PUN­JAB: THE TER­ROR STRIKES

State jails to get para­mil­i­tary cover to break Khal­is­tani-gang­ster nexus

India Today - - STATES - By Asit Jolly

Pun­jab has not seen a sig­nif­i­cant de­ploy­ment of cen­tral forces for more than 20 years now. But they are set to re­turn to duty in the state, re­spond­ing to in­tel­li­gence agen­cies’ warn­ings about the re­vival of the Khal­is­tani ter­ror ma­chine. The new ar­range­ments fol­low a high-level meet­ing be­tween Chief Min­is­ter Capt. Amarinder Singh and Union home min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh on April 19. Ev­i­dence of a nexus be­tween Khal­is­tani ex­trem­ists and lo­cal gang­sters was un­earthed dur­ing the Pun­jab Po­lice and Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency (NIA) in­ves­ti­ga­tions of a se­ries of as­sas­si­na­tions tar­get­ing lo­cal Hindu lead­ers, Dera Sacha Sauda ad­her­ents and Sikh preach­ers not in sync with the main­stream faith.

The NIA’s 2,000 page chargeshee­t, which names 15 al­leged Khal­is­tan Lib­er­a­tion Force (KLF) men in the as­sas­si­na­tion of Lud­hi­ana-based RSS leader Ravin­der Go­sain last Oc­to­ber, also names gang­ster Dhar­min­der Singh Gugni, who is charged with ar­rang­ing the firearms used in the killings.

As a start, Pun­jab DGP Suresh Arora says two com­pa­nies (roughly 300 per­son­nel) of the Cen­tral In­dus­trial Se­cu­rity Force (CISF) will be sta­tioned at high-se­cu­rity pris­ons hold­ing Khal­is­tani ter­ror­ists and gang­sters. These in­clude the jails at Pa­tiala, Lud­hi­ana, Ka­purthala, Hoshiarpur, Ferozepur, Farid­kot, Bathinda, Am­rit­sar, Gur­daspur and Nabha.

A se­nior of­fi­cial in the CM’s of­fice re­vealed that the MHA has also agreed to have five Bor­der Se­cu­rity Force (BSF) com­pa­nies (around 700 per­son­nel) in Pun­jab. “They will be proac­tively de­ployed for in­ter­nal se­cu­rity du­ties as and where re­quired,” the of­fi­cer said al­lud­ing to in­tel­li­gence in­puts stat­ing that Khal­is­tani el­e­ments op­er­at­ing from Pak­istan, Ger­many, Italy, Canada, USA, Aus­tralia and the Mid­dle East were in­tent on desta­bil­is­ing Pun­jab.

The state gov­ern­ment, ini­tially taken by sur­prise, had red-flagged the gang­ster-ter­ror­ist nexus in the wake of the Novem­ber 2016 jail­break in Nabha. Top gang­ster Vicky Gounder and two Khal­is­ta­nis, in­clud­ing the erst­while KLF chief Har­min­der Singh Min­too, were sprung in a brazen armed as­sault on the high-se­cu­rity pen­i­ten­tiary.

Ter­ror-ac­cused in­mates and gang­land bosses in­side high-se­cu­rity pris­ons are now known to be in reg­u­lar touch with over­seas men­tors via mo­bile phones. Sukhjin­der Singh Rand­hawa, Pun­jab’s newly ap­pointed min­is­ter for jails, says that “more than 1,500 mo­bile phones have been re­cov­ered from the jail bar­racks in the past 12 months”. The state po­lice have now roped in tele­com providers to deny in­ter­net ac­cess in­side jails. Mo­bile tow­ers po­si­tioned close to high se­cu­rity jails will be closely mon­i­tored. “It will make track­ing calls a lot sim­pler,” says a top po­lice of­fi­cer, adding that “even jail staff will now be care­ful about their phones be­ing