Police officials are probing the role of Aman Singh—a Nihang Sikh whose photograph with the agriculture minister Narendra Tomar went viral last month—in the killing of Lakhbir Singh at the Singhu farmers’ sit-in. “Disclosures by other arrested accused in the case say Nihang Aman Singh instigated them,” a police official formerly associated with the investigation told me on the condition of anonymity. The official said that Aman is now named as an accused in the case. Aman has claimed to be a founder of a Nihang group called “Misl Shaheed Pyaare Himmat Singh” that is a part of a prominent Nihang group, the Buddha Dal. But members of the Buddha Dal, including a senior leader, told me they were suspicious of Aman and his group. Among other reasons, they said they first heard of him only when the farmers protests gained steam last year, his group appeared to be formed in haste and his past is marred with allegations of criminal activity.
Most of Aman’s responses to the allegations against him were evasive. When I asked him about the allegation that he instigated the accused to kill Lakhbir, Aman said, “I have already cleared everything on this subject. I do not want to talk about this.” Sarabjit Singh, who is among the four arrested for killing Lakhbir, belonged to Aman’s group. As reported by The Caravan earlier, he was seen frequenting the deceased’s village of Cheema Kalan in Punjab in the months preceding the killing, according to two residents of the village. Lakhbir’s sister, Raj Kaur, has consistently maintained that her brother could not have gone to Singhu on his own and that he was lured there by someone. While Nihangs, including Aman, have claimed in the past that Lakhbir was killed for committing sacrilege, they have furnished no evidence to back the accusation.
Interviews with police officials associated with the investigation and multiple Nihang Sikhs of the Buddha Dal revealed curious details about Aman’s background, adding to the many perplexing aspects about Lakhbir’s death. All of them requested anonymity citing the sensitivity of the matter.
According to a senior police official, Aman, also known as Amna, is in his early thirties and grew up in a family of labourers. At the age of 19 or 20, Aman became a Amritdhari Sikh—one who is formally inducted into the Sikh order by partaking in holy water, or amrit. Around that time, Nihangs from Buddha Dal visited his village and Aman joined them. He rarely visited home afterwards, the senior police official mentioned. Aman’s parents have told the media that they evicted him years ago. However, the senior official told me that Aman is still in touch with them.
The senior Nihang leader told me that Aman floated the Misl Shaheed Pyaare Himmat Singh dal, or group, sometime around end October 2020. The farmers’ protests were gaining momentum across the country at that time. The leader said that the ceremony happened at Gurudwara Joda Sahib in Chamkaur Sahib, in Punjab’s Rupnagar district. He added, “A Nihang Dal can only be floated in presence of a huge sangat in a proper ceremony with blessings of other Nihang Dals or jathebandis”—communities. He said that when he and other Nihangs heard about Aman’s dal “we were extremely angered. This man launched his own dal by throwing all norms and traditions to wind.”
When I asked Aman about these details, he did not confirm or deny the senior Nihang’s allegations. Instead, he said, “Baba Maan Singh had told me that ‘you float your own dal, take responsibility for it.’” Maan Singh is the chief of the Buddha Dal. Aman claimed that Maan Singh had told him, “The time is such that many sacrilege cases are happening.”
After Aman’s photo with Tomar surfaced, Maan Singh and others in his dal gave a video statement saying they had nothing to do with him. “On behalf of Babaji”—referring to Maan Singh—“we want to inform everyone that neither did Babaji deploy him on a duty over there and nor is he related to Babaji in any manner. He had made his own group,” the statement mentioned. “Aman Singh is warned by the entire dal and Jathedar Baba Maan Singh and Buddha Dal Nihangs against using the name of Buddha Dal.” When I asked Aman about this, he said, “If Babaji is saying that ‘Aman is not ours,’ I can return home with bare feet, in my two sets of clothes. I have no issue.”
While Aman confirmed that he formed the Misl Shaheed Pyaare Himmat Singh, his exact designation in it remains unclear. The senior Nihang leader added that Aman was a ghorean da jathedar—which roughly translates to deputy chief—of the dal, contrary to multiple media reports that identified him as the chief of the Nihang dal. When I asked Aman for clarity, he replied, “Someone writes jathedar, someone writes mahant … I just do sewa”—selfless service.
Aman was also among the Nihangs who were at the Red Fort during the 26 January tractor rally. That day, thousands of protesting farmers had marched and driven their tractors into central Delhi, with hundreds on foot even reaching the Red Fort. The farmers’ rally witnessed several incidents of lathi charges and tear-gas shelling from the police, as well as attacks on police barricades and personnel by the farmers. “I reached there when some women approached us saying that some youth had been trapped inside the Red Fort and were being assaulted,” Aman said. He also shared a video with me of himself on a horse at the Red Fort that day.
Since the rally, the senior Nihang leader said, Aman had been donning a farla, a piece of blue cloth sprouting from the top of a Nihang turban. The senior Nihang found this appalling. “For Nihangs, it is equivalent of a Nishan Sahib”—the Sikh flag—he told me. “It is earned after years of hard work including cleaning the stables, taking care of the horses, preparing langar, meditation, studying and exceling in martial arts of Nihangs, et cetera. Once, a Nihang gets a farla bestowed in the presence of the sangat, he is forbidden to even carry the Guru Granth Sahib on his head. Nihangs get it after 20–30 years of dedicated services. Many never even get it. Such a mockery of wearing a farla—a tradition of that was started by none other than Sahibzada Fateh Singh, the fourth and the youngest son of the tenth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh—is being criticised in Nihang circles,” the senior Nihang Sikh said.
Aman confirmed this. “I didn’t start wearing it myself. I was bestowed the honour by baapuji,” he told me. He said he was bestowed the farla sometime around end January or February. Aman said baapuji is Gurnam Singh, who is reportedly the caretaker of Gurudwara Joda Sahib. He added that he even had the support of Maan Singh.