Chandigarh, July 30: As UK joined the ranks of major countries that have openly rejected the SFJ Referendum 2020, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday called upon SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal to open his eyes to the secessionist threat of anti-Indian forces instead of indulging in political theatrics over the UAPA, which their own government had used extensively during their tenure.
After Canada, UK has now come out with a categorical statement that “it is not involved in any way in this unofficial and non-binding referendum…and considers Indian Punjab as part of India.” Welcoming UK’s statement, the Chief Minister expressed surprise that Sukhbir continues to turn a blind eye to the threat posed by Pakistan-backed Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), and other terrorist and radical forces working to destabilise India, particularly Punjab. “Can’t he (Sukhbir) see that the arrests under UAPA which he is opposing are part of the state government’s strategy to combat this threat?” Captain Amarinder added.
Captain Amarinder said it was unfortunate that instead of playing the role of a constructive opposition in the state, the SAD was wasting its time with its baseless charges and comments. He reminded the SAD chief of his earlier offer to look into any case of misuse of UAPA and wrongful arrest under the same, if Sukhbir would bring any such incident to his notice. “Why don’t you send me the list of cases which you claim the police has registered wrongfully?” he asked Sukhbir, while seeking a list of the names of those arrested under UAPA during the SAD-BJP rule.
The Chief Minister reminded the SAD president that the Badal government had registered more than 60 cases under UAPA during their term. Interestingly, of the 225 persons arrested in these cases, 120 were either acquitted or discharged. “Should the large number of acquittals/discharges not be construed to mean you had applied the Act indiscriminately?” Captain Amarinder asked Sukhbir, questioning the Shiromani Akali Dal chief’s motives in giving a communal twist to some of the recent arrests made by the Punjab Police under UAPA.
If the Akalis believed the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) to be anti-people and divisive, then Sukhbir, as Deputy CM and Home Minister in the erstwhile SAD-BJP government, should not have applied it in so many cases while in power, said the Chief Minister. The Congress, which was in Opposition then, had assumed that the UAPA was being used to keep terror in check in the state, he added.
Taking a dig at Sukhbir’s latest remarks on the issue, in which he had said “we won’t allow anyone to disturb the sentiment of fraternity, specially among Hindus and Sikhs”, the Chief Minister said it was the SAD chief who was, in fact, trying to create a divide between communities with his senseless attack on the state government’s attempts to check the anti-Punjab forces from succeeding in their game-plan.
“Why else is Sukhbir hell bent on inciting Punjab’s peace-loving people against the state police, which had been successfully battling the SFJ and ISI-sponsored terrorists for the past more than three years?” asked the Chief Minister. It was not the police but Sukhbir who had been using terms like `potential terrorists’ for Sikh youth, pointed out Captain Amarinder, adding that such irresponsible acts and comments of the Akalis would backfire on them. The people of Punjab are not fools and are not going to be misled by the petty hate-peddling politics of the Akalis, under whose rule they had suffered immensely for 10 years, he quipped, reminding Sukhbir of the shameful rout his party had suffered in 2017 Assembly elections, and had been suffering in every poll/bypoll ever since.
In any case, it is not the job of the opposition party to protect the interests of the state but that of the government, which the latter was more than competent to do, said the Chief Minister. If the SAD is at all concerned about Punjab and its people they should pressurise the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, of which they are a part, to withdraw the anti-farm Ordinances and to give us the financial support we need to fight the Covid crisis.
The Chief Minister also ridiculed the Akali leader’s criticism about the police working directly under his (Captain Amarinder’s) orders. Pointing out that he was also handling the Home portfolio, Captain Amarinder said it was shocking that Sukhbir could have even assumed that the Punjab Police could be working in vacuum and not reporting to him. “Is that the way you functioned as Home Minister,” he asked Sukhbir, adding that his government, and each department under it, works in a highly disciplined manner, in sharp contrast to the anarchist way in which the SAD-BJP government had functioned, to the total detriment of the state and its people.