before quitting the job and becoming convener of AAP.
But AAP MP Bhagwant Mann said Bikram was not a convener as the party had dissolved all committees on May 16. "He could be supporter of the AAP, but is not a convener," Mann said, also condemning the act.
From the Congress, while MP Capt Amarinder Singh and state unit chief Partap Singh Bajwa condemned the shoe-hurling, spokesperson Khaira backed Bikram and even sought to bail him out.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued to the media, the SAD "warned" the AAP from attempts to "disturb peace" in Punjab. SAD general secretary Maheshinder Singh Grewal said that while democratic means of protests were always welcome, "no civilised society could allow such vulgar attempts to disturb law and order".
WHAT COPS SAY
The police fleshed out their claims in a press statement on Saturday. DIG Dhillon said Bikram, and Mahinderpal Singh of Dangarh village in Dhanaula, Barnala, another AAP activist, "had planned to carry out such an act in the vicinity of the CM as and when they got any opportunity". After learning that Badal would be present at the yearly function at Issru on August 15, they allegedly "roped in two other activists of the AAP". "The four persons who had conspired to execute this act, and planned to do similar acts in future as well, have been arrested and detained under preventive sections of the law," the statement read.
These four were named as Bikram Kumar alias Babbi of Dhanaula, Barnala, "convenor of the Dhanaula committee of the Aam Adami Party (AAP)", besides Mahinderpal Singh of village Dangarh; Harvinder Singh alias Hindi [of] Kothe Gobindpur; and Hardeep Singh [of] Chhana; all three villages falling in Dhanaula. The DIG also claimed that on August 14 Bikram "went for a recce of the spot at Issru on a motorcycle with one Gagan Singh of Barnala town… He did not tell Gagan Singh about his plans, which is why police have not taken any action against [Gagan]."
The DIG further stated that Bikram, in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, had collected `1.25 lakh as donation for AAP. "He wanted to collect more funds and was also keen on getting position in the party. He wanted to get publicity and mileage in the print, electronic and social media (Whatsapp, Facebook etc.) and had planned to highlight the incident," the DIG's statement read.
The alleged plan was that Bikram would hurl the shoe and a video of the incident would be made by Mahinderpal with a mobile phone. "This video was to be uploaded over social networking sites for maximum publicity. Before execution of the conspiracy, a short video was made by [Bikram]… justifying the acts he was about to commit," it claimed further. Both videos have been found on the phone, he added.
The DIG also gave details of the car used by the "conspirators", the modus operandi, and also said they were "examining" a complaint by a cop with whom Bikram had "grappled" when he was being taken into custody.