Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has claimed that efforts were being made to revive Khalistani elements with backing from Pakistan’s spy agency ISI and batted for a tough law such as the Punjab Control of Organised Crime Act (PCOCA) to contain such forces.
The Punjab government this month had claimed to have achieved major success in solving targeted killing cases, including that of RSS leader Jagdish Gagneja with the arrest of five people, and had alleged that a major conspiracy to fan communal disturbance and destabilise the state was being hatched by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
“Definitely, attempts are being made, mostly from foreign soils, to destabilise Punjab and our country. Indications of this had started emerging a long time ago, with several leads suggesting that radical forces were out to destroy the state’s peace and harmony, in nexus with criminal gangs. The recent arrests have more than proved this,” the chief minister told PTI in an interview in Chandigarh.
He claimed that the ISI operatives were working not only from Pakistani soil, but also from other countries, including the UK, Canada and Italy “to fan communal unrest”. “Efforts are clearly being made to revive Khalistani elements, which also have the backing of the ISI,” Singh said when asked if efforts were being made to revive terrorism in Punjab.
The chief minister said security agencies, including the state intelligence, were working in close coordination with central agencies to counter such attempts. “Apart from measures on the ground, a close eye is being kept on the social media to prevent attempts at radicalising the youth,” Singh said.
Several terror modules have been busted since the Congress government had taken over, the chief minister claimed. “I assure the people of Punjab that we will not allow the state to be again plunged into the kind of devastation which it suffered during the peak of terrorism in the 1980s,” he said.
On organisations such as the SGPC opposing PCOCA, claiming it could be misused, the chief minister said, “PCOCA or some special law on similar lines has become necessary for Punjab in view of the widespread efforts being made by ISI through various radical forces and criminal gangs, to fan communal unrest in the state.” “But at the same time, we are mindful of the concerns of misuse of such legislation, given the experience of some other states,” he said.
He said he had issued “clear instructions” for incorporating the tightest possible controls in the law to ensure that there was no misuse and nobody was harassed or victimised under it. A cabinet meeting slated on November 17 is expected to discuss the PCOCA.
The proposed legislation is aimed at empowering police officers of the DIG rank or above to invoke the Act with a detailed note on reasons why the Indian Penal Code was not sufficient to deal with such crime. “The police will get a lot of powers to tackle extremist and criminal forces under this legislation, and stringent provisions to check abuse of these powers will also be ensured,” he said. The cabinet sub-committee headed by minister Brahm Mohindra to draft the PCOCA legislation was examining all these aspects, he said. “A fool-proof law will help the state control criminal and radical forces, while at the same time, also protect innocent people from victimisation,” the chief minister said.
The previous SAD-BJP government had also proposed introducing the PCOCA, but some of the ministers had then apprehended that it could be misused for political vendetta.