On the day of Vijayadashami, when millions of Indians rejoiced the victory of good over evil, came a disturbing report from the Delhi-Haryana border. A man was decapitated, tortured and then hanged on a police barricade by a Nihang group at the farmers’ protest site at the Singhu border. The murdered man was Lakhbir Singh, a Dalit daily wager from Punjab’s Taran Taran district, who was staying at the farmers’ dharna site. Sonipat Police have arrested Sarabjit Singh on charge of killing Lakhbir.
This barbaric incident of torture and murder has brought a bad name to the ongoing farmers’ movement. This inhuman act has crossed all limits of decency.
The incident took place at around 3.30 am on Friday. A Nihang group alleged that Lakhbir was caught desecrating the Holy Guru Granth Sahib and he was “punished” for his act of sacrilege. His right hand was severed and the bones of his feet were broken. All this happened near the dais where farmer leaders normally sit and give speeches. People present at the site took videos of the man groaning with pain, even as blood flowed from his body on the ground. He was then hung on a police barricade. Not a single man came forward to help the victim.
Police were allowed to enter the protest site four hours after the torture took place. When videos of the torture and killing surfaced on social media, farmer leaders declared that this torture and killing had no connection with their protest.
The videos that have surfaced are heart-rending, and the images were macabre. Lakhbir was begging for his life but his torturers did not show an iota of mercy. It was disturbing to find the 35-year-old man begging for mercy, at a time when there was little life left in his body.
I agree that the desecration of the holy book is a sacrilege and those guilty of it must be punished, by law. Individuals or groups cannot be allowed to take the law into their hands. When Lakhbir lost consciousness due to loss of blood, his hands and feet were tied, swords were brandished by Nihangs and religious slogans chanted. He was strung leg upwards near the dais. After some time, his body was taken to a police barricade and hung there.
A nearly five-kilometre area at the Singhu border is presently occupied by protesting farmers, who have deployed their own volunteers for security. Farmer leaders have been claiming that since they have arranged their own security, they do not need police for protection. When Sonipat police reached the spot after the videos of torture were circulated, they were not allowed to reach the spot initially. Police had a tough time removing the body for post mortem.
India TV reporter Pawan Nara met some Nihang Sikhs at the spot, who told him that Lakhbir was found taking away the Holy Guru Granth Sahib and the ceremonial sword when he was caught red-handed, at around 3.30 am. He was handed over to the Nihang “army” for punishment. “We snatched the sword from his hand, asked him whether the Holy book was, he pointed to the place where he had thrown it, the Holy book was retrieved, and then he was given punishment”, said a Nihang.
The Nihang group said they had no remorse about torturing and killing the man who desecrated the Holy book. “We took him behind the dais and chopped his hand. He died when much blood drained away from his body”, an eyewitness said. “He desecrated our Holy Maharaj, His clothes and sword. Anybody who will dare to do such a thing again will have his head severed”, said a Nihang.
Farmer leaders have been claiming for the last ten months that their agitation was peaceful, but this torture and killing of a man, for reason whatsoever, near their dais raises pertinent questions. These questions need to be answered.
Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the farmers’ front, came with a statement, hours after the police took away the body. It said in a statement, “While condemning this brutal murder, the Morcha wants to clarify that neither the man who was killed nor the Nihang group has any connection with our movement. We are against the desecration of any holy book or symbol, but no individual or group has the right to take law into its own hands. We demand that the matter of desecration and murder must be investigated and those guilty must be punished as per law. Samyukta Kisan Morcha will cooperate with the police and administration in any lawful action.”
The press statement was a guarded one, but when farmer leaders later spoke to the media, some of them alleged that it was part of a conspiracy to defame their movement. Farmer leader Jagjeet Singh Dallewal said, “Lakhbir Singh was deliberately sent by somebody to create communal tension, he was given Rs 30,000 for this”. Lakhbir Singh, a Dalit, hails from Cheema Khurd village of Taran Taran district. He has no criminal background nor was he connected with any political party. He was working as a sewadar with the Nihang group. Dallewal says Lakhbir came to the protest site a few days ago.
Another farmer leader Hannan Mollah alleged that it seems to be part of a conspiracy to defame the movement. Whatever may be the assumptions, the brutal torture and killing of a man at the farmers’ protest site is an act that cannot be condoned. No religion, no law, no society can allow severing of hand and hanging of a man to death in public. At the same time, desecration of Holy Guru Granth Sahib must not be tolerated, at any cost.
The right course was: the man who desecrated the holy book should have been handed over to the police for action under the law. But those leaders sitting on protest neither respect any law nor the police. They have no faith in the Supreme Court, nor in the government, nor in Parliament. Such incidents are bound to happen when the leaders refuse to respect the judiciary, executive, or legislature.
I am surprised that despite the brutal incident that took place at the farmers’ protest site at the Singhu border, farmer leaders are unwilling to take any responsibility. They are now demanding a police probe, but the ground reality is that they have themselves imposed a ban on the entry of police into the protest site. Outsiders are not free to enter the protest site. Then how can the farmer leaders claim that their agitation has no connection with this brutal killing?
This is not the first time that such an incident took place at a farmers’ protest site. There were incidents of a youth burnt alive and a woman was raped, who died later. Two ASIs of police were also attacked at the protest site. It was from these protest sites that farmers had gone to Red Fort, brandished swords and insulted the national tricolour. Had the farmer leaders been alert after the Red Fort incident, such a brutal killing would not have happened. The image of the farmers’ movement now lies in tatters. It is high time that the farmer leaders cooperate with the police. They know who the real killers are and who are the guilty. They should hand them over to the police.
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