CHANDIGARH: Facing flak from the opposition over his reported comments on the sacrilege issue, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday said that he has not given a "clean chit" to SAD leaders Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir.
The alleged desecration of religious scriptures in 2015 during the SAD-BJP rule had sparked outrage in the Sikh community.
Apart from the opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Singh also faced flak from Congress MP Pratap Singh Bajwa who alleged that the chief minister has "freed the Badals of their guilt" on the issue of desecration of religious scriptures.
Seeking to clarify his comments in a newspaper interview, Amarinder Singh said, "At no point did I say Parkash Singh Badal or his son Sukhbir were not involved in the sacrilege. As is evident from the reported interview itself, all I said was that Badal did not himself go and tear up the holy Sri Guru Granth Sahib. But that does not rule out his involvement in the matter."
"They were as responsible as the men who had indulged in the actual act of desecration that had cascaded into such a grave chain of events for the state and its people," he was quoted as saying in a Congress party release.
However, Bajwa said the "damage" Amarinder Singh has done to the Congress in Punjab "cannot be undone" through his "well thought out design of first playing the exoneration card and then issuing denial".
In a statement, the Congress Rajya Sabha MP expressed apprehension that the chief minister was getting "dictated by some extraneous forces" going by the way he had mentioned "exoneration" of former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son ex-deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on the sacrilege issue.
He also said the "exoneration" of the Badals had further reinforced the perception among the people in Punjab about the alleged "complicity" between Amarinder Singh and the SAD leaders.
AAP MP Bhagwant Mann, in a statement, alleged that "giving clean chit" to the Badals has "exposed Amarinder-Badal bonhomie" and said the chief minister's comments came at a time when a probe by a special investigation team of the Punjab police was already underway.
Expressing concern over the "attempt to misrepresent" and give a completely "erroneous twist" to his comments, the chief minister said the Badals, being in power at the time, were "totally responsible" for the events that led to desecration of religious scriptures and the subsequent police firing in Faridkot in 2015, as he had maintained all along.
"They cannot shrug off their culpability on this count, which is as grave a crime as actually tearing off the pages of the Holy Sri Guru Granth Sahib," Amarinder Singh said and alleged the Badals not only failed to prevent a large number of cases of sacrilege that took place under their watch but also allowed the culprits to go scot-free.