CHANDIGARH: The ghost of K P S Gill hung over the Punjab Assembly as it convened for its maiden budget session on Wednesday. Supercop to some and expert in extra-judicial killings to some, the former director-general of police of Punjab was listed second in the list of obituary references in the session, following Vinod Khanna, the actor and MP for Gurdaspur, an altogether a consensual figure.
As soon as speaker K P Singh Rana started reading out the obituary references, Akali Dal MLAs stood up and took up full-throated slogans against Gill’s record during the of years of militancy in Punjab. Then they walked out, led by their leader Sukhbir Badal.
Interestingly, lawmakers of the BJP, an ally of the Shiormani Akali Dal, stayed put in their seats. A similar division was seen in the other block of the opposition in Congress-ruled Punjab: MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party 9AAP), the main opposition, stayed while their allies, Lok Insaf Party (LIP) MLAs walked out with the Akalis. Both the LIP MLAs, Simerjit Singh Bains and Balwinder Singh Bains are otherwise bitter critics of the Akali Dal.
“If you just had to make an obituary reference, why not a social worker rather than a man who killed innocent youngsters?” asked Sukhbir Badal amidst the din.
There ensued then a competition of sorts across the benches on who merited an obituary and who didn’t. Largely, the MLAs came up with safe and impersonal suggestions. AAP MLA Baljinder Kaur demanded obsequies for farmers who committed suicide, which chief minister Amarinder Singh enthusiastically seconded. And so the forlorn farmer was duly lamented.
While AAP MLA Sukhpal Khaira attacked the SAD as he termed double standards by the party on the Gill issue and in the same breath also ridiculed the ruling Congress for inserting the obituary for the former DGP as he was involved in human rights violations.
Navjot Singh, a minister, TV jester and former cricketer, said tributes ought to be paid to youngsters who have died of drug overdoses in Punjab. This was meant to be a point meant to be scored over the Akali Dali, during whose rule drug abuse is alleged to have proliferated.
The Gill obit was never likely to go down well beyond the Assembly. The radical Sikh organization Dal Khalsa issued a statement that by lamenting the passing of the former DGP, legislators have insulted the emotions of the people of Punjab, and rubbed salt on the wounds still nursed by his victims’ families.
Both H S Cheema and Kanwar Pal Singh said Gill neither deserved tributes nor condolences. By offering tribute in the Assembly to the person who never followed or worked within the ambit of rule of law, the present day government has legalized the state-terrorism, they alleged.
Critics of Gill’s bitter deeds during the 1980s and 1990s were trotted out yet again, and particular mention was made of the fact that chief minister Amarinder Singh called upon the ailing policeman before his death, and that he later attended his bhog ceremony too.