The Karnataka government on Thursday gave its nod to transfer life-term convict and ex-militant Gurdeep Singh Khera from Gulbarga jail to Punjab.
Khera, 55, a native of Jallupur Khaira village in Amritsar, was booked under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (TADA) Prevention Act and was later sentenced to life imprisonment in two different cases registered in 1996 in New Delhi and at Bidar in Karnataka.
Karnataka home secretary informed his Punjab counterpart additional chief secretary (home affairs) Jagpal Singh Sandhu that all procedural formalities regarding transferring the ex-militant had been completed and that the former Khalistan militant would be shifted to Punjab very shortly, government sources said.
Karnataka jail authorities also sounded Punjab additional director general of police (ADGP-prison) Raj Pal Meena to make preparations to bring Khera to the state.
Top government sources said only two Sikh prisoners - Khera and Devinderpal Singh Bhullar - lodged in prisons outside Punjab had moved applications seeking transfer to their home state.
"The jail department has so far only received two requests of Sikh militants (Khera and Bhullar) seeking transfer to Punjab," a senior jail department functionary said.
Sources added that the state's prison department had received the transfer plea of Bhullar, convicted in the 1993 Delhi bomb blast case, on May 21. The Supreme Court last year had commuted mentally-ill Bhullar's death sentence to life sentence. Bhullar will be shifted to Amritsar Central Jail from Tihar jail shortly.
Records show that ex-militant Khera had petitioned the Karnataka government in December 2013, seeking transfer to Punjab and on December 12, 2014, the Punjab prison department had given a no-objection certificate to Karnataka prison authorities for transferring him from Gulbarga prison.
Sources added that over the past week, the Punjab jail as well as home department functionaries had been pursuing Karnataka government officers to fast-track Khera's file.
Government sources added that the inmates still under trial and lodged in jails outside the state could not be transferred to their home state and convicted prisoners could seek transfer to their home state after personally petitioning the jail authorities.
It is learnt that after being transferred to Punjab jails, getting parole could be easy for Bhullar and Khera. As per reports ever since his arrest and conviction for life imprisonment, Khera has not been released either on bail or on parole.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) an ally of the Shiroman Akali Dal (SAD) sulking over the state government's move to transfer Sikh militants lodged outside the state to Punjab, the Congress has dubbed the move as unwarranted. The grouse of the BJP is that this decision could disrupt peace in Punjab.
The police have dubbed all such fears as unfounded. "The fears are unfounded. On the contrary, the department will be able to watch activities of Bhullar and Khaira more closely once they are in Punjab prisons. These ex-militants, once in Punjab jails,
would be able to easily meet their family members. We already have hardcore terrorists in our prisons, who were actively until recently and some were also arrested from overseas," a top police officer said.
Jagtar Singh, alias Tara, the dreaded terrorist and one of the convicted key assassins of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, is in Punjab prison after being arrested in Thailand.
Besides Tara, Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) chief Harminder Singh, alias Mintoo, his aide Gurpreet Singh, alias Gopi - both trapped in Thailand-are now in jail in Punjab. Another top terrorist jailed in the state is ISI-trained Bhindranwale Tiger
Force of Khalistan (BTFK) chief Ratttandeep Singh arrested in September 2014 from UP, while Ramandeep Singh, alias Goldy, a key operative of the KTF, was arrested from Malaysia.
Another Pakistan-based terrorist Narain Singh Chaura is in jail after being arrested in February 2013. It is learnt that after being transferred to Punjab jails, getting parole could be easy for Bhullar and Khera.