Targeted killings in Punjab: Probe says Rs 40 lakh given to shooters through NRI route

Funding formula: NIA still investigating whether or not the NRIs knew they were aiding murders; investigators claim to have found that a Khalistani separatist module behind the targeted killings.

punjab Updated: Jan 23, 2018 09:42 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Khalistani separatist module,targeted killings in Punjab,Khalistan
Ramandeep Singh ‘Canadian’ (left) and Hardeep Singh ‘Shera’.(HT Photo)

Investigators claim to have found that a Khalistani separatist module behind the targeted killings of at least eight religio-political leaders in Punjab over the past two years used local handlers to pay more than Rs 40 lakh to the two men, Hardeep Singh alias Shera and Ramandeep Singh alias Canadian, who allegedly carried out the murders.

On the condition of anonymity, officers in the Punjab police team assisting the National Investigating Agency (NIA) said the killers used to get money in parts, between Rs 50,000 and 2 lakh. However, the NIA is yet to reach the conclusion if the persons involved in supplying the money were aware of the crimes.

A probe officer further said the NIA has recovered clothes worn by the two men when they carried out the crimes.

“It’s a general practice that when NRIs visit India, other NRis from their adopted country hand over money and other things to give to relatives or friends in India. The planners of the killings were so smart that they, instead of using direct transfer to bank accounts or facilities such as Western Union, paid to killers through such NRIs. We are trying to reach the NRIs,” said an officer involved in the quizzing but not authorised to talk to the media.

“The handlers backed by Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) used to share the address (of payer) with the duo through a messaging app named ‘Signal’,” said another senior officer privy to the investigation. In one such instance, Shera collected Rs 1 lakh from a person outside the bus stand in Jalandhar.

Greed cracked case

And money eventually became a reason for the plot being exposed, said the officers. “They were trained so shrewdly that they would never share each other’s real identities or talk about anything other than the plan,” said an officer. That was until Ludhiana-based pastor Sultan Masih’s killing, the eight in a series that also included Hindu outfit leaders and Dera Sacha Sauda followers as victims.

“After Masih’s murder, when the two men were to part ways, they ended up chatting for a while and talked about a possible bank robbery to make more money. That’s when they shared each other’s details to some extent,” said the officer.

Even after UK national Jagtar Singh Johal alias Jaggi, who was arrested from Jalandhar on November 3 last year, named Ramandeep, and the police arrested him from Ludhiana, the sleuths were clueless about Shera’s real identity, it is learnt. “Ramandeep only knew that Shera was a fitness freak and used to frequent a gym somewhere in Sirhind or Khanna area, and that he sported an anklet (kada) in the left leg,” said another official.

Moga police checked more than 40 gyms in the region, and finally nabbed Shera in Fatehgarh Sahib.

A probe officer further said the NIA has recovered clothes worn by the two men when they carried out the crimes. “They used to change clothes after the murder and would travel to different locations by buses.”

Seven attacks, eight murders

Here are the targeted killings in Punjab over the last two years that are being probed by the NIA and police. The list below is in reverse timeline, with the latest killing first.

Oct 17, 2017: Ludhiana-based RSS leader Ravinder Gosain (60) shot dead outside his house in Gagandeep Colony of Jodhewal area by two bike-borne men

June 16: Pastor Sultan Masih (50) shot dead in Ludhiana by two bike-borne assailants outside a church in Peeru Banda Mohalla of Salem Tabri

Feb 25: Dera Sacha Sauda followers, Satpal Sharma (70) and his son Ramesh (40), shot dead at Jagera village on the Ludhiana-Malerkotla road, again by biker duo

Jan 14: District president of Shri Hindu Takht, Amit Sharma (35), shot dead outside Durga Mata Temple near Jagraon Bridge

Aug 6, 2016: RSS leader Brig Jagdish Gagneja (retd) shot in Jalandhar; succumbs to injuries at Dayanand Medical College and Hospital in Ludhiana

Apr 23: Two motorcycle-borne assailants gun down president of Shiv Sena labour wing for Punjab, Durga Prasad Gupta (28), at Lalhedi Chowk in Khanna.

April 3: Chand Kaur, wife of former head of Namdhari sect Jagjit Singh, shot dead by two unidentified bike-borne assailants at the Bhaini Sahib complex of the sect, 30 km from Ludhiana

First Published: Jan 23, 2018 09:40 IST