Investigations into the Bargari desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib backed by “electronic evidence” have thrown vital leads, such as the prime accused repeatedly referring to hiding two different desecrated sets of the scripture during his tapped telephonic conversations, according to police.
Another crucial thread of the police investigation is the difference in the number of “Ang Sahib” (pages) confiscated from the accused and those recovered by the Bargari gurdwara functionaries before handing them over to the hardliners who had taken them to Kotkapura town in a procession to begin the protests on October 12 evening.
The Bargari sacrilege happened on the intervening night of October 11-12. The incident is at the centre of the current wave of violent protests and blockades across Punjab.
Hindustan Times is in possession of “electronic evidence” and more tapped phone conversations, which are at the core of the police probe into the sacrilege.
As many as 112 randomly torn “angs” (pages) of the Guru Granth Sahib, which were strewn across Bargari village lanes, were recovered by the locals on October 12 morning. These 112 pages were duly accounted for “thrice and cleaned” and documented by the Bargari gurdwara management and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). After this the gurdwara management had kept the desecrated pages with “utmost respect” in the Bargari village gurdwara.
According to police, prime accused Rupinder Singh—now arrested—was the “first person” who reached the spot of sacrilege along with his group at 10am. Later, other jathebandis (organisations) and radicals and preachers, including Panthpreet Singh, reached Bargari and took into their possession the documented 112 pages. These protesters took these pages in a palanquin to Kotkapura—some 15km from Bargari--to hold protest.
On October 14 morning a clash between police and protesters took place.
Rupinder shifted the recovered 112 pages to the house of one Beant Singh and locked them in an almirah without following the “maryada”.
“The process of recovering the holy pages on October 17 from the house of Beant was videographed. Rupinder and Beant do not give any satisfactory answer to the increase in the number by three pages. While 112 documented pages are of Bargari sacrilege, the accused are dodging the question as to from where they got the three extra pages,” cops investigating the case said.
Unaware that police were trailing him, while in hiding on October 16 Rupinder, from his cell phone (92176-60002) spoke to brother Jaswinder Singh (who was using phone number 9872214055 of relative Gurbachan Singh) at 10.47am.
At this time, Rupinder was in hiding not from police but was evading “jathebandis” which were trying to locate him to give him medical treatment.
The investigators told HT that in another conversation Rupinder sounded desperate that the “Ang Sahib” used for the sacrilege should not be given to any member of the jathebandis which had brought them to Kotkapura. “Rupinder impresses upon Beant that even those people who knew that Ang Sahib were lying with Beant should be warded off under some excuse,” said police sources.
To ensure that the other jathebandis don’t get the “documented” desecrated pages of the scripture, Rupinder is heard saying, “They should not be given to anyone (Bhawen Panthpreet da pio vi aa jave). “Beant mentions that the respect to Ang Sahib be restored. To which Rupinder disrespectfully tells him to forget about any satkar. Rupinder tells Beant that he should only concentrate on keeping the pages away from any jathebandi.”
From the tapped phone conversations it has emerged that after October 14 Kotkapura clash between police and protesters, accused Rupinder was hiding from other protesters. He was warding off efforts of jathebandis which were contacting him for medical treatment as he got injured during the clash.
However, Rupinder’s brother Jaswinder (also arrested) knew the hideout of the former as is apparent from their phone conversations.
“In October 16 phone talk the brothers discuss ‘Ang Sahib of Maharaj’ and Jaswinder asks whether the Ang Sahib in question are those already torn or the remaining ones. At this Rupinder stops Jaswinder from referring to this. In this talk Rupinder discusses the modalities of retrieving the Ang Sahib kept at the house of Beant. That from Kotkapura the 112 angs in question were taken to the house of Beant was in the knowledge of several people of other jathebandis. Why Rupinder wanted that other jathebandis don’t get the pages in question and why he was desperate to retrieve them from Beant’s house? Our probe is focusing on this,” said a police officer.
By October 17, police had rounded up Rupinder. In another tapped talk between Rupinder and an unidentified person, the caller is curious to know from Rupinder if police had limited their questioning to the “swaroop of Maharaj or dooja vi puchhde hai (whether the police are also asking about another Guru Granth Sahib)”. The brief conversation shows the caller getting irritated over the answers by Rupinder, saying the police had done what they wanted—that the police had connected the dots to crack the case.