The West Bengal election scene is heating up as the BJP aims to use the “turban controversy” to corner the Mamata government ahead of the 2021 state Assembly polls.
The West Bengal police on Saturday (October 10) clarified that the turban of a Sikh man had “fallen off automatically” during the scuffle which broke out amid BJP’s march to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s office on Thursday. Under attack for hurting religious sentiments of Sikhs, the Bengal police said the man was “specifically” asked to wear his turban prior to his arrest.
The concerned person was carrying firearms in yesterday's protest. The Pagri had fallen off automatically in the scuffle that ensued,without any attempt to do so by our officer (visible in the video attached). It is never our intention to hurt the sentiments of any community(1/2) pic.twitter.com/aE8UgN36W5
— West Bengal Police (@WBPolice) October 9, 2020
The man, identified as Balwinder Singh (46), is a private security guard of BJP leader Priyanshu Pandey. Police arrested Balwinder Singh (46) for allegedly carrying a loaded gun during the rally. Pandey too has been arrested. Balwinder is a resident of Punjab’s Bhatinda district and is an aide to BJP’s Barrackpore MP Arjun Singh.
Mamata Banerjee government’s fascism in Bengal was seen on the streets of Kolkata today.
Her govt and party workers unleashed brute force to prevent peaceful and democratic protest by BJYM against her corrupt, inept, violent and tyrannical regime.
TMC's misrule is set to end. pic.twitter.com/Kx0BJixpjG
— BJP (@BJP4India) October 8, 2020
A video trending on social media shows Balwinder being lathicharged and dragged by police. BJP leaders said his turban was “removed” in the milee.
The state police tweeted a clarification: “The concerned person was carrying firearms in yesterday’s protest. 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]. It is never our intention to hurt the sentiments of any community.”
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh claimed the security guard was carrying a “licensed gun”. However, police said the gun licence was valid only in Rajouri district in J&K.
While referring to a photograph of the Sikh man which, they claimed, was clicked before his arrest, the police said: “West Bengal Police respects all religions. The officer specifically asked him to put his pagri back before the arrest. The attached photo has been clicked right before he was escorted to the Police Station. We remain committed to our duty to uphold law and order in the state.”
Cricketer Harbhajan Singh reacted to the controversy, demanding “strict action against the guilty”.
“Pulling the turban of Balwinder Singh posted in Priyanshu Pandey’s security… shows Bengal Police’s barbarity. @MamataOfficial, take strict action against the guilty policemen…” he tweeted.
SAD spokesperson Manjinder Singh Sirsa demanded that the guilty policemen be booked under the IPC Section 295A [acts intended to outrage religious feelings/beliefs].
Around 50 members of the Sikh community on Saturday held a protest rally in the city, condemning the alleged assault on the Sikh man, news agency PTI reported.