“No one gave us justice in over 4.5 years… What will they do now in less than five months? First let them resolve their own fights, then worry about us.” There is not much hope in the voice of Resham Singh, brother of Krishan Bhagwan Singh who was killed in police firing in Faridkot’s Behbal Kalan in 2015 while protesting against the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib.
Bringing justice to the two families who lost their kin in the firing and arresting the ‘real culprits’ of the 2015 sacrilege cases was the big issue on which Navjot Singh Sidhu became Congress state chief. And now a Dalit Sikh leader and Sidhu’s chief backer from the Malwa region, Charanjit Singh Channi, has been made the Chief Minister, replacing Captain Amarinder Singh. Delivering on this major election issue in Punjab is going to be Channi-Sidhu combine’s biggest challenge in the next five months.
Resham Singh’s father, Mohinder Singh, raises the demand immediately — arrest former chief minister Prakash Singh Badal and then home minister Sukhbir Badal. “The Badal father-son duo were responsible for the firing. They are free. Sukhbir Badal was the home minister and Sumedh Singh Saini was the DGP. Will they be arrested now?” 71-year-old Mohinder Singh asks while speaking to News18.
Resham Singh recalls that Sidhu did visit them a few years ago when he was a minister, but Amarinder Singh never did as the CM. “He took a vow holding our holy book in his hand, but did not deliver. They are still fighting so bitterly amongst themselves – we have no faith left in the government. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) was set up few months ago under IG Naunihal Singh to probe these killings. It has not even contacted us,” says Singh.
Two separate SITs were set up by the Punjab government a few months ago to probe the police firing and sacrilege cases, and the Badal father-son duo and Saini were questioned by the SIT a few months ago. The removal of Captain Amarinder Singh as CM does raise the spectre of some tough action against the Badals under the new regime. Captain was clearly hesitant to do the same, saying the SITs were working independently under the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s supervision and he could not “break the law”.
But Navjot Singh Sidhu has been vociferous in his demand that the Badals be brought to book in these cases. Other Congress leaders like Partap Singh Bajwa had also demanded earlier that Captain Amarinder Singh should ensure that the SIT charge-sheets the Badals. Former PCC chief Sunil Jakhar has said that the road to winning Punjab elections “goes through Behbal Kalan”.
A senior Akali Dal leader tells News18 that action against the Badals without evidence would get exposed in the courts and boomerang on the Congress government in the state. “We all know that the Congress is under real pressure to woo the electorate in the last five months after failing to deliver on any performance in the last 4.5 years. The allegations against Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Badal are laughable and won’t stand for a minute in court,” the Akali Dal leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He pointed to a High Court judgment in April which had trashed the evidence presented by an earlier SIT against the Badals. Arresting the Badals also raises the prospect of them getting sympathy from their voter base citing political vendetta.
Captain’s Letter to Sonia
In his last letter to Sonia Gandhi as the CM on Saturday, Captain said his government was committed to ensuring justice on the issue of sacrilege cases and subsequent police action. “Despite legal hurdles and refusal of the CBI to return the cases, which were transferred to them by the SAD-BJP government, my government had succeeded in filing 10 challans, while 24 persons had been charge-sheeted, 15 police personnel suspended, and 10 civilians arrested. The criminal proceedings in these cases are currently underway and I am sure that in due course, justice will be done,” Captain had written.
But this has clearly cut no ice with the party high command or the victim’s families even as the latter allege that Amarinder had some “secret” understanding with the Badals. Can Channi and Sidhu smash this perception by acting against the Badals? This may determine the course of the 2022 Punjab elections in next five months.