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Tiffin bombs, Pakistani drones with deadly payloads — alarming finds in Punjab before polls

Police says Ludhiana blast Thursday to be probed in line with series of recoveries of RDX, grenades, arms, cash in Punjab over the past year.

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Chandigarh: The bomb blast at the Ludhiana district court complex that left one person dead Thursday is a grim reminder of Punjab’s precarious law and order situation ahead of the assembly polls scheduled for early next year.

Additional Director General of Police (internal security) R.N. Dhoke told ThePrint that the blast will be investigated in line with a series of recent recoveries of RDX and tiffin bombs.

“Preliminary investigation points towards the possibility that the person who has been killed in the blast was either carrying it, or handling it from very close quarters,” Gurpreet Singh Bhullar, Ludhiana police commissioner, told mediapersons Thursday evening. 

The person who was killed in the blast is yet to be identified, he added. 

The five people who were injured in the blast have been identified. All of them are residents of Ludhiana.

Also Read: ‘Pakistan-ISI terror module’ dropped bombs via drones, links to Punjab ‘tiffin bomb’ case: Police

Uptick in drones and tiffin bombs

Over the past year, Punjab Police and the Border Security Force (BSF) have been on their toes hunting down rogue drones that allegedly came in from Pakistan carrying payloads of RDX and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) masquerading as colourful plastic tiffin boxes. 

Many of the drones were also loaded with hand grenades, pistols and cash.

Punjab Police have documented all past incidents in press notes issued through the year.

In August and September alone, six tiffin bombs were recovered from various parts of Punjab, including Tarn Taran, Fazilka and Kapurthala. Two blasts, one of a motorcycle at Jalalabad and another of an oil tanker in Ajnala, were carried out using tiffin bombs. The Jalalabad blast had led to one death.

In early August, former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah regarding the tiffin bomb recoveries, and asked him to urgently provide 25 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) as well as anti-drone gadgets for the BSF.

Terror modules busted

The state police has also busted close to 350 terror modules since 2017.

The latest one was busted in the first week of December, when two “Pakistan-ISI sponsored” terror modules were found to be operating in Gurdaspur. 

In another case, the police recovered hand grenades and RDX from a Lopoke resident. Another set of hand grenades and a tiffin bomb were allegedly recovered later from Salempur Araiyan village in Gurdaspur.

On 4 November, thwarting a possible terrorist attack on the eve of Diwali, police had recovered another tiffin bomb hidden in a field at Ali Ke village, situated near the India-Pakistan border in Ferozepur district.

On 23 September, police busted another militant module backed by the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), with the arrest of three suspected members from Bhagwanpur village in Bhikhiwind area of Tarn Taran. Two boxes packed in foam, two hand grenades and three pistols were recovered from them.

A tiffin bomb was recovered from a field in Dharmpura village of Fazilka on 18 September.

Half a dozen people were arrested for the 15 September motorcycle blast at Jalalabad, in which Balwinder Singh alias Bindu of Jhugge Nihanga Wale village had died. A tiffin bomb, two pen drives and Rs 1.15 lakh in cash were allegedly recovered from them.

In September, the police had also allegedly busted a secessionist module of the banned Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) with the arrests of three suspected members. Lakhs of secessionist pamphlets promoting ‘Referendum 2020’ activities were found in their possession during a raid conducted in Rampur village in Khanna, police said. 

On 31 August, police had arrested a “radicalised operative” identified as Saroop Singh of Johal Dhai Wala village in Tarn Taran, allegedly linked with foreign-based terrorist entities. They said they recovered two live Chinese-made P-86 grenades from his possession.

On 8 August, an oil tanker parked at a filling station on the Amritsar-Ajnala Road near Bhakha Tara Singh village caught fire after a blast. CCTV footage showed some persons placing something on the tanker before it exploded. Those arrested in connection with this case in September had allegedly told police that a tiffin IED was placed on the tanker on directions of Pakistan-based Sikh militants and an ISI agent. 

The same day, Amritsar rural police had recovered a sophisticated tiffin bomb IED from Daleke village in Lopoke. The IED contained around 2-3 kg RDX and had three different trigger mechanisms, including switch, magnetic and spring for operational flexibility.

Another terror module was busted on 20 August, when Kapurthala police recovered a tiffin bomb IED besides five hand grenades, a box of detonators, two tubes suspected to contain RDX, a .30 bore pistol, four Glock pistol magazines and one high explosive wire from two accused, police said. 

On 15 August, the Amritsar rural police arrested two accused and recovered two hand grenades of the same make and model (P-86), along with other weapons. The two were allegedly associated with a UK-based terrorist entity.

Kapurthala police had also recovered a similar consignment consisting of two live hand grenades, one live tiffin bomb and other explosive material from the possession of one Gurmukh Singh Brar and his associate from Phagwara on 20 August.

Captain’s 10 August meeting with Shah

During his 10 August meeting with Shah, former CM Captain Amarinder had told the home minister that, between 4 July and 8 August, 2021, foreign-based pro-Khalistani entities working in close collaboration with the ISI had managed to induct over 30 pistols, one MP4 rifle, one AK-47 rifle, around 35 hand grenades, sophisticated laboratory-made tiffin bombs, over 6 kg RDX and assorted hardware for fabrication of IEDs.

In October, the Centre had increased the jurisdiction of the BSF from 15 km to 50 km in Punjab. According to Amarinder, the move was largely aimed at preventing entry of drones deep into the state.

Reacting to the Ludhiana blast, Amarinder said in a statement that he had been continuously flagging these issues. “It is sad that the government was continuously in a denial mode. There is a serious threat to the peace and security of Punjab and such incidents are an indication towards that which must be taken seriously and not brushed aside the way the government is trying to.”

Thursday’s blast also brought back memories of the Maur Mandi blast that took place on 31 January, 2017, barely five days before Punjab voted on 4 February. The blast led to the deaths of seven people, including five children.

‘Attempt to thwart peace before polls’

Political parties in Punjab called the Ludhiana blast “an attempt to thwart peace in the state” ahead of polls.
Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, who visited the blast victims in Ludhiana Thursday, tweeted that “we would not let any person disturb the hard earned peace and communal harmony of the state”.
In another statement, Channi said the blast and recent cases of alleged sacrilege were being probed keeping in view that the state government had earlier this month lodged an FIR against Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia.
SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal demanded that a sitting judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court monitor the investigation into the blast as well as the sacrilege cases.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

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