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Singhu victim ‘did commit sacrilege’ before being lynched, human rights lawyers’ probe finds

Lawyers for Human Rights International’s report details how Lakhbir Singh allegedly desecrated the Sarbloh Granth, before being killed by 'angry' members of the Nihang sect.

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Chandigarh: A five-member team of advocates from the Lawyers for Human Rights International (LFHRI), which carried out a preliminary investigation into the killing of a Dalit man at the Singhu border near Delhi last week, has found that the deceased, Lakhbir Singh, committed sacrilege, as part of a larger conspiracy that “needs further probe”.

Four Nihangs — Sarabjit Singh, Baba Narain Singh, Gobindpreet Singh and Bhagwant Singh — have been arrested for the killing. The role of Baba Aman Singh, the head of the dera of which Sarabjit Singh is a member, is under the scanner.

The probe report was released by advocate Navkiran Singh, who led the LFHRI team, at the Press Club in Chandigarh Thursday. The other members of the investigating team included Tejinder Singh Sudan, Harinder Pal Singh Ishar, Yadvinder Singh Dhillon and Parminder Singh Maloya.

The LFHRI is a Punjab-based organisation of human rights lawyers that conduct independent investigations into human rights violations, such as the police firing after incidents of sacrilege related to the Guru Granth Sahib in Punjab in 2015, the Hoshiapur torture case in 2016, and the suicides at the Khanauri end of the Bhakra canal in 2017.

Also read: ‘He didn’t go out alone, only had Rs 100’: Lynched Sikh’s kin in Punjab find Singhu trip ‘fishy’

What the probe found

Navkiran said the deceased, Lakhbir, had come to the Nihang dera only a few days before the incident and was asked to tend to the horses. But early last Friday, he picked up the Sarbloh Granth, which was placed next to the Guru Granth Sahib and the Dasam Granth, and ran away with it in a bid to hide it. Friday morning, he specially adorned the garb of a Nihang and also took a sword with him, Navkiran claimed.

“On 15-10-21, at about 3am, a granthi Nihang (one who reads the scripture) and Lakhbir cleaned the place where the prakash of Guru Granth Sahib and other granths had been done. The granthi Nihang left to take his bath, leaving Lakhbir at the spot. When he returned at about 3:30 am, to perform the daily morning prayers, he noticed that the chaur sahib (whisk) and the rumala sahib (cloth covering the granth) were lying on the floor. He and another Nihang on the spot noticed that sacred book (pothi) Sarbloh Granth and a sword (kirpan) were missing,” the lawyer claimed.

“Since Lakhbir too could not be seen anywhere, the granthi and the other Nihang ran out to look for him and informed others. They caught Lakhbir coming from the side of the main stage at the Singhu border. He was dressed up as a Nihang. When confronted, Lakhbir said that he had thrown the Sarbloh Granth behind the main stage. Nihangs Bhagwant Singh and Gobindpreet Singh recovered it and took Lakhbir to the dera of Baba Aman Singh,” Navkiran further claimed.

“The Nihangs present reacted in anger, saying that the sacrilege was equivalent to someone harming their father. One of the Nihangs severed Lakhbir’s hand and another who arrived a little later severed his foot. They said that many such incidents had taken place in the past and no justice has been done so they decided to punish the culprit themselves.”

The LFHRI team also probed if an FIR under Section 295-A of the Indian Penal Code (offence of sacrilege) had been registered against Lakhbir Singh, since that is a crime unto itself. It found that such an FIR has been registered at Kundli police station.

Navkiran Singh also confirmed that there was no caste angle to the killing, and that the deceased and the accused were all Dalit Sikhs. “Sections in regard to the SC/ST Act (which) have been added to the (murder) FIR … should be deleted,” he said.

Deep-rooted conspiracy

The team’s report stated that Lakhbir had been brought to the Singhu border with the lure of money by those who wanted to create trouble at the farmers’ protest site. Navkiran claimed the sacrilege was part of the larger plan.

“Lakhbir was sent to the dera as part of a deep-rooted conspiracy which needs to be laid bare,” Navkiran alleged. “Since the conspiracy was hatched in Punjab, the Punjab Police should probe it.”

The Punjab government has already constituted a special investigative team (SIT) to probe the allegations levelled by Lakhbir’s sister Raj Kaur that her brother was lured to the Singhu border, where he was murdered.

The team also recommended that Lakhbir’s widow and three daughters be provided with amenities of daily life as well as access to education.

The LFHRI is now submitting its findings to the governments of Punjab and Haryana for further action.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also read: Nihang tradition is rich. Don’t just view them through Singhu killing lens


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