On Saturday, 27 May, two minors Arun Singh (15) and Kirpal Singh (14) and their relative Gora Singh, were allegedly beaten up by a mob in Maharashtra's Parbhani district on the suspicion of being thieves. One of the minors - Kirpal Singh - has succumbed to his injuries. The incident took place near Ukhlad village in Parbhani district. They victims belong to the Sikligar Sikh community.
The Quint has accessed a copy of the FIR registered in the case.
What the FIR Says
In the FIR, Gora Singh aka Sachin Singh, a relative of the two minors says, "We make a living by doing daily wage labour....We went to Pimpri Deshmukh village to catch loose pigs but as we didn't find any pigs, we began returning to Parbhani through Ukhlad village."
"When we were approaching the Eidgah at the turning of Ukhlad village road, five unknown people came from the front and took our motorcycle....The five unknown people began beating us with rods," he claims.
Gora Singh says that he was hit on the head, ankles, left hand and elbow and Arun Singh was hit on the head with an iron rod.
"Kirpal Singh was kicked on his stomach and then a person named Akram Patel said 'hit him with an iron rod on his head' and he fell unconscious." he alleges, adding that the attackers then ran away.
"A lot of people gathered there hearing our screams, some of them were saying don't kill them, hand them over to the police. Later, someone dialed 112 and police and police from Tadkalas police station came there immediately. The police as well as the people gathered there, put us in the police jeep and took us to the government hospital in Parbhani."Gora Singh
Kirpal Singh died before reaching the hospital. Gora Singh and Arun Singh are injured and undergoing treatment.
A case has been registered against one Akram Patel and five unknown accused. The charges that have been invoked include Indian Penal Code Sections 302 (Murder), 307 (Attempt to Murder), 341 (wrongful restraint), 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting while being armed with a deadly weapon), and 149 (under which every member of an unlawful assembly is considered guilty of an offence committed in prosecution of a common object). Section 135 of the Maharashtra Police Act, 1951 has also been invoked.
SGPC Condemns the Incident
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak committee has condemned the incident and urged the police to take strict action against perpetrators.
"This heinous crime is a blot on humanity, whose culprits deserve strict punishment. He said the police should identify and arrest all the culprits and ensure that strict and exemplary punishment is given to them," said SGPC chief Harjinder Singh Dhami.
Stigmatisation of Sikligar Sikhs
Sikligar Sikhs reside in central India and the Deccan in sizable numbers and they have often been victims of targeted violence. Read this report in The Quint to know more.
In August 2020, a Sikligar Sikh was beaten up by police personnel in Madhya Pradesh's Barwani district and his turban was allegedly desecrated.
In June the same year, many Sikligars in Khargone district say they had to flee their homes due to an alleged crackdown by elements within the police.
In 2018, houses belonging to Sikligars were allegedly damaged by the police near Balsa in Parbhani in Maharashtra, the same district where the latest incident has taken place.
Sikligar Sikhs are originally said to be from the Marwar region in Rajasthan and are said to have first come into contact with Sikhi through Guru Hargobind. Initially blacksmiths, they came to specialise in the manufacturing swords, spears and other weapons out of iron. Many of them travelled with Guru Gobind Singh and settled in the Deccan during his time.
Sikligars often face a great deal of stigma at the hands of the police, dominant communities and even the media.
The local media also stigmatises them by linking them to crime. For instance local newspapers commonly put "Sikligar arrested" right in the headline when a member of the community is picked up in connection with a crime.
Take this headline from Patrika for instance. It reads: “Came to Repair Lock and Key, Sikligar Steals Gold and Silver Jewelry. You Should Beware Too”.
This headline from Nai Dunia says, “Sikligar Can Make a Country Made Pistol With Materials Worth Rs 800 Only”.
Such reportage only ends up adding to the stigmatisation of Sikligars and may be contributing to violent attacks on them on suspicion of theft and criminal activities, like the lynching in Parbhani.