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Over a month after attack, Punjab RSS vice-chief dead, case unsolved

Senior RSS leader Brigadier (retd) Jagdish Gagneja, who was severely injured after being shot at by two bike-borne assailants in August, died on Thursday at Ludhiana’s Hero DMC Heart Institute. He was 68.

punjab Updated: Sep 22, 2016 21:51 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Jagdish Gagneja,RSS leader,DMCH
Jagdish Gagneja (HT File Photo)

Punjab Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Brigadier Jagdish Gagneja (retd), who was battling for life after being shot by two motorcycle-borne assailants in Jalandhar on August 6, died of multiple organ failure at Ludhiana’s Hero DMC Heart Institute on Thursday morning. He was 68.

Read | Jagdish Gagneja: A low-profile, yet powerful RSS leader in Punjab

As the prant sah sanghchalak or state vice-president of the RSS, Gagneja was the key link between the BJP and the Sangh in Punjab. A confidant of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who also visited him in the hospital recently, Gagneja kept a low profile and declined security. He was the oversight for the BJP’s plans in poll-bound Punjab. He became an RSS pracharak before joining the army, which he served for 40 years, and returned to the Hindu right-wing organisation’s fold as “sanghchalak” in Jalandhar in 2003. He became the second-in-command of the Punjab RSS after state president Brij Bhushan Bedi five years ago.

Doctors said Gagneja’s condition worsened on Wednesday night. He was declared dead at 9.16am after cardiovascular collapse.

The RSS leader was on life support ever since he was brought to Ludhiana. His small intestine was damaged at five places and the large intestine at three points. A bullet was still stuck in the liver. The post-mortem was conducted amid tight security.

Punjab governor VP Singh Badnore, who was in Ludhiana, laid a wreath. RSS and BJP workers paid tributes amid slogans of ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ and ‘Vande mataram’. There was resentment among them over the police failure to arrest the attackers.

Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal paid tributes to Gagneja and met his family members. He was accompanied by local Akali leaders, including Adampur MLA Pawan Kumar Tinu and Sarabjit Singh Makkar.

Doctors and hospital workers shift Gagneja to Ludhiana’s Hero DMC Heart Institute from a private hospital in Jalandhar. (HT File Photo)

Punjab BJP chief Vijay Sampla, Rajya Sabha MP Shwait Malik, state health minister Surjit Kumar Jyani, local bodies minister Anil Joshi, former state cabinet minister Tikshan Sood, Jalandhar central BJP MLA Manoranjan Kalia were also present.

Congress MP Santokh Chaudhary, district congress chief (urban) Rajinder Beri, Awaaz-e-Punjab leader and MLA Pargat Singh and Amritsar East MLA Navjot Kaur Sidhu paid tributes to Gagneja.

Gagneja’s wife, Sudesh, cries at their residence in Jalandhar Cantt on Thursday. (Pardeep Pandit/HT Photo)

A local RSS leader read out the message of sangh general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi before the funeral. Gagneja’s son, Colonel Rahul Gagneja, performed the last rites.

Later, Sukhbir told reporters that the probe had been handed over to the CBI as the role of a foreign hand with the aim of creating disturbance in Punjab was suspected. Sukhbir said he will meet union home minister Rajnath Singh to expedite the probe.

Governor VP Singh Badnore (in turban) pays tributes to Gagneja outside DMCH in Ludhiana on Thursday. (HT Photo)
Commissioner of police Arpit Shukla meets police officials outside Gagneja’s residence in Jalandhar Cantt. (Pardeep Pandit/HT Photo)

Read | Attack on RSS leader: Assailants dodge CCTV cameras after crime, cops wonder how

Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal consoles the family of state RSS unit vice-president Brig Jagdish Gagneja (retd) after his cremation in Jalandhar on Thursday. (HT Photo)

First Published: Sep 22, 2016 09:42 IST