The daylight killing of Shiv Sena Taksali president on Thursday in Amritsar is being seen as linked to Waris Punjab De (WPD), a two-year-old hardline outfit, now headed by a Dubai-returned controversial leader Amritpal Singh.
The state has been put on red alert after the incident while Hindu organisations have given a call for a Punjab bandh today.
WPD was founded by Pollywood actor-turned-activist Deep Sidhu, a supporter of Simranjit Singh Mann, who died in a road accident in Haryana early this year while driving to Punjab from Delhi along with his Indian-origin American girlfriend Reena Rai.
The arrested shooter Sandeep Singh Sunny, a resident of Kashmir Avenue, Sultanwind, Amritsar was a member of the WPD.
He was running a garment shop near the place of the incident.
The Suzuki Swift car in which he reached the site of the incident in front of Gopala mandir carried a sticker of WPD displayed prominently on the windscreen of the vehicle.
Some pictures of politicians of the BJP and AAP were found in a file recovered from his car.
A .32-bore licensed pistol has been found on the person of the assailant.
The assailant’s shop was set on fire by Shiv Sainiks, and his car was damaged as violence spread in many parts of Amritsar and some other districts.
He tried to escape after firing but was encircled by Shiv Sainiks and police personnel guarding Suri and had rushed into a house.
He was forced to come out by the police.
Some shots in the air were also fired by Shiv Sainiks who were carrying pistols but none hit Sandeep Singh.
DGP Gaurav Yadav reached Amritsar late evening yesterday and told the media persons in an impromptu press conference that all angles of the crime were being investigated.
The possibility of involvement of cross-border Khalistanis, the ISI, or the role of gangsters if any, was being looked into.
“We will crack the case soon with the cooperation of people and will not allow the communal harmony in the state to be disturbed, at any cost,” DGP said.
He warned those media houses of strict legal action who were stocking the internet by spreading all kinds of rumours.
To a specific question, the DGP replied that the police were open to taking action against anybody (read Amritpal Singh) as per law, who was found to be involved, directly or indirectly, in the killing of the Hindu leader.
The police have recovered five empty cartridges from the site of the incident and called in the forensic team to collect evidence related to the murder.
An injured Suri was rushed to the Fortis hospital by Shiv Sainiks where he was declared dead.
Suri was sitting in a dharna with his supporters in front of the Gopala mandir after some idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses beside a picture of Guru Nanak Dev was found strewn on a garbage dump near the temple. He got a police case registered under the sacrilege (Beadbi) law against the temple management.
A member of the Suri family revealed that threatening calls were being regularly received from Pakistan and Iranian phone numbers that were reported to the police.
A few arrested gangsters involved in the recent murder of a cloth merchant of Tarn Taran, a city near Amritsar, had told the investigators that Sudhir Suri was also on their hit list. The Police did augment the security bandobast of Suri after that revelation.
Meanwhile, Canada-based gangster Lakhbir Singh alias Landa in a post on his Facebook page today morning claimed responsibility for killing Suri. He also warned other Hindu leaders to be ready for the same fate if they opposed the Sikh demand for freedom.
Sources disclosed that Suri was facing 12 cases related to hate speeches against the Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and Dalits. He had been to jail several times due to his controversial statements.
The Commissioner of Police, Arun Pal Singh initially termed the murder as a result of group rivalry between some Hindu religious leaders over the control of Gopal Mandir which was simmering for over a month.
However, former IGP Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh called the incident a failure of the Amritsar police Commissioner whose transfer he had been seeking for a long time, but the government did not heed his advice.
Last week in an interview with Jalandhar-based Punjab Kesari TV, Suri had in very strong words lambasted Amritpal for spreading hatred against Hindus and Christians aimed at pushing back Punjab into the dark days of the 1980s.
“Who is funding Amritpal and his gang members? Who sent him to Punjab from Dubai, where he was just a truck driver? Why is the government issuing dangerous weapons to the WPD president? Why were the police not taking action against him as he continued to challenge the sovereignty of India?” Suri had said.
The slain leader was given security comprising 12 policemen and an escort Gypsy. As many as 5 gunmen remained posted at his residence.
The leaders of different factions of Shiv Sena have upped the ante asking for an explanation from CM Bhagwant Mann if he would ensure the safety of peace-loving Hindus in the state or an exodus be started.
The Pakistan-based anti-Hindu monger Gopal Singh Chawla who heads ISI-sponsored Punjab Sikh Sangat in a video message tried to add fuel to the fire by congratulating the Sikhs in India’s Punjab for the fiat accomplished.
From Pakistani soil, Chawla issued threats to at least 4 other prominent Hindu leaders active in Punjab by clearly mentioning their names.
Political leaders of the state have condemned the killing of the Shiv Sena leader. BJP’s Punjab president Ashwani Sharma, former BJP MLA Luxmi Kanta Chawla, Akali Dal spokesman and former minister Daljeet Cheema, Congress MLA and leader of Opposition Partap Bajwa, and AAP spokesman Malwinder Singh Kang, all have come out strongly against the killing of Suri.