A Sikh Indian Police Service officer deputed in West Bengal’s Dhamakhali village alleged on Tuesday that state’s Leader of Opposition in the Assembly and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Suvendu Adhikari called him a “Khalistani” during an argument, reported The Wire.

In a purported video shared by the West Bengal Police, Adhikari can allegedly be heard using the term.

BJP MLA Agnimitra Paul, who can be seen in the video that is doing the rounds on social media, denied that the officer was called a Khalistani – a supporter of an independent homeland for Sikhs.

However, the West Bengal Police on Tuesday criticised Adhikari for using the slur.

“We, the West Bengal Police fraternity, are outraged to share this video, where one of our own officers was called ‘Khalistani’ by the state's Leader of the Opposition,” the police said in a social media post. “His ‘fault’: he is both a proud Sikh, and a capable police officer who was trying to enforce the law.”

The state police described the comment as “communally inciting” and a criminal act.

The officer, Jaspreet Singh, was deputed in Dhamakhali to prevent Adhikari from visiting Sandeshkhali village in the North 24 Parganas district. In recent days, Sandeshkhali has been gripped by protests by women who have levelled allegations of sexual assault and land-grabbing against Trinamool Congress leader Shahjahan Sheikh and his aides.

“Just because I am wearing a turban, you will call me a Khalistani?” Singh is seen asking in the video. “If a policeman wears a turban, does he become a Khalistani?”

Singh said he would take action in the matter. “Has anybody said anything about your religion?” he said to a member of the crowd. “Then why did you comment on my religion?”

Responding to the video, Adhikari said: “We…oppose Pakistanis and Khalistanis but we never said such things to the officer.”

Adhikari was later allowed by a division bench of the Calcutta High Court to visit Sandeshkhali, reported PTI.

Singh told The Wire that he was trying to stop the group of BJP leaders led by Adhikari since prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure were in place. “It was when we stopped the politicians that Suvendu Adhikari called me ‘Khalistani’, which was totally unacceptable,” he told the news website. “I responded strongly against this.”

Commenting on the incident, Opposition party leaders accused the BJP of engaging in divisive politics and called for strong action in the matter.

However, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge accused the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – its ideological fountainhead – of spreading poison in society in the name of religion.

“The sting of religious fanaticism spread by the BJP is poisoning our diverse culture to such an extent that protectors of the law are being branded terrorists in the name of religion,” he remarked.

Congress leader and and Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Legislative Assembly Partap Singh Bajwa also spoke out against the manner in which Singh was treated. “Is this what BJP thinks about Sikhs?” he asked. “A strong action should be taken against those trying to create this hooliganism and portraying Sikhs as Khalistanis.”

However, Paul claimed that no one referred to Singh as a Khalistani. “He is trying to make an issue,” she said. “The police officer was not performing his duty as per the Constitution.”