Kotkapura incident: Two dead as Sikh protesters clash with police after desecration of holy book
Clashes between police and Sikh protesters in Kotkapura, Punjab, on 14 October left two dead and nearly 70 injured. Protesters were demanding the arrest of those responsible for tearing hundreds of pages from the Sikh holy scripture and scattering them around the village of Bargari two days earlier.
Sources alleged that police used teargas and water cannons to disperse the crowd, as well as opening fire on the protesters, leading to the deaths. The sit-in protests started on 12 October and organisers said more than 30,000 people had joined in by Wednesday. Clashes between the police and protesters are said to have begun when police attempted to arrest Sikh leaders as protesters blocked highways towards the towns of Moga and Bathinda.
Condemning the “killing of unarmed protesters”, Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation UK, toldIBTimes UK: “Many have been beaten and abused and hundreds of Sikhs have been arrested for simply demanding action against those who desecrated Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, our living Guru. We have had Sikhs contact us from across the globe urging us to the take the lead in insisting an extremely tough action against police officers responsible for the killings and brutality.”
Singh also said the group was in talks about offering rewards for the identification of police officers alleged to have been involved in the killing. According to the Tribune India, the police said that they acted in self-defence and “used minimal force”. SS Mann, the area’s senior superintendent of police, said protesters were armed with sharp sticks and stones. Police also insisted that they only fired gun shots into the air and did not target them at protesters.
Earlier in the week Punjab’s chief minister, Parkash Singh Badal, urged people to remain calm following the desecration of the holy scripture. He said: “All those involved in this heinous crime would be dealt with severely as per the law. This sacrilegious act is an unpardonable offence and no one associated with this ghastly crime would be spared at any cost.” Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has announced a cash reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for tearing pages from the holy book.
However, opposition party deputy leader Amarinder Singh criticised Badal’s handling of the incident, saying: “Badal has virtually lost control over things and the state is drifting towards anarchy. Badal should quit if he is not able to maintain control over things.”
Amarinder Singh also condemned the deaths by alleged police firing. He said: “Trying to assert your authority by use of brute force and killing unarmed protesters is not going to restore your image and credibility that has been eroded beyond any hope of redemption.”
In the aftermath of the killings, a petition was started calling on the BBC to report on the incident and “turn the spotlight [on] ‘the world’s biggest democracy’ and the crimes it is committing against its own people”. The petition received more than 23,000 signatures in 15 hours.