Facing attacks from all quarters, including from his own Aam Aadmi Party for his remarks on “Referendum 2020”, Punjab Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Khaira clarified on Sunday that he was not a votary of the “referendum”, an alleged conspiracy masterminded by hardline Sikhs based abroad to revive militancy in the state.
Khaira, however, told a press conference in Jalandhar that even though he was not a supporter of “Referendum 2020”, there was a consistent policy of discrimination, persecution and bias of successive governments at the Centre towards the Sikhs.
“I have said that we should rectify the mistakes which led to an ideology like referendum,” the AAP leader said.
Khaira alleged that reports were being planted against him, and he was being painted as an anti-national by leaders of other political parties, including Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh. Khaira alleged that Amarinder himself had been part of a declaration made in Amritsar in 1982 on the “Right to Self-Determination” for Sikhs.
Earlier in Chandigarh, Khaira said he was pained by the “arrows” being shot at him by leaders within his party who had questioned his statement on the “referendum”.
“They are trying to hang me without even a trial. A statement was issued against me without even talking to me,” he said. “At least I could have been spoken to on telephone, or I could have been asked to come and meet the party leaders. These types of actions will not help the party.”
On a video on his Facebook page, Khaira gave examples of referendums carried out in Scotland, Quebec and Catalonia. “Is referendum not a democratic and peaceful way of putting forward one’s opinion? When I have said that I have fought five elections in Punjab under the Constitution of India, the issue should end there,” he said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, AAP MLA from Kotkapura, Kultar Singh Sandhwan, said he did not understand why this issue was being raised when Punjab was facing several more important topics worth discussion.
“I feel this is an attempt to divert the attention from pressing issues and take the discourse to another level,” he said.
Sandhwan said there was great dissatisfaction among the party cadres over the developments of the past few days and also among the general public.
He said, “There may be a separatist agenda of some hardliners who are living abroad but we live in India within the framework of the Constitution and we fight elections under it. So where is the question of discussing something which is taking place abroad?”