Around 20-year-old Sehajvir Singh, the accused arrested in the two sacrilege cases in Fatehgarh Sahib district on Monday, has studied till Class 7, was undergoing treatment for drug addiction from a private hospital and around a week ago had also attended farm protest against the contentious agri Acts at Shambhu border, police officials said on Tuesday after his preliminary interrogation.
The police did not rule out any larger conspiracy behind the incidents, which happened five years after the Bargari sacrilege incident and at a time when Punjab elections (scheduled in early 2022 now) were due at that time in 2017.
A resident of Birdwal village in Nabha sub-division of Patiala district, Sehajvir who, according to the police, belongs to a Jatt Sikh agriculturist family, has also been booked under sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a first in a sacrilege case where among other sections of the IPC, an accused is generally booked under Section 295 A (hurting religious sentiments of a community) of the Indian Penal Code.
A court remanded him in police custody for three days on Tuesday.
Sections of the UAPA were added in the case after protesting Sikh activists blocked the National Highway connecting Amritsar with Delhi, agreeing to lift the blockade only after the UAPA sections were added after Sehajvir’s arrest.
Sehjavir was allegedly caught commiting the blasphemous act in a gurdwara a Tarkhan Majra village and after being spotted committing the alleged sacrilege by gurdwara Granthi Malkit Singh’s son Manjot Singh, who is also 20 years of age, was given a thrashing by the villagers as Manjot first overpowered him and sounded an alert. Subsequently, the police arrived and took him into custody.
It further came to light that he had allegedly committed a similar act earlier in the day, at another nearby village Jallah.
As per the FIRs, he was booked in an FIR number 94 at Sirhind police station for sacrilege at Tarkhan Majra on the complaint of Manjot. The initial FIR read that he was booked under Section 295-A (hurting religious sentiments of a coommunity) and Section 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace). The second FIR, after Jallah sacrilege incident came to notice, Sehajvir was booked in another FIR number 95 at Sirhind police station on the complaint of Jallah village gurdwara president Rashpal Singh who stated that gurdwara granthi Paramjit Singh was away with his family after duly informing him (Rahspal) and village sarpanch Davinder Singh when Sehajvir committed the sacrilege in the gurdwara. The sacrilege was noticed by a village woman who was there for supervision and around 2 pm noticed that ang (pages) of Guru Granth Sahib were torn. In this FIR, apart from sections 295 A and 504 of the IPC, sections 18 and 20 of the UAPA were also added.
Fatehgarh Sahib Senior Superintendent of Police Amneet Kondal told The Indian Express over the phone that sections of the UAPA were added in other FIR subsequently.
Kondal said, “For the time being, we have got three days’ remand, but we will get it extended on Thursday to collect more evidence and bring more things on record which emerge during investigation.”
“He has confessed that he committed the sacrilege,” Kondal said, adding that the police were investigating as to what motivated her. The SSP said in the preliminary questioning, he appeared to suggest that he was broadly “disoriented”.
The SSP added, “He is giving different versions.”
On timing of the incident, the SSP said of course what people were saying was very important and hence the police were not ruling out anything and carrying out investigations from all angles.
The police, another top official said, were going through the call detail records of Sehajvir and also probing the role of his family members, if any.
According to Birdwal village Sarpanch Nirmal Singh, Sehajvir’s sister was to get married next month. Maintaining that Sehajvir hails from an agriculrist family, Nirmal Singh said, “Next month, his sister was to get married. Very unfortunate thing has happened.”
The sarpanch said, “He was of young age, got into drug addiction somehow. He was undergoing treatment from Patiala at two, three places.”
On whether Sehajvir could be part of any conspiracy, Singh said, “Only police can tell this, they have now taken him into remand.”
SSP Kondal said that the police were told about the engagement ceremony of Sehjavir’s sister. Kondal said that he had cleared class 7 and did not study further. Kondal said he was undergoing de-addiction treatment.
Tarkhan Majra gurdwara granthi Malkit Singh said Sehjavir came in a car, requested to open the gurdwara door saying he wanted to pay obeisance before Manjot caught him commiting sacrilege.
Malkit Singh said the accused tore 23 ang (pages) of Guru Granth Sahib and also descretated gutka. He said the gurdwara was under CCTV surveillance and the act was captured on the camera. He added that the police had taken away the CCTV footage recorder for an analysis.
The sacrilege incidents have also taken political overtones with SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal late Monday evening hitting out at Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in Punjab and accusing the government of “failing to act against earlier acts of sacrilege”.
On Tuesday, terming the Fatehgarh Sahib sacrilege incidents “a conspiracy to disturb peace in Punjab”, Sukhbir said, “The way sacrilege was committed openly, it is a big conspiracy.”
Addressing mediapersons in Chandigarh, Sukhbir said, “Last time too, you might have seen that to defeat Shiromani Akali Dal when they saw that development was done by Badal Sahib by taking every community along, a conspiracy was hatched and an attempt was made to disturb the entire atmosphere. Now again.”
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