Former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal Thursday accused his successor Amarinder Singh of indulging in a political witch hunt and said the only aim of the Congress government was to put him in jail.
“Put a stop to the high drama being enacted in the name of a probe into the Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan incidents…I am prepared to go to jail as their (state government) only aim is to arrest me… I am not afraid of being arrested. I would be happy to breathe my last in Amarinder Singh’s jail,” the five-time chief minister told media here.
Badal’s reaction comes a day after Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh informed the Assembly said that a “high profile person” may soon face action in Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura firing incidents.
“After reading what Amarinder said, I came from my village to Chandigarh… I told the DGP that I am available for arrest… I am prepared to go to any jail in the country,” Badal said, adding that he had fought against “Congress’ excesses” in the past and will continue to do so in future too.
Senior Akali leaders including MPs Prem Singh Chandumajra, Balwinder Singh Bhunder, former ministers Tota Singh, Daljit Singh Cheema, Bikram Singh Majithia and senior party leader Maheshinder Singh Grewal were present with Badal.
During the discussion on the Governor’s address in the Assembly, Amarinder on Wednesday said the incidents of sacrilege of religious texts and said that they occurred because of the “failure of the law and order system” during the SAD regime. The Badal government, he said, had failed to accept even their own Commission’s report into the sacrilege incidents.
Amarinder had further informed the House that the Special Investigative Team formed to probe sacrilege and police firing incidents was doing its work and that he would take the findings of the Ranjit Singh Commission report to their logical conclusion.
However, Badal termed the SIT and the Commission set up by the Congress government as an “eyewash”. “Even before any inquiry was instituted or started into these incidents, Amarinder Singh, PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar and their senior party and cabinet colleagues had started pronouncing me guilty. Everyone knows how fair a probe can be after that.”
However, Jakhar hit back at Badal terming his remarks as “political gimmick”. Jakhar said, “Badal Saheb is indulging in political gimmick. No innocent people has anything to worry. I have never named anybody. I have been saying that whosoever ordered firing, that person should be punished. There is no witch hunting. SIT is working independently,” said Jakhar.
Badal later issued a statement saying he returned to Chandigarh “when he learnt that the state Counsel had named him as guilty and that the CM had reiterated his veiled threat against him”.
SAD spokesperson Harcharan Singh Bains, when asked which state counsel had named Badal, said a counsel of SIT had “in a submission before trial court at Faridkot indicated that probe could lead up to the Chief Minister”.
Contacted, Raveen Thukral, media advisor to the CM, said, “The Akali leaders are in the habit of indulging in theatrics, especially when faced with an uncomfortable situation. This seems to be more of a panic reaction on their part. The SIT is an independent entity set up on the decision of the Vidhan Sabha. It is for SIT to decide who to call for questioning or whom to arrest. The government has absolutely no role in the matter, as the Chief Minister has himself made it clear time and again. Akalis are desperately looking for ways to regain their lost political ground. The government has made it clear that whosoever, big or small, is found involved in the killings of innocent people at Behbal Kalan will not be allowed to go scot free.”
Badal, meanwhile, said, “All my life I have faced repression, torture and political vendetta of the worst kind from the anti Sikh and anti-Punjab Congress party. But no one and nothing has ever succeeded in deterring me from the path of standing by my convictions and fighting for the interests of the Khalsa Panth, Punjab and the country,” Badal said in the statement.
The former CM added, “My life has been an open book before the people. Those who rolled tanks into Sri Harmandar Sahib, destroyed Sri Akal Takhat Sahib, put hundreds of saroops of Shri guru granth Sahib to flames and killed thousands of innocent Sikhs in 1984 cannot change the script of that book.”
Badal said Amarinder has “now gone to the extent of declaring on the floor of the Vidhan Sabha that his vendetta will reach the “highest level.”
“Everyone knows what he means by “the highest level.” So why waste the state’s time on hypocrisy? I offer myself for arrest so that the state’s energies are not put to destructive waste any longer,” he said, adding that the Congress wanted to take control of the Sikh shrines in the state.
On February 18, the SIT probing the police firing at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura on anti-sacrilege protesters, had arrested Inspector General Paramraj Singh Umranangal on the basis of evidence that he was in command and the procedure adopted to open fire was not correct. Two persons were killed in the police firing in Behbal Kalan of Faridkot district.
The SIT set up to probe the case had last month arrested former Moga district police chief SSP Charanjit Singh Sharma who led a police party that allegedly opened fire at the anti-sacrilege protesters.