Punjab sacrilege cases: 14 murders in 8 yrs, the perils of ‘jungle justice’ - Hindustan Times

Punjab sacrilege cases: 14 murders in 8 yrs, the perils of ‘jungle justice’

Jan 23, 2024 05:08 PM IST

Punjab has seen a series of incidents where suspects in sacrilege incidents have been shot or lynched by people out to mete them ‘instant justice’.

Place: Gurdwara Chaura Khooh, Phagwara

Punjab has seen a series of incidents where suspects in sacrilege incidents have been shot or lynched by people out to mete them ‘instant justice’. PREMIUM
Punjab has seen a series of incidents where suspects in sacrilege incidents have been shot or lynched by people out to mete them ‘instant justice’.

Police mulling adding murder

charges in FIR against Nihang

What happened

On January 16 this year, a Nihang, Ramandeep Singh, allegedly murdered a man at Gurdwara Chaura Khooh in Phagwara on the suspicion that he had committed sacrilege.

The police have ruled out any sacrilege and initiated a detailed investigation into the matter.

The victim was identified as Vishal Kapoor from Delhi.

In the video uploaded on social media, the Nihang could be seen confronting the victim for allegedly committing desecration on the gurdwara premises before overpowering and hacking him to death with a sword. Ramandeep also uploaded the video on social media taking responsibility for the murder.

Police said they do not have any footage of the victim approaching the sanctum sanctorum of the gurdwara and that the Nihang admitted that he acted on the basis of suspicion.

Additional director general of police (ADGP) Gurinder Singh Dhillon said there are no signs or attempts of desecration on the gurdwara premises by the victim and the Nihang, who has a criminal track record, might have committed the crime to be in the limelight.

The police have registered a case under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 295-A (hurting religious sentiments) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the Nihang.

Case status

Accused Ramandeep Singh is in police custody since January 17. Police are investigating into the conspiracy behind the killing and how the accused managed to conspire the crime. Police is also contemplating to include section 302 (murder) of IPC.

Place: Nijampur village, Kapurthala

Gurdwara caretaker ‘planned’

murder to become ‘popular’

What happened

On December 20, 2022, a migrant labourer Ankit Kumar, in his late 20s, was allegedly lynched by a mob led by gurdwara caretaker in Kapurthala’s Nijampur village over suspicion of committing sacrilege.

Police investigation found that no sacrilege attempt was made by the victim as main accused, Amarjit Singh, called the crowd, which later turned violent, to become popular after a sacrilege accused was killed at Golden Temple, Amritsar, on December 18, 2021.

The police investigation found that the victim come to have food at the langar hall when Amarjit suspected him of visiting the gurdwara to commit sacrilege.

Police had then registered an FIR against Amarjit and arrested him along with four accomplices under murder Sections 302 (murder) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC act and other sections of the Arms Act.

The brutality of the crime could be gauged from the fact that 30 injuries were found on the body of the victim.

In one of the videos, the accused was heard saying that the suspect was sent “by someone from New Delhi and was given money for executing the desecration” but the police ruled out such angle.

Additional director general of police Gurinder Singh Dhillon, who was then posted as inspector general of police (Jalandhar range), stated: “The youth was brutally murdered in a well-planned conspiracy. Amarjit planned everything as he called the people known to him. The investigation agency also recovered a pistol from which two bullets were fired in an intent to kill the youth.”

Case status

Main accused Amarjit Singh is still behind bars. The police have filed a chargesheet in the case.

Place: Golden Temple

2 years on, police

yet to crack case

What happened

A man was beaten to death by pilgrims at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on December 18, 2021, evening after he allegedly stepped inside the central enclosure of the sanctum sanctorum where the Guru Granth Sahib is placed, picked up a diamond-encrusted sword and committed sacrilege, police said.

Two years down the line, the police are yet to solve the case. The Identity of the suspect, who was lynched on the gurdwara premises, is yet to be ascertained.

An FIR was registered against unidentified persons under Section 295-A (outraging religious sentiments) and 307 (attempt to murder) of the IPC. No arrest was made in this regard. The police are tight-lipped over the identity of accused and action against them.

A day after the incident, the then Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the then Amritsar DCP (law and order) Parminder Singh Bhandal and asked it to complete the task in two days.

The SIT went through the CCTV footage of the Golden Temple complex and the streets that lead to the shrine. It found that the accused visited the area several times before the day of the incident. However, it failed to establish the suspect’s identity. Police cremated the body as no one came forward to claim it.

Case status

“The probe is still on. We did our best to establish the identity of the victim, but to no avail,” said assistant commissioner of police (ACP) Surinder Singh, a member of the SIT.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) have accused the police of cremating the accused’s body in haste, which was crucial evidence of the alleged conspiracy.

Place: Dera follower’s murder, Kotkapura

Prosecution witnesses

summoned on Feb 16

What happened

On November 10, 2022, Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda follower Pardeep Singh Kataria, 38, an accused in the 2015 Bargari sacrilege case, was shot dead by six motorcycle-borne assailants in his shop at Kotkapura in Faridkot district.

