Another Vigilante Attack Over ‘Flouting Sikh Maryada’, Visitor To Golden Temple Slapped And Insulted

Swarajya Staff

May 22, 2023, 11:42 AM | Updated 11:40 AM IST

A screengrab from the video.
A screengrab from the video.
  • A visitor to the Golden Temple is slapped several times at the gates for storing tobacco pouches in his pocket, and thus 'defying' the Sikh religious code.
  • Seven months after a commuter outside the Golden Temple in Amritsar was murdered by two vigilantes for possessing tobacco, a visitor to the Sikh shrine was repeatedly slapped at the gate recently for storing tobacco pouches in his pocket.

    In both cases, the attackers accused the victims of flouting the ‘Sikh Rehat Maryada’ — a set of codified rules and traditions defining the Sikh orthodoxy.

    Sikhs consider smoking tobacco a taboo as the tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, prohibited them from doing it.

    In the September case, the attackers were two Nihang Sikhs. In the recent case, the visitor was attacked by a turbaned man, later identified as Harpal Singh, general secretary of Khalistan advocate Simranjit Singh Mann’s party Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar).

    Singh stopped the visitor, whose identity is not yet known, and asked him to produce the tobacco pouches he was carrying in his pockets. The visitor did as asked, but maintained that he did not open the packets or chew the tobacco. Singh repeatedly slapped him and told him that he could not enter the premises.

    A video of the incident can be watched here. The case has been reported by the media.

    The Times of India quoted Singh as justifying his actions by saying that he only administered ‘mild slaps’ as a way of teaching the man a lesson. The report says that spokesperson of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the Sikh organisation that manages gurudwaras in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, condemned the act in the media, saying that a visitor carrying tobacco to the shrine should not be attacked but educated about the customs of the shrine.

    In September, a disturbing incident had come to light where a 22-year-old man was attacked with swords by two Nihang Sikhs on accusation of violating Sikh Rehat Maryada by chewing tobacco outside the Golden Temple. The man was left bleeding in the street all night and succumbed to the wounds. The murder was captured on a CCTV camera. The victim was identified as Harmanjit Singh, a factory worker.

    Police said they learnt about the incident the next morning, and if the victim had been taken to a hospital, he could have been saved.

    Six months earlier in March, a video emerged from the Golden Temple where an elderly woman with two children was thrashed and insulted by a sewadar at the shrine on accusation of smoking beedi inside the premises.

    The sewadar was seen slapping the woman several times and asking her why she had come to the shrine. The woman’s minor daughter replied that they had faith in “Wahe Guru”, that is why they had come.

    The sewadar then slapped the woman again, saying, “You don’t smoke beedi in your own temples, but do it here in our gurudwara” (translated from Punjabi). He then hit her yet again, before several others joined him with a volley of slaps on the woman.

    The sewadars were identified as SGPC’s task force.

    In December 2021, a visitor was lynched at the Golden Temple on accusations of “be-adabi” (insult of Sikh places of worship, revered figures or symbols).

    The woman, who has not been identified till date, had jumped off the grills separating devotees from the granthis (priests). A video of the incident suggest that he was trying to pick up a sword placed at the spot.

    He was soon whisked away by the sewadars. Within minutes, his body was found lying on the ground within the shrine with a crowd around him, congratulating each other. 

    Besides these incidents at the Golden Temple, which is the spiritual seat of the Sikh religion, there have been a spate of incident in recent years where visitors to gurudwaras have been killed or attacked for flouting Sikh Rehat Maryada or ‘be-adabi’. 

    A week ago, a woman was shot dead by a devotee at a gurudwara in Patiala city of Punjab for smoking and drinking liquor inside the premises. The woman, later identified as Kulwinder Kaur, was a liquor-addict living separately from her husband and maiden family, police said.

    A team from SGPC honoured the parents of the killer.

    In December 2021, a mentally challenged man who had entered a gurudwara in Punjab’s Kapurthala district in search of food to eat, was beaten up by the gurudwara sewadar and villagers on accusation of ‘be-adabi’ of the religious flag put up on the wall of the shrine. The victim has not been identified yet. The incident had taken place a few hours after the lynching at Golden Temple.

    In October 2021, a Dalit man named Lakhbir Singh, who belonged to a village in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district, was dismembered and killed by Nihang Sikhs at the farmer protest site on Singhu border connecting New Delhi and Haryana. The victim had allegedly touched a copy of a Sikh religious text kept in a makeshift place of worship at the protest site.

    In 2020, father of a man accused of ‘desecrating’ a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib was shot dead in Bhagta Bhaika town of Punjab’s Bathinda district.

    In June 2019, a man named Mohinder Pal Bittu was murdered in the high-security Nabha prison by two fellow prisoners, who confessed to the police that they killed him for ‘disrespecting’ a Sikh holy book. 

    Bittu had been in jail since 2015 in a case of disrespect to a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib in Punjab’s Bargari.

    In July 2016, a Dalit woman named Balwinder Kaur from Ludhiana was killed by members of a radical Sikh outfit. The woman was out on bail after spending about two months in jail over accusations that she tore pages from a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib kept at a gurudwara in her village.

    Swarajya visited the Ludhiana village in 2021, and found that the woman was shunned even by her own family over the accusations of disrespecting the religious book.

    Get Swarajya in your inbox.