SAD asks government to take steps to ensure clemency for Rajoana

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will make a special statement in the Assembly, now in session, on the Punjab government's stance on the issue of convict Balwant Singh Rajoana, who is to be hanged on March 31 for his involvement in the assassination of Beant Singh in 1995.

Mr. Badal gave the assurance after the core committee of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal asked the government to take all possible legal and other steps to secure clemency for “Bhai” Rajoana, who was recently bestowed with the title of “zinda shaheed” by the supreme religio-temporal seat, Akal Takhat, a SAD release said.

The Sikh community's apex clerics had edicted the Akali Dal to save Rajoana. Mr. Badal is likely to take up the issue with the BJP high command (coalition partner) before he makes a statement in the House.

Chaired by party president Sukhbir Singh, the Akali Dal's core committee, which met here, appreciated the fact that the Punjab government had returned the warrants of execution as it was legally not possible to execute them. The committee fully backed the efforts being taken by the government to secure clemency.

Clemency appeal

The committee also asked the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to immediately file a clemency appeal before the President. It said the SAD was prepared to “go to any extent to secure clemency for Bhai Rajoana so that the hard-earned peace and communal harmony in the State is not disturbed.”

However, the BJP chose to distance itself from the issue as State unit chief Ashwani Kumar preferred to leave the final decision to the national leadership and courts. He said the party was opposed to terrorism in all forms and nobody should be allowed to interfere in court matters.

On the other hand, Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh appreciated the stand taken by the family of Beant Singh that Rajoana's death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment. Captain Singh said, “Sardar Beant Singh [then Chief Minister] gave his life for peace in Punjab and the members of his family today are united in their belief that peace must be maintained in the State at all costs.”

BSF deployed

Meanwhile, following a call given by various organisations to observe a bandh on March 28 and organise “khalsa marches” from March 29 onwards, the government is deploying the Border Security Force at sensitive places, while patrolling by the police has been intensified. Security forces are expected to hold flag marches and organise searches in large cities and sensitive areas.