Three people killed in grenade attack near Amritsar. Punjab police suspects Pakistan’s JeM as also radical Sikh groups.
Chandigarh: At least three people are feared killed and 15 injured in a hand grenade blast in a village in Raja Sansi in Amritsar district Sunday.
The grenade was reportedly hurled by two motorcycle-borne youth at the village Nirankari Bhawan while a satsang (congregation) was going on inside.
The attack reminded Punjab of the longstanding and bitter rivalry between the Nirankaris and radical Sikhs and how clashes between them 40 years back became the starting point of the violent Sikh insurgency.
The attack also comes at a time when the controversy over the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib — considered to be a living Guru by the Sikhs — in 2015 has been dominating Punjab’s politics for almost five months now.
According to DGP law and order Hardeep Dhillon, initial inputs say the two youth, with their faces covered, barged into the building and lobbed the grenade at the crowd. “Three persons are dead and another is critically injured. It is too early to say who has done it,” Dhillon said.
A team of senior police officers is on its way from Chandigarh to Amritsar to spearhead the investigations.
JeM high alert
The attack comes three days after the state police was put on high alert following an input by its counter-intelligence wing, suggesting that some Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists were in Punjab and planning to move to Delhi.
It was also reported that al Qaeda commander Zakir Musa was spotted in the state.
A letter from the inspector-general of counter-intelligence addressed to district police heads added that it was suspected that these terrorists entered India from the border in Ferozepur.
Posters with pictures of JeM terrorists and the IG’s alert were pasted on the walls of the seat of the central government — the North and South Blocks in New Delhi.
Radical Sikhs also under scanner
The police is also looking at the possibility of the grenade attack being the handiwork of radical Sikh organisations. The attack is a reminder of the traditional enmity between the Nirankaris and radical Sikhs.
The killing of 13 Sikhs and three Nirankaris on Baisakhi day in Amritsar, following a violent clash between the two groups in 1978, is considered to be the starting point of the Sikh insurgency in Punjab.
The Sant Nirankari Mission is considered an offshoot of Sikhism, but the Nirankaris follow a living Guru and have their own bani (religious texts).
Nirankari mission head Baba Gurbachan Singh was shot dead in April 1980 as he alighted from his car on his return from addressing a congregation. His son Baba Hardev Singh took over the mission and ran it until his death in a car accident in Canada in 2016. His wife Mata Savinder Hardev, is heading the mission since.
The blast in Amritsar also comes at a time when Sikh radical groups have made common cause with Sikh saints, demanding justice for the killing of two Sikhs in police firing in 2015.
Groups of Sikhs were fired at when they were protesting against police inaction in solving the cases of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib. The Shiromani Akali Dal, then in power, is now the target of the Sikh groups’ ire.
The Congress government, meanwhile, has made no effort to end the continuing morcha at Bargari village in Faridkot, where Sikh bodies have decided to sit in protest until Akali leaders, including former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, are arrested.