A row over summons to film star Akshay Kumar

While Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has made it clear that summoning of former chief minister, Parkash Singh Badal and his son and former deputy chief minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal was the work of the Special Investigation Team probing the sacrilege incidents in Punjab, but what has raised a storm is the name of the popular actor, Akshay Kumar cropping up in the case, writes SARRAH

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Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has made it clear that his government had no role in the summoning of the former chief minister, Parkash Singh Badal and his son and former deputy chief minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, and actor Akshay Kumar by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the 2015 sacrilege and police firing incidents.

The SIT was an independent entity and was functioning without any government interference, he said in response to a question while addressing the media after inaugurating the Homi Bhabha Cancer Hospital. His government’s job was to form the SIT as per the unanimous decision of the Vidhan Sabha, which it had done, and now the onus of investigation was on the SIT, said the Chief Minister.

While it has led to animated discussions about the actor, in a statement also posted on Twitter, the actor denied “rumours and false statements” about his involvement with Ram Rahim Singh.  Calling reports of a meeting with Sukhbir Badal “fictitious”, Akshay Kumar said: “I have never ever met Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in my life, anywhere. I learnt from social media at some point that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh resided for a while at some place in my locality Juhu in Mumbai but we never ever crossed each other’s paths”.

His full statement goes like this that “It has come to my knowledge that some rumours and false statements are being loosely made on social media about my involvement with a person named Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in the context of a fictitious meeting involving Sukhbir Singh Badal. With all humility, I would like to state the following facts that 1. I have never ever met Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in my life, anywhere. 2. I learnt from social media at some point that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh resided for while at some place in my locality Juhu in Mumbai, but we never ever crossed each other’s paths.  3. Over the years, I have dedicatedly made films promoting the Punjabi culture, and the rich history and tradition of Sikhism through films like Sing is King, Kesari (based on Battle of Saragarhi etc. I am proud of being a Punjabi and have the highest regard for the Sikh faith. I shall never do anything that would even remotely hurt the sentiments of my Punjabi brothers and sisters, for whom I have utmost respect and love”. He asserted that his statement above is the utmost and absolute truth and challenged anyone who can prove it otherwise.

Inquiries reveal that the Special Investigation Team (SIT), probing police firing incidents at Behbal Kalan on sacrilege issue, has summoned former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on November 16, his son and former deputy chief minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal on November 19 and actor Akshay Kumar on November 21. Akshay Kumar has been asked to come on 21 November to the Circuit House in Amritsar.  The summon orders have been issued separately for the three by SIT member and IG rank officer Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, according to an official release.

The SIT is probing police firing incidents at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan in Faridkot in 2015 after a series of sacrilege incidents in the state. In police firing at Behbal Kalan, two persons were killed.

Notably, the actor’s name was mentioned in Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report on sacrilege incidents.  According to the report, a meeting between former deputy chief minister Sukhbir and Dera Sacha Sauda sect head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in connection with the release of latter’s movie ‘MSG’ was held at Akshay’s flat in Mumbai. The Ranjit Singh Commission report mentions that the meeting was held before the pardon given to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a blasphemy case. The summons have been issued under Section 160 of the CrPC, requiring attendance at investigation, relating to the Bargari sacrilege case and the Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura police firing incidents.

The notice says the presence of the aforesaid person is necessary for the purpose of an inquiry into the above-mentioned offense and the person summoned needed to give such information relating to the said alleged offense as he may possess.

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 DC Faridkot; SS Mann, then SSP Faridkot; VK Syal then SDM Faridkot, besides Mantar Singh Brar, then Kotkapura MLA.

The Justice (Retd) Ranjit Singh Commission, constituted to investigate sacrilege cases in the state, had submitted its final report on the Bargari sacrilege incident and the resulting police firing at Behbal Kalan, as part of its first set of findings on June 30, 2018. He had handed over the report to Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh who forwarded it to the state Home Secretary and the Advocate General for examination, in a time-bound manner, so that the guilty could be brought to book at the earliest.

The Commission was constituted in April 2017 under Section 11 of the Commission of Inquiry Act 1952 by the Congress government to probe cases of desecration of the holy Guru Granth Sahib and other religious texts at Burj Jawahar Singh Wala, Bargari, Gurusar, and Mallke. The incidents led to massive protests in different parts of the state and at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura, two people were killed in police firing. The CM had earlier, rejected as “inconclusive” the findings of the Zora Singh Commission set up by the previous SAD-BJP government.

The Commission led by Justice Singh had a mandate to inquire into the detailed facts and circumstances and chronology of events of what actually happened and to identify as a matter of fact the role played by various persons into the incidents of sacrilege in Faridkot and other places. The Justice (Retd) Ranjit Singh Commission report on sacrilege incidents of religious scriptures in 2015, tabled during the Monsoon Session of the Punjab Assembly is being seen as a major setback for the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.  But the cropping up of the name of the film actor, Akshay Kumar along the former CM and his deputy CM son has far wider ramifications.

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