A local leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) — a pro-Khalistan party — has emerged as an accused in the murder of a woman charged with desecrating the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book. Balwinder Kaur, a 47-year-old accused of desecrating the Guru Granth Sahib at Ghawaddi village in Ludhiana in October last year, was shot dead by two assailants Tuesday morning. The incident took place at Gurdwara Manji Sahib Alamgir in Ludhiana. According to police, local SAD (A) leader Gurpreet Singh Jagowal can be seen on CCTV footage obtained from the murder site.
Jagowal, a resident of Amargarh in Sangrur, is a member of the Muslim-Sikh Front of Punjab and also runs his own “preachers’ group” and a “gatka akhara”. According to the akhara’s Facebook page, youths enrolled there are taught the Sikh martial arts gatka as well as “how to fire rifles and pistols”. The akhara’s Facebook page has several photos of youths holding weapons.
Jagowal’s Facebook page indicates he is a supporter of the Khalistan movement and slain Khalistani leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. His akhara also offers “lessons” on the movement, police sources said.
Police claim Jagowal and an accomplice, Nihal Singh from Patiala, planned the murder as “revenge” for the alleged desecration. Balwinder Kaur, who was arrested in the case last year, was out on bail. An FIR has been lodged against both the accused. “We are yet to arrest the accused but their identities have been established. They wanted to take revenge for the alleged desecration,” Police commissioner J S Aulakh told The Indian Express.
Shehzaad Hussain, president of the Muslim-Sikh Front of Punjab, said Jagowal has been “missing from our meetings for the last 10-15 days”. “He joined our organisation last year. He was circle president of SAD (A) in Amargarh and he also ran his preachers’ jatha. We do not know his whereabouts,” said Hussain. SAD (A) general secretary Jaskaran Singh Kahan Singh Wala said “Jagowal might be a member of SAD (A) but the party does not support this crime”. He is not our office bearer and should be punished as per the law, but at the same time, the woman also committed a sin,” he said.
Harjit Singh Sajuma, district president, SAD (A) Sangrur, said, “I do not know him (Jagowal). He is not with our party.” Meanwhile, there was high drama at Kaur’s cremation in Shimlapuri Wednesday as locals objected to an “outsider” being cremated in their village instead of her own.
Sources said the cremation could not be held on Tuesday as a bullet was yet to be recovered from her body. “The bullet was stuck near her spinal cord and extracting it took time,” said a source. DCP Dhruman Nimbale said Kaur’s village, Ghawaddi, had treated her as an “outcast” ever since she was accused of desecrating the holy book. “She was depressed because of this. The accused lured her by promising he would take her to the Golden Temple and record her apology so her name could be cleared,” Nimbale said.
The woman’s daughter, Rajwant Kaur, alleged that she had been “framed by the village sarpanch” in the desecration case. Ranjodh Singh, her son, said, “We want both the accused behind bars. There is nothing else we’d like to say.”