Sandeshkhali: BJP workers call Sikh IPS officer ‘Khalistani’, police to take action

The video of the incident that took place in Sandeshkhali on February 19 is being widely circulated on social media, with several leaders, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, lashing out at the BJP.
IPS officer Jaspreet Singh responding to BJP protestors
IPS officer Jaspreet Singh responding to BJP protestorsScreengrab
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A group of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and workers in Sandeshkhali of West Bengal called an IPS officer “Khalistani”, after which the latter hit back at them asking them to refrain from talking about his religion. The video of the incident that took place on Monday, February 19, is being widely circulated on social media, with several leaders, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, lashing out at the BJP. The term “Khalistani” has been used by right-wingers to paint Sikhs as separatists and anti-nationals by associating the Khalistan movement to the religion at large. 

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) Jaspreet Singh was abused while trying to stop protesting BJP leaders and workers from entering Sandeshkhali, where several women have alleged that they have been sexually exploited for a long time by local Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan and his aides.

Read: Systemic Sexual Assault, an Oppressive TMC and Not Much Recourse: What Sandeshkhali Villagers Say

In a video, a group of BJP cadres and leaders, including MLA Agnimitra Paul, are seen raising slogans and arguing with the IPS officer. Several people are heard calling the officer “Khalistani”, following which the IPS officer starts questioning them. "I will take action on this. Just because I am wearing a turban, you are saying this. If I was not wearing a turban, would you call me a Khalistani? You cannot say this about my religion,” he is heard telling them.

CM Mamata condemned the incident and said, “Today, the BJP's divisive politics has shamelessly overstepped constitutional boundaries. As per @BJP4India every person wearing a turban is a Khalistani. I vehemently condemn this audacious attempt to undermine the reputation of our Sikh brothers & sisters, revered for their sacrifices and unwavering determination to our nation. We stand firm in protecting Bengal's social harmony and will take stern lawful measures to prevent any attempts to disrupt it.”

Congress leader and Punjab’s Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa said, “This is shameful beyond words. BJP workers in West Bengal are calling a Sikh IPS officer Khalistani just because he is doing his duty. Is this what BJP thinks about Sikhs? A strong action should be taken against those trying to create this hooliganism and portraying Sikhs as Khalistanis.”

Alleging that the BJP-RSS “have only worked to spread poison in the society in the name of religion in this country”, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge addressed Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet. He said, “Mr Modi, your only objective is to spread disharmony, hatred and violence between religions, sects and communities. Your rule is the “amrit kaal” of divisive politics!”

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) condemned the “intentional character assassination” of the IPS officer and said, “Leaders who have such thinking in the country should never forget that Sikhs have made the most sacrifices for the freedom and protection of the country. Sikhs do not need to get a certificate from anyone, rather they know how to perform services for the nation in accordance with their traditions and customs. It is a big question that such people in the country deliberately create an atmosphere of hatred but the governments remain silent. Those who create such an atmosphere should be punished so that people who are honestly doing their duty in different areas do not have to be victims of such hate.”

According to The Indian Express, a police statement stated that the comment was “malicious and racial”, as well as “communally inciting”. Calling it a criminal act, the police said that stern legal action would be taken. ADG (South Bengal) Supratim Sarkar had also addressed media persons and said that it was condemnable and a punishable crime. “Such comments are extremely sensitive, instigating and derogative from the point of view of religion. Action can be initiated under Section 295 (A) of the Indian Penal Code,” Sarkar said.

Meanwhile, BJP leader and West Bengal Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari challenged Sarkar to prove his allegations within 24 hours. Adhikari also threatened to initiate legal proceedings against Sarkar if he is unable to prove his charges in the next 24 hours. “He will have to prove which BJP leader has passed such a comment. Otherwise, I will take legal action against him,” Adhikari said.

(With IANS inputs)

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