Akshay Kumar appears before Punjab SIT in sacrilege row, says his name 'needlessly dragged'

Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar appeared before a Special Investigation Team (SIT) in Chandigarh which is probing the police firing on mobs protesting the 2015 incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in Punjab.

The Punjab Police SIT had given Akshay the option of appearing before it in Chandigarh instead of Amritsar. The SIT had earlier summoned him to Amritsar circuit house on 21 November. “We have given him (Akshay) the freedom to appear here (in Chandigarh),” SIT member and Inspector General of Police Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh said on Tuesday.

According to India Today, Akshay told the SIT that the charges against him are baseless and that he has never met Ram Rahim. According to the report, Akshay also told the SIT that his name has been 'needlessly dragged into the row' and that no meeting took place (between him, the Dera chief and former Punjab deputy chief minister) at his Mumbai residence.

Akshay, whose name figures in the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report on the desecration incidents, has already denied arranging any meeting between former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and Dera Sacha Sauda sect head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. The actor had also denied having ever met Ram Rahim Singh, who is currently serving a 20-year jail term in two rape cases.

Akshay had issued a denial on 12 November after the SIT summoned him along with former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal. Akshay tweeted a statement clarifying that he has never met the Dera Sacha Sauda chief.

In October 2015, two people were killed and 60 injured in police firing when they were protesting against a series of incidents of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy text of the Sikhs. The first such incident was reported from Bargari in Faridkot district.

A supplementary report, prepared by the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission in 2018, named Badal for his “apparent involvement” in police action against anti-sacrilege protestors at Kotkapura, Scroll.in reported. The commission found that the protests were linked to the pardon of Gurmeet Ram Rahim, the chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda, by the Akal Takht. Ram Rahim had earned the ire of the Sikh community when he dressed up as the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh, which many Sikhs considered to be sacrilege. He was censured by the Akal Takht but pardoned later. The commission had said that Akshay had mediated between the Badals and the Dera Sacha Sauda to secure the pardon for Ram Rahim.

File image of Akshay Kumar. Image courtesy: Youtube screengrab

File image of Akshay Kumar. Image courtesy: Youtube screengrab

The SIT had earlier examined ADGP Jitendra Jain, then IG Bathinda; IGP Paramraj Singh Umaranangal; then Commissioner, Ludhiana; IGP Amar Singh Chahal, then DIG Ferozepur Range; MS Jaggi, then Faridkot DC; SS Mann, then Faridkot SSP; VK Syal then Faridkot SDM, besides Mantar Singh Brar, then Kotkapura MLA. In addition, 50 private persons and more than 30 police officials of junior rank have also been examined. The five-member SIT was set up by the Captain Amarinder Singh government in September 2018, soon after issuance of the notification to withdraw investigation of sacrilege incidents of Sri Guru Granth Sahib from CBI.

The SIT has already questioned former chief minister Prakash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal in Chandigarh. Sukhbir told SIT members on Monday that he had never met Akshay outside Punjab when asked if he had met the actor in Mumbai.

The Justice Ranjit Singh commission report, which was tabled in the Punjab assembly in August, had referred to a letter written on 9 October 2017 to it by former MLA Harbans Jalal, claiming that the Dera chief and the former deputy chief minister had met at the actor's flat in Mumbai in 2015 to facilitate the release of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's movie MSG in Punjab. The meeting was allegedly held before the Dera chief was pardoned in a blasphemy case. The movie could not be released in Punjab in September 2015 because of an edict by the Akal Takht against it.

The summons to Akshay had been issued in connection with the Bargari sacrilege case and the police firing at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura. The five-member SIT was set up by the state government in September 2018, soon after issuance of the notification to withdraw investigation of sacrilege incidents of Guru Granth Sahib from CBI, PTI reported. The summons relates to the investigation of cases originating from the various incidents of sacrilege in the year 2015. The summons had been issued under Section 160 of CrPC, requiring attendance at investigation, relating to the Bargari sacrilege case and the Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura police firing incidents.

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Updated Date: Nov 21, 2018 11:25:40 IST

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