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Hooch Tragedy: Year on, ‘godman’ booked for murder, 11 others continue to evade police

More than 100 people in three districts died after consuming spurious liquor in a tragedy that had started unfolding on July 29, 2020, amid the Covid-19 induced lockdown. Of the 77 arrested in connection with the case, majority are out on bail.

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Amrisar |
August 10, 2021 7:15:46 am
CM Amarinder Singh had met the family members of the victims in Tarn Taran. Key accused Rashpal Singh had allegedly transported four lots of spirit liquor even after the arrest of his brother; his dera is still functioning, while brother tries to get him legal help. (File)

A YEAR after the hooch tragedy in Majha, which claimed the lives of over a hundred people in three districts, 12 accused — including self-proclaimed “godman” Rashpal Singh alias Shalu Dhotian, one of the main accused booked on murder charges — are still on the run.

More than 100 people in three districts died after consuming spurious liquor in a tragedy that had started unfolding on July 29, 2020, amid the Covid-19 induced lockdown. Of the 77 arrested in connection with the case, majority are out on bail.

Rashpal Singh allegedly transported at least four consignments of spirit liquor even after the arrest of his brother Gurpal Singh Dhotian in a similar case 20 days before the tragedy. Gurpal is now out on bail and scouting legal remedies to keep Rashpal out of jail.

The case hasn’t even affected the activities at Rashpal’s dera in Dhotian village of Tarn Taran. Gurpal is keeping his following intact. In June, Gurpal had held a congregation at the dera where speakers hailed Rashpal as a “godman” while flouting Covid-19 norms. Many attended the function.

The brothers were allegedly using the dera to run their illegal liquor business for nine years. They have many other criminal cases pending against them as well. Gurpal was arrested for smuggling 4,000 litres of chemical/spirit liquor in Phillaur on July 9, 2020, just 20 days before the Hooch tragedy unfolded.

Rashpal had multiple sources to obtain liquor and then supply it on ground. He only stopped after he was booked in the hooch tragedy.

Both brothers were also politically active and used to organise an annual musical show for Rashpal’s followers. Recently, one such show was held on June 23.

Rashpal and Gurpal had joined Congress during the 2019 Parliament elections campaign. The Patti Congress MLA had even attended a function hosted by them before the 2019 elections.

Just 20 days before his arrest in Phillaur in July 2020, Gurpal had posted a picture on Facebook with MLA Harminder Gill.

Properties of both brothers were frozen, but are still in their possession as attachment proceedings are pending.

When contacted, Gurpal said: “Police has implicated us in false cases. I am working for bail of my brother. I hope he will be back soon.”

Tarn Taran SSP Dhruman Nimbale said: “Rashpal Singh is the only hooch tragedy accused with murder charges who is still on the run. A total of 12 accused are still on the run. None face murder charges except Rashpal in cases registered in City and Sadar police station of Tarn Taran.”

He added: “More than 77 accused have been arrested and majority of them are out on bail including Gurpal. Only those with murder charges are not getting bail. Most of the accused booked only under Excise Act have got bail. Nine accused with murder charges against them are still in jail. Those who were supplying on ground were not aware that they were selling poison and it could kill the consumer, so they were not booked for murder.”

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