A mid unrest in Punjab, politicians have suddenly become hyperactive, with each trying to project the other as anti-national. The nationalism debate began at the grand congregation of Sikhs (Sarbat Khalsa) - near Amritsar on November 10 - which was organised to deal with issues like farmer suicides, desecration of holy books and farmer compensation.
The Shiromani Akali Dal-led government, immediately after the Sarbat Khalsa got over, claimed that it was the Congress that backed the radicals who had organised the congregation. Some leaders even claimed that they had the recorded telephone conversations of two Congress leaders who were in touch with the radicals. Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal went to the extent of terming the Congress "anti-national" but did not say anything about the AAP leaders who had also attended the Sarbat Khalsa.
"The Congress plot was reminiscent of its wrongdoings in the 1980s when it had connived with separatists to weaken the Akali Dal. The Congress should be declared an anti-national party as it massacred the Sikh community," said Sukhbir Badal.
The Akali Dal leader claimed that one of the Congress leaders, Ramanjit Singh Sikki, who along with Inderjit Singh Zira shared stage with radicals, is close to Captain Amarinder Singh. Badal also said that there were evidences which purportedly showed the Congress leaders guiding separatists.
Badal's remarks left the Congress red-faced, which not only denied any role in the Sarbat Khalsa but also reminded him how his father, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, had allegedly burnt the copies of the Constitution. "We in Congress do not need any lessons on patriotism and nationalism from someone like Sukhbir Badal, whose father and chief minister Parkash Singh Badal still takes pride in having burnt copies of the Constitution of India during the Khalistan movement," Captain Amarinder Singh said.
Captain Singh also asked Sukhbir Badal to tender an unconditional apology to the tens of thousands of people that had attended the Sarbat Khalsa, whom Badal had earlier regarded as "anti-national" and had later retracted saying they were not.
About Sukhbir Badal's claims that he was redefining the meaning of "anti-national", Capt Singh told him, "Not me; you and your father are trying to redefine the meaning of anti-national by terming a mass protest against your government as anti-national to deflect public attention."
"As far as what anti-national means, let me explain to you; it means tearing away the pages of the Constitution and setting them on fire as your father did; it means submitting memorandum to the United Nations demanding Khalistan as your father did; it means proudly claiming in the Vidhan Sabha that 'I am a militant' as one of your MLAs did," he told Sukhbir. The Captain's remarks prompted the Akali Dal to hurl another allegation against him. The party accused him of visiting a Khalistan gurdwara in Toronto, Canada, which was denied by Amarinder Singh.
The Sarbat Khalsa has in fact drawn a fine line between the radicals and the Akali Dal, which is losing religious ground in recent months. The Congress and the AAP are directly or indirectly sending feelers to radicals to muster their support. The AAP leaders were seen addressing rallies which were also attended by radicals. Keeping in view the SAD's past experience of mixing religion with politics, the two parties are more than eager to grab the opportunity.