A 20-year-old Dalit man was allegedly abducted and killed by a rival group of liquor smugglers, who also chopped off one of his legs, in Punjab’s Mansa district late on Monday evening.
The victim, Sukhchain Singh of Gharagna village, was a petty liquor smuggler and allegedly in conflict with a group of upper caste landlords who were also involved in bootlegging.
“The rival group often threatened my son to give up the business,” Sukhchain’s father, Resham Singh, said.
His family has refused to give consent for Sukhchain’s postmortem examination, demanding that police should first find his missing leg.
“Sukhchain was returning home with his friends when he was attacked by the rival group around 8.30pm. They thrashed him mercilessly and took him away. Later, his body was recovered from the house of one of the accused, Balbir Singh, around 10pm,” one of his neighbours said.
“His one leg had been chopped off, and it was missing, while his body bore several injury marks,” he added.
The incident comes nearly a year after a 27-year-old Dalit man, Bhim Tank, and his associate, Gurjant Singh, were attacked with sharp-edged weapons at ruling Shiromani Akali Dal leader and liquor baron Shiv Lal Doda ’s farmhouse in Fazilka district’s Abohar.
Bhim, whose limbs were chopped off, later died at a hospital in Amritsar.
Illegal sale of liquor continues unabated in Mansa and more than 1,100 cases have been registered in the past one year. The worst-affected villages are those situated close to the Haryana border.
People often buy liquor from the neighbouring state as it is available at a cheaper rate and face the wrath of the henchmen of local liquor contractors, who put illegal ‘nakas’ near the interstate border.
Six people - Balbir Singh, Hardeep Singh, Amandeep Singh, Sadhu Singh, Babrik Singh and Sita Singh - have been booked for murder.
Senior superintendent of police (SSP) Mukhwinder Singh said the suspects will be arrested soon.
‘Cops turned a blind eye’
Village sarpanch Sardool Singh alleged policeman posted in the area knew about the rivalry between the two groups but did nothing.
“In the past 10 months, the two groups had entered into clashes over the sale of illegal liquor a number of times. Both groups wanted to outdo each other but the cops failed to control the situation,” he said.
The sarpanch said he always intervened to strike a compromise between the two groups after their clashes.