The Punjab Police Saturday said the second and main perpetrator of the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan grenade attack. Avtar Singh, was arrested from Khiala village in Amritsar. The blast claimed three lives and left 16 injured.
Avtar Singh was produced in an Ajnala court that remanded him in police custody for seven days. DGP Suresh Arora told a media conference Saturdaythat there was strong evidence against the suspects caught in the case.
Police said Avtar’s links have also been traced to Harmeet Singh Happy aka ‘Ph.D’, the self- styled chief of ISI-backed Khalistan Liberation Force, based in Pakistan. Happy has emerged as the most active leader of Punjab-based outfits working under the watch and directions of the 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, said the DGP.
Responding to a question, the DGP said there had been only two cases of terror attack in Punjab this year: the Maqsudan police station attack and the Adliwala grenade attack. He expressed concern over the movement of terrorists from Jammu and Kashmir to Punjab but asserted that the police were keeping a close watch.
Elaborating on the operation, Arora, who was accompanied at the press meet by DGP (Intelligence) Dinkar Gupta and DGP (Law and Order), H S Dhillon, said the leads provided by Bikramjit Singh, who was arrested earlier, led the police to arrest 32-year-old Avtar Singh from Khiala village, from the tubewell motor shed of his uncle, Trilok Singh, early this morning. Avtar, a graduate, has been donning ‘Nihang Bana’ since 2012. He was a practising quack in his village but had no criminal history, said the DGP.
Both the pistols the perpetrators were carrying on the day of attack were recovered on the disclosures of Avtar, DGP said, adding that weapons recovered include two pistols (.32 bore), one of them US made, four magazines and 25 live rounds.
“Avtar was contacted on WhatsApp, a few months ago, by one Javed, who claimed to be a Pakistani national 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’,” said police.
The name of Javed Wazir Khan, a suspected Pakistani Intelligence Officer, had also come up in another terror module that the Punjab police had busted earlier this month and one person, Shabnamdeep, was arrested. Javed was alleged to have contacted Shabnamdeep.
“A few months ago, he put Avtar in touch with 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,” police said.
“Avtar Singh disclosed that his maternal cousin, Paramjit Singh Baba a resident of Wadala was 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,” DGP said.
“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 Pakistani national, Javed. Happy promised Avtar to arrange weapons for him,” police said.
“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 November 3, at around 11 pm, Avtar contacted his close friend, Bikramjit Singh 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 November 4, 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 November 13, 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 November 16, Avtar and Bikram met at village Dhariwal, planned the attack in detail, and decided to carry out the attack on November 18. Avtar has corroborated the sequence of events as disclosed by Bikramjit,” said the police.
“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,” police said, adding that “the accused has also disclosed that he initially got radicalised in the wake of the 2007 incident when the Dera Sacha Sauda chief appeared in public in the attire [allegedly similar to] of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Thereafter, he began to participate regularly in protests against the dera 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, Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan (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,” police said.