Three more Nihang men were remanded to six days of police custody on October 17, 2021 for allegedly mutilating and murdering a Dalit daily-wage worker near the Singhu border after he “desecrated the holy text Guru Granth Sahib.”
The arrests of Narain Singh, Bhagwant Singh and Govind Preet, bring the total number of accused in the case to four people, including Sarabjit Singh who surrendered before the police. According to The Hindu, police recovered blood-stained clothes and the murder weapon, a sword, from Narain. The latter was used to torture and cut off victim Lakhbir’s hand before his body was hung from police barricades near the farmer protest site. Some videos recorded his last moments wherein he talked about unbearable pain.
It may be mentioned though that there is no video or evidence suggesting that Lakhbir disrespected the Sikh scripture for which he was penalised.
Nihangs are a group of Sikh warriors who follow the teachings of Guru Gobindh Singh. While they carry kirpans and other variations of weapons, the community is greatly respected by Sikhs. However, the recent attack on the Dalit man has attracted the severe condemnation of many minority rights activists. Many considered the act a form of religious extremism and casteist violence.
अगर सिंघु बॉर्डर पर लखबीर सिंह की हत्या का जाति से कोई लेना देना नहीं है तो इस हिसाब से लखीमपुर खीरी में भी सड़क दुर्घटना ही हुई है। ठीक है?
— Dilip Mandal (@Profdilipmandal) October 19, 2021
Sikhs maintain that they do not acknowledge the rules of caste or discriminate on the basis of caste. Yet, the horrifying murder on October 15 is reminiscent to the thug-like behaviour of extremist groups like the Bajrang Dal that openly incite violence on the basis of religion.
This is highlighted all the more by a recent report of The Tribune that talked about how the Singhu Nihang unit leader Baba Aman Singh was photographed lunching at Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar’s house with murder convict and dismissed cop Gurmeet Singh Pinki.
Another attendee BJP Kisan Morcha leader Sukhminderpal Singh Grewal said Baba Aman’s presence was required to resolve the conflict between farmers and the central government. Baba Aman also attended some of the farmer meetings to resolve the farmer’s struggle.
Many Nihangs are camped near farmers protest sites on Delhi borders. These camps are not acknowledged by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) as part of the movement. However, SabrangIndia has reported that most of these groups are peaceful.
On the other hand, Nihangs under Baba Aman’s leadership have caused nothing but trouble for farmers. Coalition group Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) leader Hannan Mollah earlier told SabrangIndia about their violent activities. The SKM had appealed to local police to move the religious group’s camp but to no avail.
Now, these members have engaged in a heinous crime that is being manipulated by right-wing media to call the farmer’s movement a “violent” struggle. This attempt to colour the peasant struggle, has been condemned not only by farmer leaders but by members of the Sikh community as well.
Former member of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and Jag Aasra Guru Ott (JAGO) General Secretary Parminder Singh told SabrangIndia, “I feel this is a scheme by the administration to insult the farmer’s struggle. The victim said he was in contact with a person called Sandhu. Who is this person? It is not difficult for the authorities to find out. But instead, there is no proper investigation.”
Meanwhile, SGPC member Gurpreet Singh responded to the Singhu border killing by saying, “What happened [near Singhu border] was done in anger and frustration of the people that nothing is being done to protect Sikhs. The law is not doing justice to us and hasn’t done so since 2015.”
Gurpreet referred to the 2015 Guru Granth Sahib desecration incident wherein two Sikhs in Punjab were shot dead while peacefully protesting against a series of desecration incidents of the holy text.
While Haryana’s Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar condemned the murder of Lakhbir on misinterpreted “farmer protest site,” he is yet to win the confidence of the Sikhs, who claim that the law has not done them justice.
Earlier, the International Religious Freedom Report 2021, ranked India among the top four countries of “particular concern” stating that the BJP-led government promoted Hindu nationalist policies which resulted in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.