The Punjab State is once again in turmoil thanks to the exposure of the alleged connivance of Badals in the incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. More than three years old incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib at Burj Jawahar Singh Wala, Bargari, and police firing have exposed the forces behind these incidents which have disturbed the peace of Punjab and the atmosphere is surcharged.
Both major political parties, Congress and Shiromini Akali Dal, are involved in a war of words and are accusing each other for the same. The fact remains that Badals – Parkash Singh Badal former Chief Minister and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, former Deputy Chief Minister and President of the Akali Dal – cannot be absolved of the responsibility of creating this situation in Punjab. This situation was allegedly created to garner votes of the followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda Sirsa, but despite that the Akali Dal faced a humiliating defeat in 2017 assembly elections and was decimated to 15 seats. The dream of Sukhbir Singh Badal to rule for 25 years has been shattered and they have been badly alienated from the Sikh masses – whatever be their explanations.
Amarinder Singh led Congress Government in Punjab has got an upper hand and the Akalis have been put in the dock.
The incidents of sacrilege were committed during the SAD-BJP government in 2015 when the bir of Granth Sahib was stolen from a gurdwara at village Burj Jawahar Singh Wala and the government failed to take immediate effective steps to recover the Granth Sahib and catch the culprits. Badals claim that they formed a special investigation team (SIT) under the supervision of Ranbir Singh Khatra, DIG and also setup a judicial commission under Justice (retired) Zora Singh. But the outcome of these steps was nil.Ranbir Singh Khatra now claims that his team had identified the culprits. The moot question is why the culprits were not arrested. The answer is that he was under pressure not to arrest any person. It was only after the formation of Amarinder Singh government in Punjab that some persons have been arrested. Khatra’s own son contested the 2017 Vidhan Sabha poll from Patiala district on Akali ticket.
Similarly Zora Singh Commission completed its report and he had been waiting outside the residence of Chief Secretary, now retired, to present report, but this report was not received and he left the report in his camp office.
It was only Amarinder Singh who had promised to get the culprits hauled up during the election campaign that he setup Justice Ranjit Singh (Retd.) Commission to probe into the incidents of sacrilege and police firing at Bargari and Kotkapura. Now when Justice Ranjit Singh (retd.) commission has submitted its report to the government and exposed the persons behind these incidents, the Akali Dal leadership has rejected the report and described the same as a bogus report. Justice Ranjit Singh was considered one of the most competent judges in the Punjab and Haryana High Court from where he retired. Even after his retirement he was appointed chairman of Debt Tribunal of the Union Government keeping in view his competence and integrity.
Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission has held the Badals and the followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda responsible for the incidents of sacrilege and the police firing as ordered by the former Chief Minister. Parkash Singh Badal has denied that he ordered police firing at Bargari in which two Sikh youth were killed. The protesters were sitting in dharna peacefully and the police swooped down at 2 am in the wee hours to lift the dharna.
Sumedh Singh Saini, former DGP Punjab police in his affidavit to the Ranjit Singh Commission has stated that he was in contact with the Chief Minister and the Chief Minister was kept in the loop. It was only after apprising the Chief Minister that the police firing was ordered, he has stated.
Justice Ranjit Singh Commission has also exposed the connivance between the Badals and the followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda. As a matter of fact Sikhs were unhappy with the Badals when they got pardon for Gurmeeet Ram Raheem Singh from the Akal Takhat and there were protests all over the state and even the radicals organized a Sarbat Khalsa in the month of November at Tarn Taran where they appointed five new jathedars of the Sikh Takhats including Akal Takhat. Even Panj Piaras also resigned from their posts. Giani Gurmukh Singh who was Jathedar of Takhat Damdama Sahib was the first jathedar who exposed the Badals and the Jathedar Akal Takhat stating how the pardon was granted to Gurmeet Ram Raheem without his physical appearance at the Akal Takhat. He was removed from the post of jathedar of Damdama Sahib Talwandi Sabo and transferred to Kurukshetra. His electricity and water connections were also disconnected and he was asked to vacate his house. He made the statement that everything had happened against his conscience. But now when he has been again appointed as head granthi at Akal Takhat, his younger brother Himmat Singh has given a statement against Justice Ranjit Singh.
