The widespread outrage over Kashmir in Punjab has become a dilemma for both the ruling Congress as well as for Opposition parties in the state.
The Congress had voted against the government’s decision to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in both Houses of Parliament, and its MP from Anandpur Sahib Manish Tewari even spoke in the Lok Sabha. However, many party leaders – especially those from the Hindi heartland – later supported the government’s move.
Punjab Chief Minister CaptainAmarinder Singh unequivocally opposed the government over the Kashmir issue but has also decided to clampdown on protests, made evident in how the administration withdrew permission for the protest in Mohali.
The Shiromani Akali Dal is facing flack from all quarters for supporting the government and going against its own stand in the Anandpur Sahib Resolution and the 1967 elections, where it had demanded special status for Punjab.
The Aam Aadmi Party supported the government in the Parliament but its sole MP in the Lok Sabha, Bhagwant Mann, stayed away during the debate on Kashmir. The party is also wary of raising the issue in Punjab as it could harm the party in Delhi.
One politician who has been giving statements against the government’s Kashmir policy is former Leader of the Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira of the Punjabi Ekta Party.
“Jammu and Kashmir was practically a Union Territory for the Government of India anyway. The Army rules the roost there, chief ministers are practically appointed by the Centre… but by bifurcating the state government and reducing it to a UT, the government’s main aim was to humiliate Kashmiris and rub salt into their wound,” he said in a recent interview.
“This is the government’s way of telling minorities that they have no place here,” he added.