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Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

Communities unite outside BJP office to protest ‘Khalistani’ slur

'Insult' to Sikh IPS officer follows pattern pioneered by Prime Minister: Protester

Debraj Mitra | Published 24.02.24, 06:14 AM
Sikh protesters joined by members of other communities in front of the state BJP headquarters on Friday.

Sikh protesters joined by members of other communities in front of the state BJP headquarters on Friday.

Pradip Sanyal

Pakistani if you wear a skull cap, Khalistani if you wear a turban, chanted some.

Hundreds of protesters camping outside the state BJP headquarters in central Kolkata on Friday called out the saffron ecosystem for “targeting” minorities as part of its “divisive” politics.


The protests started on Tuesday afternoon, right after Bengal-cadre IPS officer Jaspreet Singh was allegedly called “Khalistani” by a group of BJP leaders and supporters, including Suvendu Adhikari, the Opposition leader in the state Assembly, and Agnimitra Paul.

Singh was posted at Dhamakhali, in North 24-Parganas, to prevent a BJP delegation led by Adhikari from visiting strife-torn Sandeshkhali.

Both Adhikari and Paul have denied the allegations.

A resident of Bhowanipore has lodged a complaint against “unknown BJP leaders/members” for their alleged “Khalistani” remark aimed at an on-duty IPS officer.

The complaint accuses the leaders/members of “making a derogatory remark as Khalistani to an on-duty police officer who belongs to Sikh community… and thereby they outraged not only his religious feelings but also intended to spread hatred or ill will between different religious communities”.

Bhowanipore police station registered an FIR on Friday under IPC sections related to deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs; instigating public enmity, hatred and ill-will among classes; and common intention.

Outside the BJP office on Friday, the crowd swelled as leaders from the Muslim and Christian communities joined the protest led by various Sikh congregations in and around Kolkata.

“This is not an isolated incident. There is a pattern. The guru, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, identified people protesting against the CAA (the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act) by their clothes. His chela, Suvendu Adhikari, is doing the same,” said Ishtiaque Ahmed, general secretary of Mohammedan Sporting Club, who came to show solidarity with the Sikh protesters.

In December 2019, at the peak of the nationwide protests against the Centre’s citizenship trident, Modi — speaking at a rally in Jharkhand — said the people “creating violence” could be “identified by their clothes”. The comment was seen as a reference to members of the Muslim community.

Muslim men wearing skull caps are routinely called “Pakistanis” by fringe members of the Right-wing.

“When a Sikh soldier fights for India at the border, he is a patriot. But when a Sikh farmer marches to Delhi demanding his rights, he is called a traitor and subjected to tear gas, batons and bullets. When a Sikh officer performs his duty, he is called a Khalistani,” said Ranjit Singh, general secretary of Gurdwara Bara Sikh Sangat in Burrabazar.

Tajinder Singh Bal, president of the Central Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, West Bengal, came from Durgapur, where he heads the Gurdwara Jagat Sudhar.

“The yardstick of development in a state is the condition of minorities there. By that logic, Bengal is developed. It is a place of communal amity. The BJP wants to disrupt that,” Bal said.

A modest stage had been set up right outside the main entrance to the BJP office.

On Friday afternoon, posters saying “Turban is our pride” were seen in the hands of many protesters, including men and women wearing skull caps and headscarves.

The BJP office looked deserted. “Most of our leaders are travelling,” said a party functionary.

The community vibe, synonymous with Sikh gatherings, was hard to miss. Tea was being served to everyone present. A langar serving hot rotis and dal or a mishmash of vegetables has become quite popular on the busy stretch, with even office-goers and walkers-by dropping in.

The imam of Nakhoda mosque, Shafique Qasmi, was at the protest on Friday.

“Symbols of faith should never be insulted. Religion should not be a tool for political gains. The guilty should tender an apology,” he said.

The demands of the protesters include an unconditional apology from Adhikari. Anjelina Mantosh Jasnani, president of the Catholic Association of Bengal, said the alleged Khalistani slur was “extremely unfortunate”. “We associate valour, honesty and kindness with Sikhs.”

On Thursday, a Sikh delegation met governor C.V. Ananda Bose, presenting him with a memorandum that detailed the community’s grievances on the alleged slur.

Last updated on 24.02.24, 06:14 AM

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