A 32-year-old Dalit man was killed and his brother was injured after a group of around 50 Akali workers, including a former sarpanch, allegedly barged into their house and opened fire on the family at Palasaur village, 10 km from Tarn Taran, on Monday morning.
The deceased has been identified as Surjit Singh. Ex-sarpanch Gurpreet Singh Babbu and 15 others have been booked for his murder. They are absconding.
The attackers reportedly held a grudge against the Dalit family, also supporters of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), after an altercation during an election meeting on January 29.
Tarsem Singh, Surjit’s elder brother, said Babbu’s group used derogatory words against them after Akali candidate from Tarn Taran Harmeet Singh Sandhu left the meeting. This led to a scuffle, during which the victim family reportedly thrashed one of the rival members. “The accused had been threatening us ever since and we also approached the police, but to no avail. They made similar attempts earlier too,” alleged Tarsem.
On Monday, when Tarsem was at home along with his three brothers, Babbu along with 50 other men allegedly stormed into their house around 10am and started incessant firing.
“Ten of them were carrying rifles and revolvers. They fired around 25 gunshots. Some climbed on to the rooftop to target us, and later fled,” alleged Tarsem.
While Surjit was shot in the forehead and died on the spot, his other brother, Jaswant Singh, received a bullet injury in his leg. Senior superintendent of police (SSP) Harjit Singh, who rushed to the spot with heavy police force, said a case has been registered against 16 persons under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and other relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) besides the Arms Act. Those booked include Babbu, Pappu Sarli, Bonny, Amarpal Pala and Manna.
“Efforts are on to nab the accused,” said the SSP. On measures taken to ensure submission of all licensed weapons ahead of the polls, he said the department didn’t have all the details as relevant records were destroyed in fire at the arms branch of the deputy commissioner’s office a few years ago.
This is third major incident of poll-related violence in the district. An Akali sarpanch opened fire at Congress workers outside a polling station in Lalu Ghuman village of the same constituency on the day of polling, leaving one person injured. Earlier, Akalis allegedly attacked two Congressmen with sharp-edged weapons at Boparai village in Patti segment on February 2.