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Sikhs protest against the CBI’s closure report in the 2015 Bargari sacrilege case, Police use tear gas, water canons to disperse crowd

Over 150 people protested on the Mohali-Chandigarh border, said the police. However, no protester was detained, a police official confirmed.

The CBI had filed a closure report in the Mohali court on July 4, giving a clean chit to the three Dera Sacha Sauda followers and the accused in the 2015 Bargari sacrilege case, Mohinder Pal Bittu (who was killed in Nabha jail recently), Shakti Singh and Sukhjinder Singh.

Sikh protesters yesterday took to the street protesting against the CBI’s closure report. The protesters, who were carrying black flags, tried to cross the barricades on the Mohali-Chandigarh boundary as they wanted to march towards the CBI office in Chandigarh and submit a memorandum.

The police used tear gas and water cannons on Monday to disperse the mob. Over 150 people protested on the Mohali-Chandigarh border, said the police. However, no protester was detained, a police official confirmed.

According to reports, the CBI had failed to establish that Dera Sacha Sauda followers were involved in the sacrilege of the Sikh holy book in 2015. The claim about the involvement of the three was made during the probe carried by the Punjab Police’s special investigation team (SIT) led by deputy inspector general (DIG) RS Khatra.

“The agency could neither establish the involvement of the accused nor could it find out who the actual culprits of the sacrilege were,” said an official.

The CBI had conducted brain-mapping and lie-detector tests of Bittu in August 2018 in the Nabha jail claiming he was being framed in the case. The CBI cited these tests while seeking closure of the probe, said reports.

However, one of the SIT members probing the case, inspector general (IG) Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, assured that “the closure report will not have any adverse impact on our probe. This has only increased our responsibility,” said the IG.

Moreover, after the CBI’ closure report came in, SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal had vowed to take “all legal, constitutional and political steps” to get the probe by the central investigating agency reopened and take it to its logical conclusion.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also said in a statement on July 17, a day after SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal’s announcement that they would challenge the CBI’s closure report filed in a Mohali court. He had also accused the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) of “shedding crocodile tears” over the desecration of religious texts in 2015.

The 2015 Guru Granth Sahib desecration or the 2015 Guru Granth Sahib sacrilege refers to a series of desecration incidents of the Sikh Guru Granth Sahib and the subsequent protests that took place in Punjab in October 2015.

The first incident of desecration was reported from Bargari, Faridkot district, where 110 torn ‘Angs’ of the holy Guru was found on October 12, 2015. It all began on the afternoon of June 5, 2015, when the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, was stolen from a gurdwara in a village called Burj Jawahar Singh Wala in Faridkot district, Punjab.

Several Sikh leaders, including Baljit Singh Daduwal, gave an ultimatum to the police to find the culprits. On June 11, members of various Sikh religious organisation held a protest in the village accusing the police of inaction. They tried to gherao (surround) the local police station, meanwhile, a large police unit was deployed to prevent it.

On October 12, more than 110 pages of the Guru Granth Sahib were found lying on the ground in front of a gurdwara in Bargari, Faridkot district. The residents of the town and nearby villages declared a bandh. The members of some Sikh religious organisation arrived in the town and in the evening a protest march carrying the torn pages was held.

Following this incident, several other incidents were reported where ‘Angs’ or ‘bir’ of the Sikh Holy book was found torn or burnt.

The incidents had caused widespread outrage in the state and had resulted in mass protests and much political mudslinging.

On October 15, 2015, the Punjab government announced the formation of a Judicial Commission headed by retired Punjab and Haryana High Court judge, Zora Singh to investigate the first incident of desecration. Following the investigation, several arrests were made.

On October 18, Amarinder Singh demanded the resignation of the then Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and imposition of President’s rule in Punjab. Several leaders of the then ruling party in Punjab, the  Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and members of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) submitted their resignation in protest, accusing the government of failing to protect the holy books.

The Sikh diaspora around the world had also condemned the desecration and killing of the protesters. They urged the central and state governments to bring the culprits to justice.

On November 2015, the Punjab Cabinet approved an amendment to the Section 295A of the IPC, The new section 295AA carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for crimes like Bargari sacrilege case. The bill was passed on March 22, 2016.

A special investigation team (SIT) of Punjab Police, probing the sacrilege incidents at Burj Jawahar Singh Wala and Bargari villages of Faridkot, had last year rounded up four Dera Sacha Sauda followers, suspecting them to be the prime accused in the sacrilege incidents.

The previous SAD-BJP regime had handed over the three cases to the CBI. But last year, the Congress government decided to take them back from the CBI and handed them over to a special investigation team of the Punjab Police.

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