Since Justice Ranjit Singh (Retd.) has exposed the nexus between the Badals and the followers of Dera Sacha Sauda, strong resentment has been prevailing among the Sikhs in India and among the NRI Sikhs in particular. The hardliners have been sitting on dharna at Bargari for the last three months to seek action against Badals and other guilty of the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. They have refused to withdraw their dharna.
Sukhbir Singh Badal and Bikram Singh Majithia have displayed the bankruptcy of leadership by ‘auctioning’ justice Ranjit Singh Commission report outside the Vidhan Sabha at Chandigarh for Rs. 2.50 to Rs. 5/- per copy and muzzling it under their feet. They also proved immature when they boycotted the Vidhan Sabha session where Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report was tabled. They did not participate in the debate and now they have come under attack from the senior leadership (taksali leaders) like Tota Singh, Ranjit Singh Brahampura and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.
Some of the SGPC members including the former president Avtar Singh Makkar and Bibi Kiranjit Kaur have also strongly condemned the leadership of Sukhbir and sought the resignation of jathedar Akal Takhat. Some Sikh organizations have demanded withdrawal of title of ‘Fakhre-e-Qaum’ bestowed upon Parkash Singh Badal for bringing disgrace to the Sikh Panth.
Avtar Singh Makkar told this writer that he had been called to Chadigarh before the grant of pardon to Gurmeet Ram Raheem and told that Gurmeet Ram Raheem had to be granted pardon. He revealed that he had suggested to Sukhbir that pardon should be granted only after having consultations with the Panthic organizations like Nihangs and Sant Sampardas. Sukhbir just heard him and said that pardon had to be granted. He asked Makkar to meet him in the evening at 4 pm. But before his meeting in the evening, the high priests had granted pardon to Gurmeet Ram Raheeem. Makkar has now demanded resignation of the jathedar of Akal Takhat and said that he should have resigned by now voluntarily. Makkar further told this writer that when he visited Jawahar Singh Wala and Bargari after the Guru Granth Sahib had been stolen, he found small size posters pasted on the walls of gurdwara and trees saying, ‘Tohada Bapu sade kabze which hai, jaye kar tohade which himmat hai tan chhuda lavo (Your Bapu (Granth Sahib) is in our custody if you have the guts, get it released). A prize of Rs. 5 lakhs was also announced. These posters were allegedly put up by the followers of Dera Sacha Sauda, he said.
Makkar said that he had pointed out these posters to the senior police officers present on the spot. After visiting two places he came to Chandigarh to meet Parkash Singh Badal. Badal was holding a meeting in the Punjab Bhawan. After the meeting Badal made him sit in his car and they came to Chief Minister’s residence. He told everything to Badal and questioned him. Makkar pointed out that farmers have held agitation and they also detained trains and sat on the railway tracks, the farmers also held chakka jam but there was no lathi charge, no use of tear gas and no police firing. The followers of Dera Sacha Sauda also created disturbance in Bathinda to ensure the screening of the film of Gurmeet Ram Raheem and there was no lathi charge nor police firing. Why then police firing on the Sikhs sitting peacefully and reciting Gurbani? According to Makkar Badal kept mum and did not reply.
Both factions of the AAP are also demanding registration of cases against Parkash Singh Badal and Sumedh Singh Saini. They also participated in the debate on Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report in the Vidhan Sabha. Now H S Phoolka AAP leader has threatened to resign from Vidhan Sabha if FIR is not registered against Parkash Singh Badal and Sumedh Singh Saini. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is in real tight position and Akalis are on the defensive.
Akali leadership is not going to learn any lesson and has granted ticket to the son of Akal Takhat jathedar to contest Zila Parishad election in Muktsar.
Sukhbir Badal has now announced holding of ‘Pol Khol’ rallies. What ‘Pol’ he would expose when Justice Ranjit Singh Commission has already exposed them.
The Punjab Congress is trying to make full use of the exposure by justice Ranjit Singh and is also organizing rallies.
Under pressure from the Congress Legislators and Ministers, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has withdrawn the cases from CBI and had decided to setup special investigation team (SIT) of Punjab Police to probe the cases as revealed by the Ranjit Singh Commission. As many as 24 police officers and bureaucrats have already been issued show cause notices under the action taken report. Chief Minister has been forced to give up his ‘No Vendetta’ attitude and he has announced that he would go hammer and tongs against the Badals and would not spare anyone. It is time for test of the Chief Minister.
K S Chawla is a senior journalist based at Ludhiana.
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