The apprehension of an Indo-Pak war emerged after the ‘surgical strikes’ made by Indian Army across the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir, which is being debated at different levels, gave yet another potential issue to the politicos in Punjab to lob verbal shells at each other. The political leaders, unmindful of their international ramifications, exploited the issue to their best to score on each other as the state elections are just a few months away. Taking precaution a few days back, Union government with the help of state government got nearly 1,000 Punjab villages located within 10-km of international border evacuated, which became a bone of contention among the ruling SAD-BJP alliance on one side and primarily the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on the other.
The Opposition parties in the state blamed the Modi-led Union government as well as the Badal led Punjab government for ‘unnecessarily’ building up war hysteria and getting the villages evacuated. Though the Centre as well as Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal termed it a precautionary measure mentioning that every possible help was provided to the affected people, the Opposition unwilling to listen to the reasoning, plainly termed it a gesture to take advantage in Assembly elections to be held in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh early next year. Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh visited the border villages and further up to the fencing and issued a statement that there had been no movement by Pakistani Army. He also referred to the satellites and availability of technology to lay stress on the point that these days everything could be seen through them well in time.
An ex-serviceman Amarinder went on quoting that there was no mass evacuation even in 1965 or 2002 during Operation Parakram. In his viewpoint, the whole exercise was political which led to the harassment of thousands of people. Toeing his line, several Congress leaders and legislators from border areas, representing various assembly segments from Ferozepur to Gurdaspur, also lashed out at the SAD-BJP alliance over ‘forcible evacuation of the residents from border villages against their will.’ The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and newly formed Aapna Punjab Party (APP) also didn’t lag behind in visiting the border villages and issuing statements on the subject.
The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, however, strongly reacted to such accusations, and said the statements were aimed at creating mistrust between the Army and the people of the country in general and Punjab in particular. Justifying the evacuation, three days back Badal himself blasted the Congress and the AAP leaders for criticising the move. Asserting that his government fully implemented the directive of Government of India on the security-driven issue of pre-emptive civilian evacuation and relocation in border areas, Badal said that the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders had stooped so low as to question a decision that was taken considering security implications for the border population.
Going ahead he shot off a letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, stating that Congress leader Amarinder Singh and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal were deliberately making mischievous statements on sensitive issues of border security. Badal’s response came at the end of a three-day visit to all six border districts in Punjab. As the Opposition parties were concerned about the standing paddy crop of the farmers in the fields, the government clarified that the Centre had decided to allow farmers from the districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Tarn Taran, Ferozepur, Pathankot and Fazilka to harvest crops during the day.
Badal also attempted to pacify the opponents saying that decisions on whether or not to reveal evidence on surgical strikes and when to execute pre-emptive civilian relocation are issues to be decided on highly professional grounds. Amid all this, BSF Director General KK Sharma issued a statement that the force had not issued orders for vacating villages along the India-Pakistan International Border (IB) in Punjab, and said such directives may have been issued by the respective civil administrations as precautionary measure. Another official on the same issue said that it was highly unlikely that there would be firing along the Punjab border, as both the sides are densely populated and dominated by an agrarian population.
The statements from BSF camps put the government in a tizzy that was already battling the Opposition parties on the issue. On Friday, Punjab government revoked its earlier decision to evacuate villages along the India-Pakistan border in the state. Announcing the same, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said the decision was taken by the centre on Friday after a review meeting on border situation, headed by union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, in Jaisalmer. As the ‘tension’ is now almost over, it is time for all to appreciate the bravery of the people residing in border areas as they are living constantly under the ‘terror cloud’ for the two countries not keeping cordial relations but the grudges they possess are quite few. They are strong enough to face any difficulty and it is for what they were quick to be back in their dwellings and fields with the reversal of evacuation orders. Now the governments should think of their betterment in all possible manners but for that their representatives, ruling or not ruling, will have to see beyond politics.
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