Religion, politics, sacrilege and murder

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Religion, politics, sacrilege and murder

Accepting Faithless Murders is Dangerous

Police officers stand guard outside the Golden Temple in Amritsar on December 19, 2021, a day after a man was beaten to death for allegedly attempting to commit an act of sacrilege at the holiest shrine of the faith sikh.  Credit: AFP Photo

Two recent lynchings following suspected cases of sacrilege in the Punjab have raised worrying questions as the state embarks on a turbulent election campaign in the Assembly. The first incident was reported at the Golden Temple of Amritsar, where a person accused of sacrilege was lynched to death on the spot. The second case was from Kapurthala, where a person was accused of sacrilege. He was also lynched, but there is still no evidence that he disrespected the holy book or other symbols of the faith, and he may have been attacked on the basis of unfounded suspicion. A few months ago, another person was beaten to death after being falsely accused of stealing from a gurdwara in Gurdaspur. There have also been other incidents of instant justice rendered to those accused of sacrilege.

Any act of sacrilege, intended to hurt the religious feelings of communities, must be condemned and strict measures must be taken against those who engage in such crimes. But the brutal murder of those accused of the crime was a blatant disregard for the law. No one has the right to inflict instant corporal punishment on the accused in any case of any kind. The suspects should have been turned over to the police for investigation and appropriate action. Several times, we have seen that those accused of sacrilege are mentally disturbed people. Even if it is a deliberate act or the result of a conspiracy, the evidence should not be destroyed by killing the person. The authorities of the Golden Temple did not show common sense and responsibility when the alleged sacrilege occurred there. In the case of the Kapurthala incident, it is not clear whether an offense was committed.

The failure of the Punjab’s political community to condemn the lawless killings is worrying. Political and religious leaders strongly denounced the alleged acts of sacrilege but said nothing about the lynchings. Instead, state congressman Navjot Sidhu even called for the public execution of the defendants. Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and opposition leaders decided there was a conspiracy, even before an investigation took place. Sacrilege is a sensitive issue in the Punjab and has created community, political and social unrest in the state. Some cases relating to acts of sacrilege that occurred prior to the 2015 Assembly elections have not yet been resolved. The occurrence of similar incidents, again on the eve of an election, is in itself a matter of concern. Politicians play with danger when they try to exploit religious sentiments and support anarchy. The Punjab has paid a heavy price for this in the past.

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Minnie J. Leonard