Baba Avtar Singh, 57, a senior Namdhari leader, was shot dead by two motorcycle-borne persons near Katani Kalan village, about 20 km from here, on Tuesday morning.
The assailants pumped 11 rounds into the victim’s body with an AK-47 rifle before speeding away from the spot on the busy Ludhiana-Chandigarh highway.
Sources linked the murder to the ongoing tussle between Namdhari factions over succession of the 209-year-old sect. Namdharis, also known as Kukas, is a sect within Sikhism, headquartered at Bhaini Sahib, 25 km from Ludhiana. Satguru Jagjit Singh, 91, is its reigning spiritual head.
Avtar Singh, a resident of Mohali, was a close associate of Sant Jagtar Singh, Satguru Jagjit Singh’s son-in-law.
Police commissioner Ishwar Singh said a murder case had been registered against Thakur Dalip Singh, Satguru Jagjit Singh’s nephew and resident of Jeevan Nagar, near Sirsa (Haryana), and two unidentified persons at Sahnewal police station.
"The case has been registered on the statement of Avtar Singh’s brother-in-law Balwant Singh. He suspects that Thakur Dalip Singh is behind the killing. We will thoroughly investigate the matter," the commissioner said.
Avtar Singh was driving from Mohali to Bhaini Sahib in a Toyota Corolla on Tuesday. When he neared Katani Kalan around 11 am, he suspected that some persons were following him.
"He stopped for a while at a relative’s shop at Katani Kalan. When he came out of the shop, two persons fired at him. He died on the spot,” Ishwar Singh said.
Police sources said one of the assailants was wearing a white-coloured kurta-pyjama and white headgear (‘parna’), while the other was in green trousers.
It is learnt that Avtar Singh used to visit Bhaini Sahib almost daily. “He used to stay throughout the day and return to Mohali in the evening,” a source at Bhaini Sahib said.
The police commissioner said Avtar Singh had been attacked earlier also, adding that two cases had been registered at Mohali.
Avtar Singh, who was into farming and real estate, is survived by his wife, three daughters and a son.