Punjab Police arrest main accused in Amritsar Nirankari Bhawan grenade attack case

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Punjab Police has arrested the second and main perpetrator of the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan grenade attack, to crack the case completely less than a week after terror was unleashed on innocent victims at Amritsar’s Adliwal village. The blast had claimed three lives and left 16 injured.

Avtar would be produced in the court and the police would seek his remand, DGP Suresh Arora disclosed at a media conference on Saturday, adding that there was strong evidence against the suspects caught in the case.

Avtar’s links have also been traced to Harmeet Singh Happy @ Ph.D, the self- styled chief of ISI-backed KLF, based in Pakistan. Happy @ Ph.D has emerged as the most active leader of Punjab based outfits working under the watch and directions of the Pak ISI, which is determined to spread terrorism in the border State of Punjab by radicalising poor and gullible youth of the State and motivating them to carry out terrorist actions, according to DGP Suresh Arora.

The DGP appealed to the youth of the State not to fall prey to the manipulations of Pakistani establishment and the terrorist outfits working under its command, which was determined to destroy their lives and careers. He exhorted the media to play a positive role on this count, and added that the police were counselling youth to ensure that they do not get misled by radical forces, especially on the social media.

Responding to a question, the DGP said there had been only two cases of terrorist attack in Punjab this year, including the Maqsudan police station attack and the Adliwal grenade attack. These were both sensitive cases, said the DGP, assuring the people of Punjab that nobody would be allowed to harm them. He expressed concern over the movement of terrorists from J&K to Punjab but asserted that the police were keep close tabs on all such movements.

Giving details of the operation, Arora, who was accompanied at the Press Conference by DGP (Intelligence), Dinkar Gupta, and DGP (Law & Order), H S Dhillon, said that the leads provided by Bikramjit Singh @ Bikram led the police to arrest 32-year-old Avtar Singh from Khiala village in PS Lopoke, from the tube well motor shed of his uncle, Trilok Singh, early this morning. Avtar, s/o Gurdial Singh, r/o Chak Mishri Khan, is a graduate and has been donning ‘Nihang Bana’ since 2012. He was a practicing quack in his village and had no criminal history, said the DGP.

Both the pistols which the perpetrators were carrying on the day of attack have been recovered on the disclosures of Avtar Khalsa. The weapons recovered include two Pistols (.32 bore), one of them US made, four magazines and 25 live rounds, said the DGP, adding that the recovery followed the arrest of one Shabnamdeep from Patiala.

Initial investigations have revealed that Avtar was contacted on WhatsApp, a few months ago, by one Javed, who claimed to be a Pakistani national (PIO) from Dubai. The so-called Pakistani national, who spoke in Punjabi, first contacted him, on the basis of a reference, in the garb of seeking consultation for his back problem. Thereafter, he started to discuss Sikh issues with him and motivating him to target the enemies of the ‘Sikh quom’.

A few months ago, he put Avtar in touch with one Happy who claimed to be based in Pakistan. According to Avtar, Happy would try to motivate him to carry out terrorist acts in Punjab, on the lines of targeted killings of RSS and Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) workers in Punjab in 2016-17.

According to preliminary investigations, Avtar Singh disclosed that his maternal cousin, Paramjit Singh r/o Wadala, PS Beas is based in Italy. And that Paramjit’s elder brother, Sarabjit Singh, a constable in Punjab Police, had joined terrorist ranks, KLF (Budhisingwala). Sarabjit Singh had died in an encounter with the Police near Rayya (Beas) in 1992.

Avtar Singh has disclosed that about two months ago, Avtar contacted Paramjit to arrange weapons to settle his enmity with some people of his village, which Paramjit assured to arrange soon. At this point, Paramjit Baba put him in touch with Happy, based in Pakistan, who Avtar had identified as the same person introduced to him by the Dubai based Pak National, Javed. Happy promised Avtar to arrange weapons for him.

Towards the end of October or beginning of November, Avtar got a WhatsApp message from a foreign number with details of a location where weapons had been buried. On 3rd November 2018, at around 11 pm, Avtar contacted his close friend, Bikramjit Singh r/o Dhariwal, and asked him to be ready at the next morning.

According to Avtar Singh, he and Bikramjit went to the given location near Majitha on 4th November 2018, and successfully retrieved a polythene bag containing two .32 bore pistols, four magazines, twenty-five cartridges and one hand grenade. After retrieval, Avtar concealed the arms/explosive in his medical store. On 13th November 2018, Avtar and Bikram carried out a recee of the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan at Rajasansi and both decided to target the Bhawan on an opportune day. On 16th November 2018, Avtar and Bikram met at village Dhariwal, planned the attack in detail, and decided to carry out the attack on 18th November. Avtar has corroborated the sequence of events of the 18th attack, as disclosed by Bikramjit

After the grenade attack, Avtar received a WhatsApp message from a Pakistan number enquiring about his well-being and asking him to call back immediately. Avtar claimed that he had deleted the message as well as the number after the Sunday attack.

During initial investigations, the accused has also disclosed that he initially got radicalised in the wake of the 2007 incident when the DSS chief appeared in public in the attire of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Thereafter, he began to participate regularly in protests against the Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) in his local area. He was an active member of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Satkar Committee and regularly participated in the protests organized by the Satkar Committee.

Avtar Singh has further disclosed that he was staunchly opposed to ‘Derawad’ and all the self-styled Gurus, such as DSS, DJJS, Piara Singh Bhaniarewala and controversial Sikh preachers, including Sarabjit Singh Dhunda, Inderjit Singh Ghagga etc, and was also against the Hindu Right Wing and its leaders/workers.