NCSC panel chairman seeks report from Punjab govt over arrest of Bathinda priest

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Chandigarh, May 23 (PTI) National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) Chairman Vijay Sampla on Sunday criticised the Punjab government for arresting a Sikh priest on the charge of hurting religious sentiments.

Sampla said he has sought a report from the state government on the matter, saying it was “wrong” to charge the priest under Section 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli­gious beliefs) of the IPC.

The gurdwara priest at Bir Talab village in Bathinda district was booked and arrested for allegedly hurting religious sentiments after he performed 'ardas' (prayer) for the release of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh who has been serving prison term in cases of rape.

The video of his prayer went viral on social media.

In his prayer on Thursday, priest Gurmail Singh was heard purportedly saying that Dalits had been at the receiving end and that the next chief minister of the state should be from the community. He also said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also decided to make a Dalit as CM of the state.” Sampla, a BJP leader and former union minister, said an attempt has been made to “suppress” the voice od Dalits and wished for a chief minister from the community.

“The priest just offered a prayer so that a Dalit becomes the CM.... He did not hurt sentiments of anyone,” Sampla claimed.

Sampla said a notice has been issued to the Punjab police, asking it to submit a report.

The BJP national general secretary had last month said if the BJP comes to power in the next Punjab Assembly elections, it would have a Dalit chief minister.

Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal had also announced that his party would appoint a Dalit deputy CM if voted to power in Punjab next year.

Dalits account for nearly 32 per cent of Punjab's population. PTI CHS VSD SMN SMN