A second man was beaten to death in Punjab today over an alleged instance of sacrilege, stoking tension in a state that has barely recovered from the shock of a similar incident in Amritsar's Golden Temple less than 24 hours before.
Residents of Nijampur village in Kapurthala district said they caught the man from a gurdwara early this morning. They alleged that he was seen "disrespecting" the Nishan Sahib (the Sikh flag) around 4 am.
Though the police team reached the spot and took the man into custody, Sikh groups insisted that he be questioned in front of them. The man was killed by the locals after a scuffle with the police.
Cellphone videos from the spot showed the man being beaten up with sticks. The police later took him to the hospital where he was declared dead.
The police chief of Punjab tweeted:
I have taken serious note of the unfortunate incidents in Amritsar and Kapurthala. Any attempt to violate the communal harmony in the state will be dealt with a firm hand.— DGP Punjab Police (@DGPPunjabPolice) December 19, 2021
Stern action will be taken against all those disturbing the law and order in Punjab. #PunjabStandsTogether
In the Amritsar incident, closed circuit television footage showed the man in his early 20s, who had a yellow cloth tied on his head, jumping over golden railing into the enclosure where the Granth Sahib -- which the Sikhs call their 11th Guru -- is kept. He is then seen picking up a golden sword kept there as the priests sitting at the spot rushed to overpower him. He was beaten to death.
On Wednesday last week, there was another incident in which a man had thrown a holy book 'gutka sahib' into the lake at the Golden temple.
Saturday's incident at the Golden temple – considered the spiritual capital of the Sikhs -- created tension in a state where sacrilege is a highly emotive issue. Ahead of next year's elections, it has adopted political overtones, with the alleged failure of the state's Congress government to address the last series of sacrileges.
The Akali Dal has already called it a "deep-rooted conspiracy".
"It is an attempt to weaken Punjab which is the sword arm of India. Some people have made it a political game over the last five years," Akali Dal MP Balwinder Bhunder has told NDTV.
Former deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal said it was impossible to believe that this could be the act of just one person and this appeared a conspiracy to "disturb peace and communal harmony in the state".
Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa has said a Special Investigation Team has been formed, which will present investigation report within two-days.
A statement from his office said preliminary investigations showed that the accused in the Saturday's incident in Amritsar had entered the complex at 11.30 am and "he was stayed at Parikarma of the holiest shrine, which termed that the accused was here with a target".
The accused has "not been identified so far and his post-mortem is being conducted shortly", the statement read.