Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray) Punjab secretary Harvinder Soni was shot at on Sunday here by a man reported to be a Sikh hardliner.
Soni was playing volleyball at Fish Park here around 8.30am when Kashmir Singh, 25, of Galwadi village in Khanna tehsil of Ludhiana district shot him in the stomach from a country-made pistol. The Shiv Sena leader got first aid at the local civil hospital before being moved to Fortis hospital in Amritsar.
Eyewitness Bobby Dhillon said the assailant had called Soni by name and after shooting at him, scaled the small boundary wall of the park to escape through the adjoining street, brandishing his pistol in the air and raising religious slogans. “He could not have reached his motorcycle parked outside the park, as a crowd of walkers was in the way,” said Dhillon. Kashmir Singh abandoned his black
Bajaj Discover motorcycle that had a fake registration number.
After Soni’s two security guards, constables Rajinder Kumar and Anil Kumar, ran in pursuit and fired a few shots in the air, he
stopped 200 metres from the spot. Just then, a superintendent of police got there with a team and asked Kashmir Singh what he wanted, at which, according to witnesses, he dropped his pistol and surrendered, and was taken to the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) local branch for preliminary interrogation.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers gathered at the Hanuman Chowk temple here to condemn the attack, and the Gurdaspur, Dinanagar and Pathankot units of the Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray) held similar meetings. Soni’s friend Gaurav, who was by his side at the Fortis hospital in Amritsar, told HT over telephone that the bullet had been removed from Soni’s stomach and now he was in the intensive care unit. “Doctors say Soni is out of danger, though he will take a few days to recover,” he said.
Gurdaspur resident Inderpal Singh, who had allegedly helped the accused do the recce of Soni’s house and shop, besides the Fish Park where he had his walks, was arrested in Patiala while trying to flee the state. He is being brought back to Gurdaspur.
The Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray) has called for shutdown in Gurdaspur on Monday. The police have appealed to the people to maintain peace and communal harmony.
Target since 2012 assault on Sikhs
Soni was on the hit list of Sikh hardliners since being one of the sixteen accused in the assault on some Sikh youths of Hemrajpur near here on March 28, 2012, in reaction to the Sikh radical organisations’ demonstration in Gurdaspur a day before to stop the hanging of Balwant Singh Rajoana, who is convicted of assassinating Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in 1995.
In protest against that assault, a few Sikhs had assembled on March 29, 2012, at Gurdwara Ramgarhia on the Tibri Road here, when Jaspal Singh, 17, a BTech student from Sidhwan village, 7 km from here, was killed in police firing.
The assault case report made Harvinder Soni, who was then Gurdaspur district president of his party, accused of tossing the turbans of the victims. Later, local legislator Gurbachan Singh Babbehali of the Shiromani Akali Dal made peace between the complainants and the accused. Sikh hardliners still held Soni responsible for the death of Sikh student Jaspal Singh and after intelligence warnings of danger to his life, Soni was given a police escort of six armed guards. He runs a mobile phone shop at Sadar Bazar here.
Shooter Kashmir Singh has been in the Nabha jail with Sikh hardliner Harminder Singh “Mintu”, who was deported from Nepal.
Accused petty criminal, not a terrorist: police
Gurdaspur: Amritsar inspector general of police (border range) Ishwar Chander told the media here that the man accused of shooting at Shiv Sena leader Harvinder Soni had purchased the 0.315-bore pistol for Rs 11,000 from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh.
“Anurag, his fellow villager from Galwadi in Ludhiana district, helped him get the weapon. Kashmir Singh is a petty criminal facing three trials, and out on bail since December 24, 2013, but he is no terrorist,” said the IG, claiming that the man had not surrendered but been captured.
“Kashmir Singh stayed at Chamkaur Sahib and Baba Bakala on April 8; Kalanaur (Gurdaspur) on April 9; and at Gurdwara Burj Sahib (Dhariwal) on April 10. On April 11, he did reconnaissance of the Gurdaspur Fish Park to prepare for the crime,” said the officer, adding that the police would look into the influence his extremist jail mates in Nabha might have had on him.
Gurdaspur senior superintendent of police (SSP) Gurpreet Singh Toor said that a case under Sections 307 (murder attempt), 124-A (sedition) and 153 (trying to provoke riot) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and various sections of the Arms Act had been registered against Kashmir Singh.