Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday tersely told SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal to open his eyes to the secessionist threat of anti-Indian forces instead of indulging in "political theatrics" over the alleged misuse of anti-terror law UAPA.
The chief minister made the cutting retort days after Badal accused the state police of misusing the anti-terror law and arresting Sikh youth "indiscriminately" for "minor misdemeanours".
The chief minister hit back at SAD chief while welcoming the UK's rejection, after Canada, of the pro-Khalistan outfit Sikhs for Justice's "Referendum 2020", with a categorical statement that "it is not involved in any way in this unofficial and non-binding referendum...and considers Indian Punjab as part of India."
Welcoming the UK's statement, the CM expressed surprise that Badal continues to turn a "blind eye" to the threat posed by Pakistan-backed SFJ, and other terrorist and radical forces working to destabilise India, particularly Punjab.
"Can't he (Badal) see that the arrests under the UAPA which he is opposing are part of the state government's strategy to combat this threat?" Mr Singh asked.
The CM said it was unfortunate that instead of playing the role of a constructive opposition in the state, the SAD was "wasting" its time with its "baseless charges" and comments.
He reminded the SAD chief of his earlier offer to look into any case of misuse of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and wrongful arrest under the same if Badal brings any such incident to his notice.
"Why don't you send me the list of cases which you claim the police has registered wrongfully?" he asked Sukhbir, while also seeking a list of the names of those arrested under the UAPA during the SAD-BJP rule.
He reminded the SAD president that the Badal government had registered more than 60 cases under UAPA during their term.
Interestingly, of the 225 persons arrested in these cases, 120 were either acquitted or discharged.
"Should not a large number of acquittals/discharges be construed to mean you had applied the Act indiscriminately?" Mr Singh asked Sukhbir, questioning the Shiromani Akali Dal chief's alleged motives behind giving a communal twist to some of the recent arrests made by the Punjab Police under the UAPA.
If the Akalis believed the UAPA to be anti-people and divisive, then Sukhbir, as deputy CM and home minister in the erstwhile SAD-BJP government, should not have applied it in so many cases while in power, said the CM in a statement here.
The Congress, which was then in the Opposition, had assumed that the UAPA was being used to keep the terror in check in the state, he added.
Taking a dig at Sukhbir's remarks on the issue, in which he had said "we won't allow anyone to disturb the sentiment of fraternity, especially among Hindus and Sikhs", the Chief Minister said it was the SAD chief who was trying to create a "divide" between communities with his "senseless" attack on the state government's attempts to check the anti-Punjab forces from succeeding in their game-plan.
"Why else is Sukhbir hell-bent on inciting Punjab's peace-loving people against the state police, which had been successfully battling the SFJ and ISI-sponsored terrorists for the past more than three years," asked the Chief Minister.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)