In what has triggered a huge political controversy, the Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday directed the police chief to register cases under the Disaster Management Act against Opposition leaders and workers who have been staging dharnas in the State over the past few days.
The Opposition has criticised the order, claiming it was meant to ‘gag’ those who were exposing the failures of the State government.
The CM statement said that the dharnas by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) were ‘irresponsible’ acts and in violation of the strict curbs in place in the State because of the pandemic spread. “At a time when people could not gather even for weddings and funerals, leaders and workers of these parties were behaving in a reckless manner, showing no concern for the safety and health of Punjabis,’’ alleged the Chief Minister, adding that such behaviour could not be allowed or tolerated.
Pointing out that the AAP dharna yesterday was in fact in violation of the weekend curfew in place, Captain Amarinder said such dharnas and political gatherings were potential super-spreaders and had to be firmly tackled. The law should take its course, he told the DGP, adding that political leaders had a big responsibility towards the society, which these parties had shunned, thus jeopardising the lives of Punjab’s people.
But the Opposition has reacted sharply to the decision. AAP MLA Kultar Singh Sidhwan alleged that the move was aimed at gagging the Opposition. “The Opposition has been raising the scams by the Captain-led government that is why they want them to be silenced. But we will continue to raise our voice, stage dharna, he can continue to arrest us, hang us or punish any other way he chooses to,” Sidhwan told News18.com.
Importantly, the order comes at a time when farmers across the State have been holding dharnas to protest against the farm laws. Farmers in big numbers have even been taking out protest rallies in some parts even as the administration has done little to dissuade them from doing so given the increased number of Covid cases.