The Punjab Congress on Tuesday slammed the Centre’s decision to release 70-year-old Sikh militant Waryam Singh, accusing the BJP of being “opportunist” while also seeking a clarification from the Modi government on its “policy towards terrorists”.
Waryam Singh has been lodged at the Bareilly jail in UP for 23 years after his conviction under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act.
“The Modi government has overlooked the tragedy in which innocent lives were lost in Punjab due to people like Waryam Singh”. (PM) Modi should clarify his government’s policy towards terrorists responsible for heinous crimes, Bajwa said.
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“The BJP is opportunist to the core. The decision speaks volumes of the party’s doublespeak,” Congress Legislature Party (CLP) chief Sunil Jakhar said. “The way things are unfolding, the BJP and SAD are now improving their ties to contest the 2017 polls together. Modi compares Badal to Nelson Mandela and now with this decision on Waryam, the BJP wants to give the Akali Dal a foothold on the issue,” he added.
The decision comes amid demands from sections of the Sikh community for the release of Khalistani militants. The ruling SAD has been supportive of the demand and with the 2017 elections looming, has proactively taken up the cause.
Until now, the state unit of the BJP, was opposed to the releases. It had been miffed when two high-profile Khalistanis, Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar and Gurpreet Singh Khera, were transferred to Punjab from jails in other states earlier in the year.
After the MHA green light to Waryam’s release, state BJP functionaries have gone quiet and were unavailable for comment. The only BJP leader to comment and question the move is former health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla.
“Terrorists should not be released. If old age and good conduct are cited as grounds for release, then the government should formulate a policy wherein convicts in jail for over 14 years are also released. I am sure there would be a number of such cases and less serious than terrorism,” Chawla said.
SAD spokesperson and Cabinet Minister Daljit Singh Cheema said, “Such issues should not be given a political colour. Those who commit crimes should be punished but prisoners have rights as well,” Cheema said.
The Sikh Sangharsh Committee, spearheading the drive for the release of the prisoners, also welcomed the decision. “We only want the release of Sikh prisoners. If SAD helps, the community will support SAD and if the BJP does, then it gets our support,” said committee activist R P Singh.