Members of several Sikh groups protesting against the alleged desecration of their holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, clashed with police in Faridkot district of Punjab on Wednesday, leaving at least 15 people injured.
12 cops, including Bathinda inspector general of police Jitendra Jain, were among those injured.
Police used batons and water cannons and fired in the air to disperse members of the Sikh groups who gathered in Kotkapura of Faridkot district early on Wednesday to protest the act of sacrilege in Bargari village. Several policemen were among the injured.
The clash erupted in the main square of Kotkapura when police tried to arrest the leaders of the protestors. The protestors also tried to block highways leading to Moga and Bathinda towns.
The situation in Faridkot district is tense but under control, officials said. A strong police contingent has been deployed in the area to maintain law and order.
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal appealed to the people to maintain calm. The chief minister said those found guilty would not be spared.
Kotkapura has been tense since more than 100 pages of the Guru Granth Sahib were found scattered in a street leading to a gurdwara in Bargari on Monday. The pages were allegedly torn from a ‘bir’ or copy of the Guru Granth Sahib that was stolen from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village, located 5 km from Bargari, in June.
Tension flared on Tuesday when hundreds of Sikhs assembled for a dharna at the main square of Kotkapura, 12 km from Faridkot, after police rounded up more than 200 people at 2.30am. Sources said police rounded up the people to prevent radical Sikh leaders from organising an ‘akhand paath’ – reading of religious scriptures – at the spot with the torn pages from Bargari village.
Police took the torn pages, which were kept in a ‘palki’ or palanquin on a tractor trolley, to an undisclosed place. The protesters were reportedly taken to Muktsar, Moga, Ferozepur, Bathinda and Faridkot.
Prominent Sikh preachers Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwala and Panthpreet Singh Khalsa, former Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar Giani Kewal Singh, Damdami Taksal Ajnala head Amrik Singh Ajnala and radical Sikh leader Baljit Singh Daduwal participated in a dharna to protest against the alleged desecration.
Surjit Singh Arian Wala, executive district president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, told Hindustan Times, “We have been protesting in a peaceful way since June 1, when a bir was stolen from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village. But no action was taken against the accused.”
Wala said a handwritten poster pasted near Burj Jawahar Singh Wala gurdwara on the night of September 25 contained “foul language” against the Guru Granth Sahib. “Now we are holding a peaceful protest here and it would be called off only when the police arrest the accused,” he said.
The Sant Samaj led by Damdami Taksal chief Harnam Singh Dhuma has called for a shutdown in Malwa on October 15 to protest against the alleged desecration.
Dhuma said the ‘bandh’ was called to pressure the government. “Those responsible for the sacrilege of the scripture should be arrested immediately,” he added.
The bandh will be observed in Faridkot, Moga, Fazilka, Ferozepur, Muktsar, Bathinda and Barnala. Health services have been kept out of its purview. Dhuma asked Sikhs in the Malwa belt to maintain peace during the bandh.
Watch | Faridkot turns violent after ‘desecration’ of holy book