The alleged desecration of a holy Sikh book prompted widespread street protests in northern India on Wednesday, with two demonstrators killed after police opened fire on a crowd.
Police also used tear gas and sticks to disperse protesters earlier in the day, injuring around 80 people in the Faridkot district of the state of Punjab, the Indian Express newspaper reported.
Torn pages of the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred text of the Sikh religion that many in Punjab follow, were found in a nearby village three days ago. The book was reportedly stolen from a nearby Sikh temple (known as a Gurudwara), where an anonymous note, containing a slogan used by a popular spiritual sect, was reportedly found in its place.
Most of the protesters’ anger was directed at the sect, the Dera Sacha Sauda, although the group’s founder denied involvement and said his organization respected all religions.
The state’s deputy chief minister called for peace and termed the holy book’s defacing as a “deep-rooted conspiracy aimed at inciting communal tension and destabilizing the peace in Punjab.”