The prime accused in the 2015 Bargari sacrilege case died after he was allegedly attacked by two inmates in Punjab’s high-security Nabha jail Saturday evening.
Police booked Gursewak Singh, a murder convict, and Maninder Singh, an undertrial in a murder case, for killing Mohinder Pal Bittu (49). The two allegedly attacked Bittu with two rods removed from a ventilation window. The assault took place at around 5.20 pm. Bittu was declared brought dead at Nabha Civil Hospital.
Bittu, a member of a state-level Dera Sacha Sauda committee, was arrested in June last year by a Special Investigation Team of the Punjab Police headed by Ranbir Singh Khatra, from Himachal Pradesh’s Palampur. The Bargari case, which had triggered statewide protests, was subsequently handed over to CBI.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh has ordered an inquiry into the murder and issued a “warning of stringent punishment for the assailants”. A fact-finding committee, headed by ADGP (Prisons) Rohit Chaudhary, has been asked to submit a report within three days. There will also be a mandatory judicial inquest into the murder.
The chief minister also ordered for tighter security across the state and appealed to all communities to “maintain peace and not give in to rumours”.
Punjab Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said Assistant Superintendent of Jail Ajmer Singh and warders Major Singh and Aman Giri had been suspended for “lapse in security” and action will be taken by the Punjab Ex-servicemen Corporation against its employee Lal Singh, who was also posted in the prison for security purposes.
Sources said that while Bittu was lodged in a high-security cell, he was outside walking in a common area when the attack took place. Punjab DIG Prisons Lakhminder Singh Jakhar said, “The attackers extracted two rods that were nearly two and a half ft long and an inch thick from the ventilation window and hit Bittu on the head.”
Patiala Range Inspector General A S Rai said, “Both attackers are baptised Sikhs. They say they attacked Bittu because he is the main accused in the Bargari case.”
Bittu is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter. Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, his son Arminder Kumar said, “What will we say now? Hamari saari dunia khatam kar di. Pehle jhoothe ilzaamon mein fasaya aur andar kia aur ab maar dia. Humein insaaf dene wala yahaan koi nahi hai (Our world has ended. First he was framed and now he has been murdered. There is no one who can give us justice).”
Arminder had gone to meet his father hours before he was killed. “He spoke to us normally as he did during previous visits,” he said.
Arminder further said that they were always concerned for Bittu’s security. “Jail authorities were already providing him security and we thought it was enough. We were always concerned but never submitted any plea to get him shifted from Nabha jail as it was already a high security jail. Earlier he was shifted from Nabha jail to Faridkot jail but then again taken to Nabha and we agreed considering it was said to be better in security aspect. Can they or anyone else bring back my father now? Whose responsibility was it to ensure his safety?” he asked.
Tension in Faridkot
Faridkot and Kotkapura areas grew tense soon after news of Bittu’s news spread. District SSP Raj Bachan Singh said security had been beefed up near Bittu’s residence in Kotkapura and prayer meeting halls of Dera Sacha Sauda.