With Congress chief Rahul Gandhi slated to address an electoral rally on May 15 in Bargari village — which has witnessed a chain of sacrilege incidents — local residents are torn between expectation on one hand, and dejection over unkept promises and incomplete development works on the other.
Harjinder Singh, a resident of Behbal Khurd, where one Krishan Bhagwan was killed in police firing at Behbal Kalan, spoke about the incomplete work on a community centre proposed in the victim’s name. “In October 2016, the then deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal had started work on a community centre and village stadium in the name of Krishan Bhagwan ahead of polls. He was aware that people were against him. The work was never completed and polls were announced. The Congress government has been in power for the past two years, but even they have not completed the work, even though the chief minister talks about sacrilege and the Badals in every speech.”
Lakhvir Singh, another villager, said, “It is a votebank politics. Rahul Gandhi last came here in November 2015. He had visited the houses of Krishan Bhagwan and Gurjit Singh — both killed in the Behbal Kalan firing — and even went on a pad yatra in the area. He had met people, students, farmers on the way. After that he disappeared. Let’s see what he offers this time.”
Kulwant Singh, a labourer from Bargari village, said, “Rahul had done a paidal march in these villages and addressed people in a few villages. We know it is a poll rally. Let’s see as how he can present his issue before the masses. Whether he will be able to appeal to us, we will judge after his speech.”
However, Simarjeet Singh, another labourer, and Surjit Singh, who is in his 60s, said, “Our village has been defamed by that one incident of sacrilege. There are issues of choked sewage lines, water logging etc. but for politicians, sacrilege is the only issue. They need to listen to our other problems as well. No doubt that we are yet to get over the pain.”
On June 1, 2015, the Guru Granth Sahib had been stolen from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village and no action was taken to recover it or arrest the culprits. On October 12, torn pages of the holy book were found on the streets of Bargari, and before this incident, posters had also been pasted in the village with the message “Your Guru is with us, do whatever you can”. Protests broke out in Kotkapura chowk after this incident on October 14. The dharna was lifted amid firing and lathicharge. Krishan Bhagwan and Gurjit Singh were killed in firing at Behbal Kalan.
Sadhu Singh, Gurjit’s father, said, “We are hopeful that Rahul will do something if Congress is voted to power. So far no one asked me to visit the rally. However, I will listen to him on TV.” Sadhu lives in Sarawan village, located close to Bargari. Sukhraj Singh, Krishan Bhagwan’s son, said, “I am thinking of meeting Rahul. If they allow me, I want to discuss with him the latest position of this case, why justice is being denied to us. The issue has been totally politicised now.”
Panthic organisations in name of ‘Bargari Morcha’ had also sat on a six months-long dharna at Dana Mandi in this village demanding justice for victims and a speedy probe on the sacrilege issue. About a dozen Dera followers — who were found involved in the theft of the Holy book and later throwing pages in the streets of Bargari — had also been arrested during the dharna.
Modi too came to Kotkapura in 2017
Though Congress leaders have been mentioning the sacrilege issue in their poll speeches, former CM Parkash Singh Badal had stated that air strikes were the main issue and not sacrilege.
Post sacrilege incidents, this area had become an important one for politicians. In 2017, ahead of the Vidhan Sabha polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also done a rally in Kotkapura — constituency in which most of the above mentioned villages fall.