Nihangs discussed again after violence
A group of Nihangs have once again drawn attention to this Sikh warrior order to fatally torture a man in his twenties on suspicion of kidnapping a girl this week. According to the family members of the deceased, the Nihangs attacked and tortured Avtar Singh of Kuhli Kalan village (Samrala), who later succumbed to his injuries.
The matter was before the police and investigation was going on but family members say that Nihang became a “judge”.
The deceased’s cousin Karam Singh told News18 that the Nihangs were involved at the behest of the girl’s family.
“He had earlier complained to the police. The police interrogated Avtar but had no idea about the whereabouts of the girl. He used to talk to her but did not know about her kidnapping or running away,” he said. Karam said that the police called her for questioning another day, but the girl’s family members stopped her along with the Nihangs on their way to the Samrala police station.
“He asked my mama ji (uncle) to give him an avatar for questioning. When she resisted, she beat her up and threatened not to tell anyone. They took Avatar to the tent in Majhli Kalan village and tortured him. The next day, my maternal uncle got a call from Nihangas that they gave ice cream to Avatar to eat and after that he was unable to breathe. The police called us and told us that he had died. However, villagers said that Avtar was beaten up in the dera and his screams could be heard throughout the night,” he said.
Who gave the Nihangs the right to do this? Avtar’s family is asking this question. Karam said, “These Nihangs are disrespecting the Bana (Nihang clothing). Nihangs have to protect the innocent but these Nihangs are misusing sacred weapons.”
The relatives protested the murder after which the police arrested the accused.
This is not the first case when questions are being raised on the action of Nihangs. Incidents of violence have happened in the past also, some in the name of personal quarrels and some in the name of religion. When it comes to murders related to sacrilege, the issue becomes very sensitive.
A few days ago, a man was thrashed when he was allegedly wearing a dumla (Nihang turban) shaving his beard and a video of the attack was also shared.
During the farmers’ protest of 2020-21, Lakhbir Singh, a Dalit labourer, was killed “on suspicion of disrespecting the Sikh holy book” by a group of Nihang Sikhs at the Singhu border.
Days later, another man, a poultry farm worker, was allegedly attacked at the protest site as he had refused to give free chicken.
In December 2021, a man was killed after allegedly attempting to desecrate the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple while the Rehras Path (regular evening prayer) was underway. The man with severed hair suddenly jumped over the metal fence around the place where the ‘Prakash’ of the Guru Granth Sahib is kept.
Hours after the incident at the Golden Temple, another man was found murdered in a village gurdwara in Kapurthala on suspected theft and attempted sacrilege.
On April 12, 2020, a group of Nihang Sikhs from a Dera in Patiala violated curfew norms and brutally attacked an assistant sub-inspector and others by way of several barricades around Sabzi Mandi in Sanaur. ASI’s hand was chopped off with a sword.
Who are Nihang Sikhs?
The Nihangs or Akalis are recognized by their blue robes, ancient swords and spears and decorated turbans. It is said that they belong to ‘Akal’ (God) and do not belong to anyone else. Their origin is linked to the founding of the Khalsa Panth by the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. In general, they are known as the army of Guru Gobind Singh, who strictly follow the religious code.
The Nihangs played a major role in defending the Sikh Panth against attacks and persecutions by the Mughal rulers in the early decades of the 18th century. They were brave and ruthless warriors on the battlefield for the Sikh Empire.
‘The sword is not for terror’
Why do Nihang Sikhs take law into their own hands? Who gives them the right of moral policing? Should they be asked questions? Should one keep quiet because they are a religious sect? The same questions are asked by the victims in such cases.
“Being representatives of Sikhism, Nihang Sikhs face a lot of scrutiny, and a lot of responsibility falls on their shoulders,” says Gurmeet Singh Sidhu, professor of religious studies at Punjabi University, Patiala. “Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the founder of the Khalsa Panth, has said that the sword should be used only when all else fails. The sword should not be used to intimidate. There is no concept of violence in Sikhism, it is a non-violent religion. Even the Guru did not attack anyone who could not defend himself.”
The professor said that Nihangs used to punish those who challenged Sikh religious practices earlier too, but now they are exposed more. “Social media is also a factor. But law and order should not be taken in their own hands; No one can be judged like this. According to religion also public hearing should be held in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib.
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