New Delhi: The arrest of Delhi BJP spokesperson Tajinder Bagga has turned into a political tussle with three police forces — Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi — getting embroiled in a conflict and the AAP and the BJP engaged in a war of words.
The drama started Friday morning when the Punjab Police arrested Bagga from his home in Delhi in a month-old case of alleged criminal intimidation and promoting enmity.
The Delhi Police in turn filed an FIR against “unknown persons” for allegedly assaulting and abducting Bagga. The Haryana Police then intercepted the Punjab Police team in Kurukshetra while it was returning to Punjab.
Finally, by Friday afternoon, the Delhi Police was escorting away Bagga as he flashed the victory sign.
While the Delhi Police comes under the ambit of the central government, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is in office in Punjab and the BJP in Haryana.
In light of the episode, the BJP has gone hammer and tongs against Bagga’s arrest in the case, describing it as a ‘witch hunt’ orchestrated by the AAP government in Punjab.
“This is not a good precedent. They are using the police to score political points. Imagine if Delhi Police would have been under Arvind Kejriwal,” Delhi BJP spokesperson Harish Khurana said.
In a counter-allegation, the AAP’s Saurabh Bharadwaj said the Delhi Police is “protecting goons”.
Delhi Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) West Ghanshyam Bansal said they had received information Friday morning “from Preet Pal Bagga, 67, that his son Tajinder Pal Bagga has been abducted in the morning around 8.30 am from his house by some unknown persons”.
“Based on his allegations, an FIR was lodged under IPC sections 365 (abduction), 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement), 392 (robbery), 452 (house trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 34 (common intention) of IPC,” he said.
“Thereafter, a wireless message was flashed and the said vehicle was intercepted by Haryana Police at Kurukshetra. A search warrant was obtained from the Dwarka court of Delhi, based on which assistance of Kurukshetra district police was taken to trace and recover the abducted victim,” he added. “He is being brought to Delhi to be produced before the concerned honorable court as per law.”
A source in Delhi Police also said that Punjab Police “violated the guidelines for arrest by not informing the local police”.
“There are clear guidelines on how a police officer should act while going to conduct a search or arrest of an accused, when functioning out of their jurisdiction,” the source added. “The local police have to be kept in the loop and assistance should be taken before and after the operation that was not done here. They (Punjab Police) violated the guidelines.”
Last month, AAP leader Sunny Ahluwalia filed a complaint against Bagga for allegedly making incendiary social media posts, including a “threat” against party chief Arvind Kejriwal.
The case was lodged at the cyber cell in Mohali (Punjab) under sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief), 505-2 (statements creating or promoting enmity) and 506 (Punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The Punjab Police Friday approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court to keep Bagga in Haryana rather than Delhi, but their request was turned down.
Speaking to ThePrint, a senior Punjab Police officer said “Bagga had been served multiple notices in the past but he refused to cooperate with us”. “The Delhi Police was informed prior to his arrest,” the Punjab officer said.
Explaining the sequence of events Friday, a second senior Punjab Police officer said, “one of our teams reached the Janakpuri police station at 8.30 and another team was outside Bagga’s house”.
“The Delhi Police refused to provide local assistance and also denied the intimation record [document recording Punjab Police’s alleged intimation to Delhi Police about Bagga’s arrest]. So we went ahead with the arrest,” the officer added. “Moreover, they detained our personnel, including a DSP-rank officer, at the police station and released [them] only after 5.30 pm when the matter went to court.”
How the Friday fracas played out
On Friday morning, the Punjab Police arrived at Tajinder Bagga’s Delhi home and took him into custody around 9am. They then embarked on the drive back to Punjab.
In the meantime, Bagga’s father lodged an FIR against Punjab Police, for alleged “abduction and assault”, claiming that due procedure had not been followed.
Quick action followed. The vehicle that was taking Bagga to Punjab was stopped by the Haryana Police in Kurukshetra, and the Punjab team and Bagga taken to Thanesar Sadar police station. By afternoon, Delhi Police had taken custody of Bagga.
Earlier in the day, Senior Superintendent of Police, SAS Nagar Mohali, had written a letter to his Kurukshetra counterpart, asking that the Punjab Police team and Bagga be allowed to continue on their journey so that he could be presented in court on time.
“It has come to notice… that the police party has been stopped by Haryana Police on Karnal-Kurukshetra highway. This [is tantamount to] illegal detention and interference in administration of the criminal justice system,” the letter, which ThePrint has accessed, said.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has defended the state police’s action, saying they were doing their work.
Haryana Police became alert & stopped them in Kurukshetra, near Pipli. Since we had information from Delhi it was our duty to hand them over to Delhi Police. Amid this, they revealed their identity that they're Punjab Police & are taking him with them. We did our work: ML Khattar
— ANI (@ANI) May 6, 2022
Claims behind ‘assault’ complaint
The family members of Tajinder Bagga — who is also the national secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the BJP’s youth wing — have accused the Punjab Police of manhandling the BJP leader’s father.
Speaking to ThePrint, Bagga’s mother Kamaljeet said: “My husband had tried to stop them and ask them [what was happening]. They also snatched his phone, while he tried to call me and punched him. My son wasn’t given time to even tie his turban.”
Bagga’s father Preet Pal Bagga said “they hit me and punched me, [and] snatched my phone away when I was trying to record them taking away my son”. “They have hurt our religious sentiments. They were banging the door around 8.30 am,” he added.
Now, political furore over turban
Soon after Bagga was taken into the custody of the Punjab Police, state leaders of the BJP held a press conference alleging that the religious sentiments of the Sikh community had been hurt.
Delhi BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who has been tweeting about Bagga’s “illegal” arrest since morning, told ThePrint that the party was ready to fight over the issue in the courts as well as the roads.
“There is a video which clearly shows that he was not allowed to wear his turban. They have hurt religious sentiments,” Mishra alleged. “Bagga’s father has already given a statement regarding this and filed a complaint with the Delhi Police too.”
Senior BJP leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa alleged that the manner of Bagga’s arrest highlighted the “hooliganism” of the Punjab Police.
“They did not even allow a Sikh to tie his turban. The BJP stands with truth, Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga has not committed any crime. He has exposed the lies of Arvind Kejriwal,” Sirsa said.
The Punjab unit of the BJP said they will also be taking up the issue with the National Minorities Commission for hurting the religious sentiments of the Sikh community.
“The way the entire BJP is standing firmly behind Bagga shows the respect the party also has for the Sikh community. PM Modi has taken several steps for the community and no one will allow disrespect,” a BJP leader said on condition of anonymity.
AAP leaders, however, have insisted that the Haryana and Delhi police forces are protecting “goons” for political reasons.
At a media conference Friday, AAP MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj said that Tajinder Bagga used tweets to “instigate violence” in Punjab.
“The Punjab Police is working to maintain peace in the state. The public is now seeing how the Delhi Police and the Haryana Police are trying to protect such goons,” he said.
Asked about the turban allegation, Mohali (Rural) SP Manpreet Singh said the matter is under investigation.
This report has been updated with additional information. An earlier version of the report erroneously said that Delhi Police has filed an FIR against Punjab Police. The FIR has been registered against unknown people.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)