Panthic organisations staging a sit-in at Bargari to press for the arrest of those involved in the 2015 sacrilege and police firing incidents on Sunday announced their decision to end the six-monthlong protest. However, the protest ended with the caveat that they are calling off only the first phase of the stir and will make an announcement to renew it at the Golden Temple on December 11.
Parallel Akal Takht jathedar Dhian Singh Mand, who has been spearheading the stir since June 1, said they will remain in Bargari till Monday to honour those who remained at the dharna site for the cause.
The first part of this protest comes to an end and the next course of action will be announced soon, said Mand.
The announcement followed assurances by Punjab ministers Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa that the state government was committed to bringing those behind the sacrilege and police firing incidents at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan to justice.
The ‘Bargari Morcha’ also demands the release of Sikh detainees languishing in various jails or their transfer to those in Punjab. “From today, the morcha will acquire a new shape,” Mand said, warning the government against going back on its promises. “We will give some time to the government for fulfilling its promise. If it runs away from its assurances, then it will be taught a lesson which it will never forget,” he said.
Takht Damdama Sahib parallel jathedar Baljit Singh Daduwal too supported the demand for a political party and to renew the protest. Hinting at forming a new party, Mand, the former vice president of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and ex-Ferozepur MP, said, “In the next phase, we will go to people who didn’t attend the Bargari ‘morcha’. People have been asking me for two months about the next course of action. Our movement got a boost when five ‘Panthic’ parties announced to support our cause on November 25.”
“We have received donations to the tune of Rs1.48 crore of which we have spent Rs 1.26 crore in the last six months. We are ready for any probe. We will ensure release of the all Sikh prisoners, including Jagtar Singh Hawara in the next phase,” he said.
‘Resentment among supporters’
Since morning, resentment and tension among supporters and some Panthic organisations was palpable over calling off the protest as they were demanding the arrest of former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Badal and former DGP Sumedh Singh Saini.
It was cabinet minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, SAD (Amritsar) chief Simranjit Singh Mann and Daduwal who prepared the ground for Mand to announce the decision.
Randhawa targeted the Badals holding them responsible for the Bargari sacrilege, Behbal Kalan police firing and weakening the Sikh institutions. “Their (Badals) fate will depend on the findings of the special investigation team (SIT) probing the firing cases. As many as 23 Sirsa dera followers have been arrested in the sacrilege incidents at Bargari, Malke (Moga) and Gurusar Bhagta (Bathinda),” Randhawa said.
Randhawa said the state government has decided to release Sikh prisoner Dilbagh Singh Bagha from the Nabha jail. “The CM has written to the Rajasthan and Karnataka governments to shift two Sikh prisoners to Punjab. We are bringing a new bill in the upcoming assembly session for release of prisoners. “We also accepted the demand of the Bargari organisers to include their two lawyers in the panel which is fighting the firing cases in the high court. The government will also cancel all cases registered under 295-A of IPC against Sikhs registered on the complaints of the Sirsa dera followers,” he said.
Later, when Randhawa and his cabinet colleague Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa along with some Congress MLAs left the venue, clamour against lifting the dharna grew among those in the gathering. Simranjit Singh Mann took to the stage trying to pacify them by giving credit to the government for the arrest of dera followers in sacrilege incidents and FIR against policemen in firing cases. Daduwal said SIT will take in custody four cops once the high court vacates stay on their arrest.
Buta Singh Ransaih Kalan of the Akali Dal (1920) said Mand has committed political suicide by taking decision to lift the dharna. “We will not agree with it as we are not on Mand’s payroll,” he said. His two associates also echoed similar views.
First Published: Dec 10, 2018 13:05 IST