Tuesday, May 21, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Badal flays Cong, calls PAC meeting
May announce indefinite morcha
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 20
Shell-shocked by developments during the past few days, including the stunning defeat of the SAD-BJP alliance in the municipal corporation elections and the murder of the party’s Vidhan Sabha candidate from Valtoha and six others yesterday, the Shiromani Akali Dal chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has convened an emergency meeting of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of his party at Kalgidhar Nivas here on May 23 at 10 a.m.

Besides, he will lead a delegation of Akali legislators to Punjab Raj Bhavan to present a memorandum the same evening to protest against the “rising incidence of intimidating violence, repression and persecution against Akali workers and supporters besides the total denial of democratic rights and civil liberties in the state.”

Feeling deeply concerned, Mr Badal has also convened a meeting of the SAD legislators and district presidents of the party at the same venue at 3 p.m. on May 23.

Making clear his intention of “fighting back”, Mr Badal may give a call for an “indefinite morcha against state repression and politics of vindictiveness” after the May 23 meetings with an eye on the Budget session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, tentatively scheduled to begin on June 12, and the coming panchayat samiti and zila parishad elections on June 30.

Accusing the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, of injecting crime and violence into the Punjab polity and creating a Bihar-like situation in the state, Mr Badal, while commenting on the outcome of the municipal corporation elections held yesterday, described these as a victory of money, muscle and misuse of official machinery. “It was virtually a murder of democracy. The ruling party in Punjab believes only in the use of force and money to influence the results of the elections. And it has put the entire state machinery to gross misuse to ensure the victory of the Congress candidates.”

Describing the civic poll outcome as a “farce” and a “cruel joke on democracy”, he said that all democratic norms and the model code of conduct were thrown to the winds. Mr Badal alleged that from large-scale bungling in the preparation of the voters’ lists to the actual conduct of the poll, government machinery was brazenly misused. Akali-BJP workers were stopped even from campaigning with some freedom whereas those belonging to the ruling party enjoyed full government patronage. Money and liquor flowed freely. He said that there were independent media reports confirming that the practice of enlisting bogus voters had been resorted to on a massive scale throughout the state. “Our objections in this regard were brushed aside.”

Mr Badal said that the SAD-BJP alliance was in power when the elections to the state assembly were held. “Not even our opponents can accuse us of indulging in high-handedness or any kind of electoral malpractices. Elections to the state assembly in February this year, as also several byelections, were held in a totally free and fair manner. When we lost the February poll, we humbly bowed to the verdict of the electorate,” Mr Badal said.

All these meetings and the march to Raj Bhavan , say sources in the Akali Dal, have been necessitated by the government’s “consistent and willful refusal to listen to pleas for the restoration normalcy” in the state. They feel that the situation has gone so much out of hand now that the government is not only unable but also unwilling to stop daylight murders of its political opponents. The Valtoha incident is only one such example, though this has really highlighted the gravity of the situation, they add.

On May 23 Mr Badal will use the opportunity to impress upon the Governor to prepare a detailed situation report on law and order as it obtains in Punjab today. “The memorandum will focus on the growing incidence of violence in the state in general and against Akali workers and leaders in particular. Anti-social elements now have a free run. Incidents of daylight robbery, murder, theft and other criminal acts have risen alarmingly over the past three months,” Dal sources said, holding that the Chief Minister was yet to hold a meeting of top civil and police officials to assess the law and order situation and to devise a strategy to put the state back on the road to peace.

“The strategy of the Chief Minister, it appears, consists only of getting after Akali leaders one after the other with a view to diverting public attention from the real issues affecting the people. The government, it is felt, is interested not in eradicating corruption but only keeping the issue alive to tarnish the image of its political rivals and using it as a carpet to push all its failures away from the public eye. “This strategy,” say the Akali leaders, “may bring short-term gains to the ruling party but is bound to boom-rang as issues of daily interest to the people are being totally neglected. The memorandum may say that the government has no achievement, except a fluke breakthrough in the Ravi Sidhu case, to show for its first three months in office.”


Badal asks Amarinder to quit
Varinder Walia and Gurbaxpuri

Mr Parkash Singh Badal, former Chief Minister of Punjab, addresses mourners after the cremation of Akali leader
Mr Parkash Singh Badal, former Chief Minister of Punjab, addresses mourners after the cremation of Akali leader Gurdial Singh and five of his aides at Algon Kothi (Bhikhiwind) on Monday. 
— Photo Rajiv Sharma

Algon Kothi (Bhikhiwind), May 20
The Shiromani Akali Dal President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today asked Capt Amarinder Singh to immediately quit as Chief Minister by owning moral responsibility for the gruesome murder of senior Akali leader, Gurdial Singh, and five others in the border town of Bhikhiwind yesterday.

