The protest march from Kotkapura to Baragri, organised on a call given by the dissident Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs and the Lok Insaaf Party (LIP), got an overwhelming response Sunday. Resolutions were passed both at Kotkapura and Bargari giving a 15-day ultimatum to the Congress government to arrest the desecration and Behbal Kalan firing accused, and also vowing to get rid of Badal family’s “influence” over the Akal Takht and the SGPC.
The entire four-lane highway from Kotkapura to Bargari was choked Sunday as thousands of vehicles formed a convoy on both sides of the road to reach Bargari where a ‘morcha’ (protest) is on demanding justice for incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib and the killing of two youth in the Behbal Kalan firing.
Earlier, a steady stream of participants thronged to at Grain Market, Kotkapura for the rally, organised by the AAP group and LIP and led by former Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira. People arrived in buses, tractor trolleys, cars, mini-vans and motorbikes. Many were seen riding on the rooftops of the buses.
Flying the saffron khalsa flags and black flags of protest, the participants as well as the political leaders demanded immediate justice in the desecration cases. Slogans were raised against the former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Addressing the rally in Kotkapura, Sukhpal Khaira got two resolutions ratified by the crowd which were later also ratified at Bargari. The first resolution demanded that the state government take action against the Badals and former DGP Sumedh Singh Saini along with policemen guilty of opening fire at Behbal Kalan within 15 days or else another rally will be held against the government.
The second resolution pertained to freeing the institutions of the Akal Takht and the SGPC from the control of the Badals. AAP MLAs Kanwar Sandhu, Nazar Singh Mashahia, Pirmal Singh, Jagtar Singh, Baldev Singh and LIP president Simarjit Singh Bains were among those who addressed the crowds. The common theme of the speeches was “Guru de doshiyan nu giraftaar karo (Arrest those who have harmed the Guru)”.
“Have you ever seen a sitting government hold a rally to inform people about its achievements? A government is supposed to work, not hold rallies. This means that the Congress government has done nothing worthwhile,” said Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu referring to the Congress rally in Lambi. Sikh preacher Baljit Singh Daduwal, who is seen as a hardliner, also spoke on the occasion demanding punishment for sacrilege accused and also performed ‘ardas’ (prayer) before the march commenced for Bargari.
Even greater crowds than the Kotkapura meeting were thronging the highway leading to Bargari. As the crowd moved towards the venue of the ‘morcha’ people came out of their houses and stood with their hands folded. When the roads got choked with vehicles, the passengers got down and proceeded on foot for several kilometers chanting ‘Waheguru, Waheguru’. Villagers had organised langar en route with arrangement for drinking water.
Malkit Singh of Vadda Darakan village near Kotkapura had brought two tractor trolleys with women protestors. “We have come on our own. Guru di be-adabi hoyi hai es layi aaye haan (Sacrilege has been done against the Guru that is why we have come),” he said. Gurjant Singh of the same village lashed out at both the Akalis and the Congress. “These two parties have looted us. We want justice. Looters have gotten together to hold a rally today. Badal knows who killed those two youths,” he said.
Shingara Singh of Gunti Kalan, district Bathinda, said,“Let the Badal family come without security to our villages and then see what our anger is,” he said. There was a conspiracy to divide the crowd by holding rallies in Patiala and Lambi, said Tarsem Singh. “But people are no longer going to be fooled,” he said. Lakhwinder Singh from Bathinda said, “Ae do partiyan ik taraf ne te Guru Granth Sahib ik paase kalle ne (These two political parties (Congress and SAD) are on one side and Guru Granth Sahib is all alone on the other),” he said.
The presence of Sikh hardliners was hard to miss in the protest march. Numerous vehicles were carrying posters of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale as also president of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) president, Simranjit Singh Mann. In fact, posters of Bhindranwale were ubiquitous in the rally along with saffron Khalistan flags. Several groups of protestors were proceeding towards the ‘morcha’ venue shouting slogans of ‘Khalistan Zindabad’.
In Bargari, on the sidelines of the ‘morcha’, Sukhpal Khaira said the protest march has been a resounding success. “Look at the crowd. Lakhs of people have come for this march which was not of any particular political party. In fact, people from all religions have come for this march — Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims. All we demand is justice and arrest of sacrilege culprits,” he said.
At Bargari, Baljit Singh Daduwal, United Akali Dal president Mohkam Singh and the ‘acting’ Jathedar of Akal Takht installed by Sarbat Khalsa, Dhyan Singh Mand, were among those who spoke. While Mand said that the Akal Takht will be freed from the hands of Badals, Mohkam Singh asked said those guilty of mishandling sacrilege issues should have come and sought pardon from Guru Granth Sahib. Daduwal especially thanked AAP Punjab unit, LIP, BSP and Lok Janshakti Party for supporting the protest march along with SAD (Amritsar), United Akali Dal and Dal Khalsa.