January 6, 2015 5:02:28 am
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal on Monday blamed Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi for “engineering a conspiracy” to “defame brave Punjabis” as drug addicts and alleged that the “Gandhi family’s hatred towards Sikhs has not ended”.
Addressing a dharna on the drug issue, Sukhbir said, “First, Punjabis were labelled as terrorists. I remember when my father, Badal Sahib, was kept in Coimbatore jail, my mother and I were not allowed to sit in taxis and rickshaws after being called terrorists. Are we terrorists?”
Sukhbir said the conspiracy to “defame” Punjabis as drug addicts began when Rahul stated that 70 per cent of the state’s youth were hooked to drugs. “Media played that again and again, and suggested that all Punjabis are drug addicts,” he said.
Targeting his party’s ally also, Sukhbir pointed out that BJP-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were allowed a free run in cultivating poppy for opium. He said Madhya Pradesh earned Rs 115 crore and Rajasthan earned Rs 100 crore last year through the sale of poppy husk at government vends.
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His statement comes just days before BJP president Amit Shah kicks off his anti-drug drive in Punjab. Sukhbir urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ban such cultivation and to earmark funds for sealing the borders and enhancing surveillance to stop the flow of drugs into the country.
Earlier, a study by the Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) had also noted that 70 per cent of the youth, from a sample size in a particular age group in the state, were addicted to drugs.
Dismissing such claims as false propaganda against the Punjabis, Sukhbir said Punjab was “merely a transit point” for drugs smuggled from across the border from Pakistan and Afghanistan. “Today’s border dharna is to emphasise that drugs come from Afghanistan and Pakistan. These drugs are not meant for Punjab, but for other parts of the country,” he said.
“We jailed those who sold drugs. Punjabis do not consume heroin or smack. Had our police not seized the drugs, the youth of other states would have consumed it,” he said.
“More than 80 per cent Punjabis were hanged to death by the British. We give 70 per cent foodgrain to the country. But we have been subjected to discrimination. We fought a battle and in 15 years we proved that we are not terrorists but patriots,” said Sukhbir.
Citing data, Sukhbir said Goa topped in drug use but only 50 drug-related arrests were made last year. He also drew attention to rave parties in cities like Mumbai and Pune, and said the Punjab government had launched the biggest crackdown on drugs.
Responding to questions later, Sukhbir said the SAD and BJP were on the same page on the issue of drugs. Asked about Modi’s comment about the drug problem in Punjab, Sukhbir asserted that Modi never said that 70 per cent of Punjab’s youth were drug addicts.
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