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Punjab govt denies permission to SAD’s poll khol rally in Faridkot, cites law and order

Apprehensions of a clash between Akalis and radicals, camping in Bargari, led to the decision, says administration.

punjab Updated: Sep 15, 2018 09:08 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Faridkot
Punjab,punjab news,Faridkot
SAD had shifted the venue and postponed the rally, which was earlier scheduled to be held at Kotkapura on September 15.(HT File )

The Punjab government has denied permission to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to hold its poll khol rally in Faridkot on Sunday (September 16), citing apprehension of violence. The district administration conveyed its decision to local SAD leaders on Friday morning.

This was hours before the visit of former deputy chief minister and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal to review preparation for the rally. Sukhbir and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal were expected to speak on the issue of justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission report at the rally. Previously, the rally had been scheduled in Kotkapura on September 15. It was shifted due to security concerns.

Hours after the denial, the SAD moved the Punjab and Haryana high court seeking direction to the authorities to grant permission for the rally. A mention of the case was made before the bench of justice AK Mittal. The matter was also sent to the chief justice for assigning it to some bench.

Late in the evening, the case was assigned to the bench of justice RK Jain for Saturday. The party had told the court that it was party’s constitutional right to hold a peaceful rally and questioned the authorities’ stand on refusal. The party alleged that the denial of permission was due to political considerations.

Violence had broken out on Sept 5

On September 5, Akalis and radicals had clashed in the town before Sukhbir was to address a meeting. Swords and sticks were brandished, with cops looking on as mute spectators.

Top police officers said the Union home ministry had shared an intelligence input with the state home department, regarding possible violence by radicals, supported by terrorist organisations, during the rally. Faridkot saw sacrilege incidents in Bargari, followed by firing at Behbal in October 2015, which had triggered statewide protests.

Faridkot SSP Raj Bachan Singh Sandhu cited maintenance of law and order as the reason for denial of permission. In his report, Faridkot DSP, Jastinder Singh Dhaliwal, had stated that radical Sikhs, protesting in Bargari, around 40km from the rally venue, might disrupt the SAD rally.

The DSP also mentioned that part of the police force was already busy in making arrangements for the annual five-day Baba Farid Mela held in September. Faridkot SDM Paramdeep Singh endorsed the DSP’s report and denied permission for the rally. Before the decision, the police had strengthened security with the deployment of five companies.

Intelligence sources said ensuring the security of Sukhbir and former CM Badal, who are under Z+ category, was also a concern. Intelligence agencies are also worried over the increasing support for the protest at Bargari, where parallel jathedars and their supporters have stayed put for over 100 days now.

Radicals running govt; will hold rally at same place after permission: Sukhbir

Responding to the development, the Badals did not visit Faridkot and held a meeting with senior party leaders in Bathinda. “The cancellation of the rally proves that radicals are running the Congress government. Radicals had tried to derail our Abohar rally and that attempt failed. Now, they have pressured the Congress into denying us permission,” Sukhbir claimed.

“Captain Amarinder Singh has created an emergency-like situation in the state. He has been felicitating radical forces as ‘state guests’ by providing proper facilities at Bargari. He is helping anti-national forces,” he alleged.

“We will hold the poll khol rally at the same place, whenever we get permission,” Sukhbir added.

Former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal dubbed the denial of permission as ‘broad daylight murder of democracy’. “The government has virtually admitted today that the constitutional machinery in Punjab has broken down so much that it cannot even ensure a peaceful democratic rally of a mainstream political party,” he claimed.

(The story has been updated)

First Published: Sep 14, 2018 13:50 IST