Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to poll-bound Punjab, Shiromani Akali Dal patriarch Parkash Singh Badal on Tuesday said the Centre should acknowledge the "sacrifices" of farmers who died during the agitation against farm laws.
The five-time Punjab chief minister also said it will be great if the prime minister goes beyond the optics during his visit and announces an inquiry by a sitting Supreme Court judge into the "conspiracy" behind the sacrilege incidents in Punjab.
Modi will visit Ferozepur on Wednesday and lay foundation stones of development projects worth over Rs 42,750 crore, including the Delhi-Amritsar-Katra expressway and a PGIMER satellite centre.
He will be visiting Punjab after a gap of two years. It will be his first trip to the state after his government repealed the contentious farm laws following a year-long protest by farmers at Delhi borders.
In a statement here, Badal claimed over 800 farmers died during the agitation against the three farm laws.
"These sacrifices must be acknowledged by a concrete gesture by the Union government to help their (deceased farmers) families. This is especially important as these sacrifices were made opposing the laws framed by the Union government and the government has since acknowledged the advisability of annulling these laws," the Akali Dal leader said.
Badal said the prime minister's visit to Punjab is always a welcome step, despite being too close to the state assembly elections to sound genuine.
"But it would be a great gesture if you go beyond optics and announce steps like an inquiry by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court to go into the conspiracy behind the painful series of sacrilegious incidents against Sikh faith and address other issues facing the people of the state," he said.
Badal urged Modi to heed the expectations of Punjabis on the fulfilment of their other long-standing demands including the transfer of Chandigarh and other Punjabi-speaking areas to the state and the resolution of the river waters issue according to the riparian principle.
Referring to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the former chief minister said thousands of Sikh families are "awaiting justice for the massacre".
Badal said he is making the request on the eve of Modi's visit "just to remind him of his sacred obligations to the country's food bowl and sword arm, Punjab".
He demanded a major agricultural economic package to pull Punjab's farmers out of the "tragic crisis into which they have sunken as a result of agricultural indebtedness".
Punjabis will truly and cordially welcome the prime minister if he demonstrates a genuine will to address and solve their problems as only a PM can, Badal said.
The Punjab Assembly elections are due this year.