P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Akali factions, SGPC on collision course
SGPC not to allow dharnas
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 29
Even as leaders of various Panthic bodies under the banner of ‘Gurdwara Sudhar Lehar - II have reiterated to stage a Dharna in front of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on November two , the SGPC today described the move as ‘anti-Panthic’ and unprecedented in the history of the Sikhs .

In a hard-hitting statement, Mr Avtar Singh, president SGPC said that the Shiromani Committee won’t allow such protests in the Golden Temple premises.

The SGPC said that Mr Calcutta, an SGPC member who had was secretary of the ‘Mini Parliament’ of the Sikhs is aware of the fact that such Dharnas would amount to a violation of Sikh Maryada (Sikh tradition) and send wrong signals to the Sikhs across the world.

However, Mr Calcutta clarified that the Dharna would be organised outside the SGPC premises and nobody would enter the Golden Temple precincts. He added the pilgrims wont be put to inconvenience. He, however, added that there was no harm in organising Dharna outside the SGPC which was constituted through an act, passed by Parliament .

Meanwhile, Mr Kanwarpal Singh, Secretary Gurdwara Sudhar Panthic Committee, said that the aim of Dharna was to expose the misdeeds of the SGPC and misuse of its Task Force to humble opponents of SAD chief, Parkash Singh Badal. He said while at Dharna, it would be ensured that sentiments of Sikh Sangat were not hurt. Restraint would be exercised to maintain Sikh Maryada, he said.

Rival Akali factions have also decided to organise a state-level rally at Ludhiana on November 8 to counter the Badals.

Also silent protest is planned in Amritsar on November where ‘undoctored’ photos of the ‘attack’ by the SGPC and the SAD on the 500 birth anniversary of Baba Budhaji on ‘peaceful marchers’, led by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President SAD (Amritsar) would be displayed for the sangat to ascertain truth who was behind violence at Kathunangal.


SAD (A) to keep attending SGPC functions
Claims it did not start Kathunangal violence
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 29
The Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), led by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, has decided its members will keep attending functions organised by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) as ‘humble Sikhs’.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Emaan Singh Mann said, “If parties that welcomed Operation Bluestar have been allowed to speak from the stages of the SGPC, what stops, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann from speaking at these functions.” The workers of his party would go unarmed at these functions. “Nobody can stop us,” he claimed.

Mr Mann went on to add that Mr Parkash Singh Badal could not decide which Sikh could attend an SGPC function and who would be kept out. The SGPC was not for the SAD led by Mr Badal or Mr Mann, rather its was a body meant for the Sikhs, said Mr Emaan Singh, who is son of Mr Simranjit Singh Mann.

Mr Emaan Singh clarified that the SAD ( Amritsar) had nothing to do with the clash at Kathunangal on October 25. The party workers were unarmed and had gone to attend the 500th birth anniversary celebrations of Baba Budha. It was Mr Badal’s men , who were armed, who had attacked his party workers, he claimed.

He said advertisement had been placed in leading English and Punjabi newspapers blaming Mr Mann for the ugly clash.

The SP Majitha, had met Mr Mann before the party workers started their march towards the pandal. He had asked the workers not to carry lathis or firearms. Mr Mann had been assured by the SP that the Badal-led SAD and its workers would also be unarmed. However, on reaching the pandal, the main entrance was blocked by youngsters carrying lathis and kirpans.

These men blocked the path of Mr Mann and some sword-wielding youths began to attack him, claimed Mr Emaan Singh.


Takht chief Badal henchman, says Mann
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, October 29
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) Chief criticised Jathedar of Akal Takht, Joginder Singh Vedanti and Mr Avtar Singh, president of the SGPC, for acting on the instructions of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, SAD (B) chief.

Mr Mann was addressing a press conference at Mahilpur, 24 Km from here this afternoon. He said Jathedar of Akal Takht was summoning many persons at Akal Takht without reason but he had never called Mr Parkash Singh Badal at Akal Takht for taking money from a tobacco company as election fund. Jathedar of Akal Takht was an henchman of Mr Badal, he alleged.

Referring to recent violent incident at Kathunangal during the 500th birth anniversary celebrations of Baba Budhaji, Mr Mann said that he was simply going towards the stage by reciting Satnam sankirtan to pay his respects to the first head granthi of the Golden Temple.

