2 held for ‘conspiracy’ to kill activist Sushil Pandit
The Delhi Police on Saturday claimed to have averted an assassination plot on human rights activist Sushil Pandit, with the arrest of two alleged contract killers from Punjab’s Faridkot, who they said were hired by a criminal facing trial in a murder case there.
Pandit, a Kashmiri, is a prominent activist advocating the rights of Kashmiri Pandits. He was also very vocal about his support for the abrogation of Article 370, which had until then granted a special status to Kashmir. The police are also probing foreign links in the alleged conspiracy and said they suspected the involvement of Pakistan’s ISI (Inter Services Intelligence).
When contacted, Pandit said, “For the past many years, I have speaking about and presenting facts about the situation in Kashmir. I have been very vocal about issues related to Kashmiri Pandits and Article 370, and these, I believe, were obviously not liked by people opposing them. The police should probe who all are behind the plot.”
The two were arrested Friday from RK Puram with four firearms, including two pistols of a foreign make, four cartridges, and a mobile phone containing the photograph of Pandit, which was allegedly provided to them by the jailed murder accused, Prince Kumar alias Tuti. Police said Sukhvinder Singh, 25, and Lakhan, 21, were promised ₹10 lakh each for killing Pandit.
Police are also probing why Tuti wanted Pandit dead.
A case of criminal conspiracy, abetment of offence punishable with death or imprisonment of life under the Indian Penal Code sections 120B and 115 was registered at RK Puram police station.
Since the police’s preliminary probe has indicated that a foreign hand may be involved in the conspiracy, the case has been transferred to the Delhi Police’s special cell for further probe.
Police officers said they have reasons to believe that the conspiracy was hatched by people based in Pakistan and Dubai, having links with ISI.
“We examined the cellphone recovered from the arrested contract killers and found that they were having conversations with people who are based abroad through Signal, an encrypted messaging platform. The two have identified one of their foreign handlers as Deepak alias King, who they claim is based in Dubai. The calls were made from international numbers,” said one of the officers, who did not want to be named.
Deputy commissioner of police (south-west) Ingit Pratap Singh said the RK Puram police had received information that two men from Punjab had arrived in Delhi for committing a murder and were looking for a rented accommodation in south-west Delhi.
The station team developed the information and caught the two suspects on Friday. .
“They (Sukhvinder and Lakhan) were promised ₹10 lakh each for assassinating one Sushil Pandit, who is a human rights activist and CEO of Hive Communications India Private Limited. It also came out during interrogation that they were provided with four pistols– two countrymade and two foreign-made – along with four cartridges and a phone with Pandit’s photo,” DCP Singh said.