Rumblings in both Punjab AAP groups over overplaying of Bargari sacrilege discourse

Chandigarh, October 5: Both groups of Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab have at least one commonality.

Both these groups have been hit by internal rumbling over what is being perceived to be overplaying of  Bargari card that is centred on the issue of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib during Parkash Singh Badal government and police firing over Sikh protesters.

Akal Takht parallel chief Dhian Singh Mand supported by three Sikh organisations started dharna at Bargari on June 1 demanding action against culprits, both of sacrilege and police firing. The demands have partly been accepted by the state government.

Bargari is the epicentre of sacrilege where  pages of Guru Granth Sahib were found scattered in the streets. This was the Bir of Guru Granth Sahib that had been stolen from adjoining Burj Jawaharsinghwala village on June 1. Posters later appeared in Bargari and Burj challenging the Sikhs to recover the stolen Bir that was claimed to have been hidden in Bargari. The needle of suspicion was towards Dera Sacha Sauda.

Locally, Bargari is pronounced as Bagrari.

It was during that period that then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal summoned Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh and his associates at his official residence in Chandigarh and secured pardon for Dera chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh in the case of blasphemy. He had attired like Guru Gobind Singh at his function at his Salabatpura dera. This did not end with pardon. As the Sikhs protested (not just radicals but ordinary Sikhs), the SGPC went out of the way to insert full page ads in newspapers defending this  manipulated pardon that had to be later withdrawn.

As such, the issues are larger as the later part is purely associated with Sikh religio-political domain.

Sukhpal Singh Khaira who heads the rebel group, has been associating himself with the dharna at Bargari. There is nothing wrong about it.

None would disagree on punishment to guilty of sacrilege and police firing.

Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report that was released in the last session of the Vidhan Sabha articulates these issues. This report stops short of nailing Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal but has recommended further probe and that is on.

The pardon to Dera Sacha Sauda is part of this development but this action was not a criminal offence. It was a religious crime. The issue with the government is taking probe into sacrilege to the logical conclusion and punishment to those who were involved in firing on peaceful protesters, both at Kotkapura and Behbal.

Khaira group has been joining the dharna at Bargari but overplaying of this card has come under question within the group. This would be manifested when this group takes out protest march from Kotkapura to Bargari on October 7.

The official AAP in Punjab came under pressure from within to join this competitive race. The problem with this section is that at least four of its MLAs are from the area that has experienced worst tremors with epicentre at Bargari. For the Sikhs in this area, this is a major issue.

This is one of the main issues that brought down the tally of Akali Dal in 2017 Assembly elections to 15 seats, despite the slogan of Punjabiat and Hindu-Sikh unity given by emphasised by Badal.

A section of the organisational leaders maintain the party should not have competed with Khaira group on this issue. The official AAP had earlier decided to stage dharna in front of chief minister’s residence in Chandigarh on October 7 but preponed it by a day to join Bargari conclave on October 7.

Sources maintain the party high command too has not favoured this political line but has allowed the unit to go ahead in the name of autonomy. Party chief Arvind Kejriwal has the nightmarish experience of playing the Sikh card in the run up to the 2017 election.

This card is unlikely to help AAP groups in the broader electoral dynamics, the problem of local MLAs being different.

Deep understanding of Sikh religio-political dynamics is a necessary condition for using this double edged weapon that is Panthic card.

Jagtar Singh


Read more