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Explained: Why Is Sacrilege or 'Beadbi' Such an Emotive Issue in Punjab?

Police firing in past cases & denial of justice are why sacrilege of Sri Guru Granth Sahib continues to rage Sikhs.

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Video Editor :Kriti Saxena

Cameraperson: Ribhu Chatterjee

On 4 May 2024, 19-year-old Bakshish Singh was allegedly killed by a mob in Punjab's Ferozepur after he allegedly committed sacrilege at the Gurdwara Baba Bir Singh in Bandala village of Punjab's Ferozepur.

CCTV footage of the incident purportedly showed Bakshish entering the gurudwara in the afternoon, stepping on the Palki Sahib where prayers are offered, and tearing off some 'angs' (or pages) of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib installed there.

He then walked out of the gurudwara with the torn 'angs' still in his hands.

Police later arrested a man named Jarnail Singh for allegedly leading the mob which beat Bakshish to death. However, the villagers maintained that the sacrilege accused had been handed over to the cops while he was still alive.

None of this is entirely new in Punjab. Bakshish is the 15th sacrilege accused to have been killed in the state since 2015.
According to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex Sikh body, at least 400 incidents of sacrilege have taken place in Punjab since 2013.

But why is 'beadbi' or sacrilege such an emotive issue for Sikhs, and why does it touch a raw nerve in Punjab – the only Sikh majority state?

In 2021, The Quint had reported extensively on how there are two aspects to it:

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The Sikh Belief: Going Beyond 'Holy Book'

As per Sikh tradition, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is not just a holy book but the present and living Guru of the Sikhs.

Starting from Guru Nanak Dev in 1539 AD, all Sikh Gurus chose their successors within their lifetime.

And in 1708 AD, the tenth Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh accorded the Guruship to 'Adi Granth Sahib' – a compilation of 'Bani' or hymns of six Sikh Gurus and 30 other saints from across castes and religions.

It was then that the Adi Granth Sahib became the 'Guru' Granth Sahib.

So any attempt at causing disrespect to a 'saroop' or copy of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is considered an attack on a 'living Guru' by the Sikhs.

Decades of Grief Around 'Beadbi'

But beyond the doctrinal aspect lies decades of grief around 'Beadbi' – all the sacrilege cases in Punjab were followed by police inaction and denial of justice.

The Quint had earlier reported on how these three incidents continue to be a deep wound for the Sikhs:

  • 1978 Sikh-Nirankari Clash

  • 1986 Nakodar Sacrilege

  • 2015 Bargari Sacrilege

These three major sacrilege incidents have one thing in common: When Sikhs protested against the 'beadbi', the police opened fire on the peaceful protesters. A total of 19 innocent Sikhs were killed in these three incidents; and despite multiple demands for justice, all the cases still remain sub judice.

Watch the video to find out more about these three incidents, or read The Quint's detailed report on the same.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Video Editor :Kriti Saxena
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