Punjab Aam Aadmi Party leader HS Phoolka on Sunday courted controversy with his remarks suggesting that Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat’s comments about Punjab militancy may have been responsible for the blast at Amritsar’s Nirankari Bhawan that killed three persons.
“Now the thing is that if the Army chief came and gave a statement there, it is possible that they [the militants] perhaps may well have organised the attack to prove this statement right,” Phoolka said, in an apparent reference to Rawat’s remarks on November 3 that attempts were being made to revive insurgency in Punjab. “All these things need to be thought about: Are the governments doing these things? The last one was done by the government itself, the Maur one. Without any reason, to say that the atmosphere in Punjab is bad is not right.”
Phoolka was referring to the blast in Maur Mandi town in Bathinda district on January 31, 2017 just days before the Assembly elections.
Later, Phoolka claimed that his “inadvertent statement made standing on the road” was being “blown out of proportion”. “I have stated that history is evidence of that fact that governments in the past have caused violence to further their interest, like in last year’s Maur blast,” he tweeted. “No one should reach a conclusion [about the Amritsar blast] without a detailed, impartial investigation. Even a moderate person like me who has always been against Khalistan, thinks so.”
The AAP leader added that while his statement may have been inadvertent, he regretted it as it “may have been purported to be against the Army chief”.
The party, too, backed Phoolka. AAP leader Sanjay Singh said Phoolka should not be defamed for his “impromptu comment” and said that he had regretted the statement. “He has been fighting for justice for 1984 riots victims for last 35 years, he should be given credit for it,” Singh said, according to ANI. “He shouldn’t be targeted in this manner.”
Punjab Congress MLA Rajkumar Verka threatened to file a First Information Report against Phoolka. “On whose instructions is Phoolka giving such statements?” he told ANI. “Is [Delhi Chief Minister Arvind] Kejriwal going to answer? Is he in agreement with his statement? No one can tolerate such words for the Army.”
The Punjab Police announced on Sunday that they were treating the Amritsar blast as an act of terror, a decision Phoolka called “shocking”.