A life lost, tense days as leaders play politics (Punjab Newsletter)

March 30th, 2012 - 12:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, March 30 (IANS) An 18-year-old loses his life, people are injured, public property gets damaged, tension and tempers rise between two communities and the common man is put to harassment with a shutdown and blocked roads - all because some leaders and organisations are opposing death penalty to a man convicted by courts of law for the assassination of a chief minister.

The question now being raised in Punjab is whether the life of Jaspal Singh, the youth who was killed in police firing following a clash between two groups in north Punjab’s Gurdaspur town Thursday, was cheaper than that of Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) terrorist Balwant Singh Rajoana who faces death penalty in the 1995 assassination case of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.

The group clash in Gurdaspur between two communities, followed by police action of a baton charge and firing, left the youth dead and some injured. The clash was the fallout of the build up in the state in the last few days over the hanging of Rajoana.

While the pressure of the Punjab government, the state’s politicians and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has ensured that Rajoana’s hanging - earlier scheduled for Saturday - be stayed for now, Jaspal Singh has lost his life for no fault of his.

“What was his (Jaspal’s) fault? While trying to save Rajoana’s life for their vested political interests, these leaders have got a young man killed,” Santokh Singh, an eyewitness to Thursday’s clash in Gurdaspur, said.

All that the state’s leaders, be it Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal or Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh - both of whom were at the forefront seeking clemency for Rajoana - are now offering condolences for Jaspal Singh and appealing for peace and calm.

“I appeal to the people of Punjab to exercise restrain and maintain peace, communal harmony and amity at all cost,” Badal said as he ordered a magisterial probe into the Gurdaspur incident Thursday.

Amarinder Singh accused police of overreacting to the mob clash in Gurdaspur, resulting in the death of the youth.

“This government seems to be trapped between inaction and overreaction,” Amarinder Singh said.

Radical Sikh group Dal Khalsa’s leaders H.S. Dhami and Kanwarpal Singh accused the police of highhandedness.

“We had talked with many people in Gurdaspur who told us that police behaviour was completely ruthless and barbaric,” they alleged.

The irony of the situation is such that while Punjab politicians and radicals want to save the life of Rajoana, he himself, through letters issued in recent days through his sister, has said he was ready to face the gallows as he was “sacrificing” his life for a cause. He had earlier openly admitted his involvement in terrorism and killing of Beant Singh. He even refused to defend himself or seek mercy.

In one of the letters, Rajoana even took on the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab for raking up his hanging controversy for its political gains.

The Supreme Court Thursday slammed the Punjab government and state leaders for the “drama” in the Rajoana case.

“When a person is convicted of the murder of a chief minister in broad daylight, it is being noticed that the person is guilty of terrorism, and in this case he has found support of political parties. Parties have garnered support from such persons…how can they now leave them,” the Supreme Court bench observed in its scathing criticism of the Punjab government’s handling of the matter and the wastage of public money.

It criticised the Punjab government for enacting a “drama” to frustrate the execution of death sentence awarded to the Sikh terrorist.

But all of that is not going to bring Jaspal Singh back to life.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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