Akali Dal tones down drugs protest against BSF

Chandigarh(IANS): After drawing flak for its move to protest against the BSF on the drugs issue, Punjab’s ruling Akali Dal Tuesday seemed to have toned down its action, saying that it will now hold three ‘dharnas’ on the India-Pakistan border “to create awareness about drugs as well as focus on the need for greater vigilance”.

The decision was taken Tuesday at a meeting of the Shiromani Akali Dal leadership, chaired by party patron and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, party spokesmen Maheshinder Singh Grewal and Daljit Singh Cheema said here.

The Akali Dal will now hold three “awareness dharnas” near Attari, Hussainiwala and Sadki check points in Amritsar, Ferozepur and Fazilka districts on Jan 5. “The proposed dharna at Gurdaspur has been put off and now merged with the Attari programme,” the spokesmen said.

The Congress had Monday demanded that the central government should book Deputy Chief Minister and party chief Sukhbir Badal for sedition since he and his party were going to protest against the Border Security Force which is guarding the country’s international border.

The Akali Dal move to hold the protests on Jan 5 was being seen in the state’s political circles as a move to pre-empt the rally against drugs menace being held by their alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). BJP national president Amit Shah will address the rally in Amritsar Jan 12.

Sukhbir Badal will lead the party dharna at Attari.

“Akali Dal ministers will also participate in the programmes but in their private capacity and will not use their official cars for this purpose,” the spokesmen said.

At the party meeting Tuesday, Chief Minister Badal clarified that the party was “not against the BSF”.

Badal said: “The fight against drugs is the shared responsibility of the centre and state governments and people of the country. The Akali Dal is not against the centre or the BSF.”

He said that new technology should be used by the BSF and other security agencies to increase surveillance at the border.

Citing the example of the US’ border with Mexico, Badal said that the US government was also faced with similar challenges and had taken effective steps to control smuggling.

Badal regretted that Punjab was being “defamed and even projected as if it was an ‘adda’ (hub) of drugs”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his recent nationwide radio address, had specifically mentioned the drugs abuse rampant in Punjab.

“If we had not taken proactive action and conducted the record seizures we have, these drugs would have travelled further into the country and created havoc,” Badal claimed, pointing out that earlier vested interests had also portrayed Punjabis as terrorists.

“This is why we are holding these dharnas. We want to make everyone aware of the danger posed by the penetration of drugs from Afghanistan into Punjab and engage everyone in this war against drugs,” Badal said.