Chandigarh, Oct 15 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Monday asserted that he will not back out on his promise to bring to book culprits of the Bargari sacrilege case and subsequent incidents of firing at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura in 2015.
The sacrilege incidents had led to massive protests in different parts of Punjab three years ago and two people were killed in the firings at Behbal Kalan. Police had also allegedly fired at protesters to disperse them in Kotkapura.
Rejecting allegations that the situation in Bargari, where anti-sacrilege protesters have been staging a sit-in since June 1, had got out of control, Singh said his government was prepared to deal with any situation.
He also said some people with vested political interests were seeking to politicise the sensitive issues. On Sunday, the protesters had organised a function to observe the third death anniversary of the two victims killed in the alleged police firing in 2015. They had given the government a 15-day ultimatum on October 7 to take action against those indicted by the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission which had probed the incidents of sacrilege.
“I had promised (ahead of the 2017 assembly polls) that if the Congress forms government in Punjab, we will take strict action against those responsible both in the sacrilege as well the police firing incidents,” the chief minister said at a press conference here.
Singh made it clear that the SIT was investigating the Bargari and other incidents, but “under the law, I cannot interfere in its functioning.” “I want to make one thing clear that it was my task to put up a SIT, but once an SIT is formed.. I have no role to play in the SIT… I cannot give them any orders, they are an independent investigation agency,” he said.
Singh said the SIT, headed by senior IPS officer Prabodh Kumar, was fully cognisant of the sensitivity and urgency of the matter, and would not delay its investigations.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) would move courts if they find any ground for action against anybody, the chief minister said.
Pointing out that his government had initiated steps immediately after coming to power to fulfil the Congress’s promise of strict action in these cases, he said the decision to hand over the probe to the SIT was unanimously taken in a recent session of the Punjab Assembly. “The government had initially decided to entrust the probe to the CBI, but the assembly decided against it out of fear that the central agency could get influenced because of the alliance of the ruling BJP with the SAD (at the Centre),” he added.
“I picked up the best officer for the SIT, Prabodh Kumar. He has investigated several national level cases,” Singh said.
Asked if Bargari was becoming a rallying point for radicals, the chief minister said everyone knew that some people were trying to politicise the issue.
The people of Punjab want peace and will not get carried away by the attempts of such elements to take political mileage, Singh said.
He warned the radicals against trying to disturb the hard-earned peace of Punjab. On allegations that he was supporting radicals to get control of the SGPC, the apex religious body of the Sikhs, Singh said he had never had any links with such people and elements. He said he would support any moderate group of Sikhs to get control of the SGPC, as he wanted the Badals out of it. “They have ruined the Gurdwaras,” he said, adding that as far as former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was concerned, “he is no moderate but an opportunist who uses people of all shades to meet his political ends.” Replying to a question, Singh observed that the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission, which probed the sacrilege cases of 2015, in its report, had clearly stated that it was only a fact-finding report and further investigations were required. Pointing out that he and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had visited Behbal Kalan soon after the incident, Singh said his ministers were in contact with the families of the deceased.
These families have been given compensation beyond what was recommended by commission, the chief minister said. Even on Sunday, ministers and MLAs had gone to the house of aggrieved while others were merely indulging in political games over the issue, he said.
Singh also said the police had detected all the 157 cases of sacrilege reported in Punjab, with 129 people arrested and 10 convicted.
In response to another question, the chief minister said Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI had for long been active in Punjab and could be operating through some Kashmiri students. However, he said every student from Kashmir was not a separatist and police had so far not established any links of the arrested students with locals.
Police had recently arrested four Kashmiri students and seized an assault rifle and explosives in a raid at a college hostel in Jalandhar Wednesday.
“We have got thousands of children from Kashmir who are studying in colleges in Punjab. Every child from Kashmir is not an extremist,” he said and mentioned about the students who were arrested recently.
He also said the ISI’s game was to “disturb India as much as they can, particularly the border states, including Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat.” The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) will try, so “we have to be one step ahead”, the Punjab chief minister said.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.