India: Incidents of violence instigated by members of the Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab and Haryana, including in Darar (2013-January 2015) [IND105060.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Overview

Sources indicate that Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is a political party led by Parkash Singh Badal, who is the Chief Minister of Punjab (PHW 2014, 631-632; India 2014). Sources report that SAD, as part of a coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is the ruling party in Punjab, having won the 2012 state election (PHW 2014, 632; Elections India 2014). Results of the 2012 election for the state legislative assembly for Punjab indicate that, of a total of 117 seats, SAD won 56 seats and the BJP won 12 seats, while the leading opposition party in Punjab, the Indian National Congress (Congress), won 46 seats (ibid.). Indian media sources report that in the 2013 elections for the Zila Parishad and the Block [or Panchayat] Samiti [local self-governing bodies (IANS 19 May 2013)], the SAD-BJP coalition won 297 of 329 Zila Parishad seats and 2,122 of 2,731 Panchayat Samitis seats in Punjab (Day and Night News [2013]; North Gazette 22 May 2013).

The Political Handbook of the World 2014 notes that SAD's influence is largely restricted to the state of Punjab, but that the party participates in national elections and "campaigns against excessive federal influence in Sikh affairs" (PHW 2014, 631). Sources report that in the 2014 elections, SAD won four seats in the Lok Sabha (ibid. 632; Elections India 2014; Encyclopaedia Britannica 11 Sept. 2014), the lower chamber of the Indian parliament (ibid.).

According to PHW 2014, in 2013 the Amritsar faction of the party reintegrated with SAD (PHW 2014, 632). For further information about the SAD and its factions see Response to Information Requests IND104058 and IND103727.

2. Incidents of Violence in Punjab

Sources report that there were violent clashes between SAD and Congress in Punjab during the May 2013 Zila Parishad and Block Samiti elections (The Tribune 19 May 2013a; The Indian Express 20 May 2013). The Indian Express reports that there were clashes between SAD and Congress at 23 different polling booths, however the police indicated that overall, "polling went off peacefully" (ibid.). According to sources, violence was reported in several places in Punjab during that time (DNA 7 May 2014; The Tribune May 2013a) as well as booth-capturing (ibid.; The Hindustan Times 2 May 2014).

According to sources, on 8 May 2013, a Congress block president was shot dead in Tarn Taran district by SAD activists (Outlook 17 May 2013; Hindustan Times 16 June 2013). According to the Hindustan Times, a Delhi news source, three people were arrested in connection with the murder of the Congress block president (ibid.). The same source reports that Congress members and the victim's family reportedly accused the government of protecting the perpetrators (ibid.). The Hindustan Times reports that police denied that the murder was politically driven, attributing it to "persona[l] enmity" (ibid.).

Outlook reports that on 17 May 2013, a member of SAD and a member of Congress were killed during an election rally clash at Chak Mishri Khan in Amritsar district (Outlook 17 May 2013). In May 2013, the Tribune, a Chandighar-based daily newspaper, reported that the Punjab Police arrested six people involved with the killing of the Congress leader in Chak Mishri Khan (The Tribune 19 May 2013c). Further information about this incident could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Sources provide details on violent incidents involving SAD members or supporters during the May 2013 elections including the following:

