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RAGING ISSUES

Sacrilege cases back in Punjab poll debate

As investigation continues, political parties engage in slugfest over emotive issue

Sacrilege cases back in Punjab poll debate

People protest the Bargari sacrilege incident in Amristar. File



Tribune News Service

Jupinderjit Singh

Chandigarh, January 16

Seven years and several police investigations and inquiry commissions later, sacrilege incidents continue to remain a contentious issue in the political discourse ahead of the Assembly elections slated in February.

For the Congress, sacrilege has been a staple issue to hit out at arch-rivals SAD, in whose tenure the incidents occurred. After the first incident was reported at Burj Jawahar Wala village in Faridkot on June 1, 2015, seven investigations have taken place, but the final word on who was responsible for the conspiracy is not out.

A couple of similar incidents, including one at the Golden Temple last month, have further accentuated the sentiment on the subject.

The acts mainly include stealing and desecration of the holy book besides circulation of blasphemous posters. A fallout of which were the two incidents of police firing at mobs protesting the sacrilege incidents.

Probe nearing end

We are very serious in ensuring justice in sacrilege and related cases. We have taken the probe further and it is close to its logical conclusion. Sukhjinder S Randhawa, deputy CM

Dirty politics

Real culprits should be punished. Dirty politics is being played. It will not make much impact as people see through Congress and AAP’s designs. Daljeet S Cheema, SAD

Why no justice yet?

It is a tragedy that cases have still not been solved. The Congress promised justice. It is going to suffer in people’s court like the Akalis did in 2017. Harpal Cheema, leader of oppn

Want stern punishment

We seek stringent punishment. We refrain from speaking much about it as it has become a sensitive issue. Akalis and Congress are playing dirty politics. — Tarun Chugh, BJP

It is believed the Congress came to power in March 2017 riding on the anti-Akali wave because of the sacrilege incidents, besides drugs. Capt Amarinder Singh had during the campaign (in)famously taken a religious oath promising justice in the cases.

Towards the end of his tenure, his own party men turned against him for ‘failing’ to fulfil his promise. His successor, Charanjit Singh Channi, and state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu regularly raised the issue on different fora. They also visited the main sacrilege sites, again promising justice.

Even the office of the Advocate General has been involved in the controversy for allegedly not being able to fight the legal battle well. Police officials lost their posts and one of the key investigators — IG Kunwar Vijay Pratap — resigned in protest against the government for not supporting him in court. The Punjab and Haryana High Court had dismissed his investigation.

The Akalis, on their part, have been aggressively defending as well as counter-attacking the Congress and AAP alleging conspiracy to defame them. They cite the High Court order trashing the police investigation.

For the AAP, the issue is a potent weapon to take on both the Congress and Akalis over “misgovernance”, “poor handling” of the investigation and “conspiracy” for vote politics.

THREE KEY INCIDENTS

Nearly 170 cases have been reported between 2015 and 2017, of which 3 remain unsolved

June 1, 2015: A ‘saroop’ of Guru Granth Sahib is stolen from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village in Faridkot

Sept 24-25: Derogatory posters are found pasted at Bargari, Faridkot

Oct 12: Nearly 110 pages are found strewn near Bargari gurdwara; later 800 more found at Kohrian, Mishriwala, Sarai Naga and Bath in Tarn Taran

THE INVESTIGATION

DIG Khatra-led SIT: It claimed two youths from Australia funded the conspiracy to trigger riots between Sikhs and Sirsa-based dera followers. But claims fell flat when the youths took to social media, explaining money transfer. In 2018, the SIT announced arrest of 10 persons, all dera followers. One of them was later killed in Nabha jail

Justice Zora panel: In its June 2016 report, it blamed police for ‘unwarranted’ firing and failure to investigate case properly. It did not state who ordered firing or who was responsible for sacrilege.

CBI: After being handed over the probe by the SAD-BJP government in Nov 2015, it dismissed the DIG’s report. In 2018, it closed the case, saying it could not find proof against the 10 persons. The Congress government in 2018 withdrew the probe from agency, but the CBI later filed a closure report.

Justice Ranjit Singh Commission: In its August 2018 report, it blamed Akal Takht’s pardon to dera head for disturbance. It said there were enough suggestions of dera’s involvement but the Home Dept and police “lacked seriousness” to probe. The Akalis called it politically motivated.

Five-member SIT: The state formed SIT under Prabodh Kumar with IG Kunwar Vijay Pratap and 3 other members to probe Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan cases. The state formed another SIT under IG Surinder Parmar.

POLICE FIRING & FIRs

While police and protesters clashed at various places, two main incidents remain at the centre of probe

Oct 14, 2015: Police open fire at protesting mobs at Behbal Kalan and Kotkpaura. Two died at Behbal Kalan, 150 protesters and 21 cops were injured at both places

Oct 15: Police lodge FIR of rioting and arson against protesters. Then Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal ordered setting up of Justice Zora Singh probe panel

Oct 21: After public protests, another FIR registered against police personnel for firing at protesters

HC RULING & FRESH SIT

On April 9, 2021, the HC quashed the five-member SIT probe and ordered formation of a new team without IG Pratap as member. The IG resigned on April 14

In May, government formed a new SIT under ADGP LK Yadav to probe the police firing incidents. The SIT missed the deadline of six months to submit its report by November 7. Meanwhile, IG Parmar-led SIT reiterated dera followers were behind the incidents

About The Author

The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

#Bargari #BurjJawaharSinghWala #GuruGranthSahib #KunwarVijayPratap #sacrilege


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