A purported photo of Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar with a Nihang leader has caused a controversy, days after the arrest of four members of the Sikh warrior order in the Singhu border murder case.

A mutilated body of a labourer had been found tied to barricade at a farmers’ protest site in Singhu, a Delhi border village, on October 15. The man was accused of disrespecting the holy book of the Sikhs. A group of Nihangs had claimed responsibility for the killing in a purported video.

Aman Singh, the head of the sect to which the key accused belongs, and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, including Tomar, met two months ago, according to The Indian Express.

Singh claimed that he was offered Rs 10 lakh to leave the farmers’ protest site, The Tribune reported.

Singh said that he rejected the offer. “We made four demands, withdrawal of farm laws, MSP [minimum support price] guarantee, justice in sacrilege cases occurring in Punjab since 2015 and withdrawal of cases against us,” he added. “We told them we will lift the dharna only when our demands are met.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture said that it was not an official meeting, The Hindu reported.

“The photograph was taken at a meeting, which took place in July at [junior agriculture minister] Kailash Choudhary’s residence, it was a courtesy meeting,” an unidentified official told the newspaper.

The official also denied that the meeting was about the farmers’ protest. “As a politician, Mr. Tomar meets with a lot of people and his doors are always open to religious leaders,” the official added.

After the photo of the meeting emerged, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said there seemed to be a “deep-rooted conspiracy” to tarnish the farmers’ protest against the agricultural laws, PTI reported.

“In view of the recent disclosures about one of the Nihang leaders having already been in touch with the Government of India, Minister for Agriculture NS Tomar in particular, the lynching incident has now taken an entirely different turn,” Randhawa added.

The deputy chief minister said that the Nihang sect chief should have informed farmers’ unions about his meeting with Tomar

“In view of the recent photographic evidence available, the Nihang leader will also need to explain in what capacity he had met Union Agriculture Minister NS Tomar and whether he was mandated to do so by the farmers’ organisations,” he added.

Randhawa said that the meeting between the Nihang leader and Tomar has created doubts in the minds of the people. “These need to be cleared,” he said.

Former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar demanded a thorough investigation into the murder case, PTI reported.

“There is certainly something more than what meets the eye,” he said. “The BJP has long been trying to tarnish the secular farmers’ struggle as a Sikh movement to term protesting Sikhs as militants.”