Political parties in Punjab, including the ruling Congress and the BJP, on Saturday strongly criticised Aam Aadmi Party senior leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira for reportedly supporting Sikh “referendum” 2020 campaign.
Congress leaders and legislators lashed out at Khaira, the leader of opposition in Punjab Assembly, for his “open and blatant support” to the campaign aimed at seceding Punjab from India and again dividing the country along religious lines.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh condemned Khaira for “backing secessionism” by supporting the campaign, propounded by Sikh radicals for a separate Sikh homeland.
Yesterday, Khaira reportedly said: “I support the Sikh referendum 2020 movement as Sikhs have the right to demand justice against atrocities suffered by them.”
In a statement, Singh said Khaira seemed to be indulging in political antics without any sense of the history of Punjab or any realisation of the possible consequences of his statement.
The other Congress leaders, including Ramanjit Singh Sikki, Harminder Singh Gill and Hardev Singh Ladi, in a joint statement, sought clarification from AAP chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, asking him whether he subscribed to Khaira’s stand.
“You must sack Khaira from the party and if you do not do that it will amount to your consent and concurrence to the anti-national designs of Khaira,” they said in the statement.
Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia termed Khaira’s statement a “proof of divisive politics played by AAP.”
Amid the barrage of criticism, Khaira today responded to the Punjab chief minister in a tweet: “I am surpised a leader of your level is tweeting against me without checking his facts, I am not a votary of 2020 but I don’t hesitate to point out a consistent policy of discrimination against Sikhs by central governments! Be it attack on Darbar Sahib, genocide of Sikhs leading to 2020.”
But BJP leader Manoranjan Kalia said Khaira “double speaks” by supporting simultaneously the referendum as well as owing allegiance to the Constitution and supporting a united India. Kalia said it was an “open secret” that the campaign is a brainchild of Sikhs For Justice, a secessionist organisation headquartered in Canada.
“Declaring support for referendum 2020 by Khaira establishes his links with secessionists supporting Khalistan,” the former minister said.
In his statement, Punjab chief minister Singh said Khaira seemed to be completely unmindful of what the state had been through and the dangers of his ill-thought statement.
He dismissed as hypocrisy Khaira’s claim that he stood for India’s unity while supporting the campaign, terming it a classic case of “running with the hares and hunting with the hounds”.
Singh also demanded to know whether Khaira’s statement had the backing of the AAP central leadership. This was important considering Kejriwal himself was hobnobbing with pro-Khalistanis when he was campaigning in Punjab in the run-up to the Assembly elections last year, he alleged.
The AAP leadership should clarify their stand on the sensitive issue, which has the potential to plunge Punjab back into the dark days of terrorism, the chief minister said.
The Congress leaders said those fuelling secession via the “referendum” were sitting comfortably thousands of miles away in the west while trying to set Punjab on fire and push the youth toward disaster by using people like Khaira.