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Radical Sikh leaders arrested by Punjab police

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Amritsar: Radical Sikh leaders from in and around Amritsar in Punjab were arrested to prevent a religious showdown at the Golden Temple complex on Wednesday, police sources said.

Mokham Singh, separatist leader and former IPS officer Simranjit Singh Mann and Amrik Singh Ajnala were arrested late Tuesday, the sources said on Wednesday.

While Mokham Singh and Mann were taken to a police station here, Ajnala was put under house arrest.

The arrests came within hours of a ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ (grand assembly of Sikhs) congregation at Chaba near Amritsar on Tuesday in which controversial decisions, including the sacking of jathedars (chiefs) of three takhts (temporal seats) of Sikh religion, were taken and convicted Khalistani terrorist Jagtar Singh Hawara was named as the Akal Takht chief.

“The Punjab Police arrested the top radical leaders to prevent any untoward situation at the Golden Temple complex and other gurdwaras as the newly announced heads of the takhts would have tried to take over,” a senior Punjab Police officer told IANS.

Deepening the crisis within Sikh religious affairs, radical Sikhs on Tuesday had announced the “appointment” of Hawara, the main accused in the assassination of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, who was killed by a human bomb in Chandigarh on August 31, 1995, as the Akal Takht jathedar.

The congregation of radicals also announced the “removal” of all Sikh high priests, including the present Akal Takht Jathedar Gurbachan Singh.

Hawara is serving a life term in the Beant Singh assassination case and is lodged in Chandigarh’s high-security Burail jail. Hawara was involved in a sensational jailbreak from the same prison in January 2004 with two other terrorists after digging a 104-feet long tunnel. He was arrested later by the Delhi Police.

During the congregation, in view of Hawara being in prison, the leaders announced that former MP Dhian Singh Mand would be the interim jathedar of the Akal Takht and would address the Sikh community from the shrine, located inside the Golden Temple complex, on Diwali on Wednesday.

The congregation was organized by a few radical Sikh groups.

Accusing them of “genocide of Sikhs”, the congregation named former police chief K.P.S. Gill and Operation Bluestar commander K.S. Brar, both Sikhs themselves, as ‘tankhaiya’ (the person guilty of religious misconduct) and directed them to appear before the Akal Takht by November 20.

The congregation also announced the disbanding the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the mini-parliament of Sikhs, and said that fresh elections for the SGPC would be held.

The congregation was attended by nearly 50,000 people, including Congress party leaders and radical Sikhs.

(IANS)

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Sukhpal Singh Khaira’s Exit Raises Questions Over AAP’s Future in Punjab

Though the damage done by the party to itself in the last three years will be known after the forthcoming parliamentary elections, it will be a sad day for people in Punjab who saw AAP as a third viable option but were let down by the party itself

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File photo: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Deputy CM Manish Sisodia.

The recent exit of politically outspoken leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) fold in Punjab, at a time when general elections are around the corner, has raised a question mark over the party’s political future in the state.

It is not that Khaira, who was elected on the AAP ticket in the February 2017 assembly polls, was indispensable for the party in Punjab.

His exit, however, has shown that the AAP central leadership in Delhi continues to be unaffected by the self-created crisis in the Punjab unit that began in August 2016.

Khaira, who was suspended from the AAP along with another legislator, Kanwar Sandhu, in November 2018 for “anti-party activities”, last week floated a new party – Punjabi Ekta Party (PEP) – and has given enough indications of splitting the AAP down the middle.

Six AAP legislators in the state were present at the launch of the new party even though they did not share the stage with Khaira.

The AAP’s Punjab unit is in complete disarray – be it the leadership crisis, lack of political direction or agenda or the complete disillusionment of its cadre.

Max hospital
Arvind Kejriwal.

It’s not the first time that the AAP central leadership has committed political harakiri with the Punjab unit. It has become clear now that the AAP central leadership, instead of letting the Punjab unit take on the ruling Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance, ends up shooting itself in the foot every time.

Khaira was earlier unceremoniously removed as Leader of Opposition (LoP) by the AAP central leadership in July 2018. He openly rebelled against the party high command by dissolving the the AAP’s Punjab organisational structure and seeking complete autonomy for the state unit.

The AAP ousted its then Punjab unit chief, Sucha Singh Chhotepur, on flimsy bribery charges in August 2016, just months ahead of the assembly polls.

Chhotepur, who nurtured the party right from the day of its conception in Punjab, was shown the door after the emergence of a video clip in which an AAP worker was shown giving money to him. Even before this, Chhotepur was being sidelined in Punjab affairs with Delhi leaders like Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak calling all the shots.

As the Chhotepur episode unfolded, AAP leaders at the constituency and district level rebelled. Chhotepur, who accused the AAP central leadership of corruption in allotting tickets for various assembly seats, finally exited the party and formed a new political outfit – the Apna Punjab Party (APP) that has practically remained a non-starter.

The AAP appointed actor-comedian Gurpreet Ghuggi, with no political experience, as its state convener in place of Chhotepur. Ghuggi left the party on a sour note just months later.

Two AAP MPs from Punjab, Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Khalsa, were suspended in August 2015 for questioning the AAP’s leadership style.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Flickr

Gandhi, a cardiologist and known social worker, is the MP from Patiala constituency, while Khalsa, a former diplomat, represents Fatehgarh Sahib in the Lok Sabha. Gandhi was also unceremoniously removed from the post of leader of AAP in the Lok Sabha.

The AAP, which was completely rejected elsewhere in the country in the April-May 2014 general elections, won four Lok Sabha seats from Punjab – Sangrur, Patiala, Faridkot and Fatehgarh Sahib.

The AAP started the year 2016 on an upswing. Poll surveys and the party’s own political calculations gave it anything from 75 to over 100 seats in the 117-member assembly.

The party, however, finished second and managed to end up as the main opposition party with 20 legislators. One legislator, lawyer-activist H.S. Phoolka, resigned from the assembly seat recently and even quit the AAP.

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With Khaira’s exit, his status as a legislator and the future of the six legislators who seem to be in his camp, will be seen in the coming months.

The party, which is the newest entrant on Punjab political scene – dominated largely by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress over the decades – is facing as much a challenge from its implosion.

Though the damage done by the party to itself in the last three years will be known after the forthcoming parliamentary elections, it will be a sad day for people in Punjab who saw AAP as a third viable option but were let down by the party itself. (IANS)