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Khalistani militants find common cause with Punjab gangsters

The sensational jailbreak at Nabha prison has forced the state intelligence agencies to wake up to a new reality: Khalistani militants are finding common cause with Punjab’s dreaded gangsters.

punjab Updated: Nov 28, 2016 11:56 IST
Chitleen K Sethi
A police personnel and onlookers stand near the gate of the Nabha maximum-security jail in Nabha in Punjab.
A police personnel and onlookers stand near the gate of the Nabha maximum-security jail in Nabha in Punjab.(AFP)

The sensational jailbreak at Nabha prison has forced the state intelligence agencies to wake up to a new reality: Khalistani militants are finding common cause with Punjab’s dreaded gangsters.

On Sunday, about 10 gunmen disguised as policemen tricked their way into high-security Nabha prison, stabbed a guard at the gate, fired automatics and escaped with a Khalistani militant group commander, his sidekick and four gangsters.

Read | Khalistani militant Mintoo, who escaped from Nabha jail, arrested in Delhi

One of the attackers, Palwinder Singh alias Pinda, was arrested from Uttar Pradesh’s Kairana later on Sunday evening. A self-loading rifle, two rifles, bullets and cash were found on him. Harminder Singh Mintoo, the self-styled chief of the Khalistan Liberation Force, was arrested by Delhi Police on Monday morning.

While Sunday’s great escape is unmitigated proof of their unholy alliance at least for this one incident, the worrying trend is of militants discovering a set of dangerous and armed supporters in these gangsters for their “larger causes”.

Many gangsters, including those who escaped, are active on social media and eulogise the courage of militants such as Jagtar Singh Hawara and Balwant Singh Rajoana — convicted for the murder of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in a human bomb attack on August 31, 1995 — in their Facebook posts.

Read | Punjab DGP admits to ‘conspiracy, connivance and lapses’ in Nabha jailbreak

Kuldeep Singh, alias Neeta Deol, has been using hashtags such as “Save the girl child”, “Respect women” and “Avoid drugs” in his posts. Harjinder Singh, alias Vicky Gonder, posted videos and pictures of Sikh militants calling them the “real lions” of Punjab.

Police believe that the Gurpreet Sekhon gang is sympathetic to militants’ cause and have promised to help Mintoo and his aide Kashmir Singh Galwadi escape to Germany via Nepal and Thailand. The gang, after Sunday’s escape, is together and free after many years and are expected to go back to extortion, looting banks and highway robberies.

“But all this will happen after some time. They will first separate and then lie low,” a police officer said.

Police sources, many of who have interrogated the gangsters, add that the gang is expected to team up with dreaded gangster Jaipal, who has been on the run for years. The regrouped gang will try to target policemen responsible for their arrest and help associates lodged in other jails escape.

Read | Punjab jailbreak: Gunmen free Khalistani militant, gangsters; one held in UP

The Sekhon gang has also sworn to avenge the death of Gurshahid Singh, alias Shera Khubban, a Ferozepur gangster gunned down by the Punjab police in Bathinda in 2012. Hoshiarpur senior superintendent of police (SSP) Kuldeep Chahal was the man on the scene that day.

The murder of gangster-turned-politician Jaswinder Singh ‘Rocky’ in May too was touted by Vicky Gonder on his FB page as “justice for Shera Khubban”. Gonder had threatened Bathinda SSP Swapan Sharma through another post chiding him for not being able to do anything while his accomplices killed Rocky.

Gangster questions escape

A post on the Facebook page of Kulpreet Singh, one of the escapees, says the police seems to have enacted the escape to stage the encounter of these inmates like it happened in Bhopal, referring to the killing of eight Students of Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) suspects in November.

Written by “Neeta’s brother” the post raises several questions of how the escape could not have taken place and there was much more than met the eye in the incident.