  • According to the Tribune, on 19 May 2013 in Lambi, the home constituency of Badal, workers of the opposition party were reportedly restrained by police upon attempting to enter a polling station after a group of SAD supporters entered and locked the polling station (The Tribune 19 May 2013d). SAD workers allegedly fired gunshots from inside the polling station, grazing the hand of a Congress worker (ibid.).
  • On 19 May 2013, armed SAD workers reportedly arrived in Sehna village in Bhadaur, Bamala district from Jaitu and captured booths (The Tribune 19 May 2013a). Similar incidents reportedly occurred in the Hathara zone of Malerkotla, Shambu Kalan, Loh Chimbari and Sekhupur Karkeri in the Ghanaur constituency, Kheri in Sanaur, Tharuna in Shutrana, Samana, Muktsar, Gidderbaha, Jalalabad, Dharmkot, Guru Harsahai and Ferozepur (Rural) (ibid.).
  • In May 2013, in Patiala, members of Congress alleged that local SAD leaders, including councillors, "intimidated Congress supporters," some of whom were "dragged, chased and threatened in the presence of the police" (The Tribune 19 May 2013b).
  • A Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Sanaur alleged that SAD supporters fired into the air with the intention of dispersing Congress supporters during poll clashes between SAD and Congress (ibid.).
  • An independent candidate and a Congress polling agent were reportedly injured as a result of violence that erupted when members of SAD allegedly captured four polling booths in two zila parishad zones of Fazilka (The Tribune 19 May 2013e). The independent candidate was allegedly assaulted with sharp-edged weapons and sustained serious head injuries requiring hospitalization when resisting the SAD capture of two booths in Ojhanwali village of Jhok Depoland zone of the Fazilka panchayat samiti (ibid.). The Congress poll agent was allegedly assaulted and sustained an injury to his arm when SAD members captured two polling booths in Churiwala Chista village of Pakka Chisti block (ibid.). According to eyewitnesses, police were present and did not take action (ibid.).
  • A group of SAD workers allegedly assaulted a Congress candidate and his son in a school in Mohan ke Uttar village in Ferozepur, where five polling stations set up in the school were allegedly captured by SAD (The Tribune 19 May 2013f).
  • According to the Times of India, following the May 2013 elections, Congress "urged Union home minister to send a fact finding team to Punjab" for the purpose of bearing "the truth of political murders and lawlessness in Punjab," accusing the police of failing to perform its duty "fairly" (The Times of India 18 May 2013).

Further and corroborating information about these incidents could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Sources report incidents of violence involving SAD in elections taking place in 2014, including the following:

  • Outlook India reports that during the April 30 Lok Sabha elections in Lukmania in Gurdaspur district, a sarpanch [the head of a panchayat (Collins Dictionary n.d.a), a village council in India (Collins Dictionary n.d.b)] and his family members, who were aligned with SAD, assaulted a former sarpanch and two of his family members, who were aligned with the Congress party (Outlook India 4 May 2014). The sarpanch allegedly fired shots at, and injured the Congress supporter (ibid.). Local Congress leaders reportedly accused the police of being partisan to SAD, and of failing to take appropriate action against the violence (ibid.). However, Outlook India notes that the police claimed to have lodged a case of attempted murder against the sarpanch (ibid.);
  • Daily News & Analysis quotes Punjab's Congress party leader as saying that Congress workers had been "brutally assaulted" by SAD workers in several areas of Punjab in the aftermath of the April 30 elections, noting that violent incidents were reported from Rampura Phul in Bathinda, Gurdaspur, Moga and Khadoor Sahib area (DNA 7 May 2014);
  • North India Press reported a clash between Congress and SAD workers at Amb Sahib colony near Jagatpura village, where a Congress Candidate's sibling was forcibly searched by SAD workers, and accused of illegally distributing alcohol and cash to influence voters (NIP 30 Apr. 2014). Subsequently, a "scuffle ensued in which the Congress workers were thrashed by their rivals" (ibid.). Congress workers accused the police of "inaction" (ibid.).
  • The Times of India reported that one Congress worker and one SAD worker were injured during a clash between SAD and Congress activists at Moga village (The Times of India 1 May 2014). It was reported to have been a "'small incident,'" and that police were recording statements from both sides (ibid.).
  • According to Hindustan Times, after being attacked by SAD workers on 1 May 2014, members of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) sought protection from the Election Commission (EC), indicating that they were facing "threat to life" (Hindustan Times 2 May 2014).
  • According to media sources, in August of 2014, gunfire was reported between SAD and Congress in Rama Mandi in Talwandi Sabo constituency in Bathinda district of Punjab (The Economic Times 21 Aug. 2014; The Times of India 23 Aug. 2014). Punjab's Congress party leader reportedly accused SAD members of leading a "'murderous attack'" against a Congress candidate from Talwandi Sabo (ibid.). Congress also accused SAD of "intimidation" and booth capturing, and claimed there were cases of booth capturing in the villages of Dunewal, Jeon Singhwala, Malkana, Giana, and Bhagwanpur, as well as in areas of Rama Mandi, Bangi Nihal Singh, Leleana and Shergarh (ibid.). Despite tension, voting reportedly concluded peacefully (The Times of India 23 Aug. 2014).

