The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Arrest threat puts Badal in strike mode

Chandigarh, Oct. 20: With a corruption crackdown threatening to snare its top leadership, the Shiromani Akali Dal has abandoned its restraint and issued a list of demands to the Congress government to avert “largescale unrest in Punjab”.

After a political affairs committee meeting that stretched beyond midnight and resumed this morning, the Opposition party has announced a statewide agitation on October 28 against the “dictatorial” rule of the Congress government.

The decision to go on the offensive coincided with the arrest of an Akali Dal leader and former minister Jagdish Singh Garcha yesterday and repeated assertions by the government that former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal would be arrested soon.

Garcha was the fourth to be arrested from the erstwhile Badal ministry.

The Akali Dal said its agitation would “put to shame even the morchas launched against the dictatorial rule of Indira Gandhi during the Emergency”.

“I will not allow the Amarinder government to get away with the broad daylight murder of democracy, human rights and civil liberties and will force it to learn not only basic lessons in civilised behaviour. I will also remind the Congress of commitments it made to the people during the run-up to the polls,” Badal said.

“To begin with, we will hold dharnas in all subdivisions on October 28. Later, we will launch a forceful, democratic, mass movement from November 15, if the Punjab government did not restore all the pro-people policies of the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP government, including free power and irrigation for the farm sector, and put an end to the atmosphere of confrontation and bitterness injected into the state polity by the chief minister,” Badal said.

Badal said a meeting would be held at Alamgir in Ludhiana tomorrow to give final touches to the line of action and the party’s strategy in the face of the “repressive Congress onslaught against Akali leaders and workers”.

He demanded that the programme of implicating Akali leaders in false cases be put to an end to and cases withdrawn.

Commenting on the threats to arrest him, Badal said: “There is no question of my seeking anticipatory bail. Let them come and arrest me. I am not running away from anything.

“They somehow want to put me and my whole family in jail, which is why they are trying their best to prepare a false case against me.”

Badal alleged the state government had put him under surveillance. “My movements, my telephones are being tapped,” he said.

“Amarinder has declared a war not only against the Khalsa Panth but also against each and every section of Punjabis. The Shiromani Akali Dal, as the principle Opposition party in the state and as a champion of the interests of the people of the state, accepts his challenge. From this day onwards, it is the might of the state at Amarinder’s disposal versus the power and spirit of the people of Punjab,” Badal said.

Asked whether the dharnas would trigger violence like some of the earlier Akali campaigns, he said: “We are committed to the path of peaceful and democratic but forceful and relentless struggle against injustice, tyranny and repression. We will be drawing inspiration from the ideals of waging a righteous struggle against forces of evil and these ideals are enshrined in the history and heritage of the people of Punjab and in the teachings of the great gurus.”

The Akali Dal political affairs meeting was also attended by Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee president Kirpal Singh Badungar and Union minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.

Badal said the Amarinder government had thrust the course of confrontation on the Akali Dal. “We have no choice but to resort to an agitation to get the Congress to implement the promises it made to the people during the run-up to the elections,” he said.

The Akali Dal’s other demands include immediate payment of Rs 20 per quintal of paddy along with the minimum support price announced by the Centre, compensation at the rate of Rs 5,000 per acre to drought-hit farmers, rollback of sales tax between 4 and 8 per cent on fertilisers and pesticides, postponement of agriculture loan repayments and waiver of interest this year.

Badal also demanded an end to what he termed the government’s interference in the religious affairs of the Sikhs. He said the surveillance imposed on SGPC members in the form of unsolicited security cover was an attempt by the chief minister to browbeat elected soldiers of the Khalsa Panth.

“False cases being registered against members of the SGPC and their family members, including children, must be withdrawn immediately,” Badal said.

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