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Amritsar Lynching: Politicians Condemn Alleged Sacrilege But Remain Mum on Killing

From chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi to Sukhbir Singh Badal, Arvind Kejriwal and Amarinder Singh, none condemned the lynching of the man.

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Jalandhar: A day after a man was lynched in the Golden Temple in Amritsar for alleged sacrilege on Saturday, politicians across the political spectrum condemned the man’s act as part of a ‘deep-rooted conspiracy’ in poll bound Punjab but avoided commenting on the killing itself.

Indeed, all of them – from the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party to the Akali Dal, Bharatiya Janata Party, RSS and Amarinder Singh – described the man’s alleged sacrilege as ‘heinous’ or hurtful, but did not condemn the lynching at all.

On Sunday, another man accused of sacrilege at Nijampur village gurdwara of Kapurthala district was also beaten to death by a mob at around 1.30 pm. The man allegedly disrespected the Nishan Sahib (Sikh flag) at around 4 am on Sunday morning. He reportedly fled but was caught at 5 am. The suspect was handed over to the Kapurthala police but by afternoon, but Sikh groups clashed with the. police and the man was killed.

This is the third alleged incident of sacrilege in the past week. Four days ago at the Golden Temple, a person identified as Ranbir Singh had thrown the Gutka Sahib (a small booklet with verses from the Gurbani) into the lake that surrounds the temple, leading to anger among the Sikh community.

The man who was lynched in Amritsar was in his mid-20s. He allegedly jumped over the gold railing inside the sanctum sanctorum of the Sri Harmandir Sahib during the Rehraas Sahib Path (evening prayers) and tried to pick the Siri Sahib (sword), which was kept in front of the holy book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This took place at 5:50 pm. Later, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC0 also released the video of the incident, which went viral on social media.

It was learnt that soon after the man was caught and thrashed by the SGPC staff and others who were present at Darbar Sahib, he was initially taken to a room in the Golden Temple premises and “questioned” by the staff. Later, he was taken to the SGPC headquarters, where again he was “questioned”.

A mob congregated outside the SGPCs headquarters and demanded that the man be handed over to them. At this point, the SGPC staff placed his dead body outside its headquarters.

The Amritsar police have registered a case against the man who was lynched, for deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class and attempt to murder. On Saturday evening, a police party headed by Amritsar deputy commissioner of police (DSP) Parminder Singh Bhandal reached the spot and started its investigation.

The superintendent of police (Kapurthala) Harkamalpreet Singh Khakh said that the investigation has revealed that the unidentified man, who entered the Gurdwara premises in the wee hours of Sunday at Nijampur village, had come with the motive of ‘theft’ and not ‘sacrilege’.

“We went to the Gurdwara and found that no sacrilege was done, as everything was intact. However, he tampered with the Nishan Sahib (Sikh flag) and some oil had spilled on the floor. The victim had stolen a jacket from the gurdwara, which two sewadars on duty used to wear. That is how he was identified by Amarjit Singh, the granthi (priest) of the gurdwara. The man was locked in a room and was badly beaten, he said.

The police is yet to register a case related to the lynching.

Meanwhile, on Sunday morning Amritsar police commissioner Sukhchain Singh Gill while talking to the media said that after checking the CCTV footage of the Golden Temple, it has come to light that the man accused of attempting sacrilege had reached Darbar Sahib complex alone at 11 am on Saturday. He said that the accused has not yet been identified.

The police commissioner also said that CCTV footage is being gathered from other public places to trace his movements to ascertain where he had came from. Gill said the police are assuming that the man was not from Punjab. He said that the police are waiting for the post mortem report to check if he was under the influence of some intoxicant.

The issue of ‘sacrilege’ has taken on political singificance in Punjab. In 2015, whe the previous Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP government, there were several cases of alledged sacrilege. The government’s alleged failure to deal with these incidents was a major factor in the SAD ending up third in the Punjab assembly polls in 2017, winning just 15 seats. The Congress promised to bring justice in the sacrilege cases.

Amarinder Singh’s ouster as the chief minister came after the Congress’s state unit president Navjot Singh Sidhu accused him of inaction on the sacrilege cases.