But Goondas of Mr Badal attacked him and his supporters. He said he was only participating and wanted the SGPC functions past. But he had decided now to participate in all functions of the SAD (B) and the BJP in future.

Paying tributes to late Kanshi Ram, founder of the BSP, Mr Mann said he was a saviour of Dalits. He suggested to call Kanshi Ram as Bhai Kanshi Ramji in future.

Earlier Mr Mann participated in a congregation at Shaheedan Gurdwara. As many as 138 families of the Sikh martyrs of 1984 anti Sikh Violence were honoured by him.


“Jathedar should summon trouble-makers”
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 29
Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti should summon those responsible for hooliganism at Kathunangal during the fifth birth centenary celebrations of Baba Budhaji on October 25.

Stating this in a missive to Jathedar Vedanti, Capt Channan Singh Sidhu, president Sikh Forum Punjab, urged the Jathedar to summon those persons and instruct them to desist from creating ruckus at religious functions. He said the Jathedar Vedanti should resign if he fails to take any action against these persons.

Capt Sidhu, while addressing mediapersons here yesterday, alleged that the Congress government in the state, through its agents, was trying to create 1984-like situation to create terror in the minds of people. He said his party would expose the persons responsible for creating disturbance.

He said Mr Mann was playing in the hands of the Congress and intelligence agencies. He said Mann had every right to project his ideology before the public but for this, he should hold separate functions and should not disturb the religious functions organised by the SGPC.

He further said that Mr Mann was using religious and political platforms for raising the demand of Khalistan. He said no Sikh in the country wanted Khalistan.

He said Khalistan would be automatically achieved by opening medical and engineering colleges for educating the youth in the state, who would spread knowledge and serve humanity all over the country and world.


SGPC chief decries Danish court ruling on kirpan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 29
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has viewed with utmost concern and distress the latest judgment of the Copenhagen Eastern High Court, upholding the Copenhagen City Court judgment confiscating the six-inch-long kirpan of a practising “amritdhari” (baptised) Sikh, Dr Ripudaman Singh.

Dr Singh has been living in Denmark for the past six years and has his higher education from Aarhus University.

Noting that Dr Singh always used to possess the religious symbol, SGPC chief Avtar Singh in a letter said it was obligatory for every baptised Sikh to carry kirpan along with four other symbols.

He recalled that the kirpan had utmost sentimental and emotional value for the Sikhs and called upon the Government of Denmark to declare the carrying and possession of kirpan by a baptised Sikh legal. He said a temporary licence must be issued to the doctor to possess the kirpan till the case was pending.

He sought the restoration of kirpan confiscated from Dr Ripudaman Singh back to the owner.

The SGPC president further said the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs, Akal Takht, keenly watched the case and issued directions from time to time.

The SGPC on its part as well as the Minorities Commission, Government of India, also wanted Danish Government’s intervention in this case, he added.

He added that the present interpretation of the Danish weapon law was not regulatory in nature and had put a blanket ban on the Sikhs observing and professing their religion as true baptised Sikhs.

Avtar Singh also noted with concern that by interpreting the Danish weapon law, the court had held and treated kirpan to be a mere weapon.

Appreciating the fact that Denmark had a rich tradition of tolerance and secularism, he said the conviction of a Sikh for practising his religion was a matter of concern.

Denmark has a minuscule population of around 700 Sikhs, out of whom only 70 are baptised.

“So there seems to be no practical problem in issuing a regulatory administrative instruction allowing the wearing of kirpans by faithful adherents of Sikhism,” he said.


Customs seizes goods worth Rs 40,000
from Pak fans

92 fans return home
Ashok Sethi and P.K. Jaiswar

Amritsar, October 29
In a major breach of the security protocol for cricket fans visiting India as some of them reportedly visited Jalandhar, hub of sports goods, without valid visa during the championship trophy created a piquant situation for the security agencies detailed to maintain vigil on the movement of Paksitani cricket fans.

The Customs authorities at Wagah joint check post seized cricket accessories and other items, manufactured in Jalandhar, worth more than Rs 40,000 from fans returning to their home country after seeing one-day cricket ties between Pakistan, South Africa and New Zealand.

