New Delhi: With Punjab Assembly elections less than a month away, in what could turn out to be damning disclosures, especially for the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and the Badal family, former Punjab and Haryana High Court judge Ranjit Singh Randhawa has laid bare the manner in which the then government of Parkash Singh Badal worked closely with their close associates, including those in the Sikh clergy and Punjab Police, to help controversial head of the Dera Sacha Sauda.
Apart from the then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, the books names his politician-son and current Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, the then Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini, among others, for the behind-the-scenes actions that led to the Dera chief tendering a half-hearted apology for his action of trying to imitate the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.
The judge, known to speak his mind, feels that sacrilege, which has remained a big political issue in Punjab since the incidents in Faridkot (June 2015 and October 2015) and which led to massive protests and deaths in police firing, has been milked by politicians for political gains, without there being much action against the real culprits.
“I gave a report about all incidents. The same was discussed in Assembly too. But no concrete action was taken. How do you explain that?” the former judge asks.
Justice Randhawa, who headed the probe commission into incidents of sacrilege in Punjab when the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal)-BJP government was ruling the state, has now penned a book “The Sacrilege”, which lays bare the nexus between those allegedly behind incidents of sacrilege and politicians and top police officers of the state.
Speaking to India Ahead, Justice Randhawa recalls how the controversial head of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda Gurmeet Ram Rahim, now in jail, rendered a maafi-nama (apology) to the Sikh clergy and which was actually dictated by the then Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in the presence of his politician-son Sukhbir Singh Badal, then the state’s deputy CM.
The maafi-nama was regarding the 2007 incident, in which Gurmeet Ram Rahim had attired himself like Guru Gobind Singh, and which had led to bad-blood between the premis (followers of the Dera) and the Sikhs.
“Giani Gurmukh Singh, former Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib, had stated that former Chief Minister of Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal called him and two more Akal Takht Jathedars to his residence in Chandigarh. There they asked them to pardon the Dera chief in the presence of the deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal,” Justice Randhawa pointed out.
For the Dera chief and the premis, acceptance of the apology meant that the sequel of his film MSG – MSG-2 – could finally be released across Punjab, while for the Badals, it would have translated into votes from the sect followers.
But it was not to be.
Justice Ranjit Singh puts the incident in perspective. He says, “The sequel of MSG, called MSG-2, was to be released on September 18, 2015. It wasn’t released in Punjab due to the agitation by Sikhs against it. Subsequently, the deputy CM of Punjab Sukhbir Singh Badal made a promise to Dera premis to resolve the issue in the next two days. The Dera agitation stopped. The Dera premis warned that if the film didn’t release, they had a copy of Guru Granth Sahib with them, and in case of non-release of film they will strew it at different places.”
On September 25, 2015, MSG-2 was released after the Dera chief’s apology was accepted by Akal Takht. There was massive outrage among Sikhs regarding the grant of pardon to the Dera chief. MSG-2 was released in Punjab but the multiplex and cinema owners played it safe by not screening it.
This led to massive protests by Sikhs at Behbal Kalan and Kotakpura. At Behbal Kalan two protesters were killed in police firing.
Picking from the book, Justice Ranjit Singh asks, “After this incident in which two innocent protesters were killed at Behbal Kalan, why did the police not question Dera premis about the desecration? Instead, they started interrogating Sikh protestors. After all, what was their fault?”
Further Justice Ranjit Singh makes a big revelation. He says, ”On October 14, 2015, at 2:00 am there was a telephonic conversation between the then DGP Sumedh Singh Saini and the then chief minister of Punjab Parkash Singh Badal. Subsequent to it, there is another conversation between the DGP and the Deputy Commissioner of Faridkot. This is followed by yet another telephonic talk between the DGP and the MLA of Kotakpura, Mantar Singh Brar. Then there is another extended conversation between DGP Saini and IGP Param Raj Umranangal. And then, at 6:45 am in the morning, there was police firing at Kotakpura. Later, at 10:00 am, police again opened fire at Behbal Kalan and killed two people.”
To cut the long story short, Justice Ranjit Singh says, “Dera followers were responsible for desecration and the Badals and the then DGP for police firing.”
He adds, “It was only after the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim that a man named Bittu suddenly came out of nowhere and unfolded the why, what, and how of the desecration.”
Asked, how does he see the recent incidents of desecration and subsequent brutal murders, Justice Ranjit Singh says, “Taking the law into one’s own hands is wrong. But equally unjust is the investigating agencies taking as long as seven years to investigate a case of sacrilege. I submitted an inquiry report in August 2018. Still, there has been no headway.”