File photo of Sukhbir Badal and Parkash Singh Badal | @Ravonium/Twitter
Text Size:

The report held Dera Sacha Sauda men responsible for the 2015 desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in Punjab. It has also put the Badals in the dock.

Chandigarh: More than 16 months after the Congress decimated the Akali Dal to come to power in Punjab, it has got a stick to beat former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and party chief Sukhbir Badal with.

A commission of inquiry headed by retired judge Ranjit Singh has put the Badals in the dock for failing to act in the various instances of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib — the holiest text of the Sikh religion, considered to be a living Guru — in 2015.

The senior Badal has also been charged with allowing police firing on Sikhs protesting against the desecrations. Two Sikh youth were killed and two injured in one such incident.

Also read: Punjab CM Amarinder Singh names four Congress leaders who took part in 1984 riots

What happened at the assembly

The report was tabled in the three-day monsoon session of the Punjab assembly
Monday. The next day, the assembly passed a resolution to hand over the probe of all cases related to the desecration and police firing to a special investigation team of the Punjab Police.

The desecration cases had been handed over to the CBI by the Akalis during their tenure, but the assembly also resolved that these cases be withdrawn from the CBI. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs backed the resolution moved by the ruling Congress.

The resolution came after more than seven hours of discussion on the commission’s report, during which senior Congress ministers and AAP MLAs put forth a united demand to initiate criminal action against the Badals and other Akali leaders. Many leaders asked Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to book the father-son duo for “murder” of the living Guru.

“The SIT probe will be time bound and no one will be spared,” said the CM just before the House was adjourned.

Timeline of the probe

Following the theft of a ‘bir’ of the Guru Granth Sahib in June 2015, the pages of the ‘bir’ were found torn and scattered in a village in Moga district. This led to many protests across the state, and especially in and around Moga, and when the police cracked down, two protesters died, further fuelling the issue.

The ruling Akalis handed the desecration case to the CBI, and appointed a commission headed by Justice Zora Singh (retd) to probe the police firing and other related cases. The commission submitted its report in July 2016, merely recording the statements of 206 witnesses, including police and executive officers. No officer was indicted.

Then, in April 2017, a month after Amarinder’s Congress government came to power, it set up another commission in the form of Justice Ranjit Singh, a retired judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The commission was tasked with probing the desecration case as well as the police firing.

The commission submitted the first part of its four-part report to the CM on 30 June, 2018. The CM announced that the findings of the report would be handed over to the CBI as the central agency was already probing the desecration cases.

A few weeks later, leaked copies of the report surfaced and intense politicking over the contents of the report ensued, culminating in the assembly resolution moved Tuesday evening. All four parts of the report, along with a supplementary report, were tabled in the house Monday.

Findings of the commission

The main report of the commission concluded that followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda — based in Sirsa, Haryana — were responsible for the desecration. It also concluded that even though there was clear involvement of the Dera’s men (called ‘premis’) in sacrilege, the police did not pursue that line of investigation at the time.

The report added that there was a possibility that the government (run by the Akalis) was “under pressure” not to act. The report also indicates that the pardon granted by the Akal Takht — one of the five seats of power in Sikhism — to Dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim in 2015 could also have been linked to the incidents of sacrilege.

The supplementary report indicted the senior Badal, saying that as CM, he was “in the know of the situation” when the police decided to use firearms against the gathered protesters. The commission recommended appropriate action against the policemen responsible for the use of force against the protesters.

The Badals were summoned by the commission but they refused to depose.

Also read: Amarinder’s Punjab needs to study these 5 chilling examples before passing sacrilege bill

Akalis’ response

The Akalis, led by Sukhbir, walked out of the discussion in the assembly, saying they were not given enough time to discuss the report threadbare. He alleged that the report had been authored by the Akalis’ political rivals, and was not a fair inquiry.

On Monday, the Akalis levelled allegations against Justice Singh of being a “close personal friend” of the CM and a “close relative” of AAP’s rebel MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira. They said they had ‘proof’ that ministers close to the CM as also Khaira were “regularly” meeting the retired judge during the course of the latter’s investigation. They added that certain Sikh hardliners too were in constant touch with the judge.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism