'Khalistani' slur against IPS officer sparks political firestorm, protests escalate across Bengal

Controversy mounts over the 'Khalistani' remark allegedly directed at a Sikh IPS officer by West Bengal BJP chief Suvendu Adhikari

Sikhs protest outside BJP headquarters in Kolkata (photo: PTI)
Sikhs protest outside BJP headquarters in Kolkata (photo: PTI)


The controversy surrounding the 'Khalistani' remark allegedly directed at a Sikh IPS officer by West Bengal BJP chief Suvendu Adhikari escalated into a major political row on Wednesday, igniting a heated exchange between the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the opposition BJP, and leading to a series of protests across the state.

Approximately 200 members of the Sikh community staged a demonstration outside the BJP office in Kolkata, voicing their support for IPS officer Jaspreet Singh, who claimed that Adhikari, leader of the opposition in the state Assembly, had used the term 'Khalistani' against him after being halted by police en route to Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas district on Tuesday.

Adhikari, accompanied by BJP leader Agnimitra Paul had contended that Singh was not fulfilling his duties, while rejecting the allegation that anyone from the party had referred to him as a 'Khalistani.

The situation swiftly snowballed into a major political dispute as the TMC accused the BJP of religious intolerance, while the saffron camp charged West Bengal's ruling party with attempting to divert attention from the Sandeshkhali issue, which has kept the state embroiled in controversy over allegations of land grabbing and sexual abuse by local TMC leaders.

Addressing a gathering in Kolkata, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said, “A Punjabi officer was called Khalistani. How dare you? If you see a Muslim officer, you call him Pakistani. Time and again I have been called such names by the BJP. You (BJP) are a blot on West Bengal. You have brought shame to West Bengal.” She was possibly referring to Urdu words such khala and phupi, meaning maternal and paternal aunt respectively.

Condemning the saffron camp, the TMC supremo questioned whether performing constitutional duties had become a crime. “What was the fault of the Punjabi officer doing his duty? Is there no Punjabi regiment in the force? If a Punjabi officer wears a turban, will you call him a Khalistani? This is a shame,” she said.

On Tuesday, Banerjee attacked the BJP's "divisive politics" and termed the alleged attempts to undermine the reputation of Sikhs as audacious, while TMC state general-secretary Kunal Ghosh asserted that Adhikari's remarks only reflected the “communal mindset" of the saffron camp. “The BJP is a communal party. It is well known the kind of treatment it has meted out to the protesting farmers in Punjab,” he said.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, too, condemned the incident. “The poison of 'cultivation of hatred' done by BJP to decorate its 'political market' has spread in the society. People who have been blinded by this poison are neither able to see the farmers, nor the soldiers, nor the respect for khaki. The country is with IPS Jaspreet Singh,” he posted on X.

Rejecting the TMC's claims, Bengal BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said, “The officer concerned should be accused of contempt of court, not once, but twice. First, he defied the single-bench order (of Calcutta High Court) allowing Suvendu Adhikari to visit Sandeshkhali. Second, when the division bench did not stay the single bench order, the officer refused to allow Adhikari to go to Sandeshkhali. Is the IPS officer above the court and law?"

BJP IT cell chief and West Bengal joint in-charge Amit Malviya shared a video clip of the incident and said the issue is an attempt to divert attention from the state government's failure in Sandeshkhali.

"Thread that raises uncomfortable questions for @WBPolice, which is relying on a purported video of News18 Bangla, to make a political point, in order to distract from Mamata Banerjee's failure in #Sandeshkhali. The issue is rape and torture of Hindu women in Sandeshkhali. The issue is Shahjahan Sheikh's arrest. The issue is Mamata Banerjee's denial. Everything else is noise," he posted on X.

The BJP also organised a protest rally against TMC councillor Ananya Banerjee for her controversial comments about the Christian community during the budget session of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.

West Bengal BJP's minority morcha president Charles Nandi lodged a police complaint and led a march to Hazra crossing in South Kolkata. The police detained him and several other protestors for allegedly attempting to approach Banerjee's residence despite police barricades.

Meanwhile, protests erupted in various parts of the state, demanding an apology from Adhikari, as members of the Sikh community took to the streets. Effigies of Adhikari were also burnt in some places.

A protester near the BJP headquarters in Kolkata said, "Farmers from Punjab are described as Khalistanis by some BJP leaders for demanding better support prices for their crops. A policeman from Punjab has been similarly labelled for doing his duty as a police officer. We are all patriotic Indians."

"No one can question our patriotism, our sacrifice, our love for the country. Why should wearing turbans as part of our religious right make a Sikh a Khalistani? We demand an apology from the BJP," said another elderly Sikh protestor.

The West Bengal Police on Tuesday stated that legal action is being initiated in this regard.

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