Chandigarh: As anticipated, the opposition parties in Punjab slammed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government over its failure to arrest Sikh hardliner Amritpal Singh during the resumed budget session of the assembly on Wednesday, March 22.
As the Punjab police’s search for Amritpal entered the fifth day, both the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) as well as the Congress party called the operation a “botched” exercise and sought chief minister Bhagwant Mann’s resignation.
Calling Mann a “liability for Punjab”, senior Congress leader and leader of the opposition Pratap Singh Bajwa alleged that the government mishandled the entire operation.
He said that Amritpal Singh could have been arrested from his village in Amritsar but the operation was done in the Jalandhar area in view of the Jalandhar by-elections.
“All this happened under a strategy. We came here to demand CM Mann’s resignation,” added the leader.
He (Amritpal Singh) could have been arrested from his village in Amritsar but the operation was done in Jalandhar area in view of the Jalandhar by-elections. All this happened under a strategy…We came here to demand his (CM Mann’s) resignation: Punjab LoP Pratap Singh Bajwa pic.twitter.com/gOczaMwRzQ
— ANI (@ANI) March 22, 2023
Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, who is also a member of the Punjab assembly, questioned how Amritpal escaped. “It means Amritpal was aware of the plan. I doubt the intention of both the Punjab and Union governments. There is some conspiracy behind it,” he alleged.
A major protest was also seen inside the assembly as opposition legislators raised slogans against the Punjab government over the Amritpal case and various other issues.
As the session began with a question hour, Bajwa and his fellow MLAs asked the speaker about the adjournment motion on the law and order issue moved by the Congress.
When speaker Kultar Singh Sandhwan disallowed it, Congress legislators rushed to the well of the house and shouted slogans, before walking out of the session.
SAD legislators were equally noisy. SAD MLA Manpreet Singh Ayali targeted Mann for arresting many Sikh youth on the pretext of “false cases”. He said an “atmosphere of terror” has been created in the state, referring to the police action against Amritpal Singh and members of his outfit Waris Punjab De. He also questioned the police’s decision to invoke the stringent National Security Act.
The party’s leader Sukhbir Singh Badal had in a statement on Tuesday, March 21, said that his party would provide legal assistance to all Sikh youth arrested in the ongoing crackdown in Punjab and ensure their rights “are not trampled upon” by the AAP government.
Congress leader Raja Warring too shared a letter to the Punjab director general of police, highlighting the growing concern regarding the large number of youngsters being rounded up. He said while the Congress does not support any leniency towards “anti-national elements”, a soft approach is needed to rehabilitate “misguided youngsters”.
To this, members of treasury benches stood up and criticised the opposition for standing with people accused of disturbing peace and harmony of the state.
“Earlier, the Congress and SAD were demanding Amritpal Singh’s arrest. But now that we have taken action against them, they are playing politics,” AAP leader and Punjab minister Inderbir Singh Nijjar said.
He claimed that 99% of the people of Punjab were happy with the crackdown.
BJP MLA Ashwani Sharma also objected to the SAD MLAs’ comments, accusing them of speaking in favour of Amritpal and his outfit.
More arrests but Amritpal still at large
Meanwhile, Punjab police made more arrests on Wednesday, including those who allegedly helped Amritpal escape from the police.
This was over and above the 155 arrests that the Punjab police announced on Tuesday.
The police also claimed to have recovered a bike from the Jalandhar cantonment area, which Amritpal allegedly used to escape after the police action began on March 18.
The Punjab police had even shut down a drug de-addiction centre that Amritpal was running in his native village Jallupur Khera in Amritsar, claiming it was at a centre for illegal activities.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Punjab police questioned Amritpal’s mother and Kiran Deep, who recently wed Amritpal.
But the pro-Khalistan leader is still at large, which has become a major area of concern for the government.