Pritam Singh has no time to mourn. The 83-year-old leans on his walking stick as villagers come together to help him move the body of his grandson, Gurjit Singh (27), into a van hired from Faridkot’s Saranwa village.
“My only priority now is to get justice for my grandson. We are ferrying his body to the nearby Guru ki Taabh village, where the protest will continue till police does not register an FIR against the policemen who shot dead my grandson,” said Pritam, recalling the moment when he looked at Gurjit’s face after a bullet tore through his eye.
On Wednesday, police clashed with protesters agitating against an alleged incident of sacrilege involving the Guru Granth Sahib.
As police opened fire at the Behbal Kalan village, the bullets claimed two lives — Gujit from Saranwa, a shopkeeper running an electical-motor repair shop, and Krishan Singh (44), a granthi (Sikh priest), who made his living through kirtans in villages.
“He just went there to serve langar to Sikhs who were protesting peacefully. We were just protesting for the dignity and respect of our Sikh faith. Was it wrong? Are those policemen, who did not think twice before opening fire on their own brothers, not Sikhs? What was the fault of my grandson who went there to feed the hungry,” said Pritam.
With his son and another grandson working in Kenya as labourers, Gurjit was the family’s only support at home.
Another villager, Master Pooran Singh, said the protest at Guru Ki Taabh will not end till “errant” policemen were arrested for killing “brothers who just went there to serve langar”.
In the neighbouring village of Naimiyewala, also known as Behbal Khurd, a family mourned the death of their sole breadwinner. After returning from Africa, Krishan Singh earned his living — a paltry sum of Rs 4,000 every month — by singing gurbani. With his modest earnings, he supported his daughter Amrit Kaur’s (19) college education, and was paying for the computes classes of his son, Prabhdeep Singh (18).
“What was his fault? He was just following the teachings of our Gurus. He just went there to serve langar to protesting Sikhs,” said Mohinder Singh, Krishan’s father and an eyewitness to the entire incident.
“A bullet hit him in the back. I used my turban to try and stop the bleeding. Then, I tried using his turban to stop it, but he was gone. My son was gone…I had told him not to come, but he said he wanted to serve langar to the protesting sangat,” added Mohinder (65).
“My husband is never going to come back. But I want the strictest punishment in both cases. The Akal Takht and our Sikh panth is supreme. The policemen who shot my husband should be behind the bars,” said Krishan’s wife, Veerpal Kaur.
“We will not allow the post-mortem of our martyrs till an FIR against the police personnel is registered. The protest at Guru Ki Taabh will go on indefinitely with these bodies,” the protesters said.