Chandigarh: The Dera Sacha Sauda follower, who was fatally shot inside his shop at Kotkapura in Punjab’s Faridkot district on Thursday, was the second police protectee to be killed in Punjab in less than a week.
The murder of Pardeep Singh, a Dera follower who was accused of being involved in the 2015 Bargari sacrilege case in Faridkot, has put the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government under Bhagwant Mann in the dock.
Pardeep, who’s one of several suspects in the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in 2015, was fatally shot by five gun-wielding assailants early Thursday morning. He is the third suspect in the 2015 sacrilege case to be killed in the last six years — two other accused, Gurdev Singh and Mohinder Singh Bittu, were assasinated in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
A policeman who was part of the team guarding Pardeep Singh was among three people wounded in Thursday’s firing, Inspector General of Police, Faridkot range, Pradeep Kumar Yadav told the media during his inspection of the crime scene.
Soon after the Thursday killing, Canada-based gangster Goldy Brar has claimed the attack. In a Facebook post Thursday, Brar purportedly said: “For the past seven years, three governments have changed and they have not been able to give justice to the sacrilege incidents.”
The post also purportedly said that Brar’s men had no intention of killing or hurting the policeman tasked with protecting Pardeep Singh but added that an act of protecting someone responsible for sacrilege was “shameful”.
Goldy Brar belongs to the Lawrence Bishnoi gang in Punjab and has been accused of having been involved in the murder of Punjabi singer Sidhu Moose Wala in May.
Police sources said they were trying to verify the authenticity of the post.
Pardeep Singh’s killing comes less than a week after a ‘radicalised’ youth fatally shot Shiv Sena (Taksali) leader Sudhir Suri in a busy market in Amritsar Saturday despite the presence of several policemen on the spot.
The alleged killer, Sandeep Singh alias Sunny, was arrested at the crime scene.
The deteriorating law and order situation in Punjab has put the Bhagwant Singh Mann-led AAP government on the defensive in the state. As criticism mounted, Mann urgently called a meeting of senior police officers at his residence following the incident Thursday.
There’s no word yet on what transpired at the meeting.
Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring said there was “complete anarchy” in Punjab.
It's complete anarchy in Punjab. As @AAPPunjab govt failed & @ArvindKejriwal forgot to do justice in sacrilege cases within 24 hours, people have started taking law in their own hands.
A dera follower has been reportedly killed in Kotkapura. Killings have no justification. pic.twitter.com/rsRjWLZ4Ri
— Amarinder Singh Raja Warring (@RajaBrar_INC) November 10, 2022
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sunil Jakhar told the media that there was “jungle raj” in Punjab and that law and order was “totally missing” in the state. “There is no fear [of government] or authority left [in] Punjab,” he said.
Thursday’s incident took place at around 7:20 am in a market in Kotkapura where Pardeep Singh ran a dairy and grocery shop. According to the police, Pardeep Singh had just opened his shop when he was attacked by 5-6 unidentified assailants.
The assailants allegedly came on bikes which they parked near the shop. They then shot Pardeep Singh multiple times and fled on their bikes. Singh died on the spot, police said. A part of the shooting has been caught on a CCTV camera nearby and has since gone viral.
IG Yadav, quoted earlier, told the media that police had gathered vital clues from the spot and were confident that they would get a breakthrough in the case very soon.
Who is Pardeep Singh
Pardeep Singh was part of the group of Dera followers allegedly involved in the 2015 sacrilege in Bargari, Faridkot. He was among those arrested by a special investigation team of the Punjab Police in 2018 and was out on bail when he was killed.
On 1 June 2015, a “saroop”, or form, of the Guru Granth Sahib — which the Sikhs consider a living Guru — was stolen from a gurdwara in Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village in Faridkot.
In October the same year, torn pages of the Guru Granth Sahib were found strewn at Bargari, a village 4 km from the spot where the scripture was stolen, leading to protests across Punjab.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) investigating the case has indicted the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda for the incident.
According to police sources involved in probe of the desecration cases, Pardeep Singh was responsible for having strewn the pages of the Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari.
“He also hid some pages in a milk jar in his shop [and] was supposed to throw them at other places later. However, the gravity of the evolving situation scared him and he disposed of the stored pages in a canal near Kotkapura,” a senior police officer who was in the SIT investigating the desecration cases told ThePrint.
Mohinder Pal alias Bittu, the alleged leader of the group of Dera followers who carried out the crime, was killed in the Nabha jail by two Sikh inmates in 2019.
Another suspect Gurdev Singh was murdered by three men in 2016. Three men, Gurpreet Singh alias Gopi, Ashok Kumar Vohra alias Amna, and Jaswant Singh alias Kala were sentenced to life imprisonment for that murder in February this year.
Law & order deteriorating, says opposition
The latest assassination, as well as the Saturday shooting of the Shiv Sena (Taksali) leader, has led to the opposition parties accusing Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann of neglecting his state and instead tagging along with AAP convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to Gujarat for campaigning for the next month’s assembly election.
Senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and former education minister Daljit Cheema said the AAP government should either perform or give up its claim to authority.
“Instead of running a state where the government is involved in pacifying various sections of society, the AAP government is, in fact, encouraging the creation of an atmosphere of hatred and religious acrimony. Such killings are a result of that atmosphere,” he claimed.
In a press statement, BJP leader Tarun Chugh lamented that Punjab was becoming the “terror capital of the country where gun culture is booming” and police had become “a mute witness”.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)