Customs officials still are ascertaining how the Pakistani fans visited Jalandhar without visa documents to buy accessories or Jalandhar-based manufacturers visited Chandigarh for business there.

Senior Customs officers said cricket fans were carrying 10,000 cricket bat accessories including rubber grips and other items. According to Customs law no one is allowed to take commercial item to their country without proper documents.

Meanwhile, 92 Pakistani fans returned in past two days while 17 are enjoying the Indian hospitality at Chandigarh and were expected to go back to their country tomorrow, the last day of visa validity.

Anjum Sohail and Shakeel Ahmad who returned to their country described their visit to Mohali and Chandigarh as memorable one.

Praising Indian hospitality and food they said they were overwhelmed by the affection and warmth shown by the Indians during their stay.


No end to border farmers’ woes
Ajay Banerjee and Anirudh Gupta

Ferozepore, October 29
Life for farmers along the sensitive Indo-Pakistan border is an unending lesson in itself. It confronts the soul of farmers. Apart from facing the fury caused by the Sutlej which runs along the border, the line drawn by Sir Cyril Radcliffe to demarcate the boundary of India and Pakistan in 1947 poses the biggest challenge of them all.

Within this hapless community, there is a section of villages which are located between the right bank of the Sutlej and the border. They are worse off. They face Pakistan on one side, while the river separates them from India. They are caught between the proverbial devil and the deep sea.

Scores of such villages exist in this district alone, along the zig-zag path of the Sutlej. Sometimes entering Pakistan and then re-entering India, only to meander back across to Pakistan.

Villagers here do not build pucca houses. The reason: They are based just a kilometre away from the border and the first shell fired from across will blow away everything.

Though farmers, who now grow cash crops, have managed to buy motor cycles, this is in stark contrast to their mud houses.

In Gatti Rajo Ke Village, Pathana Singh tell us that the villages do not have a drinking water system. A sizeable number of people who had gathered to speak to The Tribune team said they had not even heard of any sanitation scheme the Punjab Government had launched elsewhere.

Roop Singh, a registered medical practitioner in Gatti Jalo Ke village, said villages located between the Sutlej and the border needed immediate attention.

Large tracts of lands are located across the electrified fence all along the border. Cropping in these lands is a problem, says Jagtar Singh. Special permission is required for taking labourers across the fence. At times, women are not allowed, while the timings for attending the fields are highly restricted. Sometimes less than five hours are allowed for farmers to cross through special gates at the fence and get back. For a handful of villages, the boat ferry across the Sutlej is the only option for them to reach home or to the markets in the nearest town.

Any tension between New Delhi and Islamabad — the last one being Operation Parakaram in December 2001 — and the villages have to be vacated by people with cattle. “We have been uprooted and relocated as many as 10 times since Partition — some times due to wars or else due to floods,” says Jagga Singh of Hazara village.

During the 1965 and 1971 wars, the area suffered heavy damage.

Mines have been the bane of this area. All along the border, the Indian Army planted land mines during Operation Parakaram. Near Hussainiwala, there is a chunk of 14,000 acres spread across 24-25 villages where farmers were not paid compensation for the mines, as they are only the tillers and not the owners of the land, informs Hansa Singh. They got money only for the standing crop at that time. The land belongs to the government. There have been promises that the tillers will be allotted the land. Some of the farmers were given the land, but not those in this belt.

Hansa Singh says that seeing the hardship of the farmers, the lands should be allotted at a concessional rate and this should be done immediately.

Even as he finishes his sentence, Boora Singh, a student of class VII, limps in and joins the group. He is holding a crutch. His right leg was blown off, as he accidentally stepped on a mine. Thankfully, for Boora Singh, the only ray of hope is that the school in his village is functioning normally. Teachers — who normally have a maligned image of being absentees — come regularly. Villagers demand that the government should upgrade the middle school.


Smuggling of liquor from Chandigarh continues
K S Chawla

Ludhiana, October 29
Smuggling of liquor from Chandigarh to various cities of Punjab has hit the liquor trade in the state and liquor contractors are being forced to reduce the prices of the same.

liquor contractors of Punjab allege that the smugglers of liquor are working hand in glove with the politicians, police and the Department of Excise and Taxation.

