A major row erupted in West Bengal after a video of the police removing the turban of a Sikh man during a Bharatiya Janata Party rally in Howrah on Thursday was widely shared on social media, reported NDTV.

The BJP accused the police of hurting the religious sentiment of the Sikh community by pulling off the turban of Balwinder Singh, a 43-year-old resident of Bhatinda, who is a personal security guard of BJP leader Priyanshu Pandey, according to News18. Hours after the event, the police said they did not wish to hurt the sentiments of any community. They said the incident took place as they were trying to seize a pistol in possession of Singh.

“The pagri [turban] had fallen off automatically in the scuffle that ensued, without any attempt to do so by our officer (visible in the video attached),” the West Bengal Police tweeted. “It is never our intention to hurt the sentiments of any community.” The police added that an officer specifically asked Singh to put back his turban before his arrest.

Various BJP leaders targeted the Mamata Banerjee-led state government following the incident. BJP National Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya called the incident saddening and said the police humiliated Singh.

BJP National Secretary Arvind Menon condemned the incident. “By removing the turban of Balwinder Singh, the West Bengal Police have insulted the entire Sikh community,” he tweeted. “It seems like Mughal rule in Bengal. Except for one community, is there no respect left for the religious sentiments of anyone in Bengal.”

BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said that Singh was carrying a licenced gun and that the protests were “peaceful”. “Our workers did not hurl bombs,” he said. “We were holding a peaceful protest. The police used force on us without any provocation.”

Cricketer Harbhajan Singh also condemned the incident, asking Banerjee to look into the matter.

Trinamool Congress leader Firhad Hakim, defended the police action against the crowd. “We have never seen bombs and guns being used in political rallies,” he said. “If you carry a pistol in a rally, what do you expect. [The] police have to do its job.”

The incident happened when hundreds of BJP workers clashed with the police on Thursday during a protest in Howrah district. The workers marched to Nabanna, the state secretariat, to protest against the deteriorating law and order situation in the state.

Videos on social media showed the police using water cannons to disperse the protestors. Some of them were seen without masks, pushing against the barricades installed to restrain them.

The BJP held the protest in violation of the Trinamool Congress government’s order prohibiting large gatherings because of coronavirus pandemic. The Secretariat building, which is Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s office, was closed for sanitisation.

Corrections and clarifications: The headline of this article has been edited to reflect that the Sikh man’s turban had fallen off during the clash and not removed by the police. The error has been corrected.