A man was beaten to death on Saturday evening at the Golden Temple in Amritsar for alleged sacrilege and blasphemy.
In CCTV footage of the incident, a youth with shorn hair can be seen jumping the metal fence surrounding the sanctum sanctorum of the gurudwara where the holy book Guru Granth Sahib is kept. He picked up a sword kept in front of the Guru Granth Sahib before he was nabbed by on-duty SGPC (Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee).
As per reports, SGPC employees took him to a room situated along the Parkarma (circumambulatory path around the temple), where he was beaten up during interrogation. SGPC chief Harjinder Singh Dhami said the person was killed by ‘angry devotees’.
As per news agency IANS, the youth belonged to Uttar Pradesh but his exact identity is not yet ascertained or is being withheld by authorities.
The incident was seen on live TV as it happened around 5.45 pm when Rehras path (routine evening prayer) was in progress, which was being telecast on a TV channel. The clip was soon widely circulated on social media and people, including Nihang Sikhs and members of various Sikh organisations, rushed to the Golden Temple.
Other video clips emerged showing an angry mob trying to break the gate of the SGPG office and raising slogans. Weapons were also visible in the crowd. In one clip, the body is lying on the floor of the Golden Temple complex and people gathered around it are raising religious slogans.
The police have admitted that the man was thrashed to death.
“The man, about 20 to 25 years of age, jumped the fence. The people inside held him and escorted him out to the corridor where there was a violent altercation leading to his death,” Parminder Singh Bhandal, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Amritsar, told the media.
The Tribune reports that it was the second such incident in the Golden Temple in the past two days. On Wednesday, the SGPC employees handed over one Ranbir Singh for allegedly throwing holy gutka (a handbook of Gurbani) into the sarovar (holy tank) of the Golden Temple.
During the ‘farmers’ protest on Delhi borders, Scheduled Caste Sikh laborer Lakhbir Singh was mutilated and brutally murdered for alleged blasphemy of a Sikh holy text. In fact, there have been a series of such killings over ‘blasphemy’ of Sikh religious texts in recent times.
As this Swarajya report states –
- In 2020, Manohar Lal Arora, the father of a man accused of ‘desecrating’ a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib in Bhagta Bhaika town of Punjab’s Bathinda district.
- In June 2019, a man named Mohinder Pal Bittu was murdered in the high-security Nabha prison by two fellow prisoners; Bittu had been in jail since 2015 in a case of disrespect to a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib in Punjab’s Bargari.
- In September 2016, a woman named Balwinder Kaur from Amritsar was killed by her husband Labh Singh. Balwinder was accused of disrespecting Guru Granth Sahib by entering the sanctum santorum of a gurudwara witch slippers on in November 2015.
- In July 2016, a 47-year-old woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste, also named Balwinder Kaur was shot dead by two bike-borne men outside a gurudwara in Ludhiana district of Punjab. She was out on bail after being booked and arrested for ‘desecrating’ the Sikh religious text the previous year.
The issue of sacrilege of copies of Guru Granth Sahib has taken centre-stage in Punjab society and politics in recent years, with most such cases dating back to 2015. In 2018, The Punjab Cabinet led by CM Amarinder Singh decided to introduce in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) a new Section (295AA) making sacrilege against major religious texts punishable with life imprisonment.