Published On: Mon, Dec 30th, 2013

Do emotive issues hold sway in Punjab over development?

JALANDHAR: (30th Dec. 2013) – Emotions still rule over development and progress – main planks of the SAD-BJP government – in Punjab if the recent fast unto death by Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa, leading to the release of four Sikh convicts on parole, is anything to go by. Gurbaksh, farmer from Kurukshetra, was on fast for 44 days, which saw groundswell of public support in favour of his cause that pushed the Punjab government into the corner notwithstanding its claims that only development and governance issues drove politics in the state now.

Rather, the developments indicated that emotive issues still hold sway in Punjab and could even make the ruling alliance to shift its stated positions. After retaining power in the 2012 assembly elections, SAD leadership had claimed that its success was due to the development done by it in Punjab and not on account of its Panthic agenda since the party was a secular outfit. However, the rejection of mercy petition of Balwant Singh Rajoana, sentenced to death for killing former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh by the Supreme Court in March 2012, barely weeks after SAD-BJP formed the government, made the state boil as many radical Sikh organizations and lakhs of people staged fierce protests to save him from the gallows.

Incidentally, fast by Gurbaksh also began just after CM Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy CM son Sukhbir Singh Badal, known for his business-like approach in running the administrative machinery, had organised Progressive Punjab Summit where they invited leading corporate houses of the country to make investments in the state. Both had claimed that the summit was a success.

With Gurbaksh ending his fast, the state government may breathe easy for a while. However, it is not sure if the issue of release of Sikh prisoners has been laid to rest as Gurbaksh claimed that he had been assured by the Akal Takht Jathedar Gurbachan Singh and the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) that the four convicts would not return to prison after the expiry of their four-week parole and efforts would be made to secure their permanent release. However, in the case of three convicts, who were sentenced to life for assassinating Beant Singh, their cases for remission of sentences are to be decided by the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) and the Chandigarh administration while Punjab government has no role in that.

Even in the case of Rajoana, Punjab CM had stated on March 23, 2012 at Khatkar Kalan – ancestral village of revolutionary Bhagat Singh – in Nawanshahr district that they could not save the convict from being hanged. However, growing public anger and fear of peace being disturbed in Punjab forced the state government to rush to the President to file a plea seeking clemency for him.

As Gurbaksh continued with his fast and public support started growing with each passing day, Punjab government was again forced to set the process rolling for the release of four convicts to be released on parole. Punjab CM Badal also pleaded with his counterparts in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat to release the other convicts for whom Gurbaksh was fasting.

(Sources : – The Times Of India)