Badal fields himself to defend his legacy under fiercest ever attack
Chandigarh, September 9: Five time chief minister and ‘Faqr-e-Qaum Panth Rattan’ Parkash Singh Badal, now 93, whose family has monopoly control over the highest Sikh institutions, has finally gone to the people to defend his legacy that is under fiercest ever attack in his entire political career. He is being perceived as the guilty of complicity in the politics that resulted in what is considered to the heinous crime in religio-political dynamics of the Sikhs and that is the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib.
Badal, who was bestowed with the highest ever honour of ‘Faqr-e-Qaum Panth Rattan’ by the highest Sikh institution of Akal Takht but otherwise captive, today approached the people’s court at Abohar seek verdict and launch counter-attack.
In the process, however, he seems to have created more controversies.
The fall out of Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report on sacrilege and the resultant collateral damage has put Badal and his son and Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal in the dock. Sukhbir was the deputy chief minister incharge of home department in 2015 when the first case of sacrilege was reported in Bargari village. The subsequent events led to volcanic eruption of people’s anger. This was one of the issues that reduced the tally of Akali Dal to lowest ever 15 seats in the 2017 Assembly elections.
It is for the first time since 1995 when he took over control of the Akali Dal that his politics and decisions have been questioned by his senior colleagues. It may be mentioned that then SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra had questioned only his functioning leading to split. Voices have been raised from within the Akali Dal now demanding Sukhbir’s resignation. However, more serious is the aspersion that has been caused over Badal’s long political career.
He fired two weapons.
He attributed Sikh militancy and struggle for Khalistan that took more than 30,000 lives over a decade and a half beginning 1978 when he was the chief minister to the Congress political strategy.
Not that it is for the first time that the Congress has been blamed for setting Punjab on fire.
However, the issue here is that Badal is among the two senior most Akali leaders who signed the memorandum submitted to the UNO demanding Khalistan, the other being Gurcharan Singh Tohra who headed the statutory SGPC.
It is the head of a constitutional body demanding Khalistan that is significant.
Earlier, it was the Akali Dal that had provided legitimacy to the use of violence as tool of conflict resolution by hailing the killing of Nirankari chief Gurbachan Singh at its working committee meeting in 1980. That was the first killing associated with Punjab militancy and the same was justified by the Akali Dal when the party was out of power.
The other dimension of his long speech was his thrust on maintaining unity and amity and communal harmony while attacking the Congress for lighting the spark again for narrow political interests.
However, sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and the resultant events have nothing to do with communal harmony as it is more of a law and order problem.
Sacrilege is an issue that is within the Sikh domain and the handling of the situation at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan are administrative matters.
Both Badal and Sukhbir today made up the case that it was the communal harmony that was under attack.
Those protesting against Badals are Sikhs. Those who have questioned the controversial decision to secure pardon from Akal Takht for Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmit Ram Rahim include then SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar.
It is Sukhbir’s political strategy of the times in which sacrilege is rooted. Not that either he or Badal are accused of the crime.
Ranjit Singh panel has only reignited those issues.
Badal must be appreciated for coming out to brave the political storm as he has not left it to his son and other leaders to defend him.
Sukhbir too opted for the same strategy of accusing Congress of patronising Sikh radicals and dividing Punjabi society.
Towards the end of his speech, Badal asserted, “Aseen Sachhe Haan”.
He said thousands of Badal and thousands of Sukhbir can be sacrificed for the sake of the Panth.
Badal was the only speaker who targeted Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh too.
Can Badal now dissociate himself from the religio-political dynamics of 1980s?
He has been the chief minister thrice after militancy was wiped out and that was the time when the role of the Congress in Sikh militancy could have been probed and the issue settled once for all.
The Akali Dal had promised probe in its 1996 manifesto but Badal backtracked after taking over as chief minister in 1997.
The skeletons that would tumble out are too many if high power probe is instituted.