The state will vote early next year.

Politicians condemn alleged sacrilege, not lynching

Chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi strongly condemned “the most unfortunate and heinous act to attempt sacrilege of Sri Guru Granth Sahib”. He directed the state police authorities to thoroughly probe the entire matter to “zero in at the underlying motive and real conspirators behind this dastardly act”. Strangely, Channi called up the SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami and “assured his government’s full support and cooperation” to get into the bottom of the case.

Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi offers prayers at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, September 22, 2021. Photo: PTI

SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal tweeted that the alleged sacrilege is “shocking”. “Making the holiest of our shrine the target of such outrage is beyond belief. The heinous act is a part of a deep-rooted conspiracy that has shaken the entire Sikh quam,” he said.

SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal in a video message said in Punjabi that the “heinous attempt to commit sacrilege” is “deeply shocking and exceedingly painful”. He also said the act caused “deep anguish and outrage in the minds of Sikh masses all over the world”.

Amarinder Singh, who is now the president of the Punjab Lok Congress, also tweeted to condemn the alleged sacrilege and asked the government “to the bottom of what led this man to act in such a despicable manner”.

Delhi chief minister and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal wrote in Hindi and Punjabi on Twitter said the sacrilege is “deeply painful”. “This could be a very big conspiracy. Culprits should be given the strictest punishment,” he wrote.

BJP leaders in Punjab and nationally also struck the same note: condemning the sacrilege but not the murder which followed. BJP national spokesperson RP Singh demanded a CBI probe into the sacrilege ‘conspiracy’.

The RSS’s second in command, Datttatreya Hosabale, also avoided any mention of the lynching, let alone a condemnation of it: “Yesterday’s incident of an attempt to desecrate the Guru Granth Sahib in the Golden Temple in Amritsar is unfortunate. The RSS condemns this incident,” he said in a statement. “The Guru Granth Sahib and the Shri Guru parampara is the common heritage of us all, revered by all and a part of India’s knowledge system. Forces that want to break apart society have in the past and continue to attempt to conspire against amity. Those behind such incidents should be caught and exposed and such attempts to damage communal amity not be allowed to disturb social harmony.”

SGPC accuses government of inaction

In his statement, the SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami stated that the man’s attempt to commit sacrilege at the Golden Temple “has given spiritual pain to the Sikhs all over the world”.

He claimed that during the recitation of evening prayers, the man jumped over the safety grill and entered the sanctum sanctorum and picked up the sword kept in front of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. “But he was apprehended by the sewadars on duty, and died due to beating by the sangat,” he said.

The SGPC chief accused the governments of not taking incidents of sacrilege seriously. “It is unfortunate that instead of exposing the force working behind the culprits who had been arrested in the past, they were released after being declared as mentally ill. It is the failure of the governments and agencies who could not reach the people working behind such culprits,” Harjinder Singh said.

Former SGPC Member Kulwant Singh Mannan also condemned the man’s actions. He claimed that so far, 450 sacrilege incidents have taken place in Punjab “but there was no justice in sight”. He said the Punjab and Indian governments should get to the bottom of this case.

“No politics should be done in the name of religion but I strongly feel that the Punjab government should bring a law to tackle sacrilege cases in the state,” he added.

Senior journalist and author Jagtar Singh also saw a ‘pattern’ and a ‘deep-rooted conspiracy’ to polarise Punjab and Uttar Pradesh ahead of assembly elections.

“It is an attempt to vitiate the communal harmony of Punjab. The farmers’ protest made a positive contribution in strengthening peace and communal harmony and the BJP is threatened by the Hindu-Sikh unity, hence such incidents,” he claimed.

On the question of politicians avoiding comment on lynching, Jagtar Singh said that lynching of anybody should be condemned. But, he added, “It is also a fact that the law has not provided justice in previous sacrilege cases and things have been bad since the Bargari sacrilege case,” he said. He said sacrilege incidents have been taking place since the early 1980s. “But, people should remain cautious of deeper conspiracy to polarise and destabilise Punjab,” the journalist added.