Besides raiding various places in the state, the Punjab Police have alerted their counterparts in Haryana, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Himachal Pradesh. The roads leading to Nepal are also under the vigil.
The police believe that Sekhon and Deol are trying to enter Nepal in order to flee to Dubai. Deol runs a transport business in Dubai and was arrested for the murder of rival gangster Sukha Kahlwan when he landed in India from Dubai last year.
“We are coordinating with them and we appreciate the alacrity shown by the UP, Delhi and Haryana police in taking our information forward to nab (Khalistan Liberation Force chief) Harminder Mintoo and Palwinder Pinda,” said Punjab director general of police (DGP) Suresh Arora.
On the top of the list of the dozen gangsters wanted for storming the jail is Prema Lahoria, who belongs to the Sekhon group operating in Jalandhar. According to the police, he was the mastermind behind Kahlwan’s murder. While the police had managed to nab most of the accused in Kahlwan murder case, Lahoria has been on the run after shifting from his hideouts in Dehradun.
Police sources are trying to find if there is any specific reason behind the gang coming together. Connecting the dots, the police are looking for vital links between three recent incidents. In early September, gangster and sharpshooter Devinder Bambiha was killed in a police encounter in Bathinda. His associate Tara Dosanjh was injured and is hospitalised. Bambiha had been booked for the brutal murder of student leader-turned-sarpanch Rajwinder Singh alias Ravi Khwajke in Ludhiana during a marriage function in February. A day after Khwajke’s murder, Gounder picked up a bloody fight with a rival gangster Ravi Rajgarh in Ropar jail, following which Gounder was shifted to the Nabha jail.
Gangs on the hunt
There are 57 gangs in Punjab with roughly 423 members. Of these, 180 are in jail and another 133 are wanted. The remaining members are on bail. The prominent gangsters are roughly divided into four or five groups.
The largest group owes its allegiance to Gurshahid Singh alias Shera Khubban. Gurpreet Sekhon is now heading this gang with the outside support of dreaded gangster Jaipal. This gang is on a perpetual warpath with the gang owing its allegiance to gangster-turned-politician Jaswinder Rocky. Rocky’s group does not have a fixed leader, but anyone who is against the Sekhon group gets clubbed as being in Rocky’s group.
The enmity between the two began with the Jaipal gang killing one of its own members, Amandeep Singh alias Happy Deora, in Ferozepur in July 2012 due to his increasing closeness with Rocky. Deora was shot dead at point blank range in July 2012 by Shera Khubban. Shera was then shot dead by the Punjab police following information provided by one Sekhon Karmiti, an associate of Happy Deora, in September 2012 in Bathinda. In order to avenge Shera’s killing, the Jaipal gang allegedly killed Karmiti, who was the head of the truck union in Ghal Khurd, during a dog show at Bathinda in December 2013. The Jaipal gang then allegedly killed Rocky in May this year while he was returning to Punjab from Solan.
Gang wars in Punjab touched a new high when gangster Kahlwan was shot dead in broad daylight in Phagwara in January 2015 allegedly by the Sekhon gang. Kahlwan had allegedly killed 21-year old Navpreet Singh Lovely at Lidhran village in 2010. The police claimed that the rival gang had kept a close watch on the proceedings of the cases in which Sukha was being tried. The Faridkot police arrested Sekhon, Gounder and Neeta for his murder. Later, the Patiala police arrested Daljit Singh Bhana and his four armed companions from near Punjabi University, Patiala, for allegedly planning to avenge Sukha’s killing.