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Tomar’s photo with Nihang sect chief triggers row, latter says ‘was offered money to leave Singhu site’

Nihang sect head Baba Aman Singh alleged that the Centre offered money to the Nihangs to leave the farmers’ protest site at Singhu.

Nihang sect head Baba Aman Singh alleged that the Centre offered money to the Nihangs to leave the farmers’ protest site at Singhu.

Amid the outrage over the brutal killing of a Dalit man by the Nihangs, a purported photograph of Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar sect head Baba Aman Singh has emerged, sparking a controversy with the Congress calling lynching of the labourer at the Singhu border a possible conspiracy to defame the farmers’ agitation.

The group photo includes Tomar and Aman Singh in blue robes of the Sikh order of the Nihangs, along with former Punjab Police officer Gurmeet Singh Pinky, who was dismissed from service and convicted in a murder case, and BJP leader Harwinder Garewal.

The Union minister has in the past met farmer protest leaders to negotiate a solution to the deadlock over agri-marketing laws. A member of Aman Singh’s sect is the prime accused in the Singhu lynching of a Dalit Sikh. Aman Singh had justified the killing in his remarks after the incident.

On the other hand, the Sikh religious leader alleged that the Centre offered money to the Nihangs to leave the farmers’ protest site at Singhu. “I was offered Rs 10 lakh for leaving the farmers’ protest site; Rs 1 lakh was offered to my organisation also. But we can’t be bought,” Aman Singh alleged on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Punjab Deputy CM Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa on Tuesday said that purported photograph of Tomar with the Nihang leader had raised “suspicion in the minds of people”.

Without mentioning any name, Randhawa claimed that the same Nihang leader was “defending” the main accused in the killing. The Nihang group had accused the victim of desecrating a Sikh holy book.

“In view of the recent disclosures about one of the Nihang leaders having already been in touch with the Government of India, Minister for Agriculture N S Tomar in particular, the lynching incident has now taken an entirely different turn,” Randhawa said in a statement. “There appeared to be a deep-rooted conspiracy to defame the farmers’ stir,” the minister claimed.

He said Lakhbir Singh, the Dalit victim who belonged to Cheema Kalan village in Tarn Taran district, was very poor. “We need to find out who lured him to the Singhu border and who paid for his travel as he could not even afford his meals,” the Punjab minister said.

The deputy CM said he has instructed the local administration to find out under what circumstances the man was taken from his home to the Singhu border.

Lakhbir Singh was brutally killed last week and his body strung to a barricade at the farmers’ protest site with a hand chopped off and multiple wounds caused by sharp-edged weapons. Sarabjit Singh, who was among the Nihangs arrested for the murder, claimed that he had “punished” the man for “desecrating” a Sikh holy book.

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