The Shingar blast probe has revealed how over 10 college dropouts were trained to become militants after a rigorous training at a terror school at Garhi Mansowal, a remote hamlet on a hill bordering Himachal Pradesh's Una district. The group, comprising youth aged between 22 and 28, were given a 16-week training in assembling bombs, shooting, handling improvised explosive devices (IED) and triggering blasts using mobile phones. The bomb, which claimed six lives and injured 37 at Shingaar cinema hall on October 14, was made and the blast given a dummy run at the ‘terror school’ run from a double-storeyed house at the village.
During interrogation, Gurpreet Singh (25), the Shingar blast mastermind who headed the training outfit, said he had undergone training at a camp in Pakistan. Since it was not possible to send all group members to Pakistan for training, the house at Garhi Mansowal served as his base camp, he said.
The village location was ideal and did not evoke suspicion. He said the camp was set up in the two-storeyed house taken on rent from a woman settled in England. Gurpreet had dropped out of college in the first year at Mullapur Dakha village and joined a private institute to train as an electrician and carpenter. Three years ago, he came in contact with an S.A.S. Nagar-based Khalistan ideologue and groups of radicals in Mullapur. In 2006, he was off to Pakistan to undergo training by the ISI.
On his return, he used his college contacts to befriend others his age and motivated them to join his terror school. He began gathering arms, ammunition and explosives such as RDX smuggled from Pakistan through the border in Rajasthan's Bikaner district. His accomplice, Sandip Singh (26), who dropped out from a diploma in electronics at a college in Moga, joined hands with Gurpreet owing to their old acquaintance. He told interrogators that during training sessions in the house, Gurpreet was “a tough administrator”. “At times, the training would continue through the night without food or water,” Sandip said.
Ludhiana (Rural) SSP Gurpreet Singh Bhullar, a member of the Special Investigating Team that cracked the Shingar blast case, said, “At the Garhi Mansowal camp, Gurpreet and Sandip tried motivating youth to become human bombs but failed as the youth were new to militant ideology and had only been brainwashed into taking part in anti-national activities.”
The militants operated the training camp in the village from April to July without raising any suspicion. The villagers said the house was located at the end of the village with only animal sheds adjoining it. “In the morning, whenever we went to feed and milk the cattle, we would hear religious songs being played loudly. Perhaps, it was a ploy,” said Ranjit, a villager.
Sarpanch Paramjit Singh said they got suspicious only on one occasion in the end of July when some villagers noticed the youth loading bags in their Maruti Esteem car around midnight. “When we asked, the youths told us they were going for a vacation to Shimla,” Paramjit said.
DIG (Jalandhar) Narinder Pal Singh said the police could not detect the training camp mainly because of its location.