By Soroor Ahmed
One does not need a colonial power or a democratically-elected government or political opponent to level charge of anti-national or sedition. Nowadays such allegations can be hurled by warring leaders/factions within any political party, as it is happening in the Punjab Congress.
Even before his resignation from the post of the state chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has non-stop been criticising the recently appointed president of Punjab Congress Committee, Navjot Singh Sidhu, for visiting Pakistan in August 2018 at the time of the oath-taking ceremony of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. Imran was elected Prime Minister of his country for the first time then and has good relationship with many Indian players of his cricketing years, including Sidhu.
Sidhu was also flayed for embracing the army chief of that country, General Qamar Jawaid Bajwa, though he was still a minister in Amarinder Singh cabinet. A month after the May 2019 Lok Sabha election, in which Congress did very well in Punjab (it won eight out of 13 seats), Amarinder stripped Sidhu off several important portfolios . The latter felt humiliated and resigned from the cabinet in July 2019.
The Captain did not visit Kartarpur on the occasion of the inauguration of Kartarpur Corridor in November 2019, though he was invited by Pakistan. Sidhu, however, was present on the occasion and showered praise on Imran for timely completion of the project. Sidhu also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After his unceremonious exit from the post of chief minister, Amarinder is now openly claiming that Sidhu is a security threat to the country. He has been saying so to different television channels even when he is still technically a member of the Congress party.
A week after his resignation from the post of CM Amarinder met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval in New Delhi to discuss the security matter and repeated intrusion of drones into Punjab.
His critics within the Congress are arguing that he could have met them to discuss these issues even when he was the chief minister. They are defending Sidhu by stating that Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the present one, Narendra Modi had also visited Pakistan and met the then PM, Nawaz Sharif on both the occasions. These two trips got huge media coverage, so was President Pervez Musharraf’s visit to Delhi and Agra in 2001, that is two years after the Kargil War. General Musharraf is considered an architect of Kargil War. He torpedoed the high-profile Lahore Bus Trip of the then PM Vajpayee in February 1999. As the army chief of that country then, he master-minded the infiltration of militants and regular Pakistani army personnel across the Line of Control.
Not only that Sidhu’s supporters are pushing Captain Amarinder Singh back to the corner by highlighting his friendship with Pakistani defence journalist, Aroosa Alam, a regular visitor to his house when he was still the chief minister of Punjab.
Aroosa Alam, it is alleged, has connection with top Pakistani generals and her mother, Akleem Akhtar nicknamed as General Rani, had a very close relationship with the then Pakistani dictator, General Yahya Khan.
There is no dearth of independent political observers who are pointing out that Captain Amarinder Singh as the chief minister of Punjab in his previous tenure visited Pakistan in 2004. He had then even invited the chief minister of Pakistani Punjab Pervez Elahi to attend the World Punjabi Conference. The latter in fact attended it in Chandigarh in December 2004.
The present situation in Punjab is a pointer to the fact that politicians can go to any extent to call their rival within their own party as anti-national. So if they want to implicate any person on the charge of sedition at the drop of a hat, it is nothing surprising.
This one example is enough to know as to why the sedition law (Section 124A) has not been scrapped even 75 years after Independence. Perhaps all the parties need it when in power. The only difference is that its use has become quite rampant in the recent years.
Whenever the politicians fail in their performance, they become patriot and nationalist. This appears to be true in the case of the Captain too as his government failed in fulfilling all the promises made on the eve of the 2017 Punjab Assembly election. Be it sacrilege issue, drug culture, power crisis, industrial slowdown and farmers’ distress, the Amarinder government proved a non-performer.
It is other thing that the famous English literary critic Dr Samuel Johnson had written way back in 1775 that: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the Scoundrel.”