Capt Amarinder, Sukhbir Badal spar over Ranjit panel report, 1984 anti-Sikh riots
Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Monday had a heated exchange of words over the issue of Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report on sacrilege on the second day of the monsoon session of the assembly which was to discuss bills and amendments tabled in the House.
The two sparred when the Akali MLAs, after the tabling of the report, asked Vidhan Sabha speaker Rana KP Singh to declare the status of the breach of privilege motion moved by the party before the start of the session.
But when the speaker said a response has been sent to their office, the Akali MLAs insisted for a reply. Sukhbir, while rejecting the report, dubbed it an ‘injustice commission’ and told the House that a day before tabling of the report, Baljit Singh Daduwal, who is leading the protest at Bargari, secretly met the CM at his Chandigarh residence on Sunday.
The former deputy CM claimed to have a video recording of Daduwal’s vehicle entering the CM’s residence at night. To this, the treasury benches said it was a breach of security.
Reacting sharply to it, the CM stood up in defence, denied having met Daduwal and asked the speaker to initiate an inquiry as closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras record every movement outside his residence and Sukhbir be taken to task for misleading the House.
“I won’t be able to identify Daduwal if he is standing with four people,” the CM said.
Later, Sukhbir in a press conference released a photograph in which Daduwal is standing beside the CM and cabinet minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa.
Amarinder said in 2015 he had visited the protest site at Bargari (Faridkot) and was informed about Daduwal being present there. Pointing towards Sukhbir, he said, “We know what you have done to Akal Takht head granthi Giani Gurmukh Singh.”
Gurmukh was removed as Akal Takht head granthi earlier and was reinstated on August 3. His brother Himmat Singh, a witness in the Ranjit commission report, has retracted his statement to the panel saying that he was forced to sign some papers.
On this, Amarinder told Sukhbir as “instead of raising the issue now you should debate it tomorrow (Tuesday) when the House has fixed slot for the same”. The speaker has announced a two-hour slot for debate, adding that time could be extended depending on the situation.
Earlier, Amarinder came in support of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, when SAD legislators, protesting against Gandhi’s comment during an interview in London last week that his party was not responsible for the 1984 riots, came to the well of the House.
“Our party was not behind the riots. I along with my brother Malwinder Singh, cousin Randhir Singh and then speaker (Punjab Vidhan Sabha) Ravi Inder Singh visited the worst-affected areas of Delhi soon after the riots,” the CM said.
“We saw bodies. When we arrived at a relief camp in Gurdwara Rakab Ganj, people were taking names of (HKL) Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar, Arjan Das, and Dharam Dev Shashtri for being behind the riots,” he said in the House.
Their names were expunged on the insistence of the speaker to which Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA HS Phoolka objected and came to the well of the House demanding the names be taken on record. To this, the speaker agreed.
“They were individual members of the party, not the party,” said Amarinder, denying that Rajiv Gandhi was in Delhi during the riots. “Rajiv was in (West) Bengal,” he said.
When Bikram Majithia stood up to make a point, Amarinder said he (Majithia) was an eight-year-old then. “I know you are 1976 born,” the CM said, silencing Majithia, amid a pandemonium. “You were in California then,” he said to Sukhbir.
“Then why were they given Congress tickets to contest polls and made ministers?” asked Sukhbir. To this, Amarinder said no court of law has convicted them.
Later, during the press conference, Sukhbir said if Amarinder knows so much and has spoken on the floor of the House, he should also offer to become a witness in the ongoing cases related to the 1984 riots.
He also released what he referred to as call details of Justice Ranjit Singh, minister Tript Rajinder Bajwa, AAP MLA Sukhpal Khaira, Sikh radical leaders Chanan Singh Sidhu, Baljit Singh Daduwal and Gurdeep Singh Bathinda and claimed they met a farmhouse in Zirakpur on June 15 and 17. “It shows that all of them are hand in glove. This report has no meaning,” Sukhbir said.