3 SITs on task, focus back on sacrilege, police firing cases
With Punjab heading for elections early next year, the politically sensitive cases of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and subsequent police firing in Faridkot district’s Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan in 2015 are back in the spotlight as three special investigation teams (SITs) have been tasked with expediting probe to take these cases to their “logical conclusion”.
The investigation into these cases was put on the fast track last week by the state government with the SIT headed by inspector general of police SPS Parmar probing the sacrilege cases arrested six followers of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda for desecration at Bargari.
The SIT led by additional director general of police (ADGP) LK Yadav that was formed on May 8 to probe the Kotkapura cases also started inquiry after visiting the firing site, besides taking case records in possession from the local police station.
On May 15, the government also formed a three-member SIT headed by IGP (Ludhiana range) Naunihal Singh to probe the Behbal Kalan firing case.
As the issue of delay in justice in the sacrilege and police firing cases is echoing within the ruling Congress, many senior party leaders have been critical of the state government’s handling of the matter. Amritsar (East) MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu has been continuously hitting out at chief minister Amarinder Singh accusing him of protesting the Badals with “nefarious intentions”.
Since 2015, two judicial commissions and five SITs (including two new SITs constituted this month) have been formed by the state government, besides a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which had given clean chit to the accused dera men.
The previous SITs have pointed out “conspiracy” following a series of sacrilege and police firing incidents.
The SIT headed by SPS Parmar is looking into the three FIRs registered at the Bajakhana police station in connection with sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. The first case pertained to the theft of the bir (copy of Guru Granth Sahib) from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village near Kotkapura in Faridkot district on June 1, 2015. The second was the putting up of derogatory posters at Bargari on September 25, 2015; and the third was the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib as torn pages of the bir were found scattered in front of a gurdwara at Bargari on October 12, 2015.
The Parmar-led SIT had put focus on the third FIR with the arrest of the six dera men and this is for the first time that arrests were made in this case.
Before the CBI officially started inquiry after being handed over probe into the three sacrilege incidents by the previous Akali-BJP government, a three-member SIT headed by former IG Ranbir Singh Khatra had arrested more than 20 dera followers, including Mohinder Pal Bittu, who was killed in the Nabha jail in 2019, in connection with two other sacrilege incidents in 2015 and rioting in Punjab in 2011. The SIT claims the dera followers had confessed to the crime.
In July 2019, the CBI had filed a closure report in three sacrilege cases, saying it could not find any proof against the accused. The Congress government, however, took back the cases from the CBI and handed over the probe to the SIT led by Khatra. In July last year, the SIT named jailed Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, national committee members of dera — Sandeep Bretta, Pardeep Kler and Harsh Dhuri — as accused and filed a chargesheet against seven sect followers (including five arrested by Parmar-led SIT) in a case relating to the theft of the ‘bir’. But later, all were released on bail.
On the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s order quashing all the reports submitted by SIT headed by (now retired) IG Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, the state government constituted new three-member SIT headed by ADGP Yadav. As per information, SIT is going through the previous investigation and looking into all the legal challenges.