Police in Punjab on Wednesday named two persons as the men who carried out a grenade attack on a Nirankari congregation in Amritsar — Bikramjit Singh (26), a farmer who has been arrested, and Avtar Singh (32), whose father Gurdial Singh reportedly deserted the Army after Operation Blue Star in 1984. Avtar, from Chak Mishri Khan village in Ajnala, is on the run. According to residents of the area, he is a registered medical practitioner. A senior police officer, who did not want to be named, confirmed that Gurdial was an Army deserter.
Announcing Bikramjit’s arrest, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said it was Avtar who lobbed the grenade. Stating that Bikramjit is an operative of the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), he said the terror attack was carried out in active collaboration with the Pakistani establishment and the ISI. He said Bikramjit, who hails from Dhariwal, used his motorcycle in the attack with Avtar riding pillion.
Three persons were killed and over 20 injured in the attack at the Nirankari Bhavan on Sunday.
Policemen deployed outside Avtar’s house in Ajnala said Gurdial had been detained and was being questioned. While Avtar, who is married and has two daughters, has a small clinic in the village, his father owns a grocery store. The family owns about four acres of land. “The entire family was at home till Monday night, when the police carried out a raid. Since then, they have not been seen in the neighbourhood. We don’t know if they went somewhere, or if the police took them,” said Nirmal Kaur, a neighbour.
In Dhariwal, Bikramjit’s uncle Surjit Singh said he was picked up from his house on Tuesday night. “A police officer assured us that he would be released this afternoon. But in the evening, we learnt that he has been arrested for the grenade attack. I am sure that he is being falsely implicated,” he said.
Bikramjit’s younger brother is in Canada; their father Sukhwinder Singh died 18 years ago. The family owns about eight acres of land in the village. “There are many villagers who saw Bikramjit in the village on Sunday, he didn’t go anywhere. He is innocent,” said village sarpanch Rashpal Singh. Two labourers who work in the fields owned by Bikramjit claimed that he was at his farm the entire day.