Capt Amarinder’s 2015 sacrilege remark comes under fire, govt in damage control
Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s statement that his predecessor Parkash Singh Badal was not involved in the 2015 sacrilege incidents sparked off a political storm in the state on Tuesday.
Amarinder’s remark drew sharp criticism from within the Congress as well as the opposition leaders who roundly denounced him for shielding the Badals by giving them a “clean chit” before the investigations were complete. The sharpest attack came from senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa.
CM DICTATED BY EXTRANEOUS FORCES: BAJWA
Reacting to comments made by the CM in an interview to this newspaper, Bajwa expressed apprehension that Amarinder was getting dictated by some extraneous forces going by the way he had mentioned exoneration of Badal and his son, Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, on the issue of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib.
In a written statement, Bajwa said he (Amarinder) had freed the Badals of their guilt on the issue of sacrilege by taking the line that they were not personally involved in this heinous crime. “The damage he had done to the Congress in Punjab could not be undone through his well-thought-out design of first playing the exoneration card and then issuing a denial,” he said in a no-holds-barred attack on the CM.
Bajwa said the exoneration of the Badals had further reinforced the perception among the people at large in Punjab about complicity between Amarinder and Badals. He reminded the CM that he had taken oath holding “Gutka Sahib” to punish Badals for their crime of sacrilege, but had now violated the pledge.
On the CM’s observation that no timeframe can be fixed on the sacrilege probe, the Congress MP said this itself was evidence that the CM wanted to save the Akali leadership. Bajwa also said that Amarinder had already accepted defeat in the four byelections in the state by saying these were not the Congress seats. “The Congress has been taking the Union government head-on on the issue of slowdown in economy whereas Amarinder has punctured that onslaught by taking the line that there is no impact of slowdown in Punjab,” he said, asking the CM how could Punjab remain insulated from the situation at the national level.
CAPT, BADALS PLAYING A FRIENDLY GAME: MANN
Among the opposition leaders, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) president and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann hit out at Amarinder for giving a “clean chit” to Badal in the sacrilege incidents even as investigations by the SIT were underway, calling it a complete departure from the tenets of the law. “It was a well-thought-out ploy by the Captain government to offer protective cover to the Badals by arm-twisting the investigative agencies. The act has exposed the bonhomie between them. They have been playing a friendly game of protecting each other during their stints in power,” he alleged. Mann said the final verdict, which should come from the SIT, was announced by Amarinder himself, as if he was heading the probe.
Leader of opposition Harpal Singh Cheema, who also belongs to the AAP, said in a tweet that the CM’s “clean chit to his all-weather friends” smacked of a deep-rooted conspiracy.
CAPT SCUTTLED SIT PROBE: KHAIRA
Punjab Ekta Party president Sukhpal Singh Khaira said by giving a “clean chit” to Badal, Amarinder had not only scuttled the SIT probe but also trashed the findings of the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission constituted by his government.
Shiromani Akali Dal (Taksali) senior vice-president Bir Devinder Singh also unequivocally denounced the “outrageous declaration” made by Amarinder to exonerate Badal.
“The CM should better now shut down the so-called SIT probing the sacrilege case as his statement is a clear cut direction to the SIT to exonerate the Badal family. How can the SIT now go against the explicit findings of the CM to whom the SIT chief reports as the home minister,” he said, adding: “The CM’s statement has exposed the nexus of understanding between the two families without an iota of doubt”.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president Shwait Malik accused the Congress of politicising the issue for political gain.
The outpouring of criticism from within the Congress and the opposition parties saw the government in a damage-control mode. In a statement, Amarinder said he had not given a clean chit to the Badals over their alleged involvement in the sacrilege case, which was more than manifest in their hobnobbing with Dera Sacha Sauda ahead of the Bargari sacrilege and their recent desperate attempts to scuttle the probe by influencing the closure report of the CBI.
“They (the Badals) were as responsible as the men who had indulged in the actual act of desecration that had cascaded into such a grave chain of events for the state and its people,” he said in a press release.
Amarinder said the Badals, being in power at the time, were totally responsible for the events that led to the sacrilege and the subsequent police firing, as he had maintained all along. They could not shrug off their culpability on this count, which was as grave a crime as actually tearing off the pages of Guru Granth Sahib, he added.
The extent of that culpability would be ascertained by the SIT, which had been given a completely free hand by his government, said the CM, adding that it was in this context that he had also mentioned that there was no time-frame given to the SIT.
He said that unlike the CBI, which chose to file its closure report without taking the investigations to their logical conclusion, the SIT would continue its work till the guilty were brought to book.