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Sikh's hair chopped off, tension in parts of west Delhi

By Sahim Salim
August 17, 2010 18:26 IST
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30-year-old Manjeet Singh remembers opening his shop in the west district of the national capital and going inside. Within seconds, somebody hit him on the head with a blunt object, after which he passed out. The next thing he remembers is being in an auto-rickshaw with his relatives and a blinding pain in his head.

Something else also was different. Singh, who is a Sikh, discovered to his horror that his attackers had cut his flowing beard and hair.

"It was the worst form of assault. I did not mind the pain in my head so much, but the humiliation I underwent when I discovered that my attackers had cut my hair and beard is indescribable," Singh says.

After a lot of persuasion, Singh opens his turban to show his cut hair. There are bald spots on his head and his beard is almost half its original size, with a huge chunk plucked out from the right side of his face.

Singh is based in Chander Vihar area of west Delhi, which has about 92 per cent Sikh population. Members of his community were outraged after they discovered the assault. They blocked roads and deflated tyres of at least four state-run buses to show their anger. They also blocked Vikaspuri and Tilak Nagar road for hours on Monday, until the top cop in the area visited and assured the outraged protestors that the assaulters would be arrested in 48 hours.

It all began on August 13. A couple of customers walked into Singh's mobile shop in Chander Vihar and asked for a Rs 50 recharge. About half an hour later, the duo returned claiming that the recharge was not successful and that Singh had cheated them.

"I took their phone and recharged it. After that, one of them told me I had deliberately cheated them. The same person asked me not to open my shop the next day. Accompanied by my friends and relatives, I opened the shop. Nothing happened. I did not open the shop on August 15 on account of Independence Day, but when I opened it the next day, they attacked me," Singh says.

Singh had gone to the shop at 8.30 am on August 16, when he was attacked. His brother, Amrit Singh went to the shop after about 15 minutes to find Singh laying face down on the ground with his turban gone and hair in a state of disarray.

"I did not realise at first that they had cut his hair. Later, I saw hair on the ground next to him. I rushed home and brought back more people. We took him to a government hospital, where he underwent treatment for a day," Amrit Singh says.

This is the first time that the area has seen an assault of this kind.

"We are outraged. This is a Sikh-dominated area and to cut or trim the hair of a Sikh is the first possible assault. We have backed down for the moment, but we will erupt if the police don't fulfill their promise of arresting the accused in 48 hours. The Sikh community from the whole of Delhi will be out on the streets. This is an insult," Harpreet Singh, a local leader of Akali Dal said.

The police has not made any arrests in the case so far. "We have regisered a case of assault against unknown assailants. We have identified the accused and are raiding their hideouts," a senior police official from west district said.

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Sahim Salim in New Delhi
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