NIA took over all seven cases; Punjab cops claim Jaggi was in touch with Khalistani terror elements in Britain and Pakistan.
Chandigarh: British national Jagtar Singh Johal alias Jaggi, one of the four men arrested in connection with seven high-profile murders including that of Hindu Right-wing leaders in Punjab, was in touch with Khalistani terrorists, top Punjab Police officers said, days after the NIA took over the probe last week.
According to the police, Jaggi came into contact with Gursharan Bir, an alleged KLF member living in Coventry, Britain. He was wanted for the killing of the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat leader Rulda Singh in Patiala in 2009.
“Gursharan Bir was related to someone who was helping Jaggi run his websites,” Ananya Gautam, IG (counter intelligence), Punjab Police, told ThePrint.
Dinkar Gupta, DGP intelligence, Punjab, said Jaggi was also in touch with Pakistan-based Lakhbir Rode and Harmeet Singh alias Happy alias PHD of the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF).
“But we don’t know if he travelled to Pakistan and met him,” he added.
In 2013, Jaggi allegedly met KLF chief Harminder Singh Mintoo in France. “He was asked by Gursharan Bir to courier cash to his contact there,” alleged Gupta
“After Mintoo was arrested in 2014, Bir virtually took over the mantle of the KLF chief in the UK and Johal was his active front,” he added.
Jaggi proved to be the vital link that led the police to the two hit men involved in seven murders in Punjab.
“He knew their identity and was the link between them and their handlers through a messaging app. In 2016, he allegedly arranged for buying two weapons in Punjab to be supplied to another module,” Ranbir Singh Khatra, DIG counter-intelligence, Punjab who led the operation resulting in the arrests, told ThePrint.
Jaggi was also allegedly raising funds for these activities as also helping families of slain militants in Punjab. “He collected funds through his website first. But the UK government suspected something and cancelled his Paypal connection,” added Gautam.
Who is Johal
Born in 1987 in Britain, Jaggi studied up to high school. His elder brother, Gurpreet Singh, is an immigration advocate and his younger brother has completed his education and is looking for a job.
Their father, Jasbir Singh, was running a takeaway joint until 2014 and is now managing a friend’s Indian restaurant. Jaggi’s mother died 10 years ago.
Jaggi ran a website, neverforget84.com that became a popular hub of radical Sikh voices. “Later he started another portal, 1984tribute.com. He became so closely associated with the cause of demanding justice of those killed in the anti-Sikh riots that he was referred to as ‘84’ or ‘chaurasi’ by many,” said Gupta.
Jaggi told the police that he was a budding writer and translated news picked up from Punjabi dailies into English and fed them to local channels in the UK earning almost £3,000 a month. He also designed T-shirts and other material to be used in Sikh events and rallies.
He published three editions of a magazine, Sikh Soorme, that featured among others, the life of militants Sukha and Jinda. He also collaborated with some Sikhs in Canada to make a Punjabi film on the two but the project was shelved.
“Jaggi had earlier come to India in April this year for his engagement and stayed for over a month. He was not touched by the police then. He was arrested only after his friend Taljeet Singh alias Jimmy told the police about his activities and we were convinced that he is involved,” said Gupta.
No help from Britain
Punjab Police claims it is not getting any help from London in the investigation. “The British High Commission has not handed over his passport for instance,” said Gupta.
Police believe that apart from Sikh hardliners, Khalistani militants living in Britain are behind the #savejaggi campaign vilifying Punjab Police. Policemen involved in solving the case recently received death threats from Jaggi’s supporters in the UK.
The NIA is expected to coordinate closely with British agencies and other countries on this account too.
Jaggi’s lawyer Jaspal Singh Manjhpur, however, claimed that he has been targeted by the Punjab Police and arrested wrongly because he was involved in running a website on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. “He was translating Punjabi Sikh news into English and that was exposing the deeds of the Punjab Police across the world. The police wanted to fix him and had him on their radar for one year,” Manjhpur told ThePrint.
He claimed that Jaggi was arrested on 4 November but the police have not made any recovery (an incriminating document, a weapon etc) from him that links “him to any of the murders”.
“He has been arrested only on the basis of false allegations. As a British national, he has the right to meet representatives of the British High Commission privately but the police are not allowing that,” Manjhpur said.
“The shifting of the cases to the NIA shows that Punjab Police could not find anything against Johal and want to put the burden on NIA,” he added.