Targeted killings: Police arrest man from Fatehgarh Sahib, claim he shot RSS leader Gagneja, others

Shera is the man who shot Brig Jagdish Gagneja (retd), state vice-president of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the police said.

punjab Updated: Nov 11, 2017 11:10 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
RSS,targeted killings,DGP Suresh Arora
DGP Punjab Suresh Arora along other senior officials showing the recovered weapons from the accused after addressing the media in Ludhiana on Friday(Gurpreet Singh )

Punjab police claimed another success into last two years’ targeted killings of religio-political leaders on Friday, with the arrest of Hardeep Singh alias Shera, 21, outside a gym in Fatehgarh Sahib.

State police chief Suresh Arora claimed that Shera is the man who shot Brig Jagdish Gagneja (retd), state vice-president of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), in Jalandhar last year, and other right-wing leaders.

This is fifth arrest in the matter. Shera’s name came up during interrogation of Ramandeep Singh ‘Canadian’ of Ludhiana’s Meharban village, police officials said.

“The targeted killings were executed by Ramandeep and Shera. They were funded and supported by the ISI (Pakistan’s spy agency) and Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF),” said director general of police (DGP) Arora at a press conference here.

In the last two years, Punjab has seen killings of nine such leaders. After no success for months, police earlier this week claimed to have solved most of the cases with the arrest of four men with alleged links to the ISI.

The DGP said Shera shot Shiv Sena leader Durga Prasad Gupta, Christian pastor Sultan Masih, RSS local leader Ravinder Gosain, and Sri Hindu Takht’s district publicity manager Amit Sharma, all in Ludhiana, too. Both Ramandeep and Hardeep shot Dera Sacha Sauda followers Satpal and his son Ramesh Kumar in Khanna, he added. Ramandeep allegedly also opened fire at RSS worker Naresh Kumar and Shiv Sena leader Amit Arora, but they survived.

‘Had fled abroad’

Shera used to go abroad for some time after executing the killings to evade arrest, police said.

On Friday, when cops tried to arrest Shera, who belongs to Majri Kishnewali in Fatehgarh Sahib district, he attempted to open fire at them but they overpowered him, police said, adding that they recovered four pistols and an airgun from Shera’s possession.

Also, they claimed to have recovered an SUV and three motorcycles, including one from Sirhind Canal, on Shera’s information. The one from the canal had been used in Gagneja’s killing while another was used in Gupta’s murder, cops said.

The DGP specifically said that after shooting RSS leader Gagneja on August 6 last year, Shera fled to Italy on August 12. Police have seized his passport. “We are further probing links of the killings to Pakistan, Italy, UK, Canada and some other countries,” he said.

Social media picks

Shera allegedly told police that the module used to find targets on Facebook and other social media depending on who spoke against Khalistani separatism. In case of pastor Sultan Masih of Ludhiana, though, they randomly chose him as their Christian target to create communal rift, police claimed.

Ramandeep and Shera used to take turns in shooting the targets, added the DGP, “They always went together on a motorcycle. Mostly, Ramandeep would handle the bike and Hardeep would shoot.” He said Shera would practice with a Swiss airgun.

Mintoo and ‘Bayi’ connection

The DGP also claimed that KLF commander Harminder Singh Mintoo, main accused in the Nabha jailbreak and currently being interrogated at Moga, also helped to get foreign funding for the killings.

Shera was adopted by his father’s elder brother who took him to Italy when he was a kid. “Shera was 18 when he first met Mintoo in Italy. Mintoo stayed at their house there for 21 days and asked him to join KLF, but Shera did not show interest... After his relationship with his uncle strained, Shera again came in contact with Mintoo and remained in touch on Skype,” the DGP said. “After Mintoo was arrested in Thailand, a man named ‘Bayi’ started operating his accounts and mobile phone. Bayi then started giving instructions to Shera and others.”

First Published: Nov 10, 2017 21:03 IST