Tight security measures have been put in place across Punjab to prevent any untoward incident, a day after key accused in the 2015 Bargari sacrilege case was killed allegedly by two inmates in high-security Nabha prison.
Officials Sunday said that checking of vehicles has been intensified at various places while paramilitary along with state police force has been deployed in Kotkapura town in Faridkot, where body of Mahinderpal Bittu was brought from Nabha in the morning.
Bittu, a follower of Dera Sacha Sauda sect, was allegedly attacked by two inmates Saturday evening after which he was rushed to Nabha civil hospital near Patiala, where he was declared brought dead.
Earlier, police had said that preliminary investigations revealed that Bittu (49), a resident of Faridkot, was allegedly attacked by Gursewak Singh and Maninder Singh, who were lodged in the Nabha prison in a murder case.
According to an official, Bittu was allegedly attacked by these inmates with iron rods which they picked up from a construction site inside the jail. The deceased had suffered serious head injuries in the incident.
A panel of three doctors conducted postmortem in the early hours of Sunday in the presence of duty magistrate after which Bittu’s body was handed over to his kin and sent to native town Kotkapura where last rites were expected to be conducted later in the day.
Bittu’s body was kept in ‘Naam Charcha Ghar’ (congregation/prayer centre) of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect at Kotkapura. A large number of Dera followers started gathering there after the body reached there in the morning.
Kotkapura and many of its adjoining towns in Punjab have sizeable presence of Dera followers. Security has also been stepped up in ‘Naam Charcha Ghars’ at other places in the state.
Inspector General of Police, Ferozepur Range, M S Chhina told reporters in Kotkapura that sufficient paramilitary and state police force has been deployed in the town.
“Sufficient paramilitary, state armed police in my (Ferozepur) range has been deployed. We will maintain peace,” Chhina said. Punjab’s Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa Sunday said a magisterial probe has been marked into the attack.
“The Bargari accused were kept in separate cell so that such incident does not take place. Unfortunately, such a thing happened. Three jail officials have been suspended,” the Minister said.
He said under what circumstances Mahinderpal come out of his cell and attacked will be known once probe is held. Bittu’s son Parminder told reporters in Kotkapura that family used to meet him in jail every Saturday.
“Every Saturday we used to meet him. As soon as we left yesterday, minutes later we were informed that he has been attacked … my father has been killed under a conspiracy,” he alleged on Sunday.
Notably, after the incident Saturday evening, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had ordered an inquiry into the attack.
Additional Director General of Prisons Rohit Chaudhary will head a fact-finding committee, which has been asked to submit the report within three days, the statement had said Saturday.
“The inquiry will be in addition to the mandatory judicial inquest into the murder of the accused, Mahinderpal Bittu, who was arrested last year,” the statement said earlier.
The chief minister has ordered beefing up of security in the state in the wake of the attack on Bittu, while appealing to all communities to maintain peace and “not give in to rumours.”
Those involved in the attack would face punishment, he asserted.
A special investigation team (SIT) of the Punjab Police, probing the four-year-old sacrilege incident and other similar events, had named Bittu as the key accused. He was booked for various charges including allegedly hurting religious sentiments of the Sikhs and being involved in unlawful activities. He was nabbed by Punjab police from Palampur in Himachal Pradesh a year ago.
In 2016, the maximum security Nabha jail was in the news when a group of armed men in police uniform had stormed the prison and managed to free six prisoners including two terrorists.