Two men were killed and more than 60 injured in clashes between police and Sikh protesters in Kotkapura on Wednesday over the recent desecration of a ‘bir’ of Guru Granth Sahib.
Later in the day, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal ordered a judicial inquiry by a high court judge to probe the desecration incident and its aftermath, besides assuring Punjabis that exemplary punishment would be awarded to perpetrators of the “dastardly act”. Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal announced Rs 1-crore reward to any person giving information leading to the arrest of those who committed the act of sacrilege.
The protesters, led by fringe radical outfits, are demanding the arrest of those responsible for tearing off more than 100 pages of the Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari village, 15km from Kotkapura in Faridkot district, on Monday. These pages were torn allegedly from a ‘bir’ that was stolen from a nearby village, Burj Jawahar Singh Wala, in June.
The protests come amid the uproar over the recent pardon granted by the Akal Takht to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, with former Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh suggesting the alleged involvement of dera followers in the desecration. The dera, however, has categorically denied any role in the incident and also condemned it.
On Wednesday morning, police opened fire at protesters at Behbal Kalan village, 10km from Faridkot, in which Kishan Singh, 45, of nearby Niami Wala village and Gurjit Singh, 20, of nearby Sarawan village were killed.
Earlier in the day, 62 persons, including 35 policemen, were injured in a bloody clash between cops and Sikh protesters in Kotkapura town. The police used lathis and water cannons to disperse protesters, even as the latter attacked cops with kirpans and torched police vehicles. The police were able to control the situation after the two-hour-long clash that also left Bathinda inspector general of police (IGP) Jitendra Jain injured.
Starting from Bargari village on Monday, the protest has spread to Kotkapura, Moga and Faridkot in the past two days following mobilisation through audio and video messages on the social media and announcements in village gurdwaras. Several roads leading to Bathinda and Faridkot have been blocked by protesters who are sitting on roads outside villages.
On Tuesday, a violent clash between cops and protesters at Buttar Kalan village in Moga district had left 19 people injured.
The Sant Samaj has called for a bandh in Malwa districts (Faridkot, Moga, Fazilka, Ferozepur, Muktsar, Bathinda and Barnala) on Thursday over the desecration and its fallout.
“The desecration of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji is a deep-rooted conspiracy aimed at inciting communal tension and destabilising the hard-won peace in Punjab. I humbly urge all of you to maintain restraint in this hour of crisis.”
- Parkash Singh Badal, Punjab chief minister
“CM Parkash Singh Badal has virtually lost control over things and the state is drifting towards anarchy. Badal should better quit if he is not able to maintain control over things.”
-Capt Amarinder Singh, Congress deputy leader in LS
“The situation at Kotkapura was not handled in a professional manner by the police. There was no need for using force to disperse people who were protesting in a peaceful manner.”
-Giani Gurbachan Singh, Akal Takht jathedar
“We strongly condemn the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib. Those who have done it are sinners of the highest order.”
-Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Dera Sacha Sauda chief