Chandigarh: A man was beaten to death in Kapurthala on Sunday after being accused of sacrilege at a gurdwara, the second such lynching in the state in 24 hours as Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi suggested that they might be linked to the upcoming elections.
Channi visited Amritsar's Golden Temple, the scene of the first incident on Saturday, and claimed that some inimical forces or agencies may be at work ahead of the assembly polls early next year. He appealed for calm and harmony in the state.
A special investigation team (SIT) has been asked to submit its report in the Amritsar case in two days.
Police in Kapurthala said there was no visible sign of any sacrilege at the gurdwara in Nizampur village on Kapurthala-Subhnapur road. Three of their men were injured when they tried to save the victim, who they said appeared to be migrant worker, from the mob.
Kapurthala gurdwara manager Amarjit Singh claimed seeing the man disrespecting the "nishan sahib" (religious flag) at the gurdwara.
However, according to police, the unidentified man was eating chapattis in the kitchen located on the ground floor of the gurdwara complex. But he ran away when spotted by some sewadars, who then gave chase.
In the first case too, police are yet to identify the man who jumped over the rails on Saturday evening in the Golden Temple sanctum sanctorum and allegedly picked up the ceremonial sword.
Police have registered FIRs over the alleged sacrilege attempts in both cases, but there was no immediate word on any case being lodged over the deaths. Political parties also largely stayed mum on this aspect.
But on Twitter, there was condemnation of both the alleged sacrilege attempt at the Golden Temple and the killing of a man over it. Nothing justified the lynching, former Jammu and Kashmir police chief Shesh Pal Vaid tweeted.
Taking lessons from Pakistan? former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal tweeted.
In October, another man was allegedly killed by a group of Nihangs after they accused him of desecrating a religious text at the farmers' protest site on Delhi's Singhu border.
In Amritsar, CM Channi urged people to be on guard against any sacrilege attempt at religious places.
"I appeal to the sangat that they should pay special attention to take care of religious places -- temples and gurdwaras, and institutions of all religions. People should maintain peace and mutual brotherhood, he told reporters.
The CM said he was deeply hurt by the alleged sacrilege attempt, which was unfortunate and needed to be condemned.
Channi said it was possible that in view of the upcoming polls, some inimical forces or agencies may be trying to play a negative role, and asserted that they will be exposed.
Punjab's officiating director general of police Siddharth Chattopadhyay also warned against disturbing the peace.
I have taken serious note of the unfortunate incidents in Amritsar and Kapurthala. Any attempt to violate communal harmony in the state will be dealt with a firm hand, he tweeted.
Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa also held a meeting in Amritsar with top district officials.
He said an SIT has been constituted under the deputy commissioner of police (law and order), which would submit its report in two days.
Police are examining the CCTV footage from the Golden Temple complex and outside to ascertain the identity of the man involved in the alleged sacrilege attempt.
Police said he spent several hours in the complex, and Randhawa added that he was there with an aim.
Replying to a question, Randhawa said inimical forces have always tried to disturb the state's peaceful atmosphere but Punjabis have defeated their nefarious designs.
Police registered a case against the unidentified man late on Saturday night under IPC sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) and 307 (attempt to murder), Amritsar Police Commissioner Sukhchain Singh Gill said.
In Kapurthala, police said the gurdwara manager went live on Facebook after the incident and was perhaps trying to give the impression that it was a sacrilege attempt.
Police said they rushed to the gurdwara where the man, who was in his twenties, was kept confined to a room.
Villagers and members of Sikh organisations assembled at the gurdwara complex and prevented them from taking the man to the police station.
Carrying swords and 'lathis', they scuffled with the policemen and thrashed the man. He was brought to a local hospital by policemen where doctors declared him dead.
Inspector General of police Gurinder Singh Dhillon said there was no visible evidence of any sacrilege at the Kapurthala gurdwara. Everything was found intact, including the holy Guru Granth Sahib, he said.
Senior Superintendent of Police Harkamalpreet Singh Khakh said the man may have had an intention to commit theft in the gurdwara.
On Twitter, former J&K police officer said any attempt to desecrate a religious text deserves the punishment of the highest order. However, nothing justifies the lynching of a man."
His interrogation would have revealed the true motive, the retired official added.
Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said judging by the media coverage the lynching was being implicitly justified because of the sacrilege.