More than a year after it was granted permission, Punjab Police is yet to question jailed Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim in connection with Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan police firing cases of 2015.
The police has also not questioned him in the Maur bomb blast case of 2017, despite claiming that car bomb was assembled at Dera headquarters.
Two men, Krishna Bhagwan Singh and Gurjit Singh, were killed after police allegedly opened fire at a crowd protesting against desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib near Behbal Kalan village on October 14, 2015, when Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was in power in the state. Punjab Police had initially started investigating the incident. The Parkash Singh Badal-led dispensation had later handed over the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
After coming to power in 2017, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had constituted an Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe into the sacrilege and the subsequent police firing.
In June 2018, the SIT had arrested three Sirsa Dera followers in connection with the sacrilege incident that triggered a string of protests in the state. Two months later, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha passed a resolution to recall sacrilege and police firing cases from the CBI.
The government had subsequently written to the CBI seeking recall of the cases. The central agency, however, never got back to the government.
A year later, in May 2019, the SIT filed a chargesheet claiming that the police firing on protesters was a “pre-planned handiwork” of the then deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, the former state police chief Sumedh Singh Saini and the Dera Sacha Sauda chief.
The chargesheet claimed that Sukhbir arranged a pardon by the Akal Takht Jathedar to Ram Rahim in a 2007 “blasphemy” case.
The SIT claimed that the blasphemy case against Ram Rahim was cancelled at the behest of Sukhbir on January 25, 2012, five days before the assembly polls, to get the votes of Dera supporters. Sukhbir had dismissed the SIT probe claiming that he was abroad when the police firing took place.
Meanwhile, in July, the CBI filed a closure report in the case contradicting the SIT’s investigation that Dera followers were involved in the sacrilege incidents. It also gave a clean chit to Mohinder Pal Bittu, a dera follower who was being tried for his alleged involvement in the case and was murdered in Nabha jail. The CBI closed the investigation in the case for want of evidence against the accused.
The SIT, however, had carried on with its probe and in April 2019, with a court order in hand, the team had reached Sunaria jail in Haryana’s Rohtak to question Ram Rahim. The jail authorities refused to let the team meet the Dera head stating that they (SIT) had not taken permission from the local deputy commissioner.
After initial denial by Rohtak administration, SIT member IG Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh had confirmed receiving permission from the Haryana government in June 2019 for questioning Dera head in Sunaria jail .
However, more than year later and despite all the permissions in hand, SIT has made no effort to question Ram Rahim so far.
The delay is also surprising as the SIT had even moved court over Rohtak DC not allowing it to grill the Dera head. “It can be termed as deliberate act on the part of the Rohtak deputy commissioner, Rohtak jail superintendent, and higher jail authorities of Haryana to decline access to examine Ram Rahim in gross violation of the orders of the learned judicial court,” SIT had submitted in Faridkot court in May 2019.
In February this year, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had informed the Punjab Vidhan Sabha that the Supreme Court has allowed the state to carry on its investigation into the sacrilege cases and the subsequent police firing, thus paving the way for the SIT to carry on with its probe.
An SIT member said, “It is very intense investigation and some times we need to shift our focus to other angles. Dera head questioning is on the list. We will try to question him soon.”
Apart from Kunwar Vijay, the SIT has ADGP Prabodh Kumar, IG Arunpal Singh, Kapurthala SSP Satinder Singh, and Ferozepur SSP Bhupinder Singh as its members.
Similarly, Punjab Police has yet to question Ram Rahim in connection with bomb blast at Maur that had left seven people, including five children, dead. The blasts took place in a car at an election rally by Congress candidate.
Harminder Singh Jassi, four days before the voting for the Punjab assembly polls in 2017. Jassi, whose daughter is married to Ram Rahim’s son, had a narrow escape in the incident.
There is a petition pending in Punjab and Haryana High Court demanding to make Ram Rahim an accused in the blast case and get it probed either by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) or the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The NIA is involved in the investigation of several cases registered by Punjab Police against Sikh separatists in Punjab. However, Punjab Police has not yet asked the agency for any assistance in Maur bomb blast case, which had high casualties and a high profile target.
The Punjab SIT probing the incident had claimed that the car bomb used in blast was assembled in the premises of Dera’s Sirsa-based headquarters. It has also produced four eyewitness in local court in February 2018.
However, in more than than two years since then, police has not questioned Ram Rahim or any administrative authority of Dera to further the investigation.
It was only after a Punjab and Haryana High Court intervention that the SIT summoned Dera representative Vipassana Insan for questioning earlier this year.
Bathinda SSP Nanak Singh, who is also a member of the SIT, declined to comment on if any representative of Dera has been questioned in the three years since the blast.
“All the users, whose mobile numbers were active in Maur on the day of blast, were questioned by police. But it is surprising that police is not ready to question Ram Rahim, who owns the place where, according to police, the bomb was assembled. What kind of investigation is this? Will you not be questioned if seven people including five children would die in bomb blast that was assembled at your home,” asked Khushdeep Singh, whose 15-year-old son Japsimran was killed in the Maur blast. He is also a petitioner demanding NIA or CBI investigation in blast.
The SIT probing the blast comprises ADGP (crime) Ishwar Singh, IGP BTA Zone Jaskaran Singh, and Bathinda SSP Nanak Singh.
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