Punjab liquor contractors are supposed to lift a fixed quota of liquor whether they are able to sell the same or not. This has resulted in huge accumulation of stocks of IMFL with the liquor contractors. According to conservative estimates, the liquor contractors have stocks worth about Rs 1500 crore lying with them. The state government does not lose anything as it collects the excise duty even on unsold liquor.

Enquiries made by The Tribune show today that the smuggling of liquor from Chandigarh has been taking place unabated and the smugglers of liquor make home delivery to the consumers at a cheap rate as a result of which the sales of IMFL have not picked up after Navratras. Normally the sale of liquor picks up after Dassehra and Divali festivals and the marriage season also starts with the same.

The liquor contractors allege that the smugglers have strong political patronage and they protect them in view of the approaching Vidhan Sabha elections. Besides, the police officials are also making huge fortunes. The SHOs reportedly get remuneration ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 per month from the smugglers. The worst hit districts due to the smuggling of liquor are Ludhiana and Ropar because of close proximity to Chandigarh.

In order to compete with the smugglers, the licensed liquor contractors of Punjab have now reduced the wholesale prices of IMFL. They have reduced the wholesale prices by Rs 1500 to Rs 2000 per box of 12 bottles of whisky.

Scotch whisky of Black Dog brand which was sold for Rs 15,000 per box is now being sold for Rs 13000 per box. Royal Challenge (IMFL) which is very popular at marriages is being sold for Rs 3200 per box against Rs 4200 per box. There is no change in the retail price of Royal Challenge or other IMFL brands and Royal Challenge was sold for Rs 350 per bottle. The retail prices of IMFL were raised in the month of May following huge sales of beer. The smugglers sell Royal Challenge for Rs 280 per bottle. Royal Stag for Rs 2400 per box against the smuggled price of Rs 1800 per box.

According to one licensed liquor contractor, the smugglers are selling nearly 20 per cent of the total sales of liquor in Punjab. Liquor in Chandigarh is cheaper because of low rate of excise duty.

The liquor contractors allege that the state Excise Department is also not taking any preventive steps to check the smuggling of liquor from Chandigarh. “Rather the department imposed heavy penalties on the liquor licensed contractors during the past few months. Enquiries further show that the sale of beer was up three times during the months of April, May and June which has saved the liquor contractors.

The liquor contractors in order to attract consumers, have set up air-conditioned ahatas near liquor shops and they supply all types of snacks at cheap rates.

The introduction of the license system in Punjab has helped in wiping out private armies of the liquor contractors.


Mystery shrouds Dr Thind’s identification
Our correspondent

Hoshiarpur, October 29
The disappearance of Dr Ravinder Singh Thind, working as surgeon at Government Rural Hospital, Phuglana of Hoshiarpur district, following the arrest of a doctor of the same name of Grewal Hospital at Doraha (Ludhiana) in a murder case by the Amritsar police, has thrown the District Health Department into turmoil.

Mystery shrouds the identification of Dr Ravinder Singh Thind, surgeon of Government Rural Hospital, Phuglana, who disappeared from duty on October 10, following the arrest of a doctor of the same name on October 9. The State Health Department has instructed the District Health authorities to clear their stand on the issue.

Dr Kamaljeet Kaur, Civil Surgeon, Hoshiarpur has written to the SSP to make investigation about the identification of Dr Ravinder Singh Thind and to ascertain whether the surgeon of Government Rural Hospital, Phuglana, and the arrested doctor of his name were two different persons or one. The authorities has also seized the record of Government Rural Hospital, Phuglana, and started investigation.

Mr S. K. Kalia, SP (H), told that he had deputed DSP (R) to probe the matter at the earliest and submit his report accordingly.

It was alleged that Dr Ravinder Singh Thind got joined an impersonator (most probably his driver) in his place on October 7, 2003 in the said government hospital. Since then the impersonator had been working in his place. He himself worked as a surgeon in some private hospitals of Ludhiana during the period and amassed lakhs of rupees not only from the Health Department but also from the private hospitals by hatching a conspiracy.

The impersonator doctor working in place of Dr Ravinder Singh Thind somehow succeeded in getting the sympathy of the people of the area on the pretext of his inability to speak and write. This state of affairs continued for three years.

