Does Punjab have double standards on terrorism? (Punjab Newsletter)

Chandigarh, April 20 (IANS) Be it Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, its alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) or the Punjab Police – their doublespeak on terrorism or those involved in it is quite evident.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the Akali Dal president, rushed to New Delhi this week to meet President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to appeal for commuting 1993 New Delhi bomb blast convict Devender Pal Singh Bhullar’s death sentence to life imprisonment.

The Supreme Court had last week rejected Bhullar’s clemency petition.

The Badals’ current stand is in sharp contrast to their government’s earlier stance on Bhullar and terrorism.

In an affidavit filed before the apex court in 2009, the Punjab government had termed Bhullar a “hardcore and experienced criminal”.

But when the Badals met the prime minister April 15, they were speaking in a different tone. They sought his intervention to save Bhullar from the gallows. They even requested a “statesman-like intervention” from the president on Thursday.

The SGPC, which never opposed the Punjab government when the affidavit against Bhullar was filed in the Supreme Court, is also demanding that he be spared the death penalty.

The Badals have cautioned the central government that Bhullar’s hanging could lead to a law and order problem in Punjab.

The Badals, who enjoy one of the tightest security covers among VIPs in the country, are themselves high on the terrorists’ hit list.

The Punjab government had also sought the intervention of the central government while seeking clemency for Balwant Singh Rajoana, a Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) terrorist who faces the death penalty after being convicted in the 1995 assassination of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.

Badal had written to the then president Pratibha Devisingh Patil, seeking clemency for Rajoana.

The BJP has taken a different stand on the issue of terrorism and how to deal with terrorists – welcoming the death sentences awarded to Bhullar and Rajoana.

The BJP’s stand at the national level is no leniency towards terrorists, whereas in Punjab, its leaders avoid saying too much on the issue as it is contrary to the Akali Dal’s stand.

Punjab’s Director General of Police Sumedh Singh Saini, who has a record of dealing firmly with terrorists, has also maintained a studied silence. When his political bosses have taken one stand, the DGP has chosen not to say anything for the moment.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])

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