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Controversies, findings and implications of Ranjit Singh commission report

The report was tabled in the Punjab assembly on Monday, with its supplementary report pointing a finger at then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal for police action against anti-sacrilege protesters.

punjab Updated: Aug 28, 2018 09:44 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Ranjit Singh commission report,Punjab,Parkash Singh Badal
(HT File )

The one-man Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission was set up in 2017 to probe all sacrilege incidents starting from theft of ’bir’ from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala, its desecration at Bargari followed by sacrilege incidents in Gurusar and Mallke villages and the police firing at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura on Sikh protesters in 2015. The report was tabled in the Punjab assembly on Monday, with its supplementary report pointing a finger at then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal for police action against anti-sacrilege protesters. Hindustan Times explains the key findings and political implications of the report.

Why Commission set up?

The commission was set up in April last year by the Captain Amarinder Singh government after it assumed office in March. The Congress had dismissed the report of the Zora Singh Commission set up by previous SAD-BJP government to probe sacrilege incidents as “inconclusive”.

Terms of its reference

To conduct an inquiry into cases of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib and all other religious texts that took place in Punjab since October 2015. The panel was to probe facts, chronology of events, role played by various persons, reasons for police firing on protesters at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan and role of police officers.

Panel’s key findings

The panel concluded that Akal Takht pardon to Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim in a blasphemy case was secured by former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal and it played the role of a catalyst in sacrilege incidents. Badal was kept in the loop on police action at Kotkapura. There were enough indications of involvement of dera men in sacrilege incidents but the home department and police “lacked seriousness” to probe.

Why controversy?

The panel landed into controversy as Badal and Sukhbir refused to appear before it despite being summoned. The panel’s key findings appeared in newspapers after the report was submitted to the CM. Later, the first part of the report was leaked before it could be tabled in the House.

Why Akalis trashed report?

The Akalis are accusing Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) of being a “mouthpiece” of CM Captain Amarinder Singh. They say the report is based on secret sources and “unsubstantiated” evidence and witnesses were coerced to give statements, some of whom have retracted from their statements. The Akalis are also accusing the panel and Congress leaders, including the CM, of hobnobbing with Sikh radicals to defame the SAD and the Akal Takht.

Political implications

The report can change the poll narrative in Punjab ahead of next month’s panchayat and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It has created a credibility crisis for the SAD and can dent its Panthic appeal and vote bank. It can help the Congress to beat the perception of going soft on the Badals, which it can also use to silence the Aam Aadmi Party. The Congress can counter the SAD propaganda on Operation Bluestar and 1984 riots and position itself as more Panthic than the Akalis

Legal consequences

Acting on the report, the Amarinder government has ordered registration of FIRs against four police officials and show-cause notices have been served on 32 other officials, including former director general of police Sumedh Singh Saini. The report is likely to trigger full-blown political blame game between the Congress and Akalis. The Badals can also challenge it in the court as a bid to defame them with “questionable” evidence.

First Published: Aug 28, 2018 09:43 IST