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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Talks fail, Punjab minister says donations and political ambition driving Bargari stir

In line of fire from a section of his own party for the failure of talks, Bajwa accuses leaders spearheading the morcha of changing goalposts.

punjab Updated: Oct 25, 2018 09:13 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
A 20-member delegation of political and religious leaders on Wednesday met Punjab governor VP Singh Badnore to convey that Bargari morcha sit-in has been peaceful and not a threat to peace.
A 20-member delegation of political and religious leaders on Wednesday met Punjab governor VP Singh Badnore to convey that Bargari morcha sit-in has been peaceful and not a threat to peace.(HT Photo)
         

The diplomacy of Captain Amarinder Singh government with Sikh organisations protesting at Bargari has failed. Punjab rural development minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, who was negotiating with Sikh leaders Dhian Sigh Mand and Baljit Singh Daduwal after they began a sit-in at Bargari on June 1 this year to seek action against culprits of sacrilege and police firing incidents of October 2015, says he is no more part of the talks.

In line of fire from a section of his own party for the failure of talks, Bajwa accuses leaders spearheading the morcha of changing goalposts.

“I was talking to them on the behalf of the chief minister. It was in the state’s interest to keep a channel of communication open. All their demands were met except the ones which are not under our jurisdiction or legally permissible. How can we free terrorists booked under the TADA?” he said.

“Their demands and political ambition are both growing. Huge donations are flowing in. They now want control over the SGPC and are hobnobbing with rebels of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to occupy the Panthic vacuum created by discrediting of the Akali Dal,” Tript added.

Those in the know of the back-door talks blame the credit war between two Majha ministers — Tript and jails minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa.

Randhawa, however, denies being part of any negotiations. “Since one of the demands of the Bargari morcha was the release of Sikh prisoners, I was involved. The CM has written letters to his counterparts in Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. Just eight of these prisoners are in Punjab jails. They too have been given parole. Releasing those arrested under TADA can only be decided by the Centre,” he says.

Congress romanced hardliners

The Congress seemed to be romancing the hardliners in the run-up to release and tabling of the Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission report. It was as much to corner former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and Akali Dal president, Sukhbir Badal, as to pressure Amarinder to take action against the Badals. Party strategists were relishing the plot till AAP rebel leader Sukhpal Khaira held the Bargari March on October 7 and stole the Congress’ thunder.

At the congregation to observe the third anniversary of two Behbal Kalan firing victims, Mand called Amarinder a “coward”. The next day, the CM said he would not allow radicals to disturb peace or take control of the SGPC.

Bajwa adds: “People can criticise me for not being able to end the standoff. But, I am no more in the picture. What we could do, we have done. They had not named those they want arrested. Their demand was to arrest culprits of sacrilege and Behbal Kalan firing incidents. If some of them approach the Punjab and Haryana high court and get relief, we cannot stop them.”

No shifting of demands: SAD (A)

SAD (Amritsar) president Simranjeet Singh Mann, one of the morcha leaders, denies that they are shifting their demands. “If the HC has ordered a stay on action against those named in FIR, the government should go to the Supreme Court. Why have Badal, Sukhbir and (former DGP Sumedh Singh) Saini not named in the FIR so far? The government is letting Badal raise the bogey of Hindu-Sikh unity and now Amarinder wants to enhance his security cover,” he says.

“As for the Sikh prisoners, there is a provision under Article 161 of the Constitution, under which the President and the governor can curtail the sentence of a prisoner. For Sikh prisoners lodged in Punjab jails, the state government may recommend their release to the governor. It can request the PM to write to the President for release of those lodged in jails of other states,” Mann adds.

A Congress MLA from Malwa, who is privy to talks with Morcha leaders, says even Amarinder was not fully aware of Ranjit commission’s findings.

“The CM did not know that Badals would be crucified. Once the report was with him, he ordered a CBI probe. But he sensed a challenge to his leadership if he refused to act against the Badals. So, he let the cases be withdrawn from CBI through an assembly resolution. But the protesters are not willing to bite the bait of probe by the special investigation team (SIT). Tript should have taken the demands of protesters in writing and the government should have made them public. That way, they (Bargari leaders) would have lost credibility, not us,” he said.

First Published: Oct 25, 2018 09:13 IST