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Congress questions Union Minister’s meeting with Nihang leader

Photographs of Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar with Baba Aman Singh, leader of the ‘Nihang’ sect, went viral on the social media. File   | Photo Credit: SANDEEP SAXENA

Photographs of a meeting between Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar and Baba Aman Singh, leader of the ‘Nihang’ sect, whose members have confessed to killing a young man at the Singhu border in Haryana’s Sonipat, has created a flutter in political circles.

The Agriculture Ministry, however, made it clear that the meeting that was held in July this year was not an official meeting and took place at the residence of Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary.

Also read: Explained | Who are the Nihangs?

The photographs of the meeting show Mr. Tomar, Mr. Choudhary, Gurmeet Singh Pinki — a Punjab police officer who was dimissed from service and convicted for murder — and Baba Aman Singh together.

“The photograph was taken at a meeting, which took place in July at Mr Kailash Choudhary’s residence, it was a courtesy meeting... As a politician, Mr. Tomar meets with a lot of people and his doors are always open to religious leaders,” a senior official told The Hindu. Asked whether the meeting was in relation to the farmers’ protests, the official denied any connection.

Conspiracy, says Cong.

With the photographs going ‘viral’ on social media platforms, the Congress hit out at the BJP, demanding an explanation. Punjab’s Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa on Tuesday said there appeared to be a deep-rooted conspiracy to defame the ongoing farmers’ agitation against Centre’s farm laws.

Mr. Randhawa said the government will get to the bottom of the case and identify and expose the conspirators behind the incident.

Also read: Editorial | A murder most foul: On the lynching at a farmer protest site

“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. The same Nihang leader is now defending the main accused for the killing of the victim (Lakhbir Singh). The victim belonged to village Cheema Kalan in Tarn Taran and was very poor. We need to find out as who lured him to Singhu border and who paid for his travel as he could not even afford his meals,” said the Deputy Chief Minister. He added that he had instructed the local administration to find out under what circumstances Lakhbir was taken from his home to the Singhu border.

Mr. Randhawa also asked in what capacity the Nihang leader had met the Minister and whether he was mandated to do so by the farmers’ organisations spearheading the campaign against three black farm laws.

“This has raised genuine doubts and suspicion among the minds of people which will need to be cleared and the Punjab government will do everything to reach to the root of the conspiracy and expose and punish the culprits,” he said.

Former chief of the Punjab Congress Sunil Jakhar tweeted: “Man is known by the company he keeps”. Modi govt. dealing through shady characters! Thus, the proclaimed nationalists are not just demeaning themselves but also the institution of Government of India.”

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body of farmer unions spearheading the ongoing farmers’ protests also underlined the conspiracy angle. In a statement, the SKM said in the backdrop of latest “meeting photographs”, the “Singhu border murder” appears to be steeped in a conspiracy to distract attention from the “Lakhimpur Kheri” incident and there’s a need for comprehensive investigation.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 9:19:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/congress-questions-union-ministers-meeting-with-nihang-leader/article37076244.ece

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