Punjab cop’s hand, chopped off by Nihangs, reattached after 7-hour surgery
Assistant sub-inspector Harjit Singh’s hand was later reattached after a plastic surgery lasting seven and a half hours at Chandigarh’s PGI hospital and 11 people were arrested from a village dera over their role in the incident.Updated: Apr 13, 2020 11:47 IST
A policeman’s hand was chopped off with a sword and six of his colleagues were injured in an attack by a group of Nihangs at a vegetable market in Punjab’s Patiala, the state police said on Sunday.
Assistant sub-inspector Harjit Singh’s hand was later reattached after a plastic surgery lasting seven and a half hours at Chandigarh’s PGI hospital and 11 people were arrested from a village dera over their role in the incident. Police said Rs 39 lakh in cash, two petrol bombs, spears, swords and other weapons, as well as five bags of poppy husk were recovered from them.
Parts of the early-morning incident captured on video by bystanders showed a group of men carrying sharp-edged weapons in an SUV driving through a police barricade and clashing with policemen armed with lathis. “Police Party on Naka duty was attacked today in which one ASI’s hand was cut off & 6 were injured. Police cornered the culprits & have taken them into custody. Have given instructions to the @PunjabPoliceInd to deal with anyone breaking the law in strictest possible manner,” Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh said in a tweet.
The Nihangs are a Sikh sect whose members live on the fringes of society and dress up as medieval warriors owing allegiance to Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru, specialising in the traditional martial art of gatka (similar to the modern sport of fencing). Deras are shrines devoted to individuals deemed holy by their followers and do not enjoy the sanction of mainstream Sikh clergy.
The incident drew widespread condemnation across the political spectrum. Apart from CM Amarinder Singh, several senior Congress leaders said the strictest action should be taken against the culprits.
Opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) patriarch Parkash Singh Badal condemned the incident too, while the Shiromani Panth Akali Budha Dal, the leading Nihang jathebandi (organisational assortment) said the men were not Nihangs and were, in fact, anti-social elements locally involved in extortion -- a fact borne out by the recovery of Rs 39 lakh from them in cash -- something the ascetic members of the sect would not do.
“Seven fugitives, donning the robes of Nihangs, have been arrested from the Gurdwara in village Balbera. One of these was injured in the police firing and has been rushed to hospital... The police party observed full Maryada while entering the Gurdwara premises. There were also women and children inside, who were unharmed, and have been left secure within the Gurdwara as before,” Punjab’s special chief secretary KBS Sidhu said on Twitter.
Gobind Singh Longowal, president of the Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the body that manages Sikh places of worship, urged people to remain disciplined during the curfew.
BJP leader and Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri said, “The inhuman attack on policemen in Patiala needs to be condemned in the strongest of terms. Such criminals and anarchists should be brought to justice at the earliest.”
Police said the men were asked to show their curfew passes at the vegetable market, which they refused to do and instead forced their way through the barricade. When the policemen chased them and told them to step out of their vehicle, five men came out and launched an attack with swords. As six policemen received injuries and ASI Harjit Singh fell down after his hand was cut off, the men drove away to a dera building part of the Gurdwara Kichdi Sahib complex in Balbera village nearby.
A commando operation was launched to get the men, who refused to surrender and hurled petrol bombs at the raiding party. They set up eight LPG cylinders on the periphery, threatening to blow them up. One of the Nihangs was injured by a gunshot fired by the commandos and hospitalised later.
Intense negotiations spearheaded by Patiala IG Jatinder Singh Aulukh and SSP Mandeep Singh Sidhu, aided by the village sarpanch and others, could not lead the men to surrender. They were finally arrested after a fierce scuffle with the commandos.
The accused were booked for attempt to murder, grievous hurt, rioting, attack on a public servant under the Indian Penal Code as well as under provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. They were also booked under the stringent anti-narcotics law, NDPS, for possessing a commercial quantity of poppy husk.