October 24, 2017 | By Parmjeet Singh
Chandigarh: Punjab politicians having pro-Indian state commitments have fumed over Canada’s New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh’s reference to Punjab while supporting the ‘right to self-determination’. After being elected as the leader of the NDP, Jagmeet Singh is on Canada wide tour and he recently said that he considers self-determination to be a “basic right”.
Jagmeet Singh was quoted by Huffington Post as saying during a news conference in Ottawa last week: “So whether it is in Punjab, for the people of Punjab, or whether it is in Catalonia, for the people of that region, whether it is in Basque, wherever that is, whether it is in Quebec, it’s a basic right. Everyone should be able to do that.”
Huffington Post also quoted him as saying on the issue of self-determination, “It is a right that is so fundamental and if people choose their future, I am completely in agreement with their decision. I, personally, would love us to stay together, but at the same time I respect the decision without fault.”
The Punjab politicians were quick to react to Jagmeet Singh’s remarks. Politicians belonging to ruling Congress and opposition Aam Aadmi Party and Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) have issued statements to show their loyalty towards the Indian state.
These politicians, including Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, AAP MP Bhagwant Mann and SAD (Badal) spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema, criticised Jagmeet Singh for making a reference to the Punjab while endorsing ‘self-determination’ as a basic right. Former Chairman of India’s National Commission of Minorities and former Rajya Sabha MP Tarlochan Singh too lined up to express his belief in “unity and integrity” of India.
Daljit Singh Cheema said that the SAD (Badal) never supported the demand for self-determination or Khalistan. However his statement does not pass the reality check as in April 1992, SAD (Badal) leader Parkash Singh Badal along with SAD (Amritsar) leader Simranjit Singh Mann and late Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra signed a memorandum for submitting it to UN secretary general Boutros Boutros Ghali who was visiting New Delhi on April 22, 1992 demanding UN intervention in Punjab and demanding independence.
Punjab Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) president Bhagwant Mann termed Jagmeet Singh’s self-determination talk a part of his domestic politics in Canada. “We congratulate Jagmeet Singh on his achievements in another country, but that does not mean he can say anything he likes or talk about self-determination in Punjab,” said Bhagwant Mann.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh too criticised Jagmeet Singh’s remark and termed it as “anti-India conspiracy”. Notably, Amarinder Singh had himself endorsed the demand of independent Sikh state in 1994 by signing the Amritsar Declaration.
The right to self determination is internationally recognised basic political right but the politicians of Punjab, who are not more than the Subedars of the Indian state in eventually occupied territory of Punjab, are in no position to admit this fact. As their statuses depend on their loyalty towards the Indian state system, they see any statement about the use of right to self determination for Punjab as a threat to their positions.
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