The Amritsar police has arrested Dr Ravinder Singh Thind on October 9, 2006, in connection with the murder of a youngster Visakha Singh who wanted to go abroad, in a hotel room. The doctor used a syringe to kill the youth. He booked a room in a hotel at Amritsar under a fake name and address, killed the youth by administering injections and fled. But a vial left by the doctor helped the police to crack the murder case.

On seeing the working of impersonator doctor, Mr Charanjit Singh, Sarpanch of village Phuglana, requested the present Deputy Commissioner, Dr Manjit Kaur, the then Civil Surgeon and Mr Ram Lubhaya, MLA, to get him transferred. But on account of his disability and requests he remained in the hospital since his first posting.

The people of the area are questioning how, the impersonator doctor worked on a regular post without the knowledge of district health authorities. They were demanding a diligence probe to bring the reality before the public.


Third Front to contest 70 Assembly seats
Tribune News Service

Ropar, October 29
The Third Front in principle agreed to contest 70 seats in the coming Assembly elections in the state. The Front include parties like Lok Bhalai, Akali Dal (1920), Akali Dal (Longowal), CPI, CPM, Jan Morcha, said CPM state secretary Balwant Singh here on Friday.

“We have deiced to contest only those seats where we felt a strong hold of our workers. We are also in touch with one faction of the BSP (Kainth) to include it in our alliance but decided to kept out Akali Dal (Amritsar) from our Front, said Mr Balwant Singh, while addressing a press conference here.

He said the CPM will hold a Chakka Jam protest through out the state from 12 pm to 2 pm on November 10 against the anti- farmer and anti-labour policies of the Congress government.

Blaming both the Congress and Akali Dal (Badal) for the poor conditions of farmers in the state, he said the alliance has been formed to expose these anti-people parties.

Over 500 debt-ridden farmers had committed suicide in the state. But the state government had failed to get any relief package for the farmers from the Centre.

He said mega projects in the state will not help the poor. The Congress government started these mega projects to appease the industrialists and gave the land of the farmers to them on cheap rates, as also giving them tax releif.

While citing no specific reason to keep the Akali Dal (Amritsar) out of the Front, Mr Balwant Singh praised president of Akali Dal (Amritsar) Simranjit Singh Mann for his daring step to raise a voice against the former Chief minister and SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal during a function organised to mark the 500th birth anniversary of Baba Buddha in Amritsar on October 25.

He said the Akali Dal has monopolised religious functions organised by the SGPC.


Badal, Khanna must step down: Mayor
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 29
Mr Vishnu Sharma, Mayor, today said that SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal and state BJP president Avinash Rai Khanna should resign from their respective posts as their alliance candidate Anil Bajaj was defeated with a huge margin in the election of Ward No. 32 by Congress candidate Anil Kumar Mangla.

Addressing a press conference, he said people had voted in favour of the Congress candidate in recognition of the development carried out by the Chief Minister.

He said though Mr Badal, Mr Khanna and former Finance Minister Kanwaljit Singh campaigned for Mr Bajaj, voters made him taste defeat.

He said no party leader or workers indulged in any malpractice during voting. He said a polling agent of the BJP candidate was arrested by the police along with 130 ballot papers. BJP workers also tried to sabotage the election process when they came to know that their candidate would be defeated, he alleged.

Meanwhile, Mr Daleep Singh Pandhi, former Akali minister, alleged that the violence by Congressmen in the elections yesterday, showed that democracy had been murdered in Punjab. The Election Commission should make foolproof arrangements to conduct the coming assembly elections in a free and fair manner, he added


Cong encourages corruption, says Grewal
Our Correspondent

Nabha, October 29
Mr Harjit Singh Grewal, national secretary, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the police officers exceeding limits under the Congress rule in the state would have to answer for their deeds. Those who had helped the Congress men to kill democracy in Patiala and Jalandhar would not be spared and it was a matter of couple of months only. He added in a democratic set up there could not be capture of polling booths by the media adviser of the Chief Minister.

He said the Congress had encouraged corruption and lowered the level of dignity in the state. Large scale booth capturing by Congress henchmen at the behest of the Chief Minister had shown that the ruling party was trying to regain power in the state by using foul means.


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