Chandigarh, Nov 13: The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Wednesday welcomed the NDA government’s decision to commute the death sentence of Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana into life imprisonment as a ‘humanitarian gesture’ on the occasion of 550th birth celebrations of Sri Guru Nanak Dev, saying the gesture would bring a closure to the festering wounds of the Sikh community.
In a statement here, former minister Dr Daljit Singh Cheema said this decision would go a long way in assuaging the hurt feelings of the Sikh community who had to go through unspeakable repression and humiliation during those dark days when Punjab was pushed into terrorism by a series of insensitive and discriminatory moves of successive Congress governments at the Centre as well as the state.
''We are grateful to the Modi government for taking so many pro-Punjab and pro-Sikh decisions aimed at ending the feeling of alienation among the Sikhs,'' he added.
The Akali leader said the SAD and SGPC had always opposed the death penalty on a matter of principle and continued to do so. ''We have waged a long struggle to create consensus on this issue including approaching the Union government and well as the President of India on several occasions under the leadership of S Parkash Singh Badal. The decision of releasing eight Sikh prisoners who had already their full term and commuting the death sentence of Bhai Rajoana into life-imprisonment is a direct fall-out of the concerted efforts of the SAD and SGPC on this issue''.
Blaming the Congress for destroying the atmosphere of peace and communal harmony in the state solely for its petty political gains, Dr Cheema said all political parties and leaders should see the larger picture and break from the bitterness of the past and make a fresh start. ''We owe this to the victims of State-sponsored terror during the government of former chief minister Beant Singh. Who can forget the excesses committed against innocents during this time at the hand of State agencies that resorted to indiscriminate killings of Sikh youth besides indulging in rape and pillage,'' he said, adding that for these victims the release of the eight Sikh prisoners, as well as the relief given to Bhai Rajaona, serves the purpose of applying a balm on their aggrieved psyche.
Asking the Centre as well as state government to ensure the release of all other pending Sikh prisoners who were still languishing in jails after serving their full sentences, the SAD leader said the Sikh Sangat also stood for unilateral release of all such prisoners without resorting to any pick and choose policy. ''The SAD is even in favor of the release of all prisoners across the countries that have completed their full sentences'', he said adding this would be a fitting tribute to the cause of humanity on the 550th Parkash Purb of Sri Guru Nanak Dev. (UNI)