From Our Special Correspondent

Chandigarh — The first session of newly elected Punjab legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha) opened here on October 14. The session began with oath taking ceremony by 114 members. S. Ravi Inder Singh was appointed Protempore Speaker as he had held this office earlier and he was administered the oath of office by the Governor a few days back. Ninety members took oath in Punjabi and the remaining in Urdu, English and Hindi. The regular election of the speaker will be on October 15. S. Ravi Inder Singh is likely to be elected unanimously as Congress Party is not putting up any candidate for this office. In this session the issue of condolence resolutions has become quite ticklish. There is considerable tussel among Akali members regarding condolence resolution on the death of Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Whereas Mr. Surjit Singh Barnala, Mr. Balwant Singh and their other cabinet colleagues favor the inclusion of Mrs. Gandhi’s name in the list, there are quite a few who are dead set against it. It is being argued that resolutions must cover all those who were massacred in the Operation Bluestar and other army and police actions in Punjab and also all those who were killed in anti-Sikh riots of November, 1984. No consensus has so far emerged on the mention of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s name in the condolence resolution.

The Chief Minister and his colleagues are opposing the proposal of mentioning him by name. Unpatrolled security arrangements have been made to cover the whole session. The security was so tight that even the elected members had to prove their bonfires to enter the House. Nobody except the members and accredited journalists was allowed to enter the House.

Expansion in the ministry is expected after the session which is likely to last till October 30. The agenda before the House covers nothing beyond oath taking, discussion over Governor’s address, election of the speaker and a few supplementary budgetary demands.

There is good deal of restlessness over the issue of the release of the Sikh young men who are rotting in jails. Despite assurances by the Chief Minister that the committee constituted for this purpose by the Centre will complete its task within one month, most of the recommendation made so far relate only to the release of Hindu Suraksha Samati and Shiva Sena workers, and no satisfactory step has been taken in regard to the release of Sikh youths. Punjab government has also taken no step in the direction of releasing 400 odd Sikh youths who are currently lodged in Ajmer and Jodhpur jails in Rajasthan. Their cases are still being tried by the Special Courts. Rajiv Gandhi’s statement that no leniency will be shown to those who had ‘waged war against the government and fought the army has further angered the Sikhs in Punjab. Clearly government is not interested in releasing those Sikhs who were arrested from the Golden Temple during ‘Operation Bluestar.’ There is a tremendous pressure from the public for the transfer of Sikhs from Ajmer and Jodhpur jails to Punjab as they are being given food worth less than three rupees per day and their relatives have to face lots of restrictions in meeting them. In their meeting of October 13 at Chandigarh, Jathedars expressed their concern at the continued detention of these Sikhs that include women and children also. Dozens of delegations meet the Chief Minister for this purpose. Some of them were seen coming out shouting slogans against the government. This issue has become a big headache for the Chief Minister as the Center is not cooperating with the State government in this matter even though the central government had declared that Punjab government would be free to take action but Akali government is not prepared to take any step which is likely to cause misunderstanding with the Centre.

Article extracted from this publication >>  October 18, 1985