Accusing the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) of “always exploiting religion for vested interests,” Punjab CM Amarinder Singh Tuesday said party president Sukhbir Singh Badal and his Union minister wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal were deliberately obstructing efforts by state government and SGPC for joint celebrations of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
“Three ministers met SGPC representatives this morning and had an amicable discussion. Also, as advised by the Akal Takht Jathedar, two representatives had been nominated by the Punjab Congress to discuss the matter with the Akal Takht and the SAD, and the meetings so far have gone off smoothly,” he said.
However, Sukhbir and Harsimrat were trying to “scuttle an amicable settlement” of the issue at every step for their “political gains”, Amarinder said, adding that the Akalis had always “exploited religion for vested interests”.
“What kind of Akalis are these? Definitely not the Taksali Akalis of the founding party, only fraud Akalis can play politics over the first Sikh Guru, who was revered the world over,” he said while campaigning for Congress candidate Sandeep Sandhu who is contesting the bypolls to Dakha Assembly constituency.
Rejecting the Akali Dal’s claims that it was the SGPC’s job to conduct the Prakash Purb celebrations, the CM said, “Their jurisdiction lay only within the holy sanctorum. Outside the gurdwaras, it is the government’s prerogative”.
Describing the SAD as an “unprincipled” party, he pointed to the party’s “double standards” on its ties with BJP, against which it is fighting tooth and nail in Haryana while seeking votes for its candidates in Punjab. “This kind of petty politics had alienated them from the people and reduced the Akalis to a non-entity,” he said, adding that given the current scenario, he does not see the SAD and BJP being on one plank in the 2022 Assembly election in Punjab.
‘$20 fee on Kartarpur pilgrims akin to ticket on shrine visit’
Amarinder also lashed out at Pakistan over $20 fee on Indian pilgrims visiting Darbar Sahib gurdwara in Kartarpur via the Kartarpur Corridor. “It is tantamount to putting a ticket on visiting the gurdwara. How will poor pilgrims pay this amount,” he asked, saying that the Sikh religion propounds “khulle darshan” – an ideology that Pakistan seemed bent on violating. Last month, he had equated the service charge to “jaziya” (a tax on non-Muslims).
He said his government was working closely with the Centre to ensure that all infrastructure-related and other works for the Kartarpur Corridor are completed well in time. He hoped that Pakistan too would meet its promised deadline to make the 550th ‘Prakash Purb’ truly historic for the Sikh community.
CM said that Pakistan was making efforts to revive terrorism in Punjab, by pushing in weapons and militants, especially after the developments in J&K, but asserted that his government was prepared to tackle the threat.
“Security forces are fully alert and geared to meet any eventuality. The state is not facing any law and order issue. Both central and state security forces are working together to neutralise the threat and every single infiltrator from across the border into Punjab has been caught,” he said. He reiterated that he would not be visiting Pakistan but would merely go through the special corridor to visit Kartarpur gurdwara. He said he was not in favour of talks with Islamabad till they stopped cross-border militancy and killing of Indian soldiers.
On stubble burning
Amarinder said that Guru Nanak had advocated clean and free air for all and the farmers must follow the his ideology. He added that few misguided farmers were still burning paddy straw in Punjab.
On Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s statement blaming Punjab and Haryana for the high level of pollution in Delhi, he said though the stubble being burnt in Pakistan and the northern states was carrying pollutants to the national capital due to the westerly winds, it was only a small part of the problem. The bigger issue was that Delhi had more pollution of its own than Haryana and Punjab put together, he said, adding that his government was taking all possible steps to ensure that the few misguided farmers who are still burning paddy straw in Punjab also put an end to the practice.