KOLKATA: A controversy erupted on Friday over the police allegedly assaulting a Sikh man and pulling his turban during a BJP rally in Howrah in West Bengal, but the police said the person was carrying a firearm and that his headgear “had fallen off automatically in the scuffle that ensued”.
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.
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.”
As visuals of the incident went viral triggering a huge political controversy, the West Bengal tweeted Friday, “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.”
The Trinamool Congress denied the allegations as “baseless”.
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.
It also said that the police officer concerned had asked him to “put his turban back before the arrest”.
“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 said in another tweet, with a photo of Singh in turban.
Reacting to the incident, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said even brave soldiers who had served the nation are not spared in the TMC’s 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.
BJP national secretary Arvind Menon also criticised the West Bengal Police.
“By pulling the turban of Sardar Balwinder Singh Ji, Bengal Police has insulted all the Sikhs of the country, today it seems that Mughal rule has been established again in Bengal. Was there no respect for the religious sentiments of anyone except a particular community in Bengal?” Menon said in a tweet.
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.