Ruling Congress divided over how to deal with dera premis now
A large section of the party leadership from the Malwa belt and some senior Dalit leaders from the Doaba region are clearly “not happy” the way the state government has “abandoned” the dera followerssUpdated: Sep 03, 2017 09:22 IST
Despite effective handling of the situation in the aftermath of the conviction and sentencing of Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh by the Congress government in Punjab, the ruling party seems divided over its approach towards the ‘premis’ (the dera followers), a substantial number of whom are living in Malwa region of the state.
A large section of the party leadership from the Malwa belt and some senior Dalit leaders from the Doaba region are clearly “not happy” the way the state government has “abandoned” the dera followers and failed to condemn the killing of over 30 premis in the police firing.
They also disapprove of the state government’s move not to provide any compensation to those families of Punjab whose kith and kin lost their lives or were injured in Panchkula on August 25 after the conviction of Ram Rahim in a rape case.
However, only two Congress leaders — Indian Youth Congress (INC) president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring and health minister Brahm Mohindra — have so far publically expressed sympathies with the premis.
In a statement issued on Friday, Mohindra, the senior most minister in the Amarinder’s cabinet, advocated the cause of premis saying they are after all “human beings.”
He had also stated that he would take up the issue of paying compensation to the families of the dera followers from Punjab who lost their lives in Panchkula.
However, such is the ambiguity in the party over the issue that Mohindra was compelled to withdraw his statement a few hours later, fearing that it may upset the chief minister, who had announced that no compensation will be given to the affected families.
“There are many leaders who think like Mohindra but they are hesitating to express their opinion, fearing that the media may project their views as contrary to the party line,” admitted an MLA from Sangrur.
“Chief minister Amarinder Singh has been widely hailed for effective handling of the situation. In fact, with apt media management, he scored over his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar, despite the latter having managed to control the violence within a few hours. But politically too, we need to offer the premis the much-needed olive branch, as they are currently feeling dejected and being projected as criminals,” said a former minister from Malwa.
Irrespective of the “official” support announced by the dera to the BJP in Haryana and the Akali Dal in Punjab in assembly elections, a substantial number of its followers belonging to the lower strata of society are considered to be Congress supporters.
“The two premis who died in my constituency were my supporters. They have not gone there to kill anybody and were innocent. As an MLA, it was my duty to visit their families. Otherwise too, we are in the government and I don’t have any hesitation in accepting that we should stand by those followers who are innocent. They are our own people,” Warring told HT.
A senior Dalit leader from Doaba also said most of those killed and injured in the police firing at Panchkula belonged to the Dalit community and the party should adopt an indifferent approach towards them.
“We have gained administratively, but labelling all followers as anti-state elements would go against us,” he added.
When contacted, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Sunil Jakhar said every citizen has the right to worship whosoever they want to and the Congress government in Punjab would not force anybody to follow or shun anyone.
“On this issue, I have only read a few statements in the media. If there is some confusion among the minds of party leaders, we can sit and sort it out,” he added.
QUOTE1 We are in the government and I don’t have any hesitation in accepting that we should stand by those followers who are innocent. They are our own people.
Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, Indian Youth Congress president
QUOTE2 On this issue, I have only read a few statements in the media. If there is some confusion among the minds of party leaders, we can sit and sort it out.
Sunil Jakhar, state Congress chief