Chandigarh: Shiv Sena (Taksali) leader Sudhir Suri was killed in broad daylight on Friday in Amritsar, a city barely 45 kilometres from Dera Beas which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit tomorrow.
The right-wing leader was shot dead in a busy market area of the city, where he had sat on a dharna outside the local Gopal Mandir on Majitha Road. Suri’s grouse was against the alleged desecration of Hindu idols by the temple management.
The arrested attacker has been identified as Sandeep Singh, alias Sunny, who pumped multiple bullets into Suri using his licensed weapon. He was in the crowd that surrounded Suri and fellow protesters, when he shot the leader and ran into a nearby house for cover.
Amritsar Police Commissioner Arun Pal Singh said the Sikh youth was arrested from this house.
Former IPS officer and local AAP MLA Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh said he felt ashamed at the brazen murder and demanded the commissioner be dismissed as the “police system had totally collapsed”.
Singh said he had alerted Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann about the deteriorating law and order situation. “It is up to them to do something about it,” Singh said, adding he might be the local MLA, but had no decision-making powers.
Later, addressing a press conference in Chandigarh, Punjab Director General of Police Gaurav Yadav said Sandeep Singh ran a garment shop in the market where the incident took place. The police have not shed any light on whether Sandeep Singh had links with Sikh extremist elements.
Yadav said: “We will keep the media informed as the investigation progresses.”
Suri headed Shiv Sena (Taksali) and was often in news for his inflammatory remarks. He was given police security, who were with him when the attack took place.
The leader, along with 10 to 15 supporters, was protesting the temple management’s alleged mistreatment of Hindu deities. The group claimed the temple committee had not kept its surroundings clean and that photographs of Hindu gods and goddesses were found lying in the garbage.
During the protest, Suri and his supporters heatedly argued with the temple management over the issue.
The two groups came to fisticuffs, following which a posse of policemen were sent to the spot. The police managed to pacify and disengage the two groups.
According to video footage, Sandeep Singh was standing in the crowd while the ruckus took place. He wore a bluish-grey checked shirt, blue jeans and a red turban. He shot Suri at point black range.
Some of Suri’s supporters, who were armed, then fired shots at the house in which Singh had taken shelter. They later alleged the police tried to help the accused escape, adding that Suri’s official security guards did not step in to save the leader.
Suri was rushed to a private hospital in Amritsar where he was declared dead. Agitated supporters openly swore revenge against “Khalistanis”.
A white car parked at the spot that allegedly belonged to Sandeep Singh was vandalised by Suri’s supporters. The car’s windshield sported a round poster of a recent rally of Sikh preacher Amritpal Singh. The windshield also bore marks of a removed sticker of the Punjab Police’s logo.
Amritpal Singh has recently claimed the legacy of deceased actor-turned-Khalistan ideologue Deep Sidhu. Yadav would not elucidate on questions whether Amritpal’s organisation “Waris Punjab De” had anything to do with the killing.
Police sources added that several documents had been recovered from the car which contained photos of another Shiv Sena leader Harish Singla and Christian pastor Bajinder Singh among others.
Singla, who is the state president of the Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction), demanded the immediate arrest of Amritpal Singh. At a media meet later in the evening, Singla said he had received a WhatsApp call in which a man threatened to kill him.
Meanwhile, Punjab Congress President Amarinder Singh Raja Warring said Friday that the murder reflected the failure of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party in enforcing law and order. “This had to happen as the whole government is busy with Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections,” he said, cautioning Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann against taking things lightly.