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Justice Ranjit Singh panel points towards link between sacrilege, dera apology

The dera head had purportedly sent a written apology for his act of imitating tenth Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh, at a congregation at his Sirsa headquarters in 2007.

punjab Updated: Jul 31, 2018 10:42 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Justice Ranjit Singh panel,Punjab,punjab news
A torched police vehicle during a protest at Behbal Kalan village in Faridkot. (HT File )

The commission set up by Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh in April last year under Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) to probe the 2015 sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari in Faridkot district and police firing on protesters in Behbal Kalan pointed towards a “link” between the desecration and apology granted by the Akal Takht to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim in a blasphemy case, according to reliable sources privy to the panel’s report.

The sacrilege incident triggered a statewide protest after torn pages of the ‘bir’ were found scattered in front of a gurdwara at Bargari village on October 12, 2015. Two persons, Gurjit Singh and Krishan Bhagwan Singh, were shot dead in police firing on October 14, 2015, at Behbal Kalan village during a protest.

The dera head had purportedly sent a written apology for his act of imitating tenth Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh, at a congregation at his Sirsa headquarters in 2007. The Takht pardoned Ram Rahim on September 24, 2015, but had to revoke the controversial edict 23 days later on October 17, after a massive backlash from Sikh organisations and activists.

A senior government functionary in know of the report details said the “link” raises questions on the role of former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Badal, then state’s deputy CM and home minister, in granting pardon to the dera head. The report also puts the previous political establishment in the dock for its “failure to act”. Both Badal and Sukhbir have refused to appear before the panel to record their statements, dubbing it “political vendetta by the Congress through a fake and fabricated report”.

The Sirsa-based dera had announced its open support to the Akali Dal in the 2017 assembly polls. Amarinder, who had formed the panel after rejecting the findings of the Justice Zora commission set up by the previous SAD-BJP government, on Monday entrusted the Behbal Kalan firing episode to the CBI for an “impartial” probe. As the panel has reportedly recommended action against some top cops, including former Punjab police chief Sumedh Singh Saini.

When contacted, Justice Ranjit Singh refused to accept or deny whether his report pointed at the link.

“My first report is final and complete on police firing incident. I have to just file a supplementary report as Saini sent his answer later. The entire report is based on evidence. I had recommended monetary compensation to victims and government jobs. I have also suggested further investigation in FIRs against some top cops. If the CM wants the CBI to probe the case, it is a welcome step as the state police have so far not done anything,” he told HT.

When asked for a comment, an official spokesperson said the CM cannot discuss any details and the report will be tabled in the Punjab assembly.

Political hot potato

But there is more to Captain’s move than meets the eye. The report has become a political hot potato for the Congress government. Sikh hardliners have been protesting at Bargari demanding that the report be made public. The SAD has accused the government of “sponsoring” the dharna.

There is pressure from within the Congress too to embarrass the Shiromani Akali Dal for its role in the controversy.

By handing it over to the CBI, Amarinder has once again tried to take a “no vendetta” line against the Akalis. He is also deflecting the ire of Sikh hardliners and rumblings within his own party to pin them down.

Rural development minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, who has held several rounds of talks with Sikh organisations seeking the report be made public, said he was not privy to the contents of the report. “But it is the right of people to know what is there in the report and the government will table it in the house. The session will most likely be convened in August,” Bajwa said.

The timing is to the party’s liking. The report will provide the Congress the much-needed ammunition for the panchayat and zila parisahd elections due in September. Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC)  president Sunil Jakhar admits the report will be tabled to corner the Akalis.

First Published: Jul 31, 2018 10:09 IST