Warning: This article contains footage of violence some readers may find disturbing.
A woman in India accused of smoking inside the Golden Temple in the Amritsar City in Punjab was reportedly beaten by a group of men.
The unnamed victim reportedly caught the ire of temple volunteers, known as sewadars, after she was accused of smoking a beedi, a thin South Asian cigarette filled with tobacco flakes.
In the Sikh faith, smoking is considered taboo, since the tenth Sikh guru, Gobind Singh, prohibited its use. Smoking inside Sikh temples, known as gurdwaras, is penalized under section 295A of the Indian Penal Code as “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage” by insulting religious beliefs.
In a now viral video, the woman is seen pleading for forgiveness as she is questioned by five to six Sikh men. One of them reportedly tried to coerce her into confessing to wrongdoing.
According to the Hindustan Times, the woman claimed she was not aware of the shrine’s rules. Another woman defended her, saying that she only took out the cigarette but did not smoke it.
The men reportedly began slapping the woman and then proceeded to beat her. After the beating, the woman was handed over to local authorities without a complaint.
A statement from the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) noted that the incident “took place at around 12:00 am on Tuesday.”
“The Bihar woman was caught by an SGPC employee,” SGPC General Secretary Karnail Singh Panjoli was quoted as saying. “Those who thrashed her were the devotees. No SGPC employee had touched the woman. The woman was, later on, handed over to the local police, but no written complaint was given. Even the cigarettes recovered from the woman were thrown in the sewers.”
According to a senior police official, the woman was released, as no proof was provided that she lit a cigarette in the Golden Temple.
“Those who produced the woman to the police could not show any cigarette and even in the video, there is no proof of her smoking any cigarette,” the official was quoted as saying. “Thrashing her was inhumane.”
It is unclear whether the woman was injured or subsequently brought to the hospital.