Punjab slapgate: No arrest, village headman refuses apology

Chandigarh : The Punjab Police Tuesday failed to arrest a village headman over 48 hours after he was caught on camera while mercilessly slapping and assaulting a woman teacher in a village in the state’s Muktsar district Sunday.

The village headman, Balwinder Singh, was Tuesday booked for assaulting a woman teacher, Barinder Pal Kaur, 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 Akali Dal, only for causing hurt and wrongful restraint — both bailable offences — he continued to roam free Tuesday and refused to even apologize for the incident.

“I have done nothing wrong. Why should I apologize? I did not slap her. The media is only playing up the whole issue,” Balwinder Singh claimed.

Sources said that the assaulter even came to Chandigarh Tuesday and met Akali Dal president and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal at his residence here Tuesday morning.

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 near the venues 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 protesters 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 was 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.

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