Shiv Sena (Taksali) leader Sudhir Suri was shot dead in a busy area of Amritsar on Friday afternoon while he was taking part in a protest.
Local police and Punjab Police personnel assigned for Suri’s security were at the spot when the accused, identified as Sandeep Singh, opened fire with his licensed .32 bore pistol. Five bullets were fired at Suri, who was taken to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
Police arrested the accused from a nearby house into which he went after shooting Suri.
Suri was protesting against the management of Gopal Mandir, a temple in the area, after posters and broken idols of deities were purportedly found on the roadside near the temple.
Singh, the accused, has two shops near Gopal Mandir. One of the shops and his car were damaged by Sena workers after the incident.
Police are yet to ascertain the motive behind the attack on Suri, but Prabhjot Singh Virk, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police, Amritsar, said it was not pre-planned.
Speaking to the media later, Punjab Director General of Police Gaurav Yadav said police were investigating all angles.
“Punjab has an exemplary record of communal harmony. Please avoid rumour-mongering. The situation in Amritsar is under control… (The accused) has a garment shop near the protest spot. He had never met Sudhir Suri… We will share all information with the media. I do not want to comment on the line of investigation,” the DGP said.
Releasing a statement, Amritsar Police Commissioner Arunpal Singh said, “There was a dispute over the Gopal temple management between two groups, and the Suri group was sitting on dharna near the temple… Both groups had heated arguments during the dharna, and Sandeep Singh opened fire…” The statement added that further investigation is underway.
Suri’s close aide Ashok Sharma alleged that Khalistani groups were behind the attack.
“Sudhir Suri would get threats to his life every day… We had asked the Punjab government to increase his security. He has been murdered by Khalistani terrorists,” said Sharma.
Shiv Sena has given the call for a bandh in Punjab on Saturday. The ring road in Amritsar was blocked by protesters after Suri’s murder.
Earlier on Friday, Suri had gone live on Facebook in front of Gopal Mandir and demanded that police register an FIR against the temple management for hurting Hindu sentiments, saying that he had found posters and idols of deities at a garbage heap in front of the temple. He then started a protest near the temple. There was also a minor scuffle between Suri’s supporters and supporters of the temple management before the shooting.
The accused had also been seen standing behind Suri when he was speaking at the protest site.
Suri was sitting on the ground and was surrounded by his supporters, representatives of the temple management and local police personnel when he was shot.
Amritsar North MLA Kunwar Vijay Partap, who is from the ruling Aam Adami Party, demanded the removal of Police Commissioner Arunpal Singh.
“I had informed Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann in the past also that Arunpal is not competent enough for the post of police commissioner. Such incidents are happening every day. I have demanded again from Punjab CM to remove Arunpal Singh,” he said.
The Congress’s Partap Singh Bajwa, the Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly, criticised the Chief Minister over the law and order situation in the state.
“The Punjab Chief Minister is busy campaigning in other states. His carelessness about Punjab is at its peak. The murder of the Shiv Sena leader in Amritsar proves that nobody is safe in the state. Gangsters and criminals are moving freely in the state… Peace must be maintained in Punjab at all costs,” he said.