Militants’ arrests kick up row over timing, ‘political’ targets

  • HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times, Tarn Taran/Chandigarh
  • Updated: Nov 11, 2014 08:50 IST

The recent arrests of terrorists by the Punjab Police have kicked up a fresh storm in state politics over the timing and ‘political’ targets. The Congress on Monday reacted sharply to the arrest of Jasbir Singh Jass, a resident of Burj village in Tarn Taran district by the Chandigarh police, claiming that he had been “framed in a fabricated case”.

In a statement issued here on Monday, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) general secretary Harminder Singh Gill claimed that Jass was neither involved in any terrorist activity nor had links with any terrorist group. “A deliberate attempt is being made by certain vested interests to link Jass with a terrorist group as he was inducted into the Congress by state party chief Partap Singh Bajwa. It is an attempt to defame Bajwa and this has been going on for quite some time,” he said.

Jass had shared the stage with Bajwa at Tarn Taran last week during the PPCC chief’s four-day tour to mobilise people for his anti-drug campaign to be launched from Chandigarh on November 14.
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The timing of the arrests by the state police has also fuelled allegations about the other “political target” as Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has evoked the state’s ‘hard-earned’ peace after long years of militancy to keep ally BJP on guard.

Badal had recently said that the SAD-BJP alliance was in the interest of the nation as well as Punjab. The relations between the allies had soured after the Lok Sabha elections and hit a new low after the SAD sided with the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in the recently-concluded Haryana assembly elections.

Questioning the timing, Gill claimed that Jass had never been arrested when militancy was at its peak in Punjab. On his links with Panjwar, he said Jass’ sister was married in Panjwar village and one of his nephews (sister’s son) was the sarpanch of that village. “I can name a dozen politicians and many more residents of Tarn Taran district, who have known Panjwar, as he too belongs to the district. Can all of them be described as terrorists?” he said.

On the Chandigarh police’s charge that Jass gave financial help to Rattandeep Singh in 1999, the PPCC leader said, “Jass is known to have helped so many families with money.” But Chandigarh SSP Sukhchain Singh Gill denied allegations of a frame-up, saying that Jasbir had been arrested by them after Rattandeep’s interrogation. “We had production warrant against Rattandeep and we took him in our custody for interrogation. It was only after he named Jasbir that he was arrested from Tarn Taran,” the SSP said.

Rattandeep, said to be the chief of the Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan (BTFK), had been arrested recently from Uttar Pradesh by the Punjab police.

The Congress said Jasbir is 70 years old and a heart patient. “He was scheduled to undergo a bypass surgery soon. There should be a probe into his arrest. The Chandigarh police will be squarely responsible if anything happens to him while in custody,” said Harminder Singh Gill, who unsuccessfully contested from the Khadoor Sahib Lok Sabha seat.

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