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Friday, October 22, 2021

In the eye of the storm: man who ‘cracked’ sacrilege case and was left with egg on face

This was a time when Punjab was on the boil and then ruling SAD-BJP government was in a spot over the sacrilege incident

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Chandigarh |
September 30, 2021 6:47:53 am
Then deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal addresses media on sacrilege case on Oct 20,2015. IPS Sahota, second from left, claimed that day that his team has cracked the case. Archive

In a hurriedly called press conference at Punjab Police headquarters on October 20, 2015, then Punjab Bureau of Investigation chief Additional General of Police Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota announced that they have cracked the case pertaining to the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari village in Faridkot with the arrest of two persons. Sahota had identified the accused as Rupinder Singh and his elder brother Jaswinder Singh, both residents of Panjgraian village in Faridkot.

He had indicated that the incident of the sacrilege was a handiwork of radical elements settled abroad.

This was a time when Punjab was on the boil and then ruling SAD-BJP government was in a spot over the sacrilege incident that had come to fore on October 12 that year and the subsequent police action three days later at Kotkapura, and Behbal Kalan incident where two protestors were killed in Behbal Kalan.

Sahota produced excerpts of two transcripts – one between an unknown person in Australia and Rupinder “about some transaction” and other between Rupinder and Jaswinder which allegedly suggested they were involved in Bargari sacrilege incident where pages of the Guru Granth Sahib were found strewn. But, only two days later, Punjab Police was left with egg on its face as the “unknown caller” in the transcript, appeared in a radio show in Australia, identified himself as Sukhjit Singh, a resident of Kotkapura living in Melbourne, and trashed police version of “foreign hand” and said he sent money to Rupinder for treatment after learning that Rupinder got injured during the protest against sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. Subsequently, as anger grew over the police theory, the brothers had to be let off within days.
Rupinder who was hurt in Kotkapura police action and had to be hospitalized at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, for treatment has now alleged that he and Jaswinder were subjected to “third degree” torture after false implication in the presence of Sahota, who has now been given additional charge of Punjab DGP by Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi.

Sahota, who headed the Special Investigation Team (SIT), was also indicted in its report in 2018 by Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission of Inquiry constituted by the Congress government led by then CM Amarinder Singh. Channi government is in cross hairs for giving additional charge of state police chief to Sahota. Among other things, Navjot Singh Sidhu, who on Tuesday resigned as Punjab Congress chief, is miffed at Sahota’s appointment. In a video on Wednesday he vowed to break the system which appointed “tainted leaders and tainted officers”. In apparent reference to his displeasure over Sahota’s appointment as DGP, Sidhu minced no words as he said “six-years-ago those who tortured little kids have been given the charge of justice….Meri rooh kambadi aa (My soul trembles)”.

Rupinder Singh was all praise for Sidhu for deciding to quit as PPCC chief even as he condemned the new posts offered to Sahota and Senior Advocate APS Deol, who has been appointed Advocate General. Talking to The Indian Express over phone, Rupinder said, “We cannot expect any justice from the person who subjected us to third degree torture when he was ADGP and chief of SIT, and from the AG who defended then DGP Sumedh Singh Saini.”

Rupinder, now 28, added, “We don’t want to get any justice from them.”

On Sidhu’s move to resign, “It is a very good decision. He would have to face embarrassment after three months as he had visited our house in November 2018 and assured us of justice. Else (had he not resigned in protest), we would have gheraoed him along with Badals and Captain.”

Rupinder, who is pursuing MA in Punjabi from Panjab University, said it was good that he made things clear. “He brought out the real picture before people,” added Rupinder.

What happened in the October 20, 2015 press conference?

In the invitation sent to media, it was mentioned that Sahota would address the conference. But, the conference was started by SAD president Sukhbir Badal, who was then the deputy chief minister and also held the home portfolio. Sukhbir had walked in to the police headquarters with Akali bigwigs Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Balwinder Singh Bhunder, Sikander Singh Maluka and Virsa Singh Valtoha. He said the entire Sikh community across the globe was enraged over the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and that Badal family and entire leadership was also very upset over the incident and were on a mission to nab the accused at the earliest. He said conspiracy was “hatched to set Punjab on fire” and that “faces behind the conspiracy have come to the fore”. Sukhbir did not take any questions and left, saying that Sahota would further brief about the arrests in Bargari case. Sahota produced excerpts of transcripts of the conversation of Rupinder with an unknown person in Australia. The conversation was about some transaction and something that was to handed over to Rupinder Singh. He also produced another excerpt of tanscript between Rupinder and his brother Jaswinder where Rupinder is heard telling Jaswinder about “samaan of Maharaj…ang” (pages of Guru Granth Sahib) in possession of one Amna to which Jaswinder asks “Which one (?) those which have been torn or others….”. Rupinder, as per the transcript, tells Jaswinder not to talk further (over phone).”

What does Rupinder say?
Rupinder said the conversation was about the angs (pages), which were collected after the desecration and were subsequently brought to Kotkapura protest site. He said contrary to police claims, Sukhjit who was his acquaintances sent only Rs 45000 through MoneyGram through a welfare society for the agitators who had got injured.

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