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Punjab CM off to UK, Cong MLA at war with his office over Battle of Saragarhi event

Ferozepur legislator wants state guest status for 14-member military contingent from the UK, CM office denies

punjab Updated: Sep 08, 2017 10:49 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Saragarhi,Punjab CM,UK

Ironical as it may seem, a war has erupted over the first state-level event to mark Battle of Saragarhi at a time chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has left for the UK to promote his book on the battle “The 36th Sikhs in the Tirah Campaign 1897-98 – Saragarhi and the defence of the Samana forts”.

Amarinder had on August 14 announced a holiday on September 12 to mark the occasion and a state function is being held at the Saragarhi gurdwara in Ferozepur.

But Ferozepur city MLA Parminder Singh Pinki on Thursday opened a front against CM’s special principal secretary Gurkirat Singh, who looks after the defence services department in the CM office.

A group of MLAs led by Pinki met Gurkirat on Wednesday with request to accord the status of state guest to a 14-member military contingent from the UK that includes officials of the rank of major general, general to colonels and lance corporal. But Pinki says Gurkirat refused to oblige.

“This government is our party, but is being run by bureaucrats. They announce anyone as a state guest but refused to accord the status to the visiting UK delegation. The CM had told his officials before leaving for the UK to make all arrangements for the state function and September 12 has also been declared as a state holiday. But MLAs are not getting the respect of elected representatives and we will not take this humiliation any longer and want Gurkirat to be suspended,” Pinky told HT.

Gurkirat, when contacted, refused to comment saying that he does want to enter into a public debate on the issue and he would convey the matter to the higher officials in the hierarchy.

However, sources in the government said the protocol rules between nations are bilateral and reciprocal.

“If we accord their officers of a particular rank the status of state guest, officers of our army of the same status too would have to be present there. Since Ferozepur is a military station, the army too would have its own clearances owing to security reasons. Also, we are not aware if our officers too are accorded the same status in the UK during visits,” a senior government official said.

The Battle of Saragarhi was fought on 12 September 1897 between Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army and Pashtun tribesmen at the North-West Frontier Province, now in Pakistan. The CM has deputed finance minister Manpreet Badal to represent him at the event, which was organised as a private function so far.

First Published: Sep 08, 2017 10:46 IST