The peace-vitiating bid to kill Brigadier Jagdish Gagneja (retd), the key person of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Punjab, also set the alarms bells ringing in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Top functionaries in the PMO kept the Punjab governments’ civil and police authorities on their toes all-through the Saturday night. After reports began pouring in that two unidentified bike-borne assailants in Jalandhar had pumped in bullets into the abdomen of Gajneja, the PMO monitored the developments on an hourly basis, according to high-ranking police sources.
Sources say the Union government has also drawn up a plan to shift the ex-army officer to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) or the Army Referral Hospital in Delhi.
“The PMO was in touch with Punjab officers till 3am on Sunday. Brig Gagneja is the backbone of the RSS in Punjab. The PMO was trying to collect early leads such as why Gagneja was attacked and who could be behind this murderous attack,” a Punjab-based RSS leader told Hindustan Times.
PANIC IN POLICE
After the initial shock of this yet another targeted shootout started sinking in, the state government alerted deputy commissioners (DCs) and senior superintendents of police (SSPs) across the state to take precautionary steps. The DCs were asked to review security arrangements with the district police chiefs.
But the panic in Punjab Police was such that director general of police (DGP) Suresh Arora requested the state government to immediately seek 15 companies (about 1,500 men) of the paramilitary forces from the Centre.
“By 11pm on Saturday, all the DCs received a message from the government in Chandigarh that on the request of the DGP, the government has requested the Centre to give the border state 15 additional companies of the CRPF. After this, 10 companies of the paramilitary forces were deployed on Sunday on the basis of feedback by DCs and the SSPs,” said an IAS officer posted in the field.
The decision to deploy paramilitary forces as a precautionary measure indicates the “self-confidence” of Punjab Police and its “preparedness” to handle tough law and order situations in the wake of two back-to-back terror strikes — July 27, 2015, Dinanagar and the January 2 Pathankot air base attacks — and recent spate of targeted killings.
Sources say two companies of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) were deployed in Jalandhar on Sunday, while a RAF company each was sent to Ludhiana and Amritsar. Six BSF companies were deployed in other sensitive parts.
Police have gathered a clue that in the shootout, a 9mm weapon was used. The assailants had used a similar weapon in a shootout at a RSS “shakha” in Ludhiana in January. Also, the assailants used .32-bore bullets while attacking Gagneja who sustained multiple gunshot injuries in the intestine.
Police are banking on the CCTV footage in which two bike-borne suspects are seen covering their head with a “patka” and faces with a white cloth. The assailants, police sources say, were trailing the RSS leader after he left home.
Now, the Jalandhar incident CCTV footage frame is being matched with the CCTV footages of Ludhiana and Khanna shootout cases in which RSS and Shiv Sena activists were targeted. “We are exploring if same assailants were involved in Jalandhar and Ludhiana cases,” a police officer said.