Further and corroborating information about these incidents could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. Incidents of Violence in Haryana or Darar

Information on incidents of violence instigated by members of SAD in Haryana or Darar could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Collins English Dictionary. N.d.a. "Panchayat." [Accessed 2 Feb. 2015]

Collins English Dictionary. N.d.b. "Sarpanch." [Accessed 2 Feb. 2015]

Daily News & Analysis (DNA). 7 May 2014. "Congress Alleges Vendetta Against Workers in Punjab." [Accessed 13 Jan. 2015]

Day and Night News. [2013]. "Punjab Panchayat Election Results 2013." [Accessed 26 Jan. 2015]

The Economic Times. 21 August 2014. "Congress Alleges Violence by Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab By-poll." [Accessed 13 Jan. 2015]

Elections India. 2014. Elections in Punjab (PB) - 2014 Results. [Accessed 29 Jan. 2015]

Encyclopaedia Britannica. 11 September 2014. "Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)." [Accessed 16 Jan. 2015]

Hindustan Times. 21 May 2013. "AIYC Warns of Stir Against SAD's 'Political Terrorism'." Factiva. [Accessed 2 Feb. 2015]

_____ .16 June 2013. "Another Arrested in Sukhraj Murder Case." (Factiva).

_____ .2 May 2014. "Day After: AAP Candidate Fears for His Life." (Factiva).

The Indian Express. 20 May 2013. Raakhi Jagga. "Zila Parishad, Block Samiti Polls: 63% Turnout, Clashes at 23 Places." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2015]

Indo-Asian News Service (IANS). 19 May 2013. "Violence Reported in Punjab Local Elections." [Accessed 14 Jan. 2015]

North Gazette. 22 May 2013. "Results of Zila Parishad, Panchayat Samiti Elections in Punjab; SAD Wins 2519 Seats." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2015]

The North India Press (NIP). "Mohali: Clash Between Congress, Akalis in Jagatpura." (Factiva).

Outlook. 4 May 2014. "Akali Sarpanch Fires at Congress Worker." [Accessed 13. Jan 2015]

_____. 17 May 2013. "Sukhbir Behind Political Murders, Must Resign: Bajwa." [Accessed 13 Jan. 2015]

Political Handbook of the World 2014 (PHW). 2014. "India." Edited by Tom Lansdorf. Washington, DC: CQ Press. [Accessed 17 Jan. 2015]

The Times of India. 23 August 2014. "Shiromani Akali Dal, Congress Workers Clash During Bypoll." (Factiva).

_____. 1 May 2014. Neel Kamal. "Congress-SAD Workers Clash at Moga Village, Two Injured." (Factiva).

_____ .18 May 2013. IP Singh. "Congress Demands Fact Finding Team from Home Ministry." (Factiva).

The Tribune. 19 May 2013a. "Police Was Partisan, Did Not Act." [Accessed 13 Jan. 2015]

_____. 19 May 2013b. Aman Sood. "18 Hurt in Cong-SAD Clashes in Patiala." [Accessed 13 Jan. 2015]

_____. 19 May 2013c. "Six Held in Cong Leader's Murder Case." [Accessed 13 Jan. 2015]

_____. 19 May 2013d. Archit Watts. "Armed Youths Capture Booth in Lambi." [Accessed 13 Jan. 2015]

_____. 19 May 2013e. Praful Chander Nagpal. "Independent Candidate, Cong Poll Agent Attacked in Fazilka." [Accessed 13 Jan. 2015]

_____. 19 May 2013f. Sanjeev Singh Bariana. "Violence Rocks Badal Turf as 65% Vote in Panchayat Polls." [Accessed 13 Jan. 2015]

_____. 19 May 2013g. "Cong Supporters Block NH in Ropar." [Accessed 13 Jan. 2015]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; ecoi.net; Europa; Freedom House; The Hindu; Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR); IBN Live; IRIN; The Jamestown Foundation; Jane's Security Monitor; Ludhiana Tribute; Punjab Newsline; Radio Free Asia; The Sikh Siyasat Network; South Asian Terrorism Portal; UN – UNHCR, Refworld, Reliefweb, UNHC; US – Department of State, OSAC; Zee News.