October 3, 2022

Sacrilege – Golden Temple

Source: Wikipedia

This is the first time sacrilege has been resorted to in the sacred Golden Temple. Religion has taken centre stage for elections in recent years. Followed by UP, Punjab is considered the most important state for elections during 2022. Therefore, the sacrilege at Golden Temple, which has been resorted to for the first time, could have been orchestrated by ‘any’ political party in the country. The SIT can hardly establish that and if it does, nothing beyond a mud-slinging match between political parties is likely to be achieved. These are sad developments impinging on India’s national security.   

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

The recent incident of sacrilege in the Golden Temple at Amritsar on December 18 has shocked the nation. The Sikh community is outraged, and so are all the non-Sikhs who have paid and continue to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple and do so periodically at Gurudwaras elsewhere. Notably, this is the second incident in about 60 days when someone accused of desecration was killed by a mob. Earlier in October, Lakhbir Singh, a 35-year-old man was tortured, his one arm chopped off, hung upside down and eventually killed at Delhi’s Singhu Border allegedly by a group of Nihang Sikhs, over allegation of sacrilege. The incident had taken place during protests over the three farm laws.

It may be recalled that in June 2015, one of the holy saroops (a rare copy of sacred book) of a religious book was stolen from a Gurudwara in Faridkot in Punjab. Also in another case reported in October 2015, torn pieces of the holy book were found scattered in front of the Bargari village Gurudwara also in Faridkot district. In May 2021, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) led by Inspector General of Police Surinder Singh Parmar arrested six disciples of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda in connection with these sacrilege cases, who at present remain in judicial custody. However, there is no news in the media about prosecution proceedings having commenced against these individuals.

In the instant case of sacrilege on December 18, a youth in his early 20s was beaten to death after he allegedly attempted to desecrate the Holy Guru Granth Sahib in the Golden Temple at Amritsar. The video clip viral in media shows the youth jumped the golden grills inside the sanctum sanctorum, picked a sword, and reached in front of the ‘Saroop’ where a Sikh priest was reciting the holy Guru Granth Sahib.

In the instant case of sacrilege on December 18, a youth in his early 20s was beaten to death after he allegedly attempted to desecrate the Holy Guru Granth Sahib in the Golden Temple at Amritsar. The video clip viral in media shows the youth jumped the golden grills inside the sanctum sanctorum, picked a sword, and reached in front of the ‘Saroop’ where a Sikh priest was reciting the holy Guru Granth Sahib.

The man was nabbed by security officials and was handed over to the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) office. An angry crowd gathered outside the office and thrashed him badly that later led to his death. Video of the incident shows the mob trying to break the gate of the SGPG office and raising slogans.

Deputy Commissioner of Police P S Bhandal told media that the man, hailing from Uttar Pradesh, died in the altercation. He said, “Today one 24-25 year old man barged inside (Golden Temple) where the holy book (Guru Granth Sahib) is kept. He tried desecrating it with a sword; was taken out by Sangat people; died in the altercation.”

Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Channi strongly condemned the ‘most unfortunate’ and ‘heinous’ act of attempting sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in the sanctum sanctorum of Golden Temple in Amritsar during the ‘path’ of Sri Rehras Sahib. He directed the police to thoroughly probe the entire matter to zero in at the underlying motive and real conspirators behind the act. He also called up the SGPC President and assured his government’s full support and cooperation to get into the bottom of the matter.

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said that the alleged sacrilege incident caused ‘deep anguish and outrage in minds of Sikh masses all over the world’. The official handle of SAD wrote on Twitter that “the possibility of deep-rooted conspiracy cannot be ruled out”. It was a sacrilege incident which had led to the debacle of the erstwhile BJP-SAD alliance in 2017.

The Punjab Government has formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the incident with orders to submit its report by December 21. But considering the elections in Punjab next year, political upheaval in that state and multiple political parties focused on winning Punjab, whether the SIT report will or will not have political overtones can hardly be speculated.

The name of the youth from UP involved in the sacrilege was Aman as per media. According to one source, while being thrashed Aman said he was given a lot of money and sent from Delhi. Since he is dead, it may be difficult to establish who sent him unless his mobile is found and contacts traced, even though the police has apparently found some identification on him.  

The name of the youth from UP involved in the sacrilege was Aman as per media. According to one source, while being thrashed Aman said he was given a lot of money and sent from Delhi. Since he is dead, it may be difficult to establish who sent him unless his mobile is found and contacts traced, even though the police has apparently found some identification on him.  

Another unidentified man was killed on the morning of December 19 by a mob at a village Gurudwara in Kapurthala for suspected theft and attempted sacrilege. The killing took place at the Gurudwara Nijampur Mod on the Kapurthala-Subhanpur road amid an altercation between police and an agitated crowd. According to HPS Khaak, Senior Superintendent of Police, Kapurthala, the deceased is yet to be identified.

This is the first time sacrilege has been resorted to in the sacred Golden Temple. There can be three possibilities as under who is behind this sacrilege though it is difficult to predict which is the most and least likely:

  • As part of criminalisation of politics to create rifts and divide opinions in poll bound Punjab.
  • As part of Pakistan’s plan to destabilise Punjab – asymmetric attack.
  • Khalistanis and their supporters endeavouring to create a Hindu-Sikh divide.

In the above context, it must be acknowledged that in all the three possibilities, morality is not the issue. It may be argued that the Khalistanis are devout Sikhs and cannot indulge in sacrilege but when the ultimate aim is secession from India, morality is bound to take the backseat. There have been plenty of incidents in the past where desecration of the holy Quran has been ‘orchestrated’ by the perpetrators to achieve their nefarious objectives.      

The Pakistani angle needs no elaboration. It does not matter if the country is impoverished and is facing multiple rebellions. For the military and the ISI there is no poverty and they will continue their efforts to destabilise India especially Punjab and J&K till their last breath. Recall ZA Bhutto saying Pakistan must go nuclear even “if we have to eat grass”.

Finally, it is the criminalisation of politics which has been practiced in India for the past several years, and which reaches a crescendo as elections approach. The recent back-to-back political murders like BJP’s OBC Morcha state secretary Ranjith Sreenivasan hacked to death in front of his family in Alappuzha and the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) member KS Shan in Mannanachery in the same district (Alappuzha) are just two examples.  The Alappuzha district collector issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 on December 19-20 to pre-empt public unrest and violence. According to Harshitha Attaluri, Inspector General of Police (South Zone), who is in-charge of the probe, around 50 people taken into custody so far.  

The bane of India has been caste, creed and reservations. Reservations were not recommended by BR Ambedkar beyond 10 years of promulgation of the Constitution. But which political party is bothered beyond placing Ambedkar on a pedestal and politicians posing for photo shoots garlanding Ambedkar’s statue or portrait. If at all, reservations were to continue, these should have been linked to the financial standings. However, this does not suit vote-bank calculations and why bother if it is convenient to grab power by increasing reservations.

To add to the above, religion has taken centre stage for elections in recent years. Followed by UP, Punjab is considered the most important state for elections during 2022. Therefore, the sacrilege at Golden Temple could have been orchestrated by ‘any’ political party in the country. The SIT can hardly establish that and if it does, nothing beyond a mud-slinging match between political parties is likely to be achieved. These are sad developments impinging on India’s national security.   

The author is a veteran of Indian Army. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of https://strategicaffairsindia.in

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