Killing, looting and robbery incidents are taking place alarmingly frequently in Punjab. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government is not only inexperienced, it has proved to be completely incompetent. Pakistan has now intensified sending drones into Indian territory with higher efficiency, both in terms of range and carrying capacity.
These were the views of two-time Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Captain Amarinder Singh, a veteran of many political and military battles, and known in political circles for keeping national interest above partisan interests.
In an exclusive interview with IANS, Amarinder Singh, who had quit as the chief minister after a power tussle that proved to be a massive setback for the Congress party in the state elections thereafter in February, said on Saturday the situation in Punjab is really turning very serious.
“Killings, looting and robberies are taking place with alarming regularity. The Aam Aadmi Party government is not only inexperienced, it has proved to be completely incompetent. It must act before we end up in a situation where everything is out of control.”
But Amarinder Singh believes there is no serious threat to Punjab, which shares a 553-km international border with Pakistan, of the revival of the Khalistan movement — an extremist demand for the breaking up of India for the formation of a separate nation state that took its most virulent form in the 1980s.
“The terror attacks (in Punjab) are orchestrated and sponsored by Pakistan and its intelligence agency, the ISI. I have been repeatedly cautioning the government that Pakistan will never give up its designs and it can allure and misguide some youth. But thankfully people of Punjab know the value of peace. Nobody wants any trouble here,” he told IANS.
The veteran politician was replying to a question about how big is the Khalistani threat? And what is his perspective on the threat in the context of the recent two rocket propelled grenade attacks, including one on the highly sensitive intelligence wing headquarters in Mohali in May.
Almost every day, the Border Security (BSF) is foiling Pakistan’s attempt to smuggle drugs and weapons across the border through drones.
What do you say about this? At this, Amarinder Singh, who met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 15, replied, “Of course, I have been apprising the government of India regularly.
“Not only now, I have earlier also been raising the issue when I was the Chief Minister. Pakistan has now intensified sending drones with higher efficiency, both in terms of range and carrying capacity.
“I am concerned that all the drones they are sending might not be getting detected and weapons and drugs they carry might be finding their way deep inside the state and the country, which is a serious challenge.
“I am sure the government of India must be seized of the matter and remedial measures are already being taken.”
After meeting Prime Minister Modi, Amarinder Singh told the media he pointed out that he had always been warning against Pakistani designs and now the frequency of infiltration of weapons and drugs was quite high.
There has been a “flight” of industrialists from Punjab and the rule of law must be enforced to reverse it, warmed Capt Amarinder Singh. “Who will come to a state where law and order is a serious issue?” he asked.
“As I told you, criminal incidents are rising every day. People are getting killed if they don’t pay the ransom. One trader was shot dead in Nakodar. Another young man was killed in Muktsar as his family could not pay the ransom.
“Most people do not report threats. The situation has reached a dead end. So much so, industrialists from Punjab went to Uttar Pradesh and committed an investment of over Rs 2 lakh crore there just because they are not feeling safe in Punjab.”
So far the state government record has been dismally poor and hopeless, remarked the former Chief Minister when asked does he think the AAP government will manage to rein in gangsters and terrorists?
“They have spent all their energy, time and resources fighting elections in other states like Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. And for what? What did they get in Gujarat? Just five seats after spending hundreds of crores of rupees from the Punjab exchequer.
“In Himachal Pradesh they could not even save their security deposits anywhere. They need to focus on governance in Punjab where people voted them to power.”
The AAP government in Punjab has completed nine months in power, which it claimed has ushered in a new era of politics by eliminating the corruption and mafia culture patronised by previous governments in seven decades.
When asked about his observation regarding the spike in incidents of gang war and pro-Khalistan activity in the state, Amarinder Singh was categorically clear in saying, “In my view they are all together on the same plane. It depends on the police how to tackle the situation. I must say, Punjab Police is among the best in the country. They should be allowed to work independently and they will deliver the results.
“This is the best professional force in the country. No challenge is too big for our police. I am sure and confident about that.”
A veteran of many political and military battles, Capt Amarinder Singh left the Congress in November last year. He set up his own political outfit, Punjab Lok Congress, which fought the February 2022 assembly elections in alliance with the BJP. He joined the BJP on September 19.
Amarinder Singh is one of the most popular and charismatic political leaders in the country who commands a lot of respect and influence in Punjab cutting across all divides.
The Congress realised his importance after the devastating 2022 drubbing when it was reduced from 82 seats to a mere 18.
It goes to Capt Amarinder Singh’s credit that the Congress could form the government in Punjab twice, in 2002 and 2017 after Operation Bluestar and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi.
It remained a strong political force under Amarinder Singh even when it lost in 2007 and 2012 when its poll percentage was almost the same as that of the winning Akali-BJP alliance.
Amarinder Singh combines strong panthic credentials with equally strong nationalistic credentials. He resigned from Parliament and also from the Congress in 1984 to protest against Operation Bluestar.
Amarinder Singh was at that time just 42, risking his political career. He again resigned from the Surjit Singh Barnala government when police entered Durbar Sahib two years later.
In 2004, Amarinder put his chief ministership at stake when he repealed all previous water sharing agreements in the Punjab assembly to save further flow of water from Punjab to Haryana.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)