×

India

What Are The ‘Sacrilege Cases’ That Have Triggered Fresh Row In Punjab Congress?

New Delhi: Navjot Singh Sidhu, who resigned as the Punjab Congress chief on Tuesday, broke his silence a day after as he raised questions over the appointments of the director general of police and the state’s advocate general. Taking to Twitter a day later, Sidhu said his objective had always been to improve the lives… Continue reading What Are The ‘Sacrilege Cases’ That Have Triggered Fresh Row In Punjab Congress?

45498
File photo of Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu and Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: Navjot Singh Sidhu, who resigned as the Punjab Congress chief on Tuesday, broke his silence a day after as he raised questions over the appointments of the director general of police and the state’s advocate general. Taking to Twitter a day later, Sidhu said his objective had always been to improve the lives of people and “to make a difference”.

“My fight is for the issues and an agenda of Punjab,” he said in an over four-minute video clip shared on his Twitter handle.

Apparently referring to senior IPS officer Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota, who has been given the additional charge of the director general of Punjab Police, Sidhu said, “When I see those who gave clean chit to Badals six years back…such persons have been given the responsibility for delivering justice.” Sahota was the head of a special investigation team formed in 2015 by the then Akali government to probe the sacrilege incidents.

ALSO READ | Inside Story: Differences With Punjab CM, Cong High Command Over DGP, AG Picks Forced Sidhu’s Hand

Sidhu also apparently questioned the appointment of A P S Deol as the state’s new advocate general. “Those who secured blanket bails, they are advocate general,” he said. Deol is a senior advocate of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and has been a counsel for former Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini. He had been representing the ex-top cop in various cases against him.

What are the sacrilege incidents in Punjab?

The concept of sacrilege in Sikhism dates back to Guru Arjan Dev’s compilation of the holy text Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which is regarded as the living guru by Sikhs. Any attempt to alter the original text of the Guru Granth Sahib, as well as any physical harm done to the holy book, is deemed sacrilege.

There are three incidents of sacrilege in Punjab which have also become major political issues in the state. The first case pertains to the theft of a saroop or copy of holiest of the scriptures of Sikhs the Guru Granth Sahib from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village in Faridkot district on June 1, 2015.

In the second incident, which occurred on September 25, 2015, two posters targeting the Sikhs and two Sikh preachers were found pasted in a samadh near the same Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village. As per the Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission of Inquiry instituted by Congress government, “The grievance expressed in these posters was about the non-release of movie ‘Messenger of God’ in which head of Dera Sacha Sauda chief had acted as hero. The posters contained a threat that Holy Guru Granth Sahib shall be thrown in the streets.” Another poster, found on nearby Bargari on September 24, challenged the police to trace the [stolen] saroop which was claimed to be in the village.

The third case was reported on the morning of October 12, 2015, when torn pages or angs of Guru Granth Sahib, were found thrown in front of the Bargari village gurdwara and on nearby street.

Following the sacrilege incident at Bargari, there were protests at Kotkapura chowk and Behbal Kalan on October 13 and 14, 2015. The protests allegedly turned violent and the police used force to disperse the protesters, some of whom were injured. Two anti-sacrilege protestors were also killed at Behbal Kalan in alleged police firing on October 14.

Investigation Into Sacrilege Cases

The investigation was handed over to the CBI by the SAD-BJP government in November 2015. However, before the CBI began its inquiry, a three-member SIT reported the arrest of 10 people, all of whom were dera followers, for the sacrilege episodes. Mohinderpal Singh Bittu, one of the defendants, was later slain in the Nabha jail. The CBI, on the other hand, dismissed the DIG’s findings. The case was closed by the CBI in 2018 as the agency could not find any proof against the 10 persons.

The CBI closure report was challenged by the Congress administration in 2017. This resulted in a new round of court battles, with the government eventually winning and forming a five-member SIT with IG Kunwar Vijay Pratap as the lead investigator. The HC halted their probe on April 9 and ordered the creation of a fresh team without IG Kunwar Vijay Pratap. On April 14, the Inspector General resigned.

After six years of the incidents, the Punjab government remains under fire for being unable to bring the perpetrators of sacrilege and police firing to justice. The Amarinder Singh government has faced the heat, with Sidhu at the forefront.

AAP national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had also hit out at the government for not bringing those responsible to book.

(With inputs from PTI)