Row over pulling of Sikh man’s turban: BJP slams Bengal govt, cops calls it accident

West Bengal Police later clarified that the cop showing pulling the Sikh man in a viral video was actually trying to retrieve a firearm and the turned “had fallen off automatically”

Police said a loaded pistol was recovered from 43-year-old Balwinder Singh, a resident of Bhatinda and a former soldier of the Indian Army, who is working as a private security officer for a BJP leader. Photo: Twitter/WB Police

A major controversy broke out on Friday (October 9) after the police allegedly assaulted a Sikh man during the BJP’s protest rally in Howrah.

Videos of the incident that went viral on social media shows a cop pulling the turban of a Sikh man which has opened loose and the man resisting the attempt.

After facing heavy flak for the incident, the department in its defence has said that the cop was trying to retrieve a firearm from the Sikh man’s person and that the turban “had fallen off automatically” in the scuffle.

“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. It is never our intention to hurt the sentiments of any community,” West Bengal Police tweeted later along with visuals of the incident.

“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,” it added along with a photo of the Sikh man with his pagdi intact.

The man was identified as 43-year-old Balwinder Singh, a resident of Bhatinda. Singh, a former soldier of the Indian Army, currently works as a private security officer hired by a BJP leader, the party leadership claimed. According to the police, a loaded pistol was recovered from him. The licence of the pistol is valid till January next year.

The incident, however, has flared up the already simmering political scene in the poll-bound state, apart from drawing flak from the Sikh community including politicians and celebrities.

The incident drew wider social media attraction after cricketer Harbhajan Singh tweeted, tagging Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, to say, “Please look into the matter. This just isn’t done.”

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also condemned what he called the “humiliating treatment” of a Sikh man. “Not done, says Punjab CM@capt_amarinder, expressing shock at humiliating treatment of a Sikh youth by @WBPolice, who reportedly pulled off his turban during arrest,” Singh’s media advisor Raveen Thukral tweeted late on Friday evening.

Singh urged Banerjee to take strict action “against concerned cop for hurting the Sikh religious sentiments”.

Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal said the incident has infuriated Sikhs across the world.

“Strongly condemn the vicious attack on a Sikh security official Balwinder Singh & disrespect of his #turban by West Bengal Police. The dishonour has infuriated Sikhs across the world,” Badal tweeted. He urged the Mamata Banerjee-led dispensation to “take exemplary action against the erring policeman”.

The BJP, whose protest march to the state secretariat Nabanna on Thursday witnessed clashes with police, accused the Trinamool Congress government of hurting the sentiments of Sikhs.

Reacting to the incident, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said even brave soldiers who had served the nation are not spared in the TMCs regime and demanded severe punishment of the guilty policemen.

“Security personnel Balwinder Singh was beaten by the West Bengal Police on the road and insulted his turban; he is a capable soldier! He has also done several military courses! The humiliation of such brave people is sad in Mamata Raj. Such policemen should be punished!” he tweeted.

Senior TMC leader and minister Firhad Hakim termed the allegations “baseless” and said that “law will take its own course”. “We are not like BJP, we respect all religions, caste, creed,” Hakim said.

Parts of Kolkata and adjoining Howrah resembled a battle zone on Thursday as BJP workers and supporters clashed with police, hurling stones and blocking roads with burning tyres, to protest a string of killings of saffron party workers. Police personnel in riot gear burst teargas shells, beat up agitators and used water cannons to break up the protests which are still raging in Kolkata and Howrah.

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