Sounding a note of warning, Mr Badal said Capt Amarinder Singh should get ready for a full-fledged struggle in the coming days as he had unleashed a reign of repression against the Akali workers all over the state. Mr Badal had arrived at Rajasansi to participate in the cremation of Gurdial Singh and his associates.

“We are being forced to adopt a confrontationist path by the Chief Minister even as the Congress government is resorting to intimidating violence”, he alleged. Mr Badal alleged that peace in Punjab was seriously threatened which was evident from the brazen daylight murders of a senior Akali leader and his associates in the border town. He announced that in view of the deteriorating law and order situation during the three-month old rule of Capt Amarinder Singh, the SAD had convened an emergency meeting of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), legislatures and MPs on May 23 at Chandigarh to chalk out the further course of action.

He said his party would meet the Prime Minister and senior Opposition leaders in New Delhi shortly to evolve a national consensus against the alleged “repressive attitude” of the state government. He said it was shocking that the Congress government had resorted to political murders. “If Capt Amarinder Singh had an iota of honesty, he must put Mr Gurchet Singh Bhullar, his Cabinet colleague, behind bars as his name had figured in the FIR”.

The SAD, has also decided to submit a memorandum to the Governor of Punjab for taking appropriate steps against the Amarinder Singh government which, the Dal said, was responsible for the “political murder” yesterday.

The atmosphere at the cremation site was surcharged and many supporters of the deceased Akali leaders gave a call for “direct action” to take revenge of the killings. The speech of Mr Virsa Singh Valtoha, a former member of Punjab State Subordinate Services Selection Board who has a militant background, was most vocal. He threatened to take revenge of the killings. He alleged that the Congress government was trying to revive militancy.

Mr Suridner Singh Kairon, a former Congress Member of Parliament and a close relative of Mr Badal, in an emotional tone said, “We are not wearing bangles. We will decide how to reach”. It may be mentioned here that Gurdial Singh, who had a Congress background, had joined the SAD at the behest of Mr Kairon.

Among those who were present at the cremation included Mr Tarlochan Singh Tur, an Akali MP, Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala, Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon and Mr Veer Singh Lopoke, all Akali MLAs, Mr Manmohan Singh Sathiala, a former MLA, Mr Manjinder Singh Kang, a former Chairman of the Forest Corporation, and Mr Alwinder Singh Pakhoke, Senior Vice-President, SGPC.


Killings not political, says Amarinder
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 20
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today gave a clean chit to his Cabinet colleague, Mr Gurchet Singh Bhullar, categorically saying that he was not involved in the killing of an Akali leader and six others in Bhikhiwind on Sunday.

‘’I do not have an iota of doubt that Bhullar is innocent. There is no reason why he should resign even on moral grounds. I have known him personally for long years. It is not a political murder but was born out of personal enmity. There is no question of handing over the investigation to the CBI. The instructions to the police are clear: thorough investigation. There will neither be interference from the government nor will the minister try in any way to influence the investigation. We shall come to know of the truth, who is behind it and why it has taken place.”

When repeatedly asked about the letters Mr Gurdial Singh had sent to the Governor and the Additional Director-General of Police, Security, seeking protection and even naming Mr Bhullar and others, Capt Amarinder Singh said the Intelligence wing must have assessed the threat perception and decided against providing him with security.

He said: ‘’We have withdrawn the security provided to many. I cannot give police protection to everyone in the state. There are a large number of cases of personal enmity in the state. How can everyone be given police protection? There is upward trend in petty crime. We need policing. This is why no force was spared for Gujarat. Personal bodyguards are better than policemen’’.

The Chief Minister admitted that the Majha belt was volatile. Poor economy was one of the reasons for the breakdown of law and order. Therefore, “we will go deep into all aspects of the situation and the district administrations have been asked to be alert.Back



Minister booked in Gurdial murder case
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 20
Even as the Tarn Taran police has conducted a series of raids to nab those involved in the sensational broad daylight murder of Senior Akali leader and five others, two persons whose names figured in the FIR today surrendered in the judicial court, at Patti. According to information with The Tribune, Major Singh and his nephew Dalbir Singh, the main suspects, have been handed over to the police.

Mr Narinder Bhargav, district police chief, Tarn Taran, admitted that a number of raids were conducted on the possible hideouts of the suspects in Tarn Taran, Amritsar and other border towns. However, Bakshish Singh, Jasbir Singh, Surjit Singh, Inderjit Singh and two unidentified persons are still at large.

The names of Mr Gurchet Singh Bhullar, Irrigation Minister, and his confidant Tarlok Singh Chakkwalia, who unsuccessfully contested the previous Assembly elections against Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon from Patti, also figured in the FIR.Back

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