Uproar in House over grilling of pilgrims back from Kartarpur
Opposition parties demand action against Gurdaspur SSP and local SHO; jail minister says measure taken on orders of IB
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Thursday created a ruckus in the Punjab assembly over the Gurdaspur police questioning some pilgrims returning from Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, in Pakistan.
The MLAs of the two opposition parties raised the issue during the zero hour on the fifth day of the ongoing budget session, citing a report in a section of media, and demanded action against the Gurdaspur senior superintendent of police (SSP) and the local state house officer (SHO) before storming the well of the House and staging separate walkouts. Jails minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa blamed the Centre, stating that the questioning was done on orders of the Intelligence Bureau (IB).
Randhawa also read out a letter dated February 17 received by the police from the IB in this regard. But AAP and SAD members were not satisfied with the minister’s response and demanded a statement from chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh on the matter. The AAP also reiterated its demand for the removal of director general of police (DGP) Dinkar Gupta, terming his remarks on the corridor as the trigger for the scrutiny of pilgrims.
SAD legislature party leader Sharanjit Singh Dhillon was the first to raise the issue.
“Pilgrims returning from Kartarpur are being questioned in police stations and viewed with distrust. The chief minister, MLAs and others also went to Kartarpur. Are we all terrorists?” asked the SAD MLA, seeking an assurance that pilgrims would not be harassed. In response, Randhawa said he had phoned the Gurdaspur SSP who informed him that a deputy inspector general of IB had sent a letter to them for information on some persons.
AAP member Kultar Singh Sandhwan said harassment of pilgrims had started after DGP Dinkar Gupta’s controversial remarks. His apology was not enough and he should be removed immediately, he added. Lok Insaaf Party MLA Balwinder Singh Bains also backed the demand for action against the state police chief.
Speaker Rana KP Singh requested the government to find out details, calling it a “serious issue”. However, the opposition members continued with their protest. SAD legislator Bikram Singh Majithia sought suspension of the Gurdaspur SSP and the local SHO. “The state government opposed the Centre on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and other things. What made it implement this one?” he asked the Akali MLAs while leading into the well of the House.
LOP CHEEMA, JAILS MINISTER SPAR
Randhawa said the state government would take action against the police officials if they were found to be at fault. Leader of opposition Harpal Singh Cheema (AAP) also backed the demand for immediate action against the SSP and SHO. “The CM says one thing, but his police do something else. This is not Randhawa‘s department. He is just protecting the SHO,” he said, pressing for a statement from the CM.
When Randhawa objected to his remarks, Cheema retorted: “Are you the home minister?”
Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu said law and order was a state subject and the chief minister should ask for the (IB) letter and check it. “The DGP should also be asked for an explanation and give his response in writing. A House committee can be set up to look into the matter,” he said, linking the harassment of devotees with the DGP’s statement.
Randhawa blamed the BJP-led central government and its mindset, citing the incidents of violence in northeast Delhi. The AAP members urged him to speak on the questioning of devotees. AAP MLA Sarvjit Kaur Manuke said (Akali MP) Harsimrat Kaur Badal was a minister at the Centre she should take up the issue with the Union government. The AAP members then rushed to well of the House, raising slogans, and then staged a symbolic walkout.