Botched-up probe into Punjab sacrilege incidents led to delay in justice: Sidhu

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Chandigarh, Apr 16 (PTI) Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu alleged on Friday that a botched-up probe into the Bargari sacrilege incidents led to a delay in justice, his outburst appearing to target his own government in Punjab.

He reiterated that the Punjab police's SIT probe report into the 2015 firings at people protesting in Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan against incidents of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib should be made public.

Sidhu had raised the demand a few days ago during his visit to Gurdwara Burj Jawahar Singh Wala in Faridkot district, from where a copy of the Sikh holy book was stolen in 2015, leading to protests.

The Amritsar East MLA had raised the demand days after the Punjab and Haryana High Court reportedly quashed the probe report by the Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by senior IPS officer Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, and asked the state government to set up a new SIT without Singh.

Referring to the Justice (retd) Ranjit Singh Commission of Inquiry, which was earlier set up by the Congress government to probe the incidents, Sidhu, a former Punjab minister, in an interaction with reporters in Patiala on Friday, said the culprits were named and the cognizable offence against them was spelled out.

'When the crime and those involved in it have been identified, then why no action? Why no chargesheet?,' he asked, apparently targeting his own government.

'What was the intent that you did not lay a solid foundation of the case? The FIR is the foundation of any case, any lawyer will tell you. But here, the foundation was weak and everything was in the air. When there is no foundation, you may hire top lawyers, what can they do? How will you build the case?,' Sidhu asked.

He said his fight is against the system, 'which is failing us. My fight is not personal'.

Referring to the incidents of sacrilege, he further said, 'People of Punjab even today are looking for justice and the truth is that they have lost hope.' Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh resigned soon after the high court quashed the SIT probe report. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, however, stood behind the officer and had even rejected his resignation.

The chief minister had described Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh as a 'highly-competent and efficient officer', whose services are needed in the border state, particularly at a time when it faces various 'internal and external security threats'.

The officer and his team had done an 'excellent job' of expeditiously investigating the Kotkapura case, which the Shiromani Akali Dal had tried hard to stall for the past four years, the chief minister had claimed, referring to the previous government in the state.

He had further said the probe would be taken to its logical conclusion under the supervision of the same officer.

Sidhu said the 2017 Punjab Assembly polls were dominated by two big issues -- drugs and the incidents of sacrilege.

He said the Congress government came to power promising action on these two key issues.

The cricketer-turned-politician, however, said the questions still remain and people feel cheated.

The SIT was probing the 2015 Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan firings at demonstrators protesting against the incidents of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib at Faridkot's Bargari. At Behbal Kalan, two people were killed in the police firing.

The rift between Amarinder Singh and Sidhu came out in the open in May 2019, when the chief minister blamed him for the 'inept handling' of the local government department, claiming that it had resulted in the 'poor performance' of the Congress in urban areas in the Lok Sabha polls.

Sidhu was later stripped of this portfolio in a cabinet reshuffle.

However, a month ago, Sidhu and Amarinder Singh met at the chief minister's farmhouse near here, where they discussed the cricketer-turned-politician's possible re-induction into the cabinet. PTI SUN VSD RC