Dera Sacha Sauda followers and family of Mohinder Pal Singh Bittu (49), the main accused in the 2015 Bargari sacrilege case, refused to cremate his body Sunday, a day after he was allegedly assaulted and murdered by two inmates inside Punjab’s high-security Nabha jail. Among the demands put forth, Bittu’s son said that before cremating him the family wanted his name cleared of the “false charges” slapped against him in the sacrilege cases.
Bittu’s body was kept at Dera’s Naam Charcha Ghar (prayer hall) at Kotkapura in district Faridkot as hundreds of Dera followers thronged to pay tributes Sunday.
Despite police booking two inmates who attacked Bittu for murder, his family and the political wing of the Dera refused to perform Bittu’s last rites putting forward two demands — scrapping of all “false” FIRs filed against Dera followers in sacrilege cases and a “proper probe” to unmask the real masterminds behind the “deeper conspiracy” to carry out the jail murder.
At least 23 Dera Sacha Sauda followers have been arrested till now by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by DIG Ranbir Singh Khatra for three sacrilege incidents in Moga, Bathinda, and Faridkot districts.
A meeting between Dera state committee members and the administration, led by the Faridkot Deputy Commissioner and senior police officials, failed to end the stalemate, with Dera followers refusing to cremate the body “till justice is done”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Bittu’s son, Arminder Kumar, said: “It was not just an attack… it is a deep conspiracy. My father has been killed with a motive and there might be some influential people behind it. First, he was framed in a false case and now he has been murdered. Till the entire conspiracy is not exposed and police don’t probe the case properly, we will not cremate the body. Also, there is a blot on my father that he committed sacrilege which is untrue. Our Dera teaches us to respect all religions and faiths. He was framed in this case. We want FIR against him canceled immediately and only then cremation will be done.” He further added that when he met his father on Saturday, a few hours before the attack, he sounded normal.
“Initially after his arrest in June last year, he was kept at Faridkot jail and then shifted to Nabha. It was in July that my father had requested the court to shift him to Faridkot jail because Nabha was too far for the family to visit every week and also other Dera followers were also lodged at Faridkot. He was shifted to Faridkot jail, but then again in October last year, he was shifted to Nabha. We agreed considering that Nabha jail was ‘high security’ jail. Since then we never submitted any plea to get him shifted and neither he suspected any foul play. But a few days back he just told that some inmates stare at him and I told him to raise this matter with Assistant Jail Superintendent (ASP). I told him that if he can’t, then we will raise it through our counsel but before we could do anything, he was murdered…,” he said, adding: “Entire Kotkapura knows he was framed. The blot that has been put on my father’s name should be removed now. FIR against him should be canceled..”
Meanwhile, Ram Singh, member of Dera’s political wing, said that demand is just not cancellation of FIR against Bittu, but all Dera followers who have been booked in ‘false cases’ by Punjab Police.
“We have been tortured, harassed and implicated in false cases. We never desecrated any religion’s text. We have been framed and now one of our men has been brutally murdered in a high-security jail. Not only Bittu, FIRs against all Dera men should be canceled and also entire conspiracy be solved to find out who actually got Bittu murdered. It is deeper than what it appears to be. There will be no cremation till justice is done.,” he said.
After Dera followers assembled in large numbers at Naam Charcha Ghars, police tightened security across several districts with large Dera following, including Bathinda, Faridkot, Moga, Ferozepur.
Faridkot Deputy Commissioner Kumar Saurabh Raj, speaking to The Indian Express, said that Dera representatives have demanded that ‘justice’ be served and FIRs against their men be canceled.
“They are demanding cancellation of FIRs against Dera followers but it has been conveyed to them that since cases are now in court and police has already filed a charge sheet, it is not in our hand. We can just request that these cases be heard in fast track courts and be decided at the earliest. They are alleging that Dera followers have been framed, tortured and harassed by police in sacrilege cases and now one of them has been killed in a high-security prison which is a major lapse on police’s part. We have requested them to perform cremation tomorrow (Monday).”
He added that Dera followers had not created any law and order problem and situation was peaceful in Faridkot district. “We have deployed extra forces but no law and order issue has been reported. There was an intelligence input that followers might gather at Grain Market but it did not happen..,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ferozepur range IG Mukhwinder Singh Chhina, who also attended the meeting, denied demands raised by Dera members. “They are awaiting some relatives for cremation. They have not discussed any demands with us..,” he claimed.