Kotkapura police firing case: SIT summons Parkash Singh Badal tomorrow; here's a timeline of the case

A newly-formed special investigation team (SIT) of the Punjab Police summoned Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patriarch and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on 16 June for interrogation in the Kotkapura police firing case of October 2015.

The SIT has summoned Badal at 10.30 am on 16 June at the PSPCL guest house in Phase-8 of Mohali.

This is the second time that Badal has been summoned in the case. He was earlier interrogated by the previous SIT headed by then ADGP Prabodh Kumar on 16 November, 2018.

Badal was the chief minister of Punjab in 2015 during the firing incident at Kotkapura town in Faridkot, in which two men protesting against the sacrilege at Bargari village were killed on 14 October 2015. Earlier on 12 October, torn pages of Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs, were found at Bargari village, leading to widespread outrage.

It was on 9 April this year that the Punjab and Haryana High Court quashed all reports filed by the previous SIT headed by the inspector general of police (now retired) Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh in the case.

The High Court not only quashed the probe but also questioned its methods, and directed the state to reconstitute the special investigation team without Singh, who resigned soon afterwards.

New SIT probing desecration and police firing cases of 2015

The Punjab government had on 7 May constituted the three-member SIT, headed by ADGP-cum-director vigilance bureau LK Yadav, to probe two FIRs (dated 14 October 2015 and 7 August 2018) in connection with the Kotkapura police firing incidents. The Punjab and Haryana High Court has given six months to the SIT to submit its report.

The SIT led by Yadav, along with other two members - Ludhiana police commissioner Rakesh Agrawal and Faridkot range DIG Surjit Singh - has recently questioned a number of persons, including former director general of police Sumedh Singh Saini and former Akali MLA from Kotkapura Mantar Singh Brar.

The SIT has also moved court seeking permission to conduct narco, lie-detector tests and brain mapping on Saini, suspended inspector general of police (IGP) Paramraj Singh Umranangal and then Moga senior superintendent of police (SSP) Charanjit Singh Sharma.

Meanwhile, even though the SIT issued summons to Badal on 9 June, party leaders are attributing this to the alliance declared with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on 12 June. They allege that a "flustered" Congress is trying to defame the political veteran.

Times of India quoted SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema as saying, "The timing of the summons points towards the ill intentions of the Congress government. The day the SAD entered into an alliance with the BSP, the summons to party patriarch came to fore. Leaking of the summons is also against the directions of Punjab and Haryana high court."

What happened on 14 October 2015

The police teams opened fire on the people protesting against the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura on 14 October 2015. Gurjeet Singh and Krishan Bhagwan Singh, who died in the firing, had joined the villagers holding a demonstration at the Behbal Kalan bus stand against the sacrilege incident at Bargari two days earlier.

Many were seriously injured in the firing which started at around 3 am at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan around 9.30 am.

What triggered the protests

A 'bir' (copy of Guru Granth Sahib) was stolen from a gurdwara at Burj Jawahar Singh Wala on 1 June, 2015, triggering outrage.

On 12 October, 2015, torn pages of the 'bir' were found scattered in front of a gurdwara at Bargari village. After the incident, residents of the town and nearby villages started protesting at Kotkapura.

Soon, Sikh protesters from other districts started gathering at Kotkapura following which additional police force from Moga, Bathinda and Ferozepur districts was sent to Faridkot. The situation got tense after police attempted to remove the protesters from dharna site at Kotkapura and later at Behbal Kalan, which resulted in the firing.

How things evolved

Soon after the firing incident, the police lodged two FIRs against the protesters and justified the firing as an act of self-defence.

Faced with anger among the Sikhs following the death of two protesters, the then Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP) government formed an SIT led by then ADGP IPS Sahota to probe the sacrilege and firing incidents.

An FIR was lodged against unidentified police personnel in the Behbal Kalan firing on 21 October at the Bajakhana police station. Also, the government formed a commission led by Justice (retd) Zora Singh to probe the sacrilege incidents. Besides, a 'peoples' commission' headed by Justice Markandey Katju (retd) also probed the incidents and blamed the police for an "excessive use of force on innocent people".

The SAD-BJP coalition's defeat in the 2017 Assembly elections was attributed largely to the sacrilege and police firing. The new Congress government headed by Captain Amarinder Singh formed the Justice (retd) Ranjit Singh commission, whose report was tabled in the Assembly a year later.

With inputs from agencies