Gursharanbir Singh Wahiwal, a Khalistani supporter wanted by the Punjab Police and the NIA in several cases of targeted killings in Punjab, was among those whose homes were searched by the West Midlands Counter-Terrorism Unit (WMCTU) in the United Kingdom earlier this week, The Indian Express has learnt. Gursharanbir is the prime accused in the 2009 killing of Rulda Singh, chief of a RSS-affiliated organisation Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, who was shot dead outside his home in Patiala. Gursharanbir, who is alleged to have used his brother’s passport to enter the country, fled to the UK after the crime.
In July 2010, the Punjab Police shared details of the case with the West Midlands Police in the UK, which detained Gursharan at the time but released him soon after. A UK police team had also visited Patiala in December 2010 and questioned other accused in the case, who were lodged in Nabha jail at the time.
In February 2015, a court in Patiala declared Gursharanbir Singh a proclaimed offender in the case. The Punjab Police arrested five other men in the case, all of whom were acquitted by the court due to lack of evidence. More recently, the NIA (National Investigation Agency) has accused Gursharanbir of being one of the chief conspirators in the case of targeted killings across Punjab in 2016-17.
Gursharanbit is also a close relative of British national Jagtar Singh Johal, one of the key accused in the targeted killings currently lodged in Nabha jail and described by the Punjab Police as a “prize catch”. Gursharan’s wife and Jagtar’s wife are sisters, a Punjab police source told The Indian Express.
In Punjab Police’s and NIA’s records, both Gursharanbir and his brother Amritbir Singh are key members of terrorist outfit Khalistani Liberation Force.
During the two-day long searches conducted in Coventry, Leicester and Birmingham, teams of UK police conducted search operations “in connection with allegations of extremist activity in India and fraud offences”.
WMCTU declined to share details on the search operations that ended Wednesday. “No arrests have been made and searches have now concluded. The investigation continues,” a WMCTU spokesperson, who identified herself only as Hannah, emailed in response to queries sent by The Indian Express.
Top Punjab Police officers said Gursharan and his brother Amritbir’s residences in Coventry, UK, were among the properties searched by the WMCTU. “We have received confirmation from WMCTU that the residences of both Gursharan and Amritbir were searched. There was, however, no confirmation on any arrests yet,” a top Punjab Police officer said.
Sikh Federation UK, which also did not reveal the names of persons whose homes were searched by the police, told The Indian Express, “As far as we are aware they are all well known Sikh activists. Search of each house took around 10 hours. Around 50-70 police officers were involved. Electronic equipment, phones and laptops were taken away. Search warrant indicates strong link with Indian authorities.”
On Twitter, Sikh Federation UK protested strongly against the WMCTU operation. Other UK-based pro-Khalistan Sikh organisations also condemned WMCTU’s search operation.