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2 killings in 2 days in Punjab: Stunned state looks for answers, finds a ‘conspiracy’

Political leaders cutting across party lines have condemned the desecration or ‘beadbi”, but have said little else — and nothing on the murders in the state that is now weeks away from Assembly elections.

Punjab lynching, pUNJAB GOLDEN TEMPLE LYNCHING, punjab kapurthala lynching, punjab sacrilege case, Punjab govt on lynching, Sikh lynching, indian expressCM Channi with Deputy CM Randhawa at Golden Temple in Amritsar on Sunday. (Photo: Rana Simranjit Singh)

Two lynchings in two days following accusations of desecration, one at the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple and the other at a village gurdwara in Kapurthala district, have left Punjab with a sense of grave foreboding.

Political leaders cutting across party lines have condemned the desecration or ‘beadbi”, but have said little else — and nothing on the murders in the state that is now weeks away from Assembly elections.

Asked about the lynchings, state BJP chief Ashwani Sharma who is usually rarely found wanting for a reaction, said: “I am not aware of the entire situation. Let me get the facts and we will release a statement.”

AAP spokesman Harpal Singh Cheema, who too is not known for holding back, asked for time to gather information from the ground.
Sukhbir Singh Badal, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, described the two incidents as a “conspiracy”.

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Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said the alleged culprit at the Darbar Sahib on Saturday should not have been killed, because he could have helped the authorities to get to the bottom of the conspiracy. Randhawa, who is also the home minister of the state, visited the Golden Temple on Sunday.

After news of the second lynching started to come in, DGP Siddharth Chattopadhyay tweeted, “I have taken serious note of the unfortunate incidents in Amritsar and Kapurthala. Any attempt to violate the communal harmony in the state will be dealt with a firm hand.”

Earlier on Sunday, the RSS issued a statement on the “unfortunate” incident at the Golden Temple. In a statement, RSS general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale strongly condemned the “avmanana” (disrespect) of the Guru Granth Sahib, and called for the strictest punishment for those behind the “conspiracy”. He urged people to not allow such incidents affect communal harmony.

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Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of the BKU (Ugrahan), the largest farm union of the state, described the incidents as part of a “saazish” (conspiracy) to deflect the attention of the people. “From Monday, we are starting dharnas to demand the promised compensation for damaged cotton. Now the entire focus of the public is on these issues. If you want to stop beadbi and unearth the conspiracy, hand over the culprits to the police, why kill them?” Kokrikalan said.

Activists of various Sikh organisations gather outside the Golden Temple after a man was beaten to death at the temple premises for alleged sacrilege. (PTI)

A political scientist who did not want to be identified said the lynchings showed “the heightened religiosity in the state and the feeling of insecurity in the Sikh community amidst the repeated instances of sacrilege”.

Another well known academic expressed apprehension that the celebration of mob justice by some could lead to anarchy. “This has never happened in Punjab; we don’t want vigilantes running amok,” this social scientist said.

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Another scholar feared that violent incidents like the ones over the weekend could make pilgrims fearful, and affect their flow to the Golden Temple.

Sacrilege has been a major issue in Punjab since October 2015, after pages torn from the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book that is considered a living entity by Sikhs, were found outside a shrine at Bargari village in Faridkot. Subsequently, two people were killed after police fired at protesters in Behbal Kalan. Though several SITs and two commissions were set up to unearth the conspiracy behind the Bargari sacrilege, there has been no closure.

The issue resurfaced this April after the Punjab and Haryana High Court quashed an SIT formed by the Congress government to probe the Behbal Kalan firing. Navjot Singh Sidhu came out of self-imposed isolation to blame then CM Capt Amarinder Singh, setting off a train of events that roiled the party and government.

In September, Sidhu resigned as PPCC chief to protest the appointment of the state DGP and AG because of their alleged direct and indirect roles in the incidents of sacrilege.

The Punjab government last week submitted an affidavit in the High Court alleging that the Bargari sacrilege conspiracy was hatched at the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda, and when the son of one of those killed in Behbal Kalan began a protest fast seeking justice.

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Calling for a thorough probe into the incidents, Kirpal Singh Badungar, former president of SGPC and a well-known scholar, said these are “a matter of concern not just for Punjab but for the entire nation. When the state burns, India feels the heat”.

First published on: 19-12-2021 at 08:07:57 pm
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