Preachers to form people’s panel to look into Bargari desecration

  • Sachin Sharma, Hindustan Times, Bathinda
  • Updated: Oct 22, 2015 23:19 IST
Panthpreet Singh and other Sikh leaders interacting with the media during a press conference in Bathinda. (Sanjeev Kumar/HT Photo)

After Sikh hardliners, religious preachers now have trashed the police theory that two brothers were involved in the Bargari desecration incident.

These preachers, who under the command of Panthpreet Singh had led the agitation against sacrilege, on Thursday, announced to form a “people’s commission” to look into all cases. HT had exposed secret parleys between them and the Punjab government after police had confronted them with audio recording of a telephone conversation between one of the desecration accused and his foreign handler.

The preachers — Panthpreet Singh, Ranjit Singh Dhadriyanwale and former Takht Damdama Sahib head priest Balwant Singh Nandgarh — had apparently diluted the protest after hearing the audio. Addressing the media on Thursday here, they said Faridkot senior superintendent of police (SSP) Sukhmandar Singh had made them listen to the audio on October 17 when they had gone to meet him after been released from police custody after the Kotkapura clash. They said they couldn’t accept the police evidence until thorough investigation.

However, they looked defensive when asked why they had not opposed the arrest of the two brothers before going to the SSP. Panthpreet said they had raised the issue with him, and the SSP had agreed to release them by the morning of October 18. Asked why they didn’t make a noise in the media, Panthpreet said they had, after coming out of the meeting with the SSP.

They had neither shared told protesters about the audio nor uttered a word on the detention of the two brothers. Now claiming that the siblings were framed, the three said the Panjgrain Khurd panchayat in Moga district had refuted the police claim that the brothers had accepted their crime in public. “Police project transfer of money into the bank account of one of the accused as evidence, while the man in Australian depositor has made it clear that it was for the treatment of the injuries accused Rupinder Singh had sustained in the Kotkapura clash,” said Panthpreet Singh.

“We have decided to form a people’s commission led by a retired high court judge and a former senior police officer to look into the Bargari case,” the preacher said, adding: “The names of the members of the commission will be announced before October 25.” Panjgrain Khurd sarpanch Baldev Singh said that the accused had never accepted before police that they had a hand in the crime. Demanding to trace the stolen ‘bir’ (pages from the holy book), the preachers said desecration would stop once the real culprits were caught.

Panthpreet Singh denied the allegations of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann that his role after the Kotkapura clash was suspect, since it was public pressure and not any deal with the government that had forced police to withdrawn all cases against the protesters. Answering the allegation about the torn ‘bir’ found at Bargari, he said that after the Kotkapura clash, the pages had been taken to house of one Beant Singh in Kotkapura and handed over to police, later.

After 1990s

The last people’s commission was formed in the mid-1990s, to investigate the human rights violations in Punjab during militancy. Led by justice Kuldip Singh, it was soon dissolved because the government come down hard on it.

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