Lakhbir Singh, a 35-year-old man was found hanging with a chopped left hand to an inverted police barricade at the Haryana-Delhi Singhu border outside of Delhi on Friday morning. The incident sent shockwaves across the country. Hours later, Nihang Sikhs claimed responsibility for the assault, which brought the spotlight back on the group.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) then disassociated itself from the Nihangs. A statement issued by the SKM said: "A Nihang group at the scene has claimed responsibility, saying that the incident took place because of the victim's attempt to commit sacrilege with regard to the Sarbaloh Granth. It is been reported that he was staying with the same group of Nihangs for some time."
So, who are the Nihangs?
Here is a brief history of the group in five points.
- Nihangs are an order of Sikhs, and their ancestry can be traced back to the creation of Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
- Traditional Nihangs attires, also known as Khalsa Swarupa comprises of blue robes, full-sized swords, iron bracelets and saffron turbans.
- Nihangs battled Mughal incursions into the Sikh and Hindu communities in the 18th century.
- Many believe that the Nihangs consume marijuana or cannabis to help them concentrate better during meditation. However, this is prohibited by the Sikh community.
- Nihangs follow a cenobitic lifestyle. They live in communes, sometimes called chaavnis or cantonments
Not first time in the 'spotlight'
Lakhbir Singh is not the first victim. Last year in April, the Nihangs chopped off an officer’s hand and injured three other Punjab policemen after being stopped from violating the COVID-19 lockdown in Patiala district. This triggered a police operation in which shots were fired and 11 people arrested at a gurdwara.
Assistant Sub Inspector Harjeet Singh’s hand was cut off with a sword and three other policemen were injured when the group travelling in an SUV attacked them outside the wholesale vegetable market in Sanaur town.
ALSO READ | Singhu border murder: Nihang Sarabjit surrenders to police, to be produced before court tomorrow