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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

Jakhar says Congress not harping on Panthic agenda, but exposing Badals

In an interview to Sukhdeep Kaur on Monday, Jakhar said exposing Akalis does not dent secular credentials of the Congress nor is state’s communal harmony under threat.

punjab Updated: Sep 11, 2018 10:03 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar.
Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar. (HT File Photo)

The report of Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission on sacrilege and police firing incidents of October 2015 has indicted former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. But Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar is targeting Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal for the firing at Behbal Kalan citing “circumstantial evidence”. In an interview to Sukhdeep Kaur on Monday, Jakhar said exposing Akalis does not dent secular credentials of the Congress nor is state’s communal harmony under threat. Excerpts:

The panel blamed some cops for Behbal Kalan firing. But you are accusing Sukhbir. Have you rejected its report?

I have not rejected the report. The commission did what was its mandate. I am only going beyond it. Is it possible that the deputy CM, home minister and head of the party in power was unaware of the happenings, irrespective of where in the world he was at that time? There is enough circumstantial evidence against Sukhbir. The report says DSP Harjinder Singh posted at Jalalabad, Sukhbir’s assembly segment, was deputed with force at Behbal Kalan on the day of firing. Why? Who allowed police to open fire 3 hours after Kotkapura? The report says the police allowed dera followers to even target rail traffic for the release of ‘MSG-2 The Messenger’ a few days back. Whose orders were those? We want the special investigation team (SIT) to probe all this.

The CM has vowed to go after Badal, but you are gunning for the son. Are you two on the same page?

Badal has taken the blame onto himself to save his son. Sukhbir is doing what no son would do. He is using his father as a shield. (Former DGP Sumedh Singh) Saini has said he spoke to Badal at 2am before Kotkapura firing. But Badal says he did not order the firing. Was the DGP out of control? Or someone else allowed him to fire? The Akal Takht pardon to dera chief was issued on September 24, a day before the release of his movie ‘MSG-2 The Messenger’ on Friday. The movie’s first week collections were ₹104 crore. Is the timing not clinching evidence, even if the witness flip-flopped? Then SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar has said he warned Sukhbir against the pardon. But Sukhbir was power-drunk.

Why then was Sukhbir not attacked by the Congress during the House debate?

I was not part of the debate. It was restricted to findings of the commission. I held a press conference a day later and blamed Sukhbir for Behbal Kalan and pardon to dera chief. How can he escape blame when Punjab burned?

But why is secular Congress harping on Panthic agenda? Your central leaders have opposed the blasphemy law.

Yes, some reservations have been expressed by central leaders on the blasphemy law. But no one from the party high command or party’s state unit has shown any resentment on the sacrilege report or asked us not to proceed on the issue. Otherwise, we would have explained our position to the high command. We are not harping on the Panthic agenda but exposing Badals’ Panthic face. They projected themselves as custodians of the Sikh faith. But they did not even spare their own faith.

Akalis say communal harmony of Punjab is under threat and Congress is deflecting attention from governance issues.

There is no threat to Punjab’s communal harmony. The Akalis are trying to vilify Hindus by saying they are scared. Even their own ally, BJP, wants the culprits of sacrilege and police firing to be nailed. We are exposing misgovernance of the Akalis.

But is law and order not a concern when an internal war is raging within Punjab Police? Why has anti-drug STF chief Harpreet Singh Sidhu been shunted out?

It is the chief minister’s prerogative to appoint people. Sidhu was handpicked for the job by the CM. He (Harpreet Singh Sidhu) could even have been appointed to head the SIT to probe sacrilege, police firing incidents.