Police escorts Tara, as they arrive at the criminal court in Bangkok on Tuesday

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Identity politics with all its bitter pitfalls seems to be making a comeback with a vengeance in Punjab that bore the worst brunt of it in 1980s and 90s in the form of terrorism. In a recent letter written to his counterparts in UP, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Karnataka and Gujarat, Lt Governor of Delhi and Administrator of Chandigarh, Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal has sought premature release of 13 terrorists convicted for life terms in different terror related cases.Sources in the government said that though Badal’s request can set up a dangerous precedent, Centre can do little in this case as it is in the hands of the state government’s that are empowered to appeal and reduce sentences. The only option Centre can opt is to go to the court.The move, however, has also put the central government in a bind that on Sunday managed to lay hands on fugitive Sikh terrorist, Gurmeet Singh – alias Jagtar “Tara” Singh because of swift action on its request by the Thailand national police.Tara, 37, a former member of the Babbar Khalsa International Sikh, a terrorist group was convicted for life term for conspiring to assassinate former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh and 17 others in a bomb blast in 1995. Tara had escaped from a high-security prison in 2004 in Chandigarh before being convicted for life in 2007.Ironically, Badal’s letter requesting release of 13 life termer terrorists, includes Lakhwinder Singh, Shamsher Singh and Gurmeet Singh who were convicted for conspiring to kill former Punjab CM Beant Singh and are currently lodged in Burail jail of Chandigarh.The move by Badal came after a Punjab resident, Gurbax Singh Khalsa, went gone on a hunger strike in Ambala on November 14, 2014 demanding the release of six prisoners, including those convicted in Beant Singh assassination case.Khalsa reportedly broke his fast following promise of release of Lakhwinder, Shamsher and Gurmeet (who were subsequently released on 28 days parole) and assurance by Akal Takht Jathedar Gurbachan Singh that he would take up the matter with the government.The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has also written a letter to the Union home ministry seeking the premature release of the sentenced prisoners. Among the ten others, whose release was sought by the Punjab chief minister, include Lal Singh Akalgarh, who is in Nabha jail (Punjab) in connection with a terror case in Gujarat, Waryam Singh, who is in Bareilly jail in connection with a terror case in UP and Gurdeep Singh Khaira who is in Gulbarga jail in connection with a blast in Bidar, Karnataka. Others prisoners are Gurmeet Singh Fauji in a Rajasthan jail, Daya Singh, who is Delhi’s Tihar jail in connection with a case in West Bengal, Paramjeet Singh Bheora and Jagtar Singh Hawara, both lodged in Tihar jail and Subeg Singh and Nand Singh who are in Burail jail in Chandigarh, sources said.

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Punjab dips in Identity politics as Prakash Singh Badal seeks release of terror convicts