Sikhs agitate across Bengal, protest at BJP HQ in Kolkata on “Khalistani” remark | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Sikhs agitate across Bengal, protest at BJP HQ in Kolkata on “Khalistani” remark

Feb 21, 2024 09:11 PM IST

Members of the community protested outside the Bengal BJP headquarters at Muralidhar Sen Lane in central Kolkata on Tuesday night

Kolkata: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Suvendu Adhikari’s alleged Khalistani directed at an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer from the Sikh community triggered protests in several parts of West Bengal on Wednesday.

IPS officer Jaspreet Singh has alleged that he was called a ‘Khalistani’ by a BJP leader in Sandeshkhali, a charge that’s been denied. (Source: X)
IPS officer Jaspreet Singh has alleged that he was called a ‘Khalistani’ by a BJP leader in Sandeshkhali, a charge that’s been denied. (Source: X)

Members of the community protested outside the Bengal BJP headquarters at Muralidhar S IPS officer Jaspreet Singh en Lane in central Kolkata on Tuesday night, hours afterlost his cool on being called a Khalistani, allegedly by Adhikari, when the latter was stopped from going to the trouble-torn Sandeshkhali area in North 24 Parganas district.

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The Sandeshkhali-2 community block is in news because of allegations of torture and sexual assault raised by women from some villages against three local Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders of whom two have been arrested.

“You are calling me a Khalistani because I am wearing a turban. Is this your level? If a policeman wears turban and does his duty he becomes Khalistani? Is this your level?” Singh, a special superintendent in the intelligence branch, could be heard telling members of the BJP team in a raised tone.

“I am not saying anything about your religion. Even you can’t say anything about mine. Did anyone say anything about your religion? Then why are you do it?” Singh told the BJP leaders.

Adhikari could be heard telling the officer: “The remarks were not against you.”

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Although Sikhs comprise only around .07% of Bengal’s population of 91.3 million according to the 2011 census, the community has a strong presence in business and social welfare activities in Kolkata and some of the major district towns such as Asansol, Durgapur, Kharagpur and Siliguri.

Since Tuesday’s incident was covered live by several television channels, some video clips went viral on social media, triggering strong reaction from other parts of the country as well.

On Wednesday, Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann joined chief minster Mamata Banerjee in condemning the incident. In a post on his X handle Mann called the incident “extremely unfortunate”.

“The BJP perhaps does not know the sacrifices made by the Punjabis in getting freedom for India and preserving it. The BJP should apologise to the Punjabis,” Mann said in Punjabi.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also spoke in support of Singh, a 2016-batch IPS officer who has served in several districts of the state.

Singh was sent to Sandeshkhali on Tuesday to maintain law and order and ensure that prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) - which bars assembly of five or more people at one location- was not violated. BJP leaders were earlier stopped by the authorities from entering the region.

Adhikari, who is the leader of the opposition in the state legislative assembly, was allowed to enter Sandeshkhali on Tuesday after the Calcutta high court ordered relaxation of the prohibitory orders and allowed his movement.

Hours after the exchange of words, Supratim Sarkar, additional director general of police of south Bengal, said: “The leader of opposition raised his finger and directly accused Singh of being a Khalistani. This is not just condemnable but is also a punishable offence under section 295A of Indian Penal Code (IPC). We will take all legal steps. This is just unacceptable.”

Accompanied by Sarkar, Bengal’s director general of police Rajeev Kumar visited Sandeshkhali on Wednesday but did not say until evening if any case had been registered against Adhikari.

The Bengal BJP has not commented on the row.

On Tuesday, Adhikari denied the allegation against him.

“The officer behaved rudely. I don’t think any personal remarks were made either by me or my colleagues. Mamata Banerjee does cheap politics and this officer wants to increase his marks before her. We haven’t said anything attacking any community,” Adhikari told reporters.

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