Chandigarh, Dec 6: Buckling under pressure from all sides, Punjab Police finally arrested Daula village sarpanch (headman) Baljinder Singh in the state’s Muktsar district Tuesday on charges of repeatedly slapping and assaulting a woman teacher Sunday, but immediately freed him on bail.
The Akali Dal village headman was let off on a personal bond of Rs.50,000.
The victim, woman teacher Barinder Pal Kaur, and her protesting colleagues have announced that they will commit mass self-immolation outside the house of Punjab Deputy Chief Minister and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal in Chandigarh Thursday (Dec 8).
Police had earlier failed to arrest the elected village headman over 48 hours after he was caught on camera while mercilessly slapping and assaulting the woman teacher in a village in the state’s Muktsar district Sunday.
Baljinder was Tuesday booked for assaulting the woman teacher as she tried to reach ruling Shiromani Akali Dal MP from Bathinda Harsimrat Badal to submit a memorandum.
Even though the police booked the assaulter, who belongs to the ruling Akali Dal, he was charged with only causing hurt and wrongful restraint — both bailable offences — and continued to roam free Tuesday and refused to even apologise for the incident.
‘I have done nothing wrong. Why should I apologise? I did not slap her. The media is only playing up the whole issue,’ Baljinder claimed.
Sources said that he even came to Chandigarh and met Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the state’s home minister, at his residence here Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, the National Commission for Women (NCW) Tuesday slammed the Punjab government for not taking strong action against the headman and said they had taken suo-motu cognizance of the incident and asked the state to send a report why this happened.
NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma said that a committee will be sent to the state to probe the case.
The Akali Dal has been left embarrassed by the slapgate incident. In recent months, there have been several instances of protestors, mostly seeking jobs, being beaten up by police in the vicinity of Akali Dal leaders, particularly of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.
The latest incident took place Sunday when Barinder Pal Kaur was trying to reach the venue of a meet-the-public programme of Harsimrat Badal, the daughter-in-law of the chief minister and wife of his son Sukhbir Singh Badal.
The Daula village sarpanch slapped the woman teacher repeatedly in full public view and in the presence of police officials. The act was caught on camera by journalists present at the venue near the village.
The headman was trying to prevent Barinder Pal Kaur and other protesting teachers, who wanted to reach Harsimrat Badal, from submitting a memorandum demanding permanent jobs for teachers. He wanted the protestors to leave the function.
‘He hit me all of a sudden without any provocation. No one has even apologised for the incident. I want justice. This man should be arrested,’ Barinder Kaur said later.
Harsimrat Badal Monday ‘strongly condemned’ the incident.
Expressing ‘regret for this unpleasant incident’, she said: ‘The assault on a woman by any functionary is not acceptable, whatever may be the provocation for that.’
Police did not register a case for over 30 hours after the incident, which took place in front of some police officers. The police tried to cover up the incident for several hours.
Even Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who saw the video footage of the slapping incident on TV, tweeted: ‘Just saw a male sarpanch slap and rough up a woman teacher on TV…disgusting and should be punished for sure…’
Assembly elections will be held in Punjab in February-March next year.