The Centre Friday accepted Punjab government’s recommendation to hand over the September 5 Tarn Taran blast case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), in view of its “national and international ramifications” and “suspected links of the accused with the Pakistan backed Sikhs for Justice (SFJ)”.
A communique to this effect was received by the Chief Secretary and Punjab DGP, an official spokesperson said.
Two persons were killed and one seriously injured in a powerful explosion that took place in a vacant plot on the outskirts of village Pandori Gola in Tarn Taran district. “The incident took place when victims were digging a pit to retrieve a dumped explosive consignment, which they mishandled,” added the spokesperson.
Police had then not ruled out a terror angle in the incident. The Punjab Police had then arrested eight members of the Pakistan-backed module, whose interrogation led to a complex web of conspiracy and attacks by the group, including an aborted attack on a high value target in 2016, the spokesperson said.
Seven others, including the module leader and main conspirator Bikramjit Singh alias ‘Granthi’ (priest), who is believed to be in Austria, are still absconding. The ‘Granthi’, a follower of Damdami Taksal, was allegedly a highly radicalized individual, and had planned to target high political dignitaries, socio-religious places, local rival politicians, Hindu leaders and Sikh preachers, with the help of local made crude bombs. An IED expert, he also planned to attack police personnel with local made multiple bombs, the spokesperson said.
The other accused have been identified as Gurpreet Singh (now based in California, USA), Gurwinder Singh alias Prince (now based at Sanjose, California, USA), Sodhi Singh who is presently residing in Armenia, Arwinder Singh alias Honey, Kuldeep Singh and Ranjit Singh alias Bablu who escaped to the US, the day after the attack on a liquor shop in Amritsar on May 3, 2016.
Those apprehended so far include Harjit Singh, Manpreet Singh Mann, Chandeep Singh Khalsa alias Gabbar Singh, Malkiat Singh alias Sher Singh, Maandeep Singh alias Massa Singh, Amritpal Singh alias Amrit, Amarjit Singh alias Amar and Gurjant Singh who is under treatment in a hospital.
“Investigations revealed strong links of the module members with Pakistan and SFJ. Chandeep Singh was found to be in regular touch with Pak-based Usman, who had earlier contacted the former on Facebook in 2018. Usman used to send Chandeep WhatsApp messages on Khalistan and also on abrogation of Article 370 by the government. Usman used to motivate him to work for the establishment of a separate state of Khalistan and unite with Kashmiri Jehadis. Several Pakistani numbers have also been found in Chandeep’s contact list,” the spokesperson claimed.
He said, Bikramjit used to source material for his explosives from near Haqima gate and Lohgarh area of old city of Amritsar. “He had successfully radicalized most of the module members at a religious place. He had also imparted training in improvised explosive device manufacturing to radicalized module members at his home in village Panjwar and in the house of Gurjant Singh at village Bachere, Tarn Taran.t After radicalizing, motivating, imparting training in making IEDs, sourcing low grade explosives and supplying IEDs to important module members, he escaped to Austria via Armenia in July 2018,” the spokesperson said.
The module had planned to a target a Dera in Taran Taran district, on order from one Sodhi Singh Khalsa of Armenia, who was also the module’s one of the main links to the SFJ. They had also wanted to target a Hindu Shiv Sena leader, the spokesperson said, adding that Ranjit Singh aka Bablu was involved in the attack on the liquor shop, while Harmanjit Singh aka Captain (since arrested and now on bail) had earlier targeted a liquor shop with crude bombs near Chattiwind, Amritsar.
“Gurjant and Bikramjit alias Vicky Gill had hurled two crude bombs at a Missionary in Tarn Taran in 2016. The bomb did not explode and no one was hurt in the incident,” added the spokesperson.
“Gurjant , Harjit and Vicky Gill hurled four crude bombs at the house of newly elected Sarpanch Gurjant Singh at village Bachere, Tarn Taran on January 3, 2019, which resulted in injuries to three persons. Vicky Gill and Gurjant also exploded a crude bomb to test its potentiality on a lonely link road near Rayya-Beas on May 25, 2016,” the spokesperson further said.