Chandigarh, October 16: Lashing out at vested political interests seeking to politicise a sensitive issue, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday asserted that there was no question of backing out of his promise to bring to book the culprits of the Bargari sacrilege case and the subsequent incidents of firing at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura.
Addressing a press conference here, the Chief Minister rejected allegations of the situation in Bargari getting out of control and said his government was fully equipped to deal with it.
When 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 but the people of the state wanted peace and would not get carried away by the attempts of such elements to take political mileage from it.
The Chief Minister warned the radicals against trying to disturb the hard-earned peace of Punjab. Asked if he was supporting the radicals to get control of the SGPC, the chief minister said that he had never had any links with such groups. He said that 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 Badal was concerned, he was no moderate but an opportunist who uses people of all shades to meet his political ends.
The Chief Minister made it clear that the SIT was on its job of investigating the Bargari and other incidents but “under the law, I cannot interfere in its functioning.” The SIT was fully cognisant of the sensitivity and urgency of the matter and would not delay its investigations, said Captain Amarinder, declaring that the SIT would move the courts for action if they find any ground for action against anyone.
Pointing out that his government had initiated steps immediately after coming to power to fulfil the Congress promise of strict action in these cases, the Chief Minister said the decision to hand over the investigation to SIT was unanimously taken in the Vidhan Sabha. The government had initially decided to entrust the probe to CBI but the House decided against it out of fear that the central agency could get influenced because of the alliance of the ruling BJP with the Akalis, he added.
Captain Amarinder observed that the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission, in its report, had clearly stated that it was only a fact-finding report and further investigations were required. He asserted that his government had picked the best professional SIT team for the probe. Pointing out that he, and even Rahul Gandhi, had visited Behbal Kalan soon after the incident, Captain Amarinder said his ministers were in contact with the families of the deceased and the families of the deceased’s had been given compensation beyond what was recommended by the Commission. Even yesterday, his ministers and MLAs had gone to the house of the deceased while others were merely indulging in political games over the issue, he added.
Replying to a question, the Chief Minister disclosed that the police had detected all the 157 cases of sacrilege reported in the state, with 129 people arrested and 10 convicted.
In response to another question, the Chief Minister said ISI had, for long, been active in Punjab and could be operating through Kashmiri students. However, he said every student from Kashmir was not a terrorist and the police had so far not established any links of the arrested students with locals.
On the issue of stubble burning, the Chief Minister said the situation could aggravate once harvesting is complete. While his sympathies were with the farmers, he was bound by law to take action against those indulging in burning of paddy straw, he added. Captain Amarinder noted that the Prime Minister had failed to respond to his repeated pleas for compensation to farmers against stubble burning.
The Chief Minister announced his plans to visit Israel next week to have meaningful discussions on issues of mutual interest, including innovative methods of farming, besides water conservation and irrigation, livestock development, horticulture and food processing. He reiterated the need to get out of the wheat-paddy cycle to ensure better earnings for the farmers. Homeland security and training of police personnel is another area in which Punjab is seeking greater cooperation with Israel, he added.
To a question on the fuel prices, the Chief Minister said his government would wait till the end of the month before taking any decision in this regard, as international prices of oil were fluctuating. He lamented that all the key sources of the state’s income, except petrol and excise, were in the Central Government’s control.