The family of Balwinder Singh — the Sikh man who was arrested for carrying arms and whose turban fell off during a march organised by Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) on October 8 — will stage a sit-in demonstration in front of the state secretariat ‘Nabanna’ on Saturday demanding his release.
“I had asked for an appointment with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee but we have not got any response. I would like to request her to release my husband Balwinder Singh. I and my son Harshveer Singh came here with a lot of hope. If he is not released, then we will sit in a ‘dharna’ outside her office at 11 am tomorrow,” Balwinder Singh’s wife Karamjit Kaur said. Karamjit also met Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar at Raj Bhawan on Wednesday and sought his intervention.
Sikh community in Kolkata came out in support of Balwinder and staged a silent demonstration at Sant Kutiya Gurudwara, Bhawanipur, in protest against the incident. Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Manjinder Singh Sirsa criticised the incident and challenged the charges made by the West Bengal police against the accused.
Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, former Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh, and Akal Takht jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh too condemned the incident.
According to police, Balwinder Singh is the bodyguard of state BJP leader Priyanshu Pandey and is reportedly known to Barrackpore MP Arjun Singh. Both Balwinder and Priyanshu Pandey were arrested for further investigation
Balwinder Singh, originally from Bhatinda, was spotted with a gun in his hand at Howrah Maidan when BJP supporters were trying to break the police cordon and proceed towards Nabanna. He is a resident of Bhatpara area in North 24-Parganas.
Police said that the license of the pistol recovered was issued in 2009 by the district magistrate of Rajouri district in Jammu and Kashmir. However, Singh's licence permit is limited to Rajouri and was illegal to use in Bengal.
Amid the outrage, the state home department issued a statement, which said, “Our Sikh brothers and sisters live here in West Bengal in perfect peace and harmony, in happiness and tranquillity, with respect from all of us for their faith and practices. A recent incident when one isolated individual got caught with. One illegally carried firearm during agitation was not authorised and it is now being twisted out of context, being distorted, and being given communal colors in fractious and partisan interest."
The statement further read that "a political party is giving communal colour to the subject in narrow partisan interest in a manner that Bengal does not believe in." It said that policing was done as per law, but the highest "respect for the Sikh panth and ways from GOWB is affirmed."