A day after the chief of the Akal Takht, a Sikh religious body, said Sikhs in India and Pakistan felt unsafe, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has demanded the Shiromani Akali Dal sever all ties with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the centre. Pointing to the Akalis' claim of being "custodians of the Sikh religion and community", the Chief Minister urged the opposition party to take a stand on the issue and withdraw support for a government that had failed to ensure the safety of minorities.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is part of the NDA government in New Delhi and has one representative in the Union Cabinet - Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who is Food Processing Minister - and whose resignation Captain Singh also demanded.
On Monday, responding to a media query over the attack on the historic Gurudwara Nankana Sahib in Pakistan, Akal Takht chief Giani Harpreet Singh said: "Sikhs are not safe anywhere... be it in India or Pakistan... be it in Madhya Pradesh or Shillong, Sikhs are being harassed".
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh responded to that statement today.
"Given the Akalis claim to be custodians of the Sikh religion and the community, they should take a stand on the issue... SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal should also ask his wife, Harsimrat Kaur, to resign immediately as Union Minister," Mr Singh said. He also said unrelated incidents could not be construed as Sikhs not being safe in India.
The Chief Minister's remarks come amid a war of words with Harsimrat Kaur Badal over the implementation of the controversial citizenship law in the state.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, makes, for the first time, religion the test of citizenship in the country. The government says it will help non-Muslim refugees from three Muslim-dominated neighbouring countries if they are fleeing religious persecution. Critics say it discriminates against Muslims and violates secular tenets of the Constitution.
Referring to the CAA, which has sparked continuing widespread protests across the country, the Chief Minister decried the Akali Dal's position on the issue as hypocrisy and urged the party to take a clear stand on issues relating to minorities and stop playing both sides.
The Shiromani Akali Dal had voted for the citizenship law while it was being debated in parliament. However, last month SAD leader Naresh Gujral told NDTV his party had so voted because of a "dilemma" involving Sikhs who fled religious persecution.
Mr Gujral also said the Akali Dal "wants Muslims to be included in list of refugees" and that while the "Akali Dal represents Sikhs... but we also believe in tolerance".