The Parkash Singh Badal government’s decision to transfer the probe into the attack on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Brigadier Jagdish Gagneja (retd) to the CBI has not only raised questions about the Punjab Police’s investigating skills but is also an attempt to limit the political damage after ally BJP expressed displeasure over the delay in cracking the case.
Twenty days after Gagneja was shot in Jalandhar , the police are clueless about his two motorcycle-borne attackers . Failing to make headway despite 10 teams on the job, state police chief Suresh Arora recommended handing over of the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
“This case has national and international ramifications. That’s why it was decided to hand it over to the CBI,” said Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota, additional director general of police and director, bureau of investigations. Sources, however, say that the condition of Gagneja, who is admitted at Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) in Ludhiana, is deteriorating and this prompted the government to opt for the CBI route as a damage-control exercise.
DEFLECTING POLITICAL IRE
Shifting the onus to the CBI is seen as a bid to pacify the BJP in poll-bound Punjab. Both the RSS and the BJP have been pressuring the Badal government to solve the August 6 case. The BJP has questioned police functioning, while the RSS is upset over law and order.
“This is not a happy political decision. The government had no other option. BJP and RSS leaders are upset with the police. Let the CBI crack the case,” an Akali leader said on condition of anonymity.
Punjab BJP chief Vijay Sampla, however, said his party did not demand a CBI probe. “The police have done their job. It is a different matter that no one could be arrested,” he said.
The bid on Gagneja’s life is the latest in a string of high-profile attacks that the state has witnessed, and which remain unsolved. The Punjab Police have been drawing flak over its failure to crack high-profile cases which have cast the shadow over the law and order in the border state. The failure has also underscored the institutional deficiency in the battle-hardened force which had stamped out a violent terrorist movement in the 90s. A growing political interference in the state police functioning is widely seen to be one of the prime reasons for erosion in the professional standards in the force.
The sensational murder of Chand Kaur , 85, the matriarch of the Namdhari sect who was shot dead by two motorcycle-borne assailants on April 4 at the sect’s Bhaini Sahib headquarters near Ludhiana has hit a dead-end.
The shooting during the morning drill at an RSS branch in Ludhiana and unidentified bike-borne assailants killing Punjab Shiv Sena leader Durga Prasad Gupta in Khanna on April 23 also have not led to any arrest. “There is a pattern in these targeted killings. It seems the same bike-borne gang is behind them. The modus operandi is similar,” a police official associated with the probe said.
Badal blamed a foreign hand for the attack on Gagneja. His deputy and son Sukhbir Singh Badal is sure the criminals will be caught soon. On Wednesday, the government entrusted the probe to the CBI to “nab the perpetrators and their anti-national co-conspirators abroad”.
It is not mandatory for the CBI to take up the case. After a notification to transfer the case to the CBI, the Badal government sent a request to the department of personnel and training (DOPT). “We issued a notification stating that the state government wants the CBI to investigate this case as it pertains to a socially and politically important person. This case has an international conspiracy angle. The CBI is suited to investigate it,” Jagpal Singh Sandhu, the additional chief secretary (home affairs and justice), said.
But the CBI’s track record of solving such cases has been unimpressive. The death of Vidhu Jain,11, who was burnt alive on September 30, 2013, in communally sensitive Malerkotla town of Sangrur district is a mystery. After Punjab Police failed to crack the case, the Punjab and Haryana high court handed over the probe to the CBI in November 2014.
Yet another sensitive case being investigated by the CBI is related to the incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in Bargari last October. The state government transferred the probe to the CBI but it has reached no conclusion.