Unnerved by growing public unrest over police firing on Sikh protesters in Faridkot district, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) core committee went into a lengthy five-hour huddle on Friday evening.
At the core of this closed-door meeting to which, director general of police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini was also summoned, the Akali Dal think tank dissected the political fallout of the killing of two men in police firing. The leaders dwelt at length over the “inept functioning” of police as well as civil administration and called for urgent course correction. And in an attempt to blunt and deflect the public outrage, the SAD leaders zeroed in on making police and civil officers ‘scapegoats’ for the violence over the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib.
The core committee conclave chaired by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal began at 5pm and lasted around 10pm. The DGP reached the venue around 7pm and was reportedly closeted with the political masters till 8pm. During the meeting the DGP presented the police version and the report of the SIT over the sacrilege and the events that took place since the Sikh holy book was stolen from a gurdwara, it is learnt.
A section of the leaders, sources say, pointedly criticised the police functioning and questioned the decision of resorting to “unprovoked firing” at the protesters. The leaders reportedly also questioned why the protesters were not dealt with softly and the manner in which the state handled the farmers’ rail roko agitation that had derailed the functioning of the railways.
In what clearly looks like a desperate and knee-jerk reaction to send a message across that the government is acting tough with the police, the decision to suspend former Faridkot senior superintendent of police (SSP) Charanjit Sharma (now posted as SSP Moga) was taken in the core committee meeting. The police officer was made the first scapegoat on the ground that when he was posted as Faridkot SSP the holy book was stolen from a gurdwara in June and no concrete action was taken.
Sources say the role of the Faridkot administration also came under sharp scrutiny and criticism.
Besides the CM, SAD president and deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, Lok Sabha MPs Ranjit Singh Brahmpura and Prem Singh Chandumajra, Rajya Sabha MPs Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Balwinder Singh Bhunder, SGPC chief Avtar Singh, and cabinet ministers Sikander Singh Maluka and Daljit Singh Cheema were among other key leaders present.
Sources say the core committee also discussed the Akal Takht move to revoke the pardon to Sirsa dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in the blasphemy case. The leaders, sources say, heaved a sigh of relief that the decision would help assuage ruffled feelings of Sikhs, especially the Panthic vote bank of Akalis that had been jolted by the pardon given to the dera chief.