As police drove to Bhagdana, nearly 35 km from Mohali in Fatehgarh Sahib district, early on Sunday morning, hardly anyone seemed to know that one of the persons booked for killing Mohinder Pal Singh Bittu — key accused in the sacrilege cases in Nabha jail, hailed from the village.
Maninder Singh alias Juma, led a non-controversial life in the village till he was named in a murder case in 2015. On Sunday, he was booked for killing Bittu. But in Bhagdana, many people remember him as a “good person”, who worked as a welder and took care of his family.
The village, with a population of around 4000, is known for religious leanings as the villagers believe that ninth Sikh master, Guru Teg Bahadur, visited the village. A big gate dedicated to Guru Teg Bahadur serves as an entry point to the village.
Jaswinder Singh (36), a resident of the village, said that villagers came to know about the murder inside Nabha jail on Sunday morning when a police team reached their village.
“A police party was present outside Maninder’s house, and then I came to know about it (murder). Maninder is a very good person. He worked at a welding workshop, he was trained. At the time that time, Maninder used to trim his beard and also used to cut his hair,” said Jaswinder Singh, who claimed to know Maninder Singh personally. A police party was deputed outside Maninder’s small house in the village. Present at the spot, Bassi Pathana DSP Sukhminder Singh told The Indian Express, “ We were asked to provide the family security, so that no one attempts to harm them in the wake of the jail incident.”
When asked about the 2015 murder in which Maninder was involved, Mandeep Singh, another resident of the village, said that Maninder and four other persons of the village were booked for murder after one Rajinder Singh died in a scuffle.
“Rajinder Singh was an ex-serviceman, there was a scuffle over some issue and Rajinder Singh was killed, we had never heard about any criminal activity Maninder was involved prior to the murder,” Mandeep Singh added.
As per the FIR, the copy of which is with The Indian Express, Maninder and four others — Fateh Singh, Gaundar, Maninder Singh and Kamalpreet Singh alias Kamla — were booked for the murder of Rajinder Singh. The case was registered at Badali Ala Singh police station on September 15, 2015.
Maninder’s father, Harbans Singh, said he would speak to his son first before commenting on the jail murder. His mother, Gulzar Kaur, refused to believe that her son was behind the act, and added that he had assured him during the last meeting that he would come out of jail soon.
“I do not what had happened in jail, I can’t believe it. We urge the people and the organisations not to visit our house as we were not in a state to speak anything, we only believe in Guru Granth Sahib and we know that the justice will prevail,” Gurlzar Kaur said.
Harbans Singh added: “He was earning Rs. 10,000 per month and was helping the family, he was wrongly named in the FIR in 2015. He had studied till Class 5.” About his religious leanings, the father said that Maninder used to cut his hair and trim his beard, but after going to jail he had grown his hair and started tying a damalaa (a traditional turban wearing style).
At Jheurheri, the native village of another Nabha jail murder accused Gursewak Singh alias Bhoot, villagers said that the family had moved out some 20 years ago to Sohana in Mohali. The family’s house in the village is occupied by tenants, and a resident, who claimed to know the family, said that many people might not be aware that they stayed here once.
Gursewak Singh was serving life imprisonment in a murder case which took place in Kambali village in 2014. Apart from Gursewak, his seven accomplices were sentenced to life imprisonment in October last year for murdering Gurjant Singh of Kambali village at a auto service station in July 2014.