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Monday, April 15, 2024

How Ludhiana’s Balwinder Kaur became the first victim of extra-judicial killing by Sikh extremists

Sikh extremists murdering Lakhbir Singh claiming that he committed sacrilege is not a one-off incident. A report by Swarajya Mag’s Swati Goel Sharma highlights that at least four more people including 2 women have become victims of extra-judicial killings by Sikh extremists since 2016 for ‘disrespecting’ Sikh religious texts.

In 2016, two Sikh youths shot Balwinder Kaur dead for allegedly tearing a few pages of the Guru Granth Sahib. The accused, Gurpreet and Nihal Singh owned up to the crime a few days later when they submitted in a court. In their media statement, they mentioned that they had avenged the desecration of the Sikh holy text and hence they had no regrets.

It has further been revealed that Kaur was shunned for the alleged act of sacrilege not just in her village Ghawaddi but also by her own family. Sharma quotes Kaur’s son Ranjodh Singh as saying that he burnt all the photographs of his mother following the incident. In fact, Kaur’s matrimonial house carries no trace of her.

Ranjodh is a singer at Mata ki Chowki and Jagrata. He said that his mother informed him about the sacrilege incident after he returned home from work. She told him that the pages of the Guru Granth Sahib at Ramdasia Gurudwara had been torn off and strewn on the floor by somebody. The family belongs to the SC chamar caste whose converts to Sikhism are known as Ramdasia or Ravidasia.

Sharma’s report notes “the village, with about 1200-1500 houses, has four gurudwaras. One is called “kisaana da” (of farmers, referring to land-owning Jatts who make up half the population of Ghawaddi). Others are called “Mazhabi da” (of Valmikis, also a scheduled caste) and “Ramdasia da” (of Chamar caste). A fourth gurudwara is named after a saint called Baba Shaheed”.

Kaur had been working at the Ramdasia Gurudwara after her husband’s death. She was tasked with cleaning-related work at the Gurudwara. Kaur also reportedly told her son that she had no role in the incident. However, the police arrested Balwinder, Ranjodh, and Sikander Singh who was the Gurudwara’s Granthi. The police informed them that they had been taken into custody for their own safety and the three were kept in prison for a week.

Nihangs, an order of Sikhs characterized by their blue robes and large, decorated turbans, and carrying arms such as swords and spears, poured into the village from Ludhiana city. It has been reported that the police often face difficulties to make them follow the rule of law.

Balwinder was the primary suspect as per the preliminary investigation by the police and since she didn’t protest much, her family too began suspecting her. Ranjodh was released but Balwinder was booked under IPC sections 295A and 34 and had to spend another two months in jail. The Granthi was also booked under IPC section 201 for the disappearance of evidence.

As per news reports, Balwinder kept changing her statements and even admitted to having carried out the act in return for money promised by a Congress leader. According to some other reports, Balwinder had carried out the act so as to get the Granthi ousted since he had replaced her elder son Ranjeet Singh. The Granthi Sikander Singh had allegedly asked her to keep mum about the incident.

Balwinder was released on bail in December 2015, after which the family made her stay with relatives in Ludhiana as she had been ex-communicated from Ghawaddi. Ranjodh says she visited her stealthily at night once or twice. She was shot dead in July 2016 and the duo had reportedly lured Balwinder to meet them at Gurudwara Manji Sahib in Alamgir saying that they would take her to Amritsar’s Golden Temple so that she can be ‘purified’ after apologizing at the Akal Takht.

“The sarpanch of Ghawaddi refused her family’s request to let her be cremated in her own village. She was consigned to flames at a cremation ground near Arora Cinema in Ludhiana. Even that was opposed by locals and had to be done under tight police security. No one from her village, other than some family members, attended the funeral”, says the report.

Even her son is indifferent to her murder and says that it was inevitable as the only punishment for sacrilege of their guru is death.

(Featured Image Source: Swarajya Mag)

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