Friday, March 16, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Punjab House condemns 1984 ‘massacre’
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 15
For the first time, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha today unanimously passed a resolution condemning the 1984 “massacre” of Sikhs in the wake of the assassination of the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.

The resolution, moved by the Treasury Bench MLAs, Mr Sukhwinder Singh Aulakh (SAD) and Mr Jagdish Sawhney (BJP), was endorsed by all nine speakers who followed them. The members repeatedly said Parliament, too, should adopt a similar resolution during its current Budget session.

Those who spoke had a field day in the absence of the Opposition, particularly the Congress and the CPI. Thus, with no one to interrupt, members of the ruling parties named the Congress and its leadership as the villain of the piece for openly aiding and abetting the killing of innocent Sikhs. The members demanded that the ‘’identified’’ guilty persons should be punished and the Tarkunde Commission report that was banned by the Congress made public.

In fact, the tone and tenor of the speeches made in House was like turning a knife in old wounds and reviving the pain and agony of those days. It was, by and large, Congress bashing with some BJP members, like Mrs Laxmi Kanta Chawla, provoking some SAD MLAs to stand up on a point-of-order to rebut her. She stuck to her guns and said she condemned all those who engaged in killings and blasts.

Throughout the period when members spoke on the resolution, the Leader of the House, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, was absent and so were a majority of the ministers. The “unattached” MLA, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, pointed this out and also suggested certain amendments and changes in the phrases and words used in the original resolution moved by Mr Aulakh and Mr Sawhney.

Mr Grewal said the word “riot” was incorrect and it should be replaced by “massacre”. In same way, ‘’rioters’’ should be substituted by “killers”. It was he who said that the Tarkunde Commission report should be made public and the constitution of the Nanavati Commission welcomed.

The amendments were accepted. The Speaker, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, read out the resolution and put it to vote. It was passed unanimously. The resolution reads: “The House unanimously resolves to condemn the senseless killings of Punjabis, especially Sikhs, in Delhi and other parts of the country in the 1984 massacre engineered by politically motivated people with the intention of deriving political mileage. This House welcomes the constitution of the Nanavati Commission and strongly recommends to the government to take immediate steps to approach the central government and the state governments concerned to bring the killers, who have so far escaped the clutches of law, to book and ensure the severest possible punishment to them so that the communal (sic) fabric of the country is maintained”.

The SAD and BJP participants appeared guarded in their comments lest these led to unintended tension in the House. But certain references were quite obvious and some members did take notice of such comments by interrupting the speakers. Though a much-delayed action, it was apparent that the Treasury Benches wanted to take advantage of the absence of the Opposition whose 21 MLAs were suspended for the remaining part of the Budget session on March 13 after three days of consecutive interruptions in the conduct of the business.

The suspended CPI MLA, Mr Hardev Arshi, told TNS that in the listed business for the day there were only two resolutions: one by him on steps to reduce the number of road accidents and the second by Mr Ajaib Singh Raunta, CPI, on steps to check female infanticide. However, the inclusion of the third resolution by Mr Aulakh and Mr Sawhney and the way it had been done was something unheard of in the parliamentary system.

With the Opposition suspended, though it did hold a noisy protest in the Lobby and later the Leader of the Opposition, Chaudhury Jagjit Singh, spoke to the Press, the political complexion of the House has changed and so has the flavour of the proceedings. It was just one-way traffic today as was the case on Wednesday.

Attempts to break the impasse and find a face-saver to withdraw the suspension resolution and bring the Opposition back to the House seemingly failed yet again this morning when the Speaker intervened. According to Mr Arshi and Chaudhury Jagjit Singh, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, did not attend the meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. The Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, who attended, was late by half an hour and kept the Opposition leaders waiting. The two said that the Minister was agreeable to the Opposition point of view on the issue of “discrimination” and willing to make amends in respect of the release of grants for development works, etc, but was unwilling to commit or assure the Opposition on the floor of the House.

Apparently, this reluctance came from the presumption that it would only lend credence to the Opposition charge that the government was “discrminating” against the Opposition, said Mr Arshi.

In fact, inside the House during zero hour several members pleaded that the ruling combine should show magnanimity and let the Opposition participate. The Opposition seemingly feels that “” developments may be one of the strong factors to keep it away from the House during the Budget session since this issue and the ones related to law and order, farmers’ problems, etc, were to be raised.

Mr Mittal stood up to chide Mr Grewal and asked if he had the power of attorney from the Opposition to plead its case. This resulted in some exchange of hot words after which Mr Grewal walked out in protest with Mr Prem Singh Lalpura, Mr Ranjit Singh Chhajjalwadi and Mrs Daljit Kaur following him. In fact, Mr Lalpura showed his displeasure over the way senior members like him who had been in the House for 25 years were sidelined and insulted.

Prior to him, Mr Henry of the Congress had walked out when the Speaker ruled that whatever was being said by the member would not go on record.

During question hour, Mrs Laxmi Kanta Chawla and Mr Jagdish Sawhney, both of the BJP, and Mr Sohan Singh Bodal of the SAD spoke more like Opposition members and were on their feet time and again expressing their dissatisfaction over the manner in which their supplementary and postponed questions were being answered by the Ministers, Mr Sucha Singh Langah, Mr Manoranjan Kalia and Mr Gurdev Singh Badal, to name just three.

The Speaker, Mr Atwal, did pull up the ministers, though mildly, asking them to come prepared and reply to the satisfaction of the members. He also took cognisance of the fact that letters written by MLAs to the Ministers or secretaries were not even acknowledged. The Chief Minister intervened to assure that in future all communications from MLAs would be replied to within a fortnight. To a pointer by the Congress MLA, Mr Avtar Henry, he said the Opposition MLAs would get a reply in14 days.

Zero hour again started with the issue of “discrimination” against the Opposition being raised by Mr Henry, the lone Congress MLA left in the House. Mr Grewal, speaking in his characteristic style, said it was strange that the Chief Minister was not complimented by the Treasury Benches the day House assembled after the inauguration of the Thein Dam by the Prime Minister.

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