Gurvinder Singh Bali (66) is a former vice-president and spokesperson of the Punjab Congress. In an interview with Ranjeet Jamwal, Bali said Sikhs in Punjab are against Khalistan (sovereign state for Sikhs) and no one can spoil the brotherhood between Hindus and Sikhs in the state. Some excerpts :
Q: The Ajnala incident and the rise of radical Sikh preacher Amritpal Singh have rung the alarm bells over the increased activity of pro-Khalistan elements in Punjab. How do you see it?
A: First thing is we don’t give much importance to Amritpal because from 1982 to 1992 we have seen the dark days in Punjab. The situation was much worse at that time. We have no hope from the Chief Minister (Bhagwant Mann) but we had requested the Union home minister (Amit Shah) to take action. It’s a matter of shame for Punjab that the demand for Khalistan is even being raised in the state. For our Punjab, then Prime Minister of India (Indira Gandhi) and then Chief Minister (Beant Singh) sacrificed their lives. We have faced so much pain but now the demand for Khalistan is again being raised. And on top of it, Amritpal says he is not an Indian and belongs to the Punjab in Pakistan. Then better send him to Pakistan.
We have been repeatedly telling the Union home minister to rein him (Amritpal) in or it will cause instability in our Punjab. We don’t want to see him in Punjab as it will create a nuisance. He is here to divide the brotherhood between Hindus and Sikhs. There is neither any demand for Khalistan in Punjab nor do we believe in the concept of Khalistan. Who is Amritpal to become “Waris Punjab De” (the heirs of Punjab)? So we condemn this demand for Khalistan. Such a demand should not be made or there will be bloodshed in the state again. Hindus and Sikhs have always lived together and no one can separate us. Amritpal should forget about Khalistan. We are totally against Khalistan and will not let it happen even if we have to die.
Q: No action was taken against Amritpal and his supporters after they clashed with cops and laid siege at Ajnala police station. What do you think stopped the AAP government from taking action?
A : If we lift the flag of Khalistan or say Pakistan, we will be booked in a case of sedition. Then why was Amritpal not booked? It shows the failure of the state government. If terrorists lay siege on a police station, it shows the complete collapse of law and order. The way no action was taken in the Ajnala episode, it showed the Punjab Police, which eliminated terrorism from the state, was stopped. The person who talked about creating a separate country should have been booked for sedition and put in jail.
Q: Do you think outside forces are behind Amritpal?
A: That is for sure. He is obviously getting foreign funding for his activities. Amritpal is himself getting Sikhs and Sikh youngsters killed. But my question is if we have taken on China and Pakistan, then why didn’t we take action against a person who is obviously being funded by foreign powers to create trouble. It’s for our security agencies to see. The Centre should act as things have got out of the hand of the AAP government. The Punjab Police should get a free hand to act against anyone asking for Khalistan.
Q: The AAP government is completing one year in office. How do you see it?
A: What can we say of their one year rule when the entire Punjab is in a state of disturbance. Will industry come for investment in Punjab in such a situation when no action was taken against people roaming around with arms (Amritpal’s supporters)? How will you (state government) create employment for the state youth ? Q: Of late, many big Congress leaders in Punjab, including former CM Captain Amarinder Singh, have joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Will it affect the Congress?
A: It will hardly make a difference and one thing is for sure, Congress will survive this in Punjab no matter what such leaders do. If the leaders who joined the BJP were so popular, the Congress would have returned to power. Now can the BJP come to power because of them? The truth is the BJP never had a base in Punjab in the past and the same is the case even now. The BJP would have benefitted if they had inducted some fresh faces. The BJP may try hard but it will remain a minor party in Punjab. It just can’t win by inducting rejected leaders from other parties.
Q: The Opposition alleges the Mann government is being dictated by its Delhi leadership. Your view?
A: Even when the Congress was in power, our high command was also in Delhi. But the high command interferes in 25 per cent of things and the state leadership gets freedom to do 75 per cent of things. But the AAP government in Punjab is being dictated by its Delhi leadership for each and every thing. Otherwise can you tell the reason for the collapse of law and order in Punjab? Did AAP’s Delhi leadership stop the Mann government from filing FIR against Amritpal and putting him in jail for whatever he has done? There is surely something behind it. This is the collapse of the government