Supporters of gruesome murders by Sikhs on two consecutive days, first at the Golden Temple of Amritsar and then in a street of Kapurthala, are looking for ever-new ways of justifying the barbarism. After politicians and the media screamed “be-adbi” (being discourteous literally but sacrilege practically) rather than the lynching for two days, now they say, “sangat karugi insaaf” (the people of the faith will do justice). This is the refrain in Punjab now, a state that is asking why cases of sacrilege in 2015 did not reach their legal conclusion.
Punjab Police and central agencies are now working overtime to unearth the “conspiracy” behind the sacrilege attempts ahead of Punjab election 2022 rather than lynching. But the violent reaction of people in these cases is highlighting the new sense of ‘instant justice’ as Sikhs feel culprits of the major sacrilege cases in 2015 in Faridkot were not punished, with a series of Special Investigation Teams (SIT) and inquiry commissions set up by the state government not delivering.
In fact, the cases of alleged sacrilege in 2015 played a role in rendering the position of former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh weak in Punjab Congress when he was still occupying the office.
Videos of the events in Kapurthala show that the crowd paid no heed to the police that were trying to take away the accused from the spot, with people saying the “Sikh Sangat” would interrogate the accused and deliver justice. Some even lament that no action has happened in over three dozen sacrilege cases in the past. Sikh organisations and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) is maintaining that if action had been taken in past cases, such reaction may not have happened.
Punjab Home Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa has now set up another SIT in the Amritsar case but Sikh organisations say they have seen many such SITs in the past. At least five SITs and two inquiry commissions have worked since 2015 to deliver justice in the Faridkot sacrilege and police firing cases, but with little success. The families of the two youths killed in police firing in 2015 during a protest against the sacrilege incident say their kin had died but the sacrilege accused are still roaming free.
The public ire in Faridkot of Punjab’s Malwa region for the ‘inaction’ since 2015 is now showing across the state, especially in the Sikh Panthic stronghold Majha region which has Amritsar and Kapurthala where the latest incidents have taken place.
The INC had come to power in 2017 on the back of a promise to punish the culprits of sacrilege cases, but has not delivered and then chief minister Capt Singh has jumped ship.
Defensive, the Punjab government is now hesitant to act and no FIR has been registered so far in the lynching case in Amritsar though a case against the deceased has been lodged for sacrilege. In Kapurthala, senior police officials first confirmed an FIR against four persons for killing the accused, but later did a U-turn in the press conference on Sunday saying that FIR “is still under process”.
The new SITs set up by the high court earlier this year with a six-month deadline that ended in November to probe and give a report in the 2015 cases have not been able to make much headway either, despite recently questioning former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, then deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and the jailed Baba Ram Rahim of Dera Sacha Sauda. A key accused and Dera supporter arrested earlier was murdered mysteriously in jail in 2019.
In the ultimate justification for the acts of lynching, Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu advocated yesterday that those guilty of sacrilege should be hanged. The mobs of his fellow religionists have apparently taken a cue from Sidhu to deliver ‘instant justice’.