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Did pro-Khalistan elements incite violence in Himachal Pradesh’s Manikaran?

In Manikaran Hindu and Sikh places of worship have co-existed seamlessly

Shimla: Caught napping over violent clashes and ruckus by Punjab tourists at Manikaran—a Sikh pilgrimage centre—Himachal Pradesh police has finally acted and started its probe of the incident that has drawn widespread condemnation and reactions.

The pilgrims, brandishing swords and batons, had pelted stones on shops, smashed vehicles and attacked local residents during a local fair leading to tension at Manikaran at midnight on March 5.

There was a night-long rampage and shouting of slogans at the complex – a video of which also went viral on social media.

Thereafter hundreds of Punjab Sikh pilgrims, mostly riding motorcycles on way to Manika ran gurudwara blocked the Highway and raised pro-Khalistan slogans threatening to “deal” with Himachal appropriately for “attacking pilgrims’ .

Initially, the government maintained that the Manikaran incident was a clash between two groups, ruling out any religious or political angle. Nevertheless, the BJP has called the Manikaran clash “shocking”.

Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu had also reacted and made an appeal to the people not to attach motives. He also assured protection to the pilgrims visiting the place of their security.

Union Minister Anurag Thakur advised Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu that he “should tread carefully and not allow Himachal Pradesh to go the Punjab way”.

On Friday, Director General of Police Sanjay Kundu set-up a SIT headed by Deputy Inspector General of Police (Central Range) Madhu Sudan. Two other members of the SIT included Superintendent of Police Kullu Sakshi Verma and Commandant 3rd IR Bn Pandoh Bhagat Singh Thakur.

A state police spokesperson said under section 147, 148, 149, 427 of IPC and section 03 of Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act has already been registered at Police Station Kullu District Kullu on March 6 immediately next day.

The SIT has been told to take up the investigation of this case immediately and carry out professional and impartial investigation to ensure transparency to ensure that the ends of justice are met.

The SIT would investigate the above case thoroughly and expeditiously, also keeping updated the Police Headquarters with regard to the progress of investigation periodically.

Earlier, Himachal Pradesh had taken suo moto cognizance of unsavoury happenings treating media reports of March 6 and 7 as a PIL.

A division bench, comprising acting chief justice Sabina and justice Satyen Vaidya issued the notice to the Chief secretary and DGP asking them to file a status report on the matter. The court listed the matter on March 13 for next hearing.

Meanwhile, National Commission for Minorities chairperson Iqbal Singh Lalpura wrote to Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu over a clash at Manikaran.

In a statement, the NCM said it was brought to its notice that Sikhs visiting and residing in the area of Gurudwara Manikaran Sahib were attacked by locals on March 5.

”The vehicles and shops of Sikhs in the town were damaged by the anti-social elements,” the NCM said.

Lalpura urged the chief minister to issue necessary instructions to all concerned so that this kind of incident does not recur in future and to ensure that victims are fully compensated, the statement said.

Manikaran is a famous pilgrimage centre for Sikhs and also Hindus.

The Hindus believe that Manu recreated human life in Manikaran after the flood, making it a sacred area. It has many temples and a Gurdwara There are temples of the Hindu deities Rama, Krishna, and Vishnu. The area is well known for its hot springs] and its beautiful landscape

According to the Sikhs, during third Udasi, the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, came to this place in with his disciple Bhai Mardana

During the year, thousands of Sikh devotees from Punjab visit here to pay their obeisance. Most of the young devotees come on bikes together.

Himachal Pradesh state assembly session beginning on March 14 is also expected to deliberate on the incident in view of widespread reactions within the state and also in Punjab and revolve some mechanism since the place also has high influx of tourists and pilgrims around the year.

The police have already deployed additional forces at Manikaran and imposed restrictions on pilgrims carrying weapons along with them from Punjab.

Also Read: Why New India must defeat Amritpal Singh’s cause of a theocratic Khalistan