The Punjab Vidhan Sabha witnessed an uproar Thursday over the questioning of four Sikh pilgrims by the Gurdaspur police after their return from Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan. Linking the development to DGP Dinkar Gupta’s recent comments on Kartarpur Corridor, SAD and AAP MLAs accused the state government of deliberately browbeating Sikh devotees and demanded that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who was not present in the House, should make a statement on the matter. Later, SAD and AAP MLAs stormed the Well of the House in protest separately, and staged walk outs.
Raising the issue, SAD MLA Sharanjit Singh Dhillon said that the Punjab Police has now started questioning people who are going to Kartarpur. “People are saying that the police said that you are a terrorist since you went to Kartarpur. The police is saying that this is being done on the instructions of higher authorities,” said Dhillon.
Jails and Cooperation Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa intervened at this stage and said that the Gurdaspur police had acted on an input received from the Intelligence Bureau (IB).
“I spoke to the SSP, Gurdaspur, this morning. He told me that a letter had been received by him from an IB official which asked the police to investigate these people,” said Randhawa. He added that the February 17 letter should be called for and placed before the House.
AAP MLA Kultar Singh Sandhwan said that it was sad to see that there was no reaction from the treasury benches on a development of this magnitude. “The DGP has not apologised. He has made fun of you. It is shameful to trouble the devotees. I immediately move a resolution which must be passed by the House. I propose that the House rejects the apology given by the DGP Dinkar Gupta,” said Sandhwan.
Intervening in the discussion, the Speaker Rana K P Singh said, “This is a very serious matter. It should be ensured that such incidents do not happen.”
SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia said that the SSP Gurdaspur and the concerned SHO should be suspended and dismissed from service.
The Jails Minister, who read out the contents of the letter sent by the IB and took names of four Sikh youth who were to questioned by the police, said that the state government will take strict action against the SSP and the SHO if they are found at fault. “If SSP is to be blamed then the government should take action against him,” he said.
Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema termed this development as a move by the DGP to spoil the atmosphere of brotherhood in Punjab. “Gupta has stayed in IB for eight years. He has links in IB. The SSP and SHO should be suspended. The CM says something in the house and outside something else happens. The CM should make a statement on the floor of the House regarding this issue,” said Cheema.
Suspended AAP MLA Kanwar Sandhu told the House that this was a serious issue and that the DGP’s remarks regarding Kartarpur Corridor should have been taken to the logical conclusion by the House. “The CM spoke about busting modules of terrorists while referring to Gupta’s regret over his statement. Busting modules is not new. This has been happening for past many years. By linking it with DGP’s statement the CM was defending his remarks on the corridor,” Sandhu said.
He added that law and order was a state subject and questioned how the SSP and SHO acted on the IB’s letter without taking sanction from higher offices.
The Speaker interjected at this stage and said, “Sandhu sa’ab you are an educated person. Do you think that the state police works in isolation”.
Sandhu continued his tirade and said that the IB’s letter should have been processed at the level of the DGP. “CM should investigate if IB’s letter is linked to DGP’s remarks. The DGP should be questioned,” he said. The Speaker again intervened and said that the matter needs to be inquired into even as Sandhu said, “The DGP should be given a severe reprimand as is done in the Army.”
Questioning based on preliminary information: Intelligence officials
Intelligence sources said that the questioning of the four Sikh pilgrims of different villages of Gurdaspur district was asked for on the basis of preliminary information about their visit. The eldest of the four is 41 years old, while the other three are 23, 24 and 26 years old, respectively. One youth, belonging to Kalanaur is self-employed and has previously visited Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara on November 23, 2019.
The eldest of the lot is said to have made remarks appreciating the professionalism of immigration staff and military personnel of Pakistan in an interaction with under cover intelligence officials. Two youths are unemployed with one of them pursuing a postgraduate degree, while the other is unemployed and wishes to settle down in Canada for employment. Intelligence sources said the purpose of their visit was not “entirely convincing”.
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