The controversy that erupted over Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta’s remarks on security challenge posed by the Kartarpur Corridor flared up Monday as Opposition AAP and SAD-BJP members stalled the proceedings in the ongoing Budget Session of the Vidhan Sabha demanding that Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh immediately dismiss the state police chief.
The opposition parties also targetted Food and Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu over allegations that he had been hand in glove with Khalistani militants in the early 1990s. Ashu has denied the charges.
The second day of the session saw two adjournments of 30 minutes each and one of 15 minutes. At the end of the day’s sitting, Speaker Rana KP Singh named all protesting Opposition MLAs, except the two BJP members, for having tampered with the speakers of the House reporters. However, before they could be taken out by the Marshals, the House was adjourned for the day.
Earlier, shouting slogans against the DGP and carrying placards, the MLAs did not allow the Question Hour to proceed uninterrupted. The Speaker requested the MLAs to resume their seats time and again but they refused to relent.
Earlier, speaking from his seat, Leader of Opposition, Harpal Singh Cheema, said, “By what parameter has the DGP decided that people who go to visit Kartarpur Sahib come back as terrorists? Many MLAs, ministers and bureaucrats have gone there and came back. Have we all become terrorists? Punjab government should dismiss him. His remarks are a part of larger conspiracy”.
Replying to a question during the Idea Exchange dialogue at The Indian Express office in Panchkula Friday, the DGP had pointed out that Kartarpur Corridor posed “a huge security challenge from terrorism” point of view. “Kartarpur offers a potential that you send somebody in the morning as an ordinary chap and by evening he comes back as trained terrorist actually. You are there for six hours, you can be taken to a firing range, you can be taught to make an IED”. He had added that some elements based in Pakistan were “trying to woo the pilgrims and making overtures to them”.
As controversy erupted over his remarks, Gupta a day later said he had only “red-flagged the obvious potential for misuse by elements notorious for their hostility towards India and their effort to exploit every opportunity, even the most pious one, to disturb peace and communal harmony”. On Saturday, he said he expresses “sincere regret” if any remark made by him inadvertently caused any hurt to the people of the state. “I only want to ensure a safe & peaceful environment in Punjab necessary for every citizen to flourish and prosper,” he had said in a tweet.
The clarifications, however, did not seem to have had any effect on the Opposition parties.
Condemning his remarks, leader of the SAD legislative group in the Assembly, Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, said, “The entire Sikh brotherhood all over the world is watching. He has been asked to make this statement”.
The Speaker urged the opposition parties to let the House function and await a statement from the CM tomorrow. “The leader of the House is not present today. He handles the Home Department. I will ask him to make a statement tomorrow. You let the House function,” he said.
The Speaker did not agree to the suggestion made by AAP member Kanwar Sandhu that someone from the government should make a statement to break the logjam in the House. Sandhu urged that the Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra could make a statement but the Speaker did not accede to the request.
The LoP also raised the allegations made against Ashu by a suspended DSP in Ludhiana. “The non-prosecution of Ashu in the case of several deaths caused due to a terrorist attack in Gur Mandi in Ludhiana cannot be ignored. He has faced cases under Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA),” Cheema said.
Suspended DSP Balwinder Singh Sekhon on Sunday had raked up a 28-year-old case saying that Ashu had confessed to harbouring two Khalistani militants and conspiring to murder his own uncle.
Meanwhile, a lack of coordination was visible amidst Congress ranks as heated altercation took place between ruling party legislators Kulbir Singh Zira and Rana Gurjit Singh during one adjournment over the lack of response to Akali MLAs making taunts at Congress leadership. Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa was also seen berating his fellow MLAs for not taking on the Akalis.
Thereafter, the Congress MLAs too took on the Opposition ranks and displayed photographs of senior Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia in the company of Anwar Masih, a former SAD member from whose house a big cache of heroin was recovered recently in Amritsar.
Earlier, before the session began, the opposition held protests against DGP and Ashu. SAD MLAs carried placards saying, “I went to Kartarpur Sahib. I am not a terrorist”.
“We want to know why CM Amarinder Singh and Punjab Congress Chief Sunil Jakhar are mum now over the DGP statement’s… who (DGP) was handpicked by the Congress. We want to seek answers from them,” Majithia said.
LoP Cheema said, “We want from Amarinder Singh to dismiss the DGP for his highly condemnable statement and he should also be booked and sent to jail”.
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