Two officials of the Patiala central jail, including an assistant superintendent of jails, were placed under suspension on Saturday after Balwant Singh Rajoana, who is facing gallows in the Beant Singh murder case, manhandled senior journalist Kanwar Sandhu on the jail premises after Sandhu, along with controversial dismissed cop Gurmeet Singh Pinky, had gained access to the high-security prison to “interview” Rajoana.
While ADGP prisons RP Meena has ordered a fact-finding probe following the incident, authorities said Pinky connived with assistant superintendent of jails Jagmel Singh to gain entry for himself and Sandhu to the jail.
When contacted, DIG prisons LS Jakhar, who is conducting the probe, said that according to preliminary information, Rajoana was to meet his sister Kamaldeep Kaur and her husband Baljit Singh on Saturday and the meeting time was fixed. However, during that time, other than Baljit, Sandhu and Pinky managed to enter the jail. “Pinky said something about wanting to meet the superintendent regarding his case at the gate and headed for the superintendent’s office. Sandhu went to meet Rajoana. The next we came to know was that a heated argument ensued between the two and Rajoana manhandled Sandhu. The jail staff intervened and overpowered Rajoana,” said Jakhar.
Sources said that as Baljit was sitting in the waiting area and Pinky in Jagmel’s room, Sandhu met Rajoana. “Rajoana objected to Sandhu having levelled baseless allegations against him at Pinky’s behest. When Rajoana came to know that Pinky had accompanied Sandhu, he manhandled Sandhu, pushed him and punched him,” said a jail insider.
Jakhar said he had asked the officials to preserve all video recordings, as the department would investigate the episode and fix the responsibility. “The department is contemplating action against Sandhu and Pinky for trespassing into jail through unfair means, without seeking any official permission to meet an inmate. We will act as per law and the guilty will be booked for trespassing into jail,” the DIG added.
When contacted, Sandhu denied that he had been manhandled by Rajoana. “It was only a heated argument, the rest is rumour,” he said. In a Facebook post, Sandhu termed the incident as “unfortunate”, adding, “After the videos, ‘Confessions of a Punjab Police Cop’ were uploaded on YouTube, I was approached by Kamaldeep Kaur saying I should have taken Rajoana’s version on the issues concerning him. I told her that this was not done as these were video reports and videography was not possible in jail. She said that I should meet Rajoana for the version and offered to arrange the meeting in jail. The meeting was fixed by her for today. And it is she, who insisted that I ask Gurmeet Singh Pinky to come so that he could be face to face with Rajoana.”
“I was ushered into the jail and when I met Rajoana, her (Kamaldeep Kaur’s) husband was also sitting there. Pinky was not with me. When I met Rajoana and the other gentleman, an argument ensued and when I noticed that Rajoana and the other person were getting violent, I tried to move away. The jail officials intervened and lest the situation should get out of hand, I moved out of the jail,” he claimed.
Sandhu, who runs the Free Media Initiative, had interviewed Pinky at length recently. In one of these interviews, Pinky had alleged that Rajoana had called him to the Burail jail in Chandigarh and informed him that Jagtar Singh Hawara and the others involved in the Beant Singh assassination were planning to blast out of the jail for which RDX had been procured. He said that on the information provided by Rajoana, the RDX was recovered and the jailbreak plan foiled.
Meanwhile, Kamaldeep Kaur, on her Facebook page, accused Sandhu of indulging in “yellow journalism” as part of a deep-rooted conspiracy. She claimed that her family had approached Sandhu for Rajoana’s version on the allegations levelled against him by Pinky in his videotaped interviews to Sandhu. “We said that Pinky be brought face to face with Rajoana. Today, Pinky and Sandhu reached the jail and entered the office near the meeting area laced with several armed gunmen. “Veerji (Rajoana) was in the meeting area behind the wire mesh when Sandhu came to meet him accompanied by a police official. Before the meeting could begin, the official asked veerji to come out to record the meeting. Veerji told the official that since they had brought him (Sandhu) here, the meeting would happen. The official was trying to force veerji to come out. Veerji told Sandhu that it was his duty to have taken his version before posting the videos.” Kamaldeep has not made any mention of what happened next.
She also “released” a letter written by Rajoana on her Facebook page, which says, “Sandhu, in league with Pinky, is working at the behest of the government, and I am not answerable to him.” He said he never met Pinky, as claimed by the latter in an interview to Sandhu.