PARALLEL to the probe into the alleged role of the Jaish-e-Muhammad in the Pathankot airbase attack, the Delhi Police Special Cell has questioned a Sikh political activist and a serving Army officer.
In November, the Army officer is said to have sent the activist names of four alleged Babbar Khalsa Pakistan operatives and then called him after the Pathankot attack to ask if the Pathankot terrorists were the same men.
The activist is Delhi-based Harminder Singh Ahluwalia who works closely with Jagtar Singh Hawara who is currently in Tihar Jail and has been convicted in the assassination of Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh. “There is a plot to frame me through this Army officer so that Jagtar Singh Hawara is linked to the Pathankot attack,” Ahluwalia alleged.
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For over a year, Ahluwalia claims he has been visiting Hawara in Tihar and playing the role of his spokesman in the ongoing political dispute in the Akal Takht — last November, a congregation of rebel hardliners declared Hawara as the Akal Takht Jathedar.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Ahluwalia said that the Army officer, Company Havaldar Major Gurvinder Singh, sent him a WhatsApp message on December 18 saying that the Babbar Khalsa Pakistan had a message for Hawara. “The message said that we (Babbar Khalsa Pakistan) are extremely happy that you have been appointed as Jathedar and we will soon free you from jail,” said Ahluwalia. “The WhatsApp message from the Company Havaldar Major had names of four men he said were from Babbar Khalsa Pakistan. I missed seeing the message that day but saw it when he called me last week.”
When told about Ahluwalia’s claims, Special Commissioner of Police (Special Unit) Dharmendra Kumar said: “We have questioned some men regarding a protest which is being scheduled in Delhi soon.” Police officials said this is supposed to be at Rakabganj Gurudwara on January 10 to declare Hawara as a Jathedar. “The men were questioned about the Pathankot attack as well,” said a senior police officer.
Ahluwalia claims the Company Havaldar Major had given him these four names a month earlier.
“Sometime in November last year, I was going to meet Hawara in Tihar. A man approached me outside the jail and requested that when I meet Hawara, I should pass on my greetings to him and tell him that a few other people had also sent their greetings. He gave me three or four names. This is normal practice — people all the time contact me to send their greetings to Hawara,’’ Ahluwalia said. “I had no idea that the names he gave me were of members of Babbar Khalsa Pakistan. I had no idea that the man who had sent this message was a serving army official…On December 5, Hawara had a court hearing and I saw that man there again. He asked me whether I had passed on the greetings to Hawara,” Ahluwalia said.
“Last Saturday (January 2), a day after firing began in Pathankot) I was in a bus on my way to Amritsar when I received a phone call from the same man (Army officer). He asked me whether the attackers in Pathankot were the same people whose names he had sent to me. He told me that there was a meeting of Babar Khalisa Pakistan in Pakistan and he wanted to check whether the men who had attended that meeting were among the attackers who were killed in Pathankot.” Ahluwalia said.
On January 4, a day after the Pathankot operations ended, Ahluwalia was questioned by the Special Cell. “They came to my house around 5 pm and interrogated me until 2 am and then let me go home.”
Despite calls and messages from The Indian Express to Company Havildar Major Singh on the same number from which the WhatsApp messages were sent, he was unavailable for comment.
Elaborating on his relationship with Hawara, Ahluwalia said that he has been in “close contact” with him for over a year. “I have been also taking care of his court cases especially because his family couldn’t travel to Delhi from Punjab regularly. So I have been meeting him in Tihar often and it is known to everybody. I have also been giving his message in every congregation and meeting that takes place. My association with him (Hawara) is known.” Ahluwalia said that the Punjab government had cracked down on organisations and political groups that had declared Hawara as “Jathedar” of the Akal Takht.
Ahluwalia said he was taken to the Lodhi Colony office of the Delhi Police Special Cell where several officers were waiting. “The first thing they asked me was if I had met a new person in last few months. I didn’t understand. They showed me the photograph of the man who I had met outside Tihar. I recognised the man. I remembered the conversation and was very worried. I told them everything that happened. They kept on putting pressure but I kept on repeating what had happened. They were consistently asking me questions about Pathankot attack and Jagtar Singh Hawara. I kept on telling them I have no information. All along, the man who had met me outside Tihar and then in court, who had sent me the Whatsapp message had told me his name was Jaspreet…it was in the Lodhi Colony station that I heard the policemen call him (the army officer) Gurvinder Singh. “This was the first time I heard him being referred to as an Armyman. At around 2 am, the officers told me that I can go. I heard the officers lecturing Gurvinder also and telling him as to why is he bent upon ruining his life. He was also released,” Ahluwalia said.