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‘No trust in Sikhs in Delhi’s Hindutva govt’ — leaders up ante against Centre at Punjab event

Friday's gathering marked the 7th anniversary of Faridkot 'killings' where two Sikh agitators had died in alleged police firing, while protesting an incident of 'sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib'. 

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Faridkot: Amid loud clarion calls of “Jo bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal”, Sikh leaders, including the newly-appointed chief of the advocacy group Waris Punjab De, Amritpal Singh Sandhu, and Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) Member of Parliament from Sangrur, Simranjit Singh Mann, alleged that Sikhs are marginalised in the majoritarian Hindu government at the centre and claimed that the Khalsa, or the Sikh community, is above the state and is the only protector of the religion.

The comments came at a gathering at the Shahidi Samagam on National Highway 54 Friday, organised to mark the seventh anniversary of the Behbal Kalan ‘killings’ in Faridkot, Punjab, where two Sikh villagers had died in alleged police firing on 14 October, 2015, while protesting against an “incident of sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib” in Bargari village.

“Delhi’s Hindutva government has no trust in the Sikhs,” alleged Mann.

Responding to the allegations, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson, R.P. Singh, told ThePrint that the government was run by the Constitution of India and not on any agenda. “All religions have space in democracy, but within the framework of the law. And there are special provisions for Sikhs. That is how only Sikhs are allowed to carry the kirpan (dagger) according to Section 25(2)(b) of the Constitution,” said Singh.

He added: “These statements are made to deliberately create a rift between Hindus and Sikhs for political objectives. He (Mann) is trying to play a victim card for vote bank politics.”

Simranjit Singh Mann at the protest | Photo: Gangandeep Singh | ThePrint
Simranjit Singh Mann at the protest | Photo: Gangandeep Singh | ThePrint

Friday’s gathering had been organised by Sukhraj Singh, a resident of Behbal Kalan village, to demand justice for the alleged sacrilege and killings.

Sukhraj had lost his father, Bhagwan Krishan Singh — one of the two killed in the alleged police firing seven years ago at the same spot where the protest was organised Friday. He has been sitting on the road where his father was killed for over 300 days, demanding the arrest of the culprits.

On 1 June, 2015, the Sikh Holy Book Guru Granth Sahib was found to  have been stolen from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village and pages torn from it were reportedly found strewn around in Bargari village on 12 October 2015. Following this, men from villages around the area blocked the national highway at different points to protest and it has been alleged that police opened fire on their peaceful gathering when they refused to disperse.

“On 14 October police tried to remove the protestors from the road. This was the third protest on this Kotkapura-to-Bhatinda road. The police opened fire and my father was killed. Our demand has been the same from day one — to book those who fired and those who disrespected our Holy book,” Sukhraj Singh told ThePrint.

Successive governments and several police inquiry teams, he alleged, had failed to punish the culprits.

Also read: Minorities panel seeks report from Punjab govt on ‘conversions of Sikhs to Christianity’

‘Declare Sikh hukumat’

Meanwhile, Sandhu, who is gaining popularity among the Sikh youth for his fiery speeches, said, the law has kept Sikhs slaves and after a month-and-a-half they should stop protesting peacefully.

He was referring to the one-and-a-half-month period during which Punjab Legislative Assembly Speaker, Kultar Singh Sandhwan — who had addressed the public before Sandhu at Friday’s event — had claimed probe in the sacrilege and killing allegations would be concluded.

“After a month-and-a-half, we should declare our Sikh hukumat (rule). We suffered 150 years of slavery. First by the British and then by the Hindus. We have developed slave mentality,” said Sandhu.

Sandhwan had, however, left the stage before Sandhu spoke.

Books being sold at the protest site | Photo: Sonal Matharu | ThePrint
Books being sold at the protest site | Photo: Sonal Matharu | ThePrint

Other AAP leaders like Amritsar North MLA Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, Amritsar South MLA Inderbeer Singh Nijjar, and Mehal Kalan MLA Kulwant Singh Pandori also addressed the gathering. Other leaders who spoke at the event included Paramjit Singh Mand, spokesperson of the Dal Khalsa and Lakha Sidhana, a gangster-turned-social activist.

But it were the speeches by Mann and Sandhu which captivated the crowd, as they emphasised that since neither the Shiromani Akali Dal nor the Congress governments in the state have closed the case, the people should not have their expectations high from the new AAP government, which has its power centre in Delhi.

“We have no hope from the AAP government. Before this, Congress leaders had come to Bargari, where we were protesting for six months. I went there almost every day. Nobody gave us justice. Today, Kultar Singh Sandhwan has asked for 1.5 months’ time from us. Let’s see what they do. The protests will continue till then. We have heard that the administration stopped our people from joining the protest here. How will these people give us justice when they stop our own people,” said Bittoo Singh Bhatti, one of the protestors.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

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