Pardeep was shot dead inside his shop at Hari Nau in Kotkapura, while his gunman was injured. Police identified all six assailants of modules being handled by Canada-based gangster Goldy Brar, an accomplice of jailed gangster Lawrence Bishnoi.

Pardeep was an accused in two cases of sacrilege registered after a ‘bir’ of Guru Granth Sahib was stolen from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village on June 1, 2015, and after torn pages of a ‘bir’ were found scattered near Bargari gurdwara on October 12, 2015. He was granted bail in the sacrilege cases on August 3, 2021. The trial in the Bargari sacrilege cases pending in a Chandigarh court.

Goldy Brar had taken responsibility for the murder through social media.

Case status

Faridkot police had invoked Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against all the accused, including Brar, along with murder charges. On April 13, 2023, the Faridkot police filed a chargesheet against 14 accused. The police claimed Pardeep was killed by the accused as part of a conspiracy to avenge the 2015 sacrilege incidents. The chargesheet against Brar is pending as he is absconding.

On November 28 last year, the court of additional sessions judge Rajiv Kalra framed charges against the accused. At present, the court is hearing the prosecution witnesses and going through the prosecution evidence. The court has summoned prosecution witnesses in the next hearing on February 16. The Juvenile Justice Board, Faridkot, is simultaneously hearing the case against the juvenile accused.

Place: Gurdwara Dukhniwaran Sahib, Patiala

Challan presented in

court, hearing today

What happened

Suspected to have consumed liquor on the premises of Gurdwara Dukhniwaran Sahib here, a 40-year-old woman was shot dead in the shrine by a man in a fit of rage in May last year.

The accused, identified as Nirmaljeet Singh Saini, fired multiple shots at the woman, Parminder Kaur from Zirakpur, after the ‘sangat’ allegedly saw the woman drinking alcohol near the holy pond in the gurdwara premises on May 15, 2023.

According to police, Kaur was consuming liquor near the sarovar when the ‘sangat noticed’ this. They decided to take her to the manager’s office. However, Saini, present at the spot, shot her in a fit of anger. “He fired five bullets at the woman as his religious sentiments were hurt,” police had said.

According to police, the woman was undergoing treatment for alcohol addiction. The accused was arrested by the police on the same day of the incident.

Case status

Saini is behind bars and will be produced before the court on January 23. “We have already filed challan and are strongly following this case,” said a senior police officer privy to the case.

Place: Kotwali Sahib Gurdwara, Morinda

Accused dies in ‘custody’, jail

authorities yet to submit report

What happened

In April last year, a Rupnagar resident was arrested for desecrating the Guru Granth Sahib and hitting two Sikh priests at the historic Kotwali Sahib gurdwara in Morinda.

The sacrilege incident on April 24, 2023, was caught on CCTV cameras that went viral on social media. In the video, the accused, Jasvir Singh, could be seen entering the sanctum sanctorum after crossing the railing and then hitting two ‘granthis’ who were reciting ‘Gurbani’. He then flung the holy book on the ground. He was overpowered by people present there and handed over to police. After the incident, his house was also attacked by the crowd present there. Jasvir had also escaped an attempt on his life in a Rupnagar court on April 25 when a lawyer tried to kill him in the court complex and his pistol couldn’t fire. He was sent to judicial custody and lodged in Mansa jail on April 29. Jasvir, however, died at Mansa Civil Hospital on May 1 following chest pain.

Case status

Jasvir’s post-mortem report revealed that he had died of the injuries during his stay at Mansa jail. He had over 30 injuries on his body. Even after nine months of the incident, the mandatory report on the ‘custodial death’ has not been submitted to the Punjab Human Rights Commission by the jail authorities.

Place: Gurdwara Manji Sahib, Ludhiana

Accused sentenced

to life imprisonment

What happened

A 47-year-old woman was killed by two men for allegedly desecrating Guru Granth Sahib at a local gurdwara in Ludhiana’s Ghawaddi village on July 26, 2016. The woman, Balwinder Kaur, who was a baptised Sikh, and a ‘granthi’, Sikandar Singh, were arrested for sacrilege on October 19, 2015. The woman was doing ‘Sewa’ for seven years at the gurdwara.

The duo, Jaspreet Singh alias Nihal Singh from Patiala’s Ranjit Nagar and Gurpreet Singh alias Khalsa aka Baba from Sangrur’s Amargarh, had called the woman to Gurdwara Manji Sahib at Alamgir village on the pretext of helping her out with money on the day of the incident. The two motorcycle-borne men shot her in full public view outside the gurdwara. They had dropped a letter saying they had avenged sacrilege.

Case status

Ten accused were arrested by Ludhiana police in the murder case. Nihal and Gurpreet were sentenced to life imprisonment for killing the woman by additional sessions judge Lukhvinder Kaur Duggal on July 13, 2021. Another man, Harbans Singh, was also found guilty and sentenced to 3 years rtigorous imprisonment. The rest of the accused were acquitted by court.

(Inputs by Navrajdeep Singh, Surjit Singh, Parteek Singh Mahal, Karam Prakash and Tarsem Deogan)

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