Sikh man tortured, his turban removed by West Bengal police for peaceful protest

In a shocking incident in West Bengal, the turban of a Sikh man was removed by Howrah district police during a Bharatiya Janata Party rally in Kolkata. The shocking incident has drawn the attention of Sikhs and sparked anger in the community.

The Sikh man was identified as Balwinder Singh, 46, who is a personal security guard of BJP leader Priyanshu Pandey and is reportedly known to Barrackpore MP Arjun Singh, according to the police. Both Balwinder and Priyanshu Pandey were held for investigation.

A video of the incident went viral on social media like wildfire. In the video, police can be seen removing the turban of Balwinder Singh which is a symbol of dignity to Sardars.

The BJP accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of hurting religious sentiments of the Sikh community by pulling off the turban of the Sikh man. Senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya condemned the incident and wrote, “It is an act of hurting the religious sentiments of the Sikh.” Hinting at a minority community, Vijayvargiya in another tweet said, “Do they have the guts to remove their skull caps? It is highly objectionable to remove Sikh man’s sacred turban.”

BJP National Secretary, Arvind Menon condemned the security personnel’s arrest. “By removing the turban of Balwinder Singh, the West Bengal police have insulted the entire Sikh community. It seems like Mughal rule in Bengal. The insult once again proved that except one community, no other community has the right to live in Bengal with dignity,” he said in a tweet.

Party leader Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga said the removal of the man’s turban by the police was a reminder of the 1984 Sikh riots. “The way a Sikh man’s turban was removed by Bengal police reminds me of 1984 genocide. It is unfortunate that the Bengal police insulted the Sikh community who gave maximum lives during the freedom struggle. I believe, after this incident, the Mamata government should not be in power,” he said in a tweet.

However, the police said they did not deliberately remove his turban and never intended to hurt the sentiments of any community. They said the incident took place as they were trying to seize a pistol in possession of Singh.

“The pagri [turban] had fallen off automatically in the scuffle that ensued, without any attempt to do so by our officer (visible in the video attached),” the West Bengal Police tweeted. “It is never our intention to hurt the sentiments of any community.” The police added that an officer specifically asked Singh to put back his turban before his arrest.

BJP state president Dilip Ghosh, on the other hand, stated that Singh was carrying a licenced gun and that the protests were “peaceful”. “Our workers did not hurl bombs,” he said. “We were holding a peaceful protest. The police used force on us without any provocation.”

Cricketer Harbhajan Singh also condemned the incident, asking Banerjee to look into the matter.

According to police, Singh’s licence permit is limited to Rajouri and was illegal to use in Bengal. “The gun licence was renewed and it was valid through 2021. But it was limited to Rajouri and not in Bengal. We found it very alarming and adequate action will be taken,” the police officer said.

Writer, historian, and activist Dharam Sikarwar is a very active author The Youth. He writes on national and international issues, environment, politics. He is an avid book reader as well.