Instagram reels, Facebook videos and more – how Barjinder Parwana became the ‘mastermind’ of the Patiala clash

Patiala: “Khalistan zindabad haiKhalistan zindabad rahega– it’s a common refrain in social media videos posted by Barjinder Singh Parwana, a self-proclaimed Sikh religious ‘influencer’ who was arrested by Punjab police on Sunday and dubbed one of the ‘masterminds’ of the clash community last Friday in Patiala.

Parwana, 38, was arrested at Mohali airport and remanded for four days two days after the violent altercation, which occurred when members of Hindu extremist groups leading a pre-planned ‘Khalistan Murdabad’ march in Patiala were confronted by radical Sikh groups. .

According to law enforcement sources, Parwana was a key leader of the Sikh protesters and rallied them days in advance via his Instagram Reels as well as Facebook and YouTube videos.

“Parwana had come under our scanner due to his social media posts inviting more and more people to join Patiala – how he managed to mobilize the crowds that day will be revealed once the investigation is complete. “, a police official told ThePrint. on condition of anonymity.

ThePrint has viewed videos in which Parwana can be seen urging his social media followers to protest the anti-Khalistan march organized by members of Hindu groups, allegedly including the Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray), the Punjab unit of the Maharashtra party.

For example, in an Instagram Reel posted on April 24, five days before the incident, Parwana urged his followers to “be ready” for April 29 – “Khalistan Foundation Day”, the day Hindu groups had planned their walk.

Expressing confidence that Chief Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nanak Singh (now transferred) would prevent the march, Parwana nevertheless presented a contingency plan: “If we have to unite, we will make a parikrama (circumambulation) around the Dukh Niwaran Gurudwara. We are going to run these monkeys (referring to the alleged Shiv Sainiks behind the rally), we are going to light flames in their tails,” he said.

Parwana’s arrest was criticized by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), a prominent body that manages gurdwaras. The SGPC argued that had the police taken preventive action, the clash would not have happened.

So who is Barjinder Singh Parwana and how many followers does he really command? ThePrint visited Parwana’s family members and neighbors in Rajpura town, Patiala district and scoured his social media posts to find out.

Founder of a jatha, budding religious “influencer”

Parwana is the leader of a jatha (religious group) called the Damdami Taksal Jatha Rajpura. His Facebook page, which has over 3.7 lakh followers, features many videos of Parwana presiding over devotional events and speaking about Khalistan.

In the days leading up to the march, however, Parwana posted messages against the local Shiv Sena and asked people to unite against anti-Khalistan forces.

On his personal social networks, which have a much smaller audience, Parwana shared similar content.

He was particularly active on Instagram, where he has around 40,000 followers, and used Reels – short videos featuring visual effects and music – to ask Sikhs to unite and protest the upcoming march. He also shared a similar video on YouTube.

Parwana, whose influence does not seem to extend much beyond Rajpura and Patiala in Punjab, has been promoting his ideas on religion for some years on social media. He also organized a quiz show called “Kaun Banega Pyare Da Pyara”, in which children were tested for their religious knowledge and rewarded accordingly. Many of his videos feature him saying “Khalistan Zindabad”.

According to Gurmeet Singh Sidhu, a professor of religious studies at the Punjabi University of Patiala, Parwana is one of many fringe rulers who operate in the state and rely on the populace to attract attention.

“Right-wing Hindus and Sikh hardliners have few supporters among ordinary people – they are not taken seriously here,” Sidhu said. “These guys keep fighting, posting provocative messages on social media just to get the instant fame they want.”

Read also: As the dust settles, the differences that led to Patiala’s violence are revealed

Did ‘seva’ during farmer protests, but under police scanner

When ThePrint visited Parwana’s family members and neighbors in Rajpura, they were shaken by his arrest and were hesitant to say too much about him.

On condition of anonymity, however, a family member shared that he was born in May 1984, a few weeks before Operation Blue Star, in which the Indian army opened fire in the temple complex. of gold from Amritsar to flush out the militants.

Young Parwana, like the other children in the neighborhood, had a pious but peaceful childhood and played ‘is going (service)’ from an early age, his family said.

“He visited the gurdwara daily. He would is going there and has always been involved in sangat. After school, his father brought forms to enlist him in the police, but he refused and instead left our home for religious studies and preaching,” a close family member said.

Parwana obtained her religious guardianship from the Damdami Taksal, a Sikh educational body located near Amritsar. This seminary was once known as a hotbed of activism but has since lost that reputation. In January this year, its leader Harnam Singh Dhumma joined the BJP ahead of assembly polls in the state.

According to reports, Parwana lived briefly in Singapore from 2007 to 2008, but returned to start his own religious organization.

In his neighborhood of Rajpura, most people spoke of Parwana in positive terms and said that he did a lot of is going during the 2020-21 farmers’ protests. His neighbors also found it hard to believe he could have incited violence, with some wondering that he had enough supporters to do so.

Distraught over his arrest, his family members said they wished he had used his oratory skills to spread a message of peace rather than conflict.

However, this is not the first time that Parwana has been embroiled in a dispute with the local Shiv Sena or has come to the attention of the police.

In July last year, Mohali police arrested him based on a complaint from a local Shiv Sena leader. At that time, when members of the Shiv Sena (Punjab) – one of many Punjab outfits with the same name – held an event to celebrate the anniversary of Operation Blue Star, Parwana is said to have torn one of their posters and said it would stir up hatred in Punjab. Following a complaint, he was later convicted under different sections of the IPC, including intent to cause riot.

In the case of the Patiala violence, police have so far arrested Parwana, Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray) leader Harish Singla, and at least seven others.

(Editing by Asavari Singh)

Read also: Patiala clash sheds light on Punjab’s many Shiv Senas – ‘no political clout but not to be ignored’

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