Rajiv Gandhi statute vandalized in Ludhiana; Congress, Akalis in war of words

Chandigarh: Punjab’s ruling Congress and opposition Shiromani Akali Dal were on Tuesday involved in a bitter war of words after the statute of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was vandalized in the industrial city of Ludhiana.

The statute was vandalized allegedly by workers of the SAD’s youth wing following which Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordered strict action by the district police against the perpetrators. Following this, the police registered a case in this matter.

The incident, carried out by Youth Akali Dal activists Meetpal Dugri and Gurdeep Singh Gosha in Salem Tibri area of Ludhiana, around 120 km from here, led to a war of words between Congress and SAD leaders.

Congress MP Ravneet Sing Bittu later cleaned the statute with milk.

Blaming Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress for the killing of hundreds of Sikhs in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the Youth Akali Dal activists used spray paint to blacken the face of Rajiv Gandhi and painted his hands in red colour.

The activists then announced that they were doing this (vandalism) to show their anger against the role of Rajiv Gandhi, father of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, in the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi in 1984 in the aftermath of the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two bodyguards.

Strongly condemning the vandalism, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday asked SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal to stop indulging in petty politics.

Warning him that “such acts would backfire on his party in the coming Lok Sabha elections”, the Chief Minister asked Badal to immediately “apologize for the obnoxious act of his party workers”. “Indulgence in such petty and condemnable actions will not absolve you or your family of the many sins of omission and commission against the Guru Granth Sahib and the Sikh community,” Amarinder said in a statement.

“They are well aware of the fact that the Gandhis were never named or implicated in the 1984 riots, yet they continued to drag the family into the case to further their own political agenda,” said the Chief Minister.

SAD president Sukhbir Badal reacted strongly to Amarinder’s statement. “You @capt_amarinder should apologise to the Sikh sangat for failing them as CM and standing with hated Gandhi family. The community has shown what it thinks of Rajiv Gandhi in Ludhiana. Don’t disrespect the sentiments of Sikhs,” Badal tweeted.

If you @capt_amarinder have any ‘dard’ for the Sikh ‘qaum’ you would resign as CM and stand with the community to expose Gandhi family for authoring and engineering genocide of Sikhs in 1984. But it seems you are made of stone. No amount of suffering of the community moves you,” Badal said.

“It would have been better if you @capt_amarinder as a true Sikh & Punjab CM had condemned the Gandhi family and demanded expulsion of #1984SikhGenocide culprits Sajjan Kumar & Kamal Nath from Congress party. But you are too busy in sycophancy of Gandhi family to save your chair,” Badal added.

Congress Sewa Dal activists later blackened the faces of SAD president Sukhbir Badal and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on posters in Ludhiana in retaliation against the statute vandalization. They burnt posters of both Akali Dal leaders.

Amarinder reiterated that only a few Congress, BJP and RSS workers were involved in the violence against the Sikh community in 1984 and the judiciary was proceeding to act against them.

“Sajjan Kumar had already been sentenced to life and others involved in the perpetration of the riots would also face legal action,” he added.

“Had the Gandhis been involved in any way, they would have been named by at least some of the victims in the wake of the riots,” he observed, adding that while he had personally visited the refugee camps to meet the victims, Sukhbir had packed his bags and left for the United States and was totally unaware of the developments at that time.”

“The Akalis, in their frustration to seize political mileage, are taking law into their hands, which his government would not allow at any cost,” the Chief Minister warned, adding he would not let the state’s hard-earned peace be disturbed by anyone.

Punjab has a Congress government since March 2017, headed by Amarinder Singh.