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Four held, ISI blamed for targeted killings of religious leaders in Punjab

The Punjab government led by Amarinder Singh, which had been facing flak over the targeted killings of religious leaders, announces the arrest of four people and says they are connected to Pakistan’s ISI.

india Updated: Nov 08, 2017 00:00 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Chandigarh, Hindustan Times
Punjab killings,Targeted killings in Punjab,Amarinder Singh
Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh addresses a meeting in Chandigarh. In a press conference on Tuesday, the CM said the ISI had hatched a major conspiracy to fan communal disturbances in the state.(PTI FILE)

The targeted killings of religious leaders in Punjab are not isolated incidents but part of a conspiracy hatched by Pakistan’ s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), chief minister Amarinder Singh said on Tuesday, announcing the arrest of four suspects in the cases that had turned into a hot button political issue for the government.

The police have solved seven out of the eight cases of targeted killings, including the sensational murder of RSS leader Brigadier Jagdish Gagneja (retd) in Jalandhar last year, with the arrest of the four people, Singh said.

The government had been facing criticism from not just the Opposition but also from within the ruling party over its failure to prevent the targeted killings of religious leaders. The Gagneja case has been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Cases cracked by Punjab Police
  • January 2016: RSS volunteer Naresh Kumar attacked. He managed to escape
  • April 2016: Durga Prasad Gupta, head of the labour wing of Shiv Sena’s Punjab unit, shot dead in Khanna, Ludhiana
  • August 2016: RSS’s second-in-command in Punjab, Brig Jagdish Gagneja (retd) killed in Jalandhar
  • January 2017: Amit Sharma, Publicity manager of Hindu outfit Sri Hindu Takht, gunned down in LudhianaJuly 2017: Pastor of a Ludhiana church, Sultan Masih, shot outside his house
  • October 2017: RSS leader Ravinder Gosain shot dead outside his house in Ludhiana
  • October 2017: Vipin Sharma, Hindu Sangharsh Sena’s Amritsar district president, shot dead

In a hurriedly-called press conference in the evening, the CM said: “There was a major conspiracy to fan communal disturbances and destabilise the state, hatched by the ISI in Pakistan and other countries. The interrogation of the four conspirators showed they had met and been trained in various places abroad and had been using encrypted mobile software/ apps for communication with handlers based in Pakistan and some western countries. The arrests endorsed the suspicions of a growing nexus between radicals and gangsters.”

Punjab DGP Suresh Arora said the murders that took place in Ludhiana, Khanna and Jalandhar since January 2016 were connected and carried out by the same gang. “Similar weapons were used in all the eight cases ---standard 9mm, .32 and .30 bore pistols,” the DGP said.

He identified three of the suspects as Jimmy Singh , a Jammu resident who recently returned to India from UK after spending many years there and was picked up a week ago from Delhi’s IGI airport; Jagtar Singh Johal alias Jaggi, a UK national who got married just last month and was apprehended in Jalandhar, and Dharmender alias Guggni, a gangster from Meharban in Ludhiana, who Arora said was supplying weapons to the killers.

The fourth culprit, Arora said, was the main shooter in the cases, and was caught on Tuesday afternoon. Details about the shooter could not be disclosed at this juncture as his interrogation was continuing, Arora said, adding the police had both forensic and ballistic evidence against him.

While seven of the murders, including that of a Christian pastor in Ludhiana, had been solved, the case of Namdhari sect head Chand Kaur remains, Arora said. He, however, did not completely rule out such incidents in the future in view of Punjab being a border state, with “international conspirators working against it”.

First Published: Nov 07, 2017 21:40 IST