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A second member of the Nihang order of Sikhs was arrested on Saturday and two others “surrendered” to the Sonipat police in connection with the lynching of a Dalit worker at a farmers’ protest site, even as the victim’s family he questioned the attackers’ claim that he committed sacrilege and demanded a high-level investigation. Lakhbir Singh’s mortal remains were cremated in his native village in Tarn Taran in Punjab, amid tight security in the presence of his family members. No Sikh priests were present to perform Ardas (Sikh religious prayer) and no one from his village, Cheema Kalan, attended the last rites.

Sarabjit Singh, arrested on Friday for the brutal murder of Lakhbir Singh, appeared before a Sonipat court in Haryana and remained in police custody for seven days. Hours later, Narain Singh, who is also a Nihang, was arrested by the Amritsar rural police in Amarkot village in Amritsar district, police said.
Late on Saturday night, two more from the Nihang order, hailing from Punjab’s Fatehgarh Sahib, “surrendered” to the Sonipat police in Kundli in connection with the gruesome murder. They interacted with the media on the Singhu border before “surrendering.”

In Amritsar, Narain Singh claimed that he had informed the police that he was surrendering. Speaking to the media before his arrest, he had no regrets, saying that Lakhbir Singh had been “punished for sacrilege”. He said that the defendants in the incident of the Bargari sacrilege in Punjab had not yet been arrested, but now if someone commits “such a heinous crime, they will be punished on the spot.”

Narain Singh was given a robe of honor and a garland of banknotes by some people when he paid tribute at the Amarkot Gurdwara before his arrest. According to the police, Sarabjit Singh claimed the involvement of a few more people in the killing, sparking outrage and sparking calls to action to clear the protest sites on the Delhi borders where farmers have been camping since last November to lobby for the scrapping of the The three agricultural laws of the center.

Haryana Senior Deputy Minister Dushyant Chautala and BJP Leader Rattan Lal Kataria said that Samyukta Kisan Morcha, who is leading the farmers’ agitation, cannot escape responsibility for what happened at the protest site. “It was a barbaric crime. The police are already working on investigating the case … But 40 leaders (SKM leaders) cannot escape their responsibility,” said Chautala, who is the leader of the JJP, a partner in the government’s coalition. BJP in Haryana.

The president of the National Commission for Scheduled Breeds, Vijay Sampla, said protesting farmers cannot wash their hands to avoid such incidents. “Their role is the same as that of the culprits. They cannot wash their hands of the incidents,” he said after meeting with some 15 Dalit groups who presented a memorandum demanding strict measures against the culprits.

Sampla has also requested a report from the Haryana police on the incident. However, the SKM had issued a statement on Friday distancing itself from the incident and said it wanted to make it clear that “both the parties to the incident,” the Nihang group and the victim, have no relationship with Morcha.

Farmers union leaders said Saturday that the incident will have no impact on the unrest and said they will improve security by installing closed-circuit television cameras and increasing the number of volunteers at protest sites. Lakhbir Singh’s body was found tied to a barricade on the Singhu border on Friday with a severed hand and multiple injuries caused by sharp weapons.

Hours after the crime, Sarabjit Sigh, dressed in the blue robe of the Nihang order, claimed that he had “punished” the victim for “desecrating” a Sikh holy book. In questioning his claim, the victim’s wife, Jaspreet Kaur, and her sister Raj Kaur said that Lakhbir Singh “had deep respect for the holy Guru Granth Sahib.

“He was a God fearing man who could never think of desecrating a holy book … Whenever he used to go to a Gurdwara, he prayed for the welfare of his family and society,” said Jaspreet Kaur. He had no criminal record and there were no reports of him having a bad temper, the victim’s family said, demanding a high-level investigation into the entire episode to get the truth out.

Sonipat Deputy Superintendent of Police Virender Singh said the total number of accused in the murder could be more than five. Political parties have generally condemned the incident and demanded a full investigation.

Punjab’s Chief Deputy Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa demanded an investigation by a sitting judge to find out the “real cause” of the incident, claiming it was an attempt to sabotage the farmers’ agitation. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati said the incident was extremely sad and embarrassing and demanded that the victim’s family be compensated.

Congress had said that it was the government’s responsibility to investigate the lynching, while the BJP claimed that anarchic elements are using farmers for their policy.

(Edited by : Aditi Gautam)

First published: IST

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