A second person “surrendered” Saturday in connection with the lynching of a 35-year-old at the farmer protest site in Singhu on the Delhi-Haryana border. Narain Singh, who is in the custody of the Amritsar Rural Police, is a Nihang Sikh like Sarabjit Singh, and also claimed Lakhbir Singh was killed as he had “desecrated” the Sikh holy book.
As the Haryana administration, wary of repercussions, proceeded with caution, sources said the Nihangs had been persuaded to hand the accused over, as police did not want to provoke a reaction by making a search and arrest. The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), that has been spearheading the farm protests, also weighed in to ensure Sarabjit’s arrest, in an effort to ensure that things didn’t get out of hand.
Late on Saturday night, police detained two more Nihang Sikhs from the Singhu-Kundli protest site, and are questioning them. In a video clip, Nihang leaders claimed the men were going to “surrender” to police.
Sarabjit, who is said to have arrived at Singhu with a contingent of Nihang Sikhs in December last year and was the leader of the misl (unit) that tended to their horses, was reportedly honoured by the Nihangs before police took him away. Police officers said he had named four more people in the killing. He was remanded on Saturday to seven days’ police custody.
Narain Singh, who “surrendered” at village Amarkot in Amritsar, allegedly attacked Lakhbir on the leg. Like Sarabjit and Lakhbir, Narain is a Mazhabi (converted) Sikh.
Police said preliminary post-mortem had showed 37 injuries on Lakhbir. Police first came to know what had happened when videos went viral of men dressed in Nihang robes questioning an injured Lakhbir at the Singhu protest site over the “desecration” of the holy book. A case of murder was registered at the Kundli Police Station in Sonipat.
Both Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala on Saturday broke their silence on the matter, condemning the killing and saying the SKM could not wash its hands of it.
Highly placed government sources told The Sunday Express police had identified at least 10 of the Nihang Sikhs present in videos of the incident, and that they were taking Sarabjit’s version with “a pinch of salt”. A senior officer noted, “Lakhbir was a Mazhabi (converted) Sikh and so is Sarabjit. It is not going to be a simple investigation.”
Mystery prevails over how Lakhbir came to be present at the Singhu site, with his family saying he was not part of the farmer protests.
“Confessing to the killing”, Narain, who said he had been part of the farmer protests for 10 months, told the media, “I informed police about my surrender and requested them to let me visit the Akal Takht Sahib first. However, police cordoned off our village.” The Amritsar Rural Police said they were investigating Narain’s role, and the Haryana Police would take his custody.
Narain’s son Lovepreet said he was proud of his father. “He was disturbed over the repeated incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in Punjab,” Lovepreet said.
Giving details of Lakhbir’s post-mortem, Virender Singh, DySP, Law and Order, Sonipat, said: “His hand was chopped off, one foot was also cut, but it was not separated, and he had injuries all over, most of them inflicted by a sharp-edged weapon.”
DySP Singh said Sarabjit told them he saw Lakhbir running away from Gurdwara Saheb of Moya Mandiwale, when he was caught by a group of people. “Sarabjit says he then took the sword of an accomplice and hacked the victim’s hand for his act of sacrilege. The sword is yet to be recovered.”
Police said Sarabjit had named four people and several unidentified persons, including Nihang Sikhs. “We sought Sarabjit’s remand to arrest them from various locations in Punjab, including Gurdaspur and Chamkaur Saheb,” the officer said.
Sarabjit had appeared before the media Friday, claiming to have “punished” Lakhbir for the “desecration”. While the Nihangs claimed he had “surrendered”, police said Sarabjit had been “arrested”. He was escorted by Nihang Sikhs amidst chants of Bole So Nihal before he was taken away.
Lovepreet said there was no caste angle to his father Narain’s actions. “We are Rangreta Sikhs (Dalits). Sarabjit Singh is also a Rangreta Sikh. My father is head of the Bhai Baz Singh Taran Misl, which dates back to Baba Banda Singh Bahadur in the 18th century. This misl is of Rangrata Sikhs… This act was against sacrilege. Police and governments have failed to stop sacrilege.”
Senior police officers have reportedly conveyed to the Nihangs that “there will be no compromise on law and order”. Separately, the district administration has pressed upon farmer organisations the need to identify the perpetrators and hand them over to police.
Khattar, who has vowed strictest action against those guilty, said Saturday: “What happened was very sad and condemnable.” Saying the investigation would reveal the truth, the CM asked the SKM to match its words with action. If they are distancing themselves from the incident, Khattar said, they must “completely break away from the Nihangs. Then we can say that the SKM has fulfilled its part.”
Chautala also questioned the SKM. “Although one person has taken responsibility for the crime, there are around 40 heads of different organisations at Singhu border who should also take responsibility… It is only on the directions of these 40 leaders that those people are camping at Singhu border.”
Senior Haryana Congress leaders, including Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Randeep Singh Surjewala and Kumari Selja, kept their silence on the matter.
The reticence is due to the Nihang claim of desecration of the Sikh holy book being behind Lakhbir’s killing.
A senior officer who is part of the investigations said: “Confronting the Nihangs, barging into their tents to pick them up, is not advisable at this stage. Other channels are being used to identify those responsible and pressure is being put on farmer organisations and Nihang groups to hand them over to avoid any confrontation.”
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