THE POLICE investigation in the assassination attempt on Sikh preacher Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale Wednesday says that the attack was the fallout of a ‘Facebook war’ between the preacher and Harnam Singh Dhuma, head of the Sant Samaj Damdami Taksal (Mehta) which was previously headed by Khalistani Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.
The four persons arrested by the police have been identified as alleged supporters of Dhuma who wanted to ‘take revenge’ on Dhadrianwala for his ‘Sarkaari sant’ comment.
The Ludhiana police identified the arrested as: Hardev Singh, a resident of Udho Nangal, near Baba Bakala, Amritsar; Gagandeep Singh Harnoor and Jaspreet Singh, residents of Chhadran village, near Katanni Kalan of Ludhiana and Manjeet Singh, a resident of Mohalla Dharampura.
One Hardeep Singh of Kohar village near Malerkotla is also being interrogated by the police.
Meanwhile, attending the cremation of Bhupinder Singh who was killed in the attack, Dhadrianwale said if the police fails to arrest all the suspects by Thursday, his supporters would launch a statewide massive agitation against police inaction.
A senior police officer who is part of the investigating team said, “Hardev Singh is the main conspirator. Gagandeep and Jaspreet, his accomplices from Ludhiana, did a recce of the spot and helped him in setting up the fake ‘chabeel’. During interrogation, they have also confessed the name of one Dalbir Singh. All efforts are being made to arrest Dalbir as soon as possible.”
The senior police officer confirmed that Hardev Singh of Amritsar was driving the Bolero vehicle. The fourth accused, Manjit Singh, provided shelter to the accused.
CCTV grabs taken from Ladhowal toll plaza by the police show that accused entered Ludhiana around 5.28 pm in four vehicles and exited the city around 8.15 pm.
The suspected vehicles include a black-coloured Mahindra Scorpio with a Delhi registration number owned by one Deepak of Kalkaji area in Delhi; silver-coloured Bolero owned by one Narinder Singh of Patiala; white-coloured Mahindra Open jeep and white-coloured Tata Safari owned by Baba Harnam Singh of village Mehta in Amritsar.
The alleged Dhuma supporters wanted to ‘take revenge’ from Dhadrianwala and tension was simmering since the Sarbat Khalsa called by radicals last year which led to this conspiracy, confirmed police sources.
“Dhadrianwale had stayed away from the Sarbat Khalsa which further heightened the tension brewing between the groups. He led the protest against government during Sri Guru Granth Sahib desecration incidents but stayed away from hardliners. The recent Facebook war between Dhuma and Dhadrianwale was the last straw. They were extremely offended with Dhadrianwale calling Dhuma ‘sarkaari sant’ (government backed saint),” said the source.
In the recent spat, Dhadrianwale had called Dhumma a ‘sarkari Sant’ (‘government-backed saint’) after the latter had allegedly commented on his turban. “I fear Sri Guru Granth Sahib alone, none else. Let alone the government-backed sarkaari baba who claims himself to be the head of respected Damdami Taksal,” Dhadrianwale had reportedly said.
He had said that ‘Sikh sangat should be cautious of such people who are fake and busy in flattering his government associates.’
However, he had said that ‘he immensely respects Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and Damdami Taksal but not the fake leader who is heading it currently.’
Speaking to The Indian Express, Ludhiana deputy commissioner of police (DCP) Dhruman Nimbale said, “The four accused in our custody have confessed. They have accepted that they planned the attack with a motive to assassinate Dhadrianwale. They have also given leads about other suspects. As per victim’s statement, there were at least thirty accused, rest will be arrested soon. Further details cannot be revealed as it may hamper the investigation.”
Contacted for comments, the personal sewak of Dhuma said, “Baba ji is not in condition to talk. He is taking rest.”
Speaking to media, preacher Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale on Wednesday said, “I am not blaming anyone as of now but yes, for months I was getting threats on social networking sites from some anti-social elements. I am not blaming entire sangat of Damdami Taksal but there are some miscreants in every sect who create problems. I was getting life threats.” He added that until the case is solved, entire administration and government will be in a circle of suspicion.’
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“It was not four but forty people, not one but six cars. If administration fails to crack this case involving accused who opened attack brazenly, then it surely puts government and police in circle of suspicion too. It will prove that culprits had political patronage as forty people who stood there to serve chabeel cannot vanish in the air,” said Dhadrianwale.
The arrested Hardev Singh, a resident of Udho Nangal, near Baba Bakala, Amritsar Gagandeep Singh Harnoor and Jaspreet Singh, residents of village Chhadran, near Katanni Kalan of Ludhiana Manjeet Singh, a resident of Mohalla Dharampura.