After concentrating on the farm-debt suicide crisis and also highlighting the drug-abuse problem, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal added some Panthic shades to his Punjab palette on Saturday, topping it off with the controversial slogan of ‘Raj Karega Khalsa’ in Amritsar.
While the slogan in its literal sense only means ‘The pure will rule’, it has strong radical connotations, also having been misused by Khalistanis to denote their Sikh separatism call. On what was Day 3 of his Punjab tour, Kejriwal also increased the frequency of his ‘Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal’ calls, as he travelled out of Malwa into the Majha belt, an area known to have strong religious feelings and an active set of radical Sikh groups.
Meanwhile, there were at least two significant protests against Kejriwal; both alleged that he was hurting Hindu-Sikh unity, though the sloganeers remained utterly confused as to how he was doing that. Kejriwal said the protests were “paid for by the Congress and SAD”.
The AAP has battled allegations of playing the radical card in the past too, including references to a poster with photos of Kejriwal and slain Sikh radical preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, which it has aggressively disowned.
In an interview to HT on Friday, Kejriwal had claimed that the AAP wanted to take politics beyond the questions of caste and religion. Even then, he had said that “Dalits should hear and note Captain Amarinder Singh’s statement” seeking quota for the poor among the general category. “The quota cannot be more than 50% [in total], so to adjust the new categories, who will lose the existing quota?” he had asked.
Protests ‘religious’, but utterly confused
As for the protests, the ‘Kejriwal, Go Back’ sloganeers outside the Amritsar Circuit House, where the AAP leader met some traders, were particularly confused when asked how he was “fomenting communal trouble”. Sunny Sharma, who led the 20-odd protesters identifying themselves as being from ‘Jandiala Guru Sports Club’, talked again of the AAP-disowned Kejriwal-Bhindranwale posters: “We will not tolerate glorification of terrorism.” But he added that they also had a problem with AAP leader and poet Kumar Vishwas’ alleged disrespectful comments towards “Sant Bhindranwale-ji”. Asked about their stand on Bhindranwale, he replied, “We have no stand.”
At Gurdwara Shri Janam Asthaan Baba Deep Singh in Pahuwind, the birthplace of legendary Sikh martyr Baba Deep Singh, former militant Gursewak Singh Babla interrupted Kejriwal’s address and was pushed out along with his supporters by police and AAP volunteers. Curiously, he too alleged that the Delhi CM and his party were “hurting Hindu-Sikh unity”, but said the AAP had done so by “tearing Bhindranwale’s posters” in a village nearby. “Also, Kejriwal visited the dera of the Nirankaris, killers of Sikhs,” he said, “And he shook hands with Jagdish Tytler (Congress leader, accused in the 1984 Delhi riots)… We will not let this happen… I can die and kill too. He cannot disrespect Bhindranwale, who lives in our hearts.”
Inside the gurdwara complex, as his address resumed, Kejriwal reiterated having given Rs 5 lakh each as relief to the 1984 riot victims’ families in Delhi, and alleged that the BJP’s central government had put a spanner in his efforts to punish the guilty. “If the special investigation team constituted by the AAP government had been allowed by the Centre to continue as planned, we would have punished the perpetrators by now,” he said.
Later, at Amritsar’s Maqboolpura, he said that the Akalis and Congress had got together to show him black flags. “At one place when I lowered my car window to ask a protester why he was agitated, he said that he had been paid for it, and would vote in fact for the AAP!” he claimed.
Meets drug victims’ mothers, bats for corruption-free Punjab
At almost all of his stops — from Kot Ise Khan in Moga district to Amritsar — Arvind Kejriwal repeated his commitment to a corruption-free Punjab, and also reiterated that he had done more in Delhi in one year than any government had done since Independence.
At Patti in Tarn Taran, he met women whose sons had died due to drug addiction, and thundered that he would give exemplary punishment to those selling “nasha-patta”.
He even named the Badals, and later state revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia at Amritsar’s Maqboolpura, a locality known as “Widows’ Colony” for a large part of its male population having fallen victim to drug abuse.
“We are not scared of them filing cases,” he said. Majithia has filed a defamation case against AAP leader Sanjay Singh for allegedly naming him as being behind the illicit drug trade. “This (AAP campaign) is not a wave; it’s a toofan (storm) that will blow away the Badals and the others,” he said.