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Another Sacrilege Incident in Punjab Causes Uproar; Could it Hurt Channi’s Chances in Next Year’s Assembly Polls?

Another sacrilege issue has come to light in Punjab after a man was beaten to death for an act of “desecration” in Darbar Sahib – the Golden Temple. A man hailing from Uttar Pradesh jumped golden grills inside the sanctum sanctorum, picked a sword and reached near the place where a Sikh priest was reciting the holy Guru Granth Sahib. The man was caught by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) task force members when an angry crowd thrashed him badly that later led to his death.

Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi condemned the incident and directed state police authorities to thoroughly probe the matter. “CM also called up SGPC President and assured his government’s full support and cooperation to get into the bottom of the case,” the CMO said in a statement.

Parkash Singh Badal of Akali Dal, and five-time chief minister, said “the heinous attempt to commit sacrilege at Sachkhand Shri Harmandar Sahib” was “deeply shocking and exceedingly painful”. Badal’s son and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal in a written statement expressed “shock and disbelief at the most heinous outrage of the attempt to commit sacrilege at our highest and the holiest shrine Sachkhand Shri Harmandar Sahib”.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has been campaigning in Punjab, called for strict punishment to offenders. He said in a tweet, “People are in shock. This could be a very big conspiracy. The most strict punishment should be meted out to the culprits.”

The issue holds significance before elections as six years back, incidents of sacrilege and subsequent firing police firing at Behbal Kalan in Faridkot district where two anti-sacrilege protesters were killed in 2015 cost SAD-BJP alliance the 2017 elections.

Previous sacrilege incidents in Punjab

A copy of holiest of the scriptures of Sikhs the Guru Granth Sahib was stolen from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village in Faridkot district on June 1, 2015. In its report, the Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission of Inquiry instituted by Congress government described the theft as “an incident of unprecedented nature”. The report said the theft from the “unattended gurdwara”, was “unimaginable, unthinkable and unexpected”.

In another incident, two abusive posters targeting Sikhs and a couple of Sikh preachers were found pasted in a samadh near the same Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village on September 25, 2015.

On October 12, torn pages of the Guru Granth Sahib were found in Bargari village in Faridkot district. The incident caused widespread discontent and outrage amongst members of the Sikh community, leading to large-scale protests and agitations.

In the protests that followed, two Sikh men died in police firing in Behbal Kalan village on October 14, while one person suffered bullet injuries and several others were hurt in the lathi-charge by police at Kotkapura. Former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal was held responsible in the Justice (retd) Ranjit Singh Commission report on the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib and the subsequent firing in Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan.

This year, a thirty-five year-old Dalit man named Lakhbir Singh was lynched, his hand chopped off and his body, at a farmers’ protest site at Kundli on October 15. His body was found bearing over 10 wounds caused by sharp-edged weapons, tied to a barricade. In a video clip that was shared on social media, some Nihangs were seen standing around the injured man with his severed left hand close to his head. The Nihangs are heard in the clip saying the man has been punished for “desecrating” a holy book of the Sikhs.

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