A delegation of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, led by former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, on Tuesday met the Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore and demanded that an FIR must be registered against Navjot Singh Sidhu, his wife, Navjot Kaur and the organiser of the Dussehra event in Amritsar, Sourab Mithu Madan.
The delegation, comprising of senior leaders from both parties, including BJP president Shwait Malik and SAD chief Sukhbir Badal, also demanded that Navjot Singh Sidhu should be immediately dropped from the Cabinet and that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh should accept culpability of the government for the tragedy which led to over 60 deaths. Both parties also demanded that all senior officers posted in Amritsar must be shifted out of the district in order to ensure that a fair probe takes place.
The SAD-BJP delegation demanded that an inquiry by a sitting judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court be instituted to arrive at the truth behind the tragedy. The memorandum also demanded that “compensation of Rs one crore plus a government job to one member of each of the affected families be ensured by the government”. It also demanded a compensation of Rs 50 lakh to each of the seriously wounded persons.
Speaking to mediapersons outside the Punjab Raj Bhavan, Parkash Singh Badal said that there was no doubt that a cover up by the state government was in progress and that the Dussehra event had no sanction by the civic authorities even though it was being held on land belonging to the Local Bodies Department, which is headed by Navjot Singh Sidhu as a minister.
“A free and fair probe by a sitting judge of the High Court is essential to bring out all the facts. The Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation and the Mayor of the city are already on record saying that no permission had been given for the event. If the organiser is innocent then why is he underground?” questioned the former CM.
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Describing the Dussehra-day accident at Amritsar as “a man-made tragedy of an unprecedented magnitude”, Badal said: “Nothing symbolises this non-seriousness and indifference more than the decision of the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to desert the people of the state in their hour of extreme grief”.
“I find it insensitive and careless beyond belief that the Chief Minister chose to leave his state and his people to their own fate and decided to proceed on an utterly avoidable foreign trip. In his shoes, I would have cancelled the trip. I would prefer to spend this time addressing and minimising the misery of the people of my state.”
Attacking the organisers of the Dussehra event, he said: “Thousands had been brought to the function by the organisers who enjoy the direct patronage and protection of the Sidhus at the site which was highly vulnerable and tragedy-prone as it lay right adjacent to a busy railway line where long distance trains routinely ply….If they had sought government permission, it would in all probability have been denied or been granted only in consultation with the Railways”.
Badal claimed that “the conduct of Madam Navjot Kaur Sidhu after the tragedy was even more shockingly, insensitive, irresponsible and inhuman”. “It was her duty to stay on the site of a tragedy which she had herself caused, instead of fleeing the scene, leaving the people to their own fate,” said the former Chief Minister.
“They are working overtime to shift focus from their own culpability and to put the blame on others,” he added.
“Announcements from the stage confirmed that the organisers were aware of the danger from the approaching trains….But instead of intervening to stop such encouragements to tragedy, Navjot Kaur Sidhu herself blessed such announcements. This is unbelievable,” said Badal.