Congress workers today took to the streets across Punjab to burn 'Chitta Ravan' effigies of Akali leaders, including Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and state Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia. Despite reports of "likely police attempts" to thwart their plans, Congress leaders and workers set the effigies on fire with the party's state unit chief, Amarinder Singh, being personally present to witness the act at Baghapurana. Congress leaders Rana Gurjit Singh, Kewal Singh and Laal Singh were among those who led the workers in setting the effigies ablaze in their respective Assembly segments. Amarinder, who was in Moga district to take part in his party's 'Kisan Yatra' roadshow, which was launched from here today, was at Baghapurana to witness the burning of the effigies of Badal and Majithia. Reports of similar burning of effigies of the Badals and other Akali leaders also poured in from other parts of the state at the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) office throughout the day, the party said in a statement. Amarinder had earlier announced that 'Chitta Ravan' effigies will be burnt in all the Assembly segments of the state. He had also announced to burn one such effigy in Ludhiana tomorrow which will coincide with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit. For tomorrow's effigy-burning, the Punjab Congress chief has chosen the same spot where Congress workers were allegedly attacked by Akali activists in the presence of the police on Dussehra eve when they tried to burn a 'Chitta' (heroin) effigy. Scaling the pitch of the party's anti-drugs war, Amarinder had yesterday called upon Congress workers to plaster Chitta Ravans with the faces of the Badals and other Akali leaders, in defiance of the reported "diktat" of the state government that effigies with faces will not be allowed to be burnt. "Let them (the police) try and stop us.
We will fight them every inch of the way. They cannot stop us from venting our anger at the sufferings being meted out to the people by the Badal government," he had vowed, assuring the party workers that he was with them in every step.
(REOPENS DES 28) Meanwhile, a report from Phagwara claimed that Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Suraksha Samiti activists took offence to the Congress' programme of effigy-burning of 'Chitta Ravan' in Punjab. In a statement, the outfit's Punjab chief, Deepak Bhardwaj, alleged that the act amounted to "insulting Hindu traditions and hurting their religious sentiments". "If at all the Congress wants to protest against drugs, it should name its protest programme 'Chitta Badals' as it was the Badals under whose regime the scourge of drugs has gripped the state," he alleged. Saying that ridicule of any character of Hindu epic Ramayana will not be tolerated, Bhardwaj argued that effigies of Ravan and others were burnt on Dussehra as a symbol of victory of good over evil. "The other side of the story is that Ravan was a great scholar, well-versed in the four Vedas," he said. Accusing the Congress of "always playing with the sentiments of the Hindu community and ignoring it during its rule in Punjab", Bhardwaj demanded that a case be booked under IPC section 295A against Amarinder and other leaders of the party for their "deliberate and malicious acts", intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. Alleging that the Congress government in Punjab under Amarinder "did nothing" for the families of terror victims during its tenure, he flayed the party's proposed programme of effigy-burning in Ludhiana tomorrow. Meanwhile, three groups of Congress workers burnt effigies of the 'Chitta Ravan' at Phagwara. Led by the party's district chief and former state minister Joginder Singh Mann, the workers burnt an effigy with the Badals' photos in front of PWD Rest House along National Highway 1. Another group, led by Punjab Mahila Congress vice-president Balbir Rani Sodhi, burnt an effigy outside the bus stand along National Highway 1. The third group, led by PPCC executive committee member Jarnail Nangal, burnt an effigy with the visages of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and state Revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia. The leaders of all the three groups are the party's poll ticket aspirants from Phagwara.