Explained: Two killings in two days over sacrilege attempts...What's happening in Punjab?

Tensions have been escalating in a soon-to-be poll-bound state of Punjab over a religious war, that has been looming amid political crisis stirred after a drift in the Congress party. The events that happened in the past two days have cast Punjab in national attention where tensions have emerged owing to what has been alleged as sacrilege, an attempt to harm and violate what is regarded as sacred. The state government has ordered a probe into the event where a man was beaten to death for disrespecting a religious flag. 

According to reports, a man was beaten to death over an alleged sacrilege attempt in Punjab's Kapurthala in the wee hours of Sunday and the incident has occurred in less than 24 hours after a similar killing took place in Amritsar's Golden Temple. The man, who was beaten to death, was accused of disrespecting 'Nishan Sahib', the religious flag of the Sikhs, at a gurdwara in Kapurthala district. The two events of beating to death in two days over sacrilege attempts had startled the state, ahead of the assembly polls.

The residents of the village Nizampur has claimed that the second man, who was beaten to death on Sunday, has disrespected the Sikh flag and tried to flee the place but he was caught after a chase. The Punjab Police have said that he was beaten to death and the officials are in the process of his identification.  The villagers had further said that the man was seen disrespecting the flag at around 4 am on Sunday and he was detained by the locals. 

After receiving the information about the incident, a police team had rushed to the spot and took the man into their custody. However, the villagers had urged the police to investigate the man in front of the gurdwara and later, the villagers altercated with the police officials and stormed towards the man. They had thrashed him for disrespecting the flag and beat him to death. The reports say that the Sikh groups didn't allow the police to take the man with them.

He was brutally beaten by the locals and in a video, Amarjit Singh, the caretaker of gurdwara has said that when he came out for the daily prayers at 4 am on Sunday, he was the man disrespecting the Sikh flag. He further said that when he confronted the man, he had tried to escape in the dark and was eventually caught after some time. As reported, the killing in Kapurthala gurdwara has become the second such incident within 24 hours. 

In a similar incident on Saturday, a man was beaten to death at the Golden Temple in Amritsar and it was alleged that he had caused disruption for religious services. It has been reported that the man had spent a few hours inside the Golden Temple complex. The footage shows that the man had entered the temple at around 11 am on Saturday and slept for a few hours in front of the Akal Takht, which is the supreme temporal seat of the Sikhs. The Amritsar police commissioner has said that the killing had happened after 6 pm and he was beaten to death by an angry crowd. 

The man had spent several hours in the temple before committing the crime, which was alleged to be a sacrilege. According to reports, the man jumped across the railings inside the temple, picked up the ceremonial sword, and was causing disruption to the Sikh prayers and religious services. The man was then caught by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) task force members. When he was being taken to the SGPC office, an angry crowd had thrashed him and beaten him to death. 

The police authorities said that the man was yet to be identified and no mobile phone, no identity card, and no Aadhaar card was found from him. The CCTV footage from all the nearby as well as other areas of the city is being scanned to ascertain from where he came to Amristar and from which location he reached the Golden Temple. On Saturday, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa had held a meeting in Amritsar with senior police officials following the incident. 

Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi has ordered a probe into the matter. Besides efforts to identify the man who was killed in Amritsar, the police are also taking efforts to identify the man who was killed in Kapurthala over sacrilege attempts. The Chief Minister has linked these incidents to the upcoming elections. He visited the Golden Temple on Saturday and said that some inimical forces or agencies may be at work ahead of the assembly polls next year. 

The police version in the second killing: 

The government has formed a Special Investigation Team and the team will submit its report in the Amritsar case in two days. In the second case, while Kapurthala gurdwara caretaker Amarjit Singh has claimed that the man had disrespected the Sikh flag, the police version has said there was no visible sign of any sacrilege at the gurdwara. The police said that the man was eating chapatis in the kitchen located on the ground floor of the gurdwara complex and he ran away when he was spotted by some sewadars, who were volunteers at the gurdwara.  

He was chased and caught and was beaten to death with the accusation of sacrilege. The police have registered FIRs over the alleged sacrilege attempts in both cases. Punjab DGP Siddharth Chattopadhyay has said, "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. Stern action will be taken against all those disturbing the law and order in Punjab." 

Chief Minister Channi has urged the 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, gurdwaras, and institutions of all religions. People should maintain peace and mutual brotherhood", he said while speaking to the reporters. He further said that he was deeply hurt by the alleged sacrilege attempts and added that it was possible that in view of the upcoming polls, some inimical forces or agencies may be trying to play a negative role, and affirmed that they will be exposed.