Advertisement

Lynching as religion, caste simmer; wary political leaders silent

In the run-up to the Assembly polls in Punjab, religion has become a hot potato along with caste.

At the site where the body was found at the Singhu border on Friday. (Express Photo: Amit Mehra)

The deafening silence of the political establishment, in both Punjab and Haryana, over the lynching of a Dalit Sikh by a group of Nihangs at the Singhu border for the alleged desecration of their holy text speaks volumes about the fault lines it exposes — and hardens.

In the run-up to the Assembly polls in Punjab, religion has become a hot potato along with caste. Only last week, the Akal Takht head priest Giani Harpreet Singh, had warned against what he called were the dangers of forced conversions by Christian missionaries in the border belt. Dalit activists had blamed it on the poor representation of SCs and STs in the Sikh clergy.

This concern was raised just weeks after the elevation of Charanjit Singh Channi as the first SC chief minister of the state.

It was in April that PPCC president Navjot Singh Sidhu brought desecration of the holy Guru Granth Sahib to the political centrestage when he blamed Capt Amarinder Singh for failing to defend the Guru. He was referring to the 2015 sacrilege incident at Bargari village where pages of the holy Guru Granth Sahib were found strewn outside the village gurudwara.

On September 28, he tweeted his resignation in protest against the appointment of two officials, an advocate general and the DGP, given their past record, the former in allegedly protecting an accused and the latter for not doing enough to solve the case. He had claimed that the government must take some tangible action to assuage the widespread public anger against sacrilege which, he said, led to the ouster of the previous SAD-BJP government.

On Friday, when a group of Nihangs lynched a man and accused him of desecration, the Punjab Congress was strangely silent on the issue, with no comments from Sidhu, the chief minister, past and present. Even the Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal maintained a studied silence.

Congress MP Partap Singh Bajwa, when contacted, said that on the face of it, the act he saw on videos is against the ethos and spirit of Sikhism. “But I don’t want to comment on the incident until we get to the bottom of the case. It’s a very sensitive issue,” he said.

This event threatens to cast a shadow on the heated political narrative in Punjab, which increasingly centres on sacrilege and caste and the farmers’ protest against the three laws, the longest in the recent history of the state.

At Singhu on Friday. (Express Photo: Amit Mehra)

Though the SKM was quick to condemn the gruesome killing, it cannot wash its hands of the incident. As BJP state general secretary Dr Subhash Sharma, while condemning the barbaric killing, put it: “They have been condoning the violence, be it on BJP leaders in Punjab and Haryana, or in other protests by farmers. This is a natural corollary. The SKM cannot dissociate themselves from the Nihangs, for they were part of the agitation.”

Farmer unions have had a very uncomfortable relationship with the Nihangs, with Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of BKU (Rajewal), urging them to go home when they joined the agitation at Singhu with their horses in January. “We will call you when needed,” he had said. Off the record, some leaders griped they could fuel trouble given their “peculiar lifestyle.”

Still, there is an attempt by a fringe to paint the Nihangs as the saviours of the holy book. The Nihangs claim the alleged victim desecrated their ‘Sarbloh Granth’. The Nihang order which follows this granth says that whereas Guru Granth Sahib is embodiment of Shaant Ras (Essence of peace), the Dasam granth and Sarbloh granths are embodiments of Bir Ras (Essence of war).

On the street, the common voter is appalled by the barbarity of the act. As Bhupinder Singh Baath, a student leader and AAP member, said, “There is no way you can condone this action, no matter what the provocation.”

But the fringe on the social media claims this action of the Nihangs will act as a deterrent to desecration for all times to come. It’s this polarity that is a cause for concern, that has forced everyone, for now, on the backfoot. How the law takes it course in the case will be keenly watched by all.

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest Explained News, download Indian Express App.

  • The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.
News Assist
ePaper
Next Story
X
X