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Rashid Engineer and Amritpal express ‘faith’ in system

By taking the oath as members of Parliament, Sikh separatist leader Amritpal Singh and terror funding accused Sheikh Abdul Rashid aka Rashid Engineer, have by implication, expressed their faith in both the existing system of the Indian State and the Constitution. Amritpal has been lodged in the Dibrugarh jail in Assam for the past several […]

By taking the oath as members of Parliament, Sikh separatist leader Amritpal Singh and terror funding accused Sheikh Abdul Rashid aka Rashid Engineer, have by implication, expressed their faith in both the existing system of the Indian State and the Constitution.
Amritpal has been lodged in the Dibrugarh jail in Assam for the past several months after he was booked under the National Security Act on charge of attempting to free an associate. Rashid on the other hand, was arrested in 2017 after being charged under the Unlawful Activities (Preventive) Act for his alleged role in funding terror groups in Kashmir.
Both were brought amidst heavy security to the Parliament complex and took their oath in the Speaker’s chamber. Amritpal was elected from the Khadoor Saheb Lok Sabha seat in Punjab while Rashid was victorious from Baramulla in Kashmir when he defeated former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. The two had been unable to take oath with the rest of the members on June 24 as they were in judicial custody.

There has been a lot of speculation regarding the two accused persons and it is evident now that once they have been administered the oath as Lok Sabha members, they shall, subject to conditions laid by the court, be able to participate in crucial meetings of Parliament and also vote.

In this context, the observation, made by the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, sometime ago, that the system also looks after those who do not believe in the Constitution, becomes significant. However, the two freshly elected Parliamentarians have observed all the rules and norms to reach this stage of their career and therefore have willingly expressed their allegiance to the Indian constitution. The two can only be debarred from Parliament, if they are convicted of the charges. Therefore, the onus will be of the government to press these charges in court and prove them.

Amritpal is currently the head of “Waris Punjab De’’ a little-known organization which was founded by actor activist, the late Deep Sidhu. Sidhu was active during the farmer’s siege of the Shinghu border in Delhi and was also able to hoist the Nishan Saheb at the Red Fort on the Republic Day despite heavy security.

There were many observers who had pointed out that while it was difficult or rather impossible for anyone to get inside the Red Fort, it is obvious that Sidhu and his associates may have received some help in order to gain entry. The insinuation was that he was facilitated by the deep state, and could have been propped up by one of the intelligence agencies. Sidhu died in a road accident on the Kondli-Manesar expressway last year after which Amritpal was declared as the leader of the outfit.

Rashid has been an MLA and is believed to be very popular in the valley. Therefore, it is not surprising that he was able to humble Omar Abdullah in the polls. Like many other activists in the border state, he has also been accused of helping the separatists at the behest of intelligence agencies of the enemy country. However, as per the existing law, he should be presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

The 2024 polls in Punjab in particular, have had shades of what transpired in the then strife torn border state way back in 1989, when Simranjit Singh Mann, former IPS officer accused of being mixed up with Khalistanis, and Atinder Pal Singh were elected from Tarn Taran and Patiala respectively. Mann was at the peak of his popularity and in the succeeding years, was the only Sikh leader who travelled the length and breadth of Punjab without any police escort.

However, Mann had at that stage rejected the system and declined to enter Parliament unless, he was permitted to do so along with his sword, which he said was his right as a Sikh. The authorities did not succumb to pressure but this gave him sufficient reasons to pursue his politics in the State. His rejection of the police escort on the grounds that they were agents of the government, set him apart from other leaders of the State, who either travelled with a security contingent provided by the authorities or had got themselves safely locked up in prisons to keep away from the happenings at that point of time.

Amritpal is viewed by many of his supporters as a leader who could carry forward the message of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, whose activities prompted the then government to carry out “Operation Blue Star’’ which led to the Indian Army entering the Golden Temple complex after a bloody confrontation with him and his supporters including Genral Shabeg Singh and Bhai Amrik Singh. The fallout of this exercise was the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her security guards, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh.

Significantly, Beant Singh’s son, Sarabjit Singh too has been elected to the Lok Sabha from Punjab’s Faridkot and it was he who had pleaded with the Speaker’s office to allow Amritpal and Rashid to take oath.

Now since the two newly elected MPs have taken their oath, there would be considerable interest regarding their activities as also how they would be reacting to situations which place the Indian state vis-à-vis separatists in both Punjab and Kashmir. The entire system shall be under a test. Their role in the affairs of their respective states shall also be a matter of close scrutiny.

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amritpal singhOpinionSheikh Abdul RashidTDGThe Daily Guardian