Facing fire from the Congress, BJP and SAD as well as his own party AAP for his defence of “Referendum 2020” being carried out by hardliner Sikhs abroad, Punjab’s Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Khaira Saturday stuck to his viewpoint that though he was not in its favour, the “referendum” was a result ot the “policy of persecution” of Sikhs by successive governments at the Centre.
AAP’s state co-president Dr Balbir Singh said an explanation would be sought from Khaira for his statements and clarified that his party had faith in the unity of India as well as the Constitution. Terming Khaira’s views as “surprising”, Dr Singh said in a statement that the party would not hesitate in taking action against any person who went against its principles and interests of the nation.
Former co-president of AAP’s state unit and Sunam MLA, Aman Arora, also dismissed Khaira’s statement as an individual’s view which would never be the ideology of AAP. Arora said, and later tweeted, that AAP was against any kind of violence and bloodshed and stood only for united, strong, secular India.
The Congress, led by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, also attacked Khaira. Amarinder asked if AAP’s national convenor and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal he agreed Khaira’s views and accused Khaira of backing secessionism.
In a statement issued here, Amarinder said, “The Leader of the Opposition seemed to be indulging in his usual political antics and theatrics, without any sense of the history of Punjab or any realization of the possible consequences of his statement or act.,” he said.
The CM said Punjab and its people had suffered for years due to the secessionist and separatist movement unleashed by radicals and underlined the dangers of Khaira’s “ill-thought statement”.
Seeking Delhi CM’s views on Khaira’s statement, Amarinder said this was important considering the fact that the Kejriwal himself had been “hobnobbing with pro-Khalistanis” while campaigning in Punjab for the 2017 Assembly elections.
The BJP and the SAD have also questioned the motives of AAP and Sukhpal Khaira. While SAD leader and former minister Bikram Singh Majithia issued a statement condemning Khaira, the BJP said the hard-earned peace in Punjab would not be allowed to go waste. BJP national secretary Tarun Chugh said, “Hindus and Sikhs of Punjab are one and we will never allow any schism to appear between them.”
Khaira, however, maintained that he was not in favour of “Referendum 2020” but said it was result of a “consistent policy of bias, discrimination in persecution of Sikhs ever since partition, be it attack on Darbar Sahib,genocide of Sikhs in 1984”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Khaira maintained he had only said there were reasons for alienation among sections of Sikhs. Asked if this feeling only existed among the hardliner Sikhs abroad, Khaira said there were rural areas where the Sikh population still felt wronged.
Releasing a detailed statement later in the day, the AAP leader said, “Although the British had offered Sikhs a separate and sovereign country, they opted to be part of the Indian state”.
“It was due to a consistent policy of persecution of Sikhs that they have been pushed to the brink to demand a separate homeland for themselves,” Khaira said, adding that the Government of India must review its “anti-Sikh policies”.
Khaira also hit out at Bikram Majithia saying that before issuing statements against him, he should introspect the role of former CM Parkash Singh Badal. He said Badal was not only signatory to the original Anandpur Sahib resolution of 1972, but also burnt copies of the Constitution of India before Parliament in 1983. “Badal is also responsible for instigating Sikh Army officers and jawans to break out of their barracks and march towards Amritsar to avenge the attack on Darbar Sahib,” said Khaira.
SAD demands FIR against Khaira
The SAD on Saturday demanded registration of a criminal case against AAP MLA and Leader of Opposition in Punjab Sukhpal Khaira for “indulging in anti-national activities by supporting Referendum 2020 which called for the break-up of India”.
In a statement here, former minister and Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia said, “Not only was Khaira advocating break-up of Punjab from India, but was also inciting communal passions and threatening hard-won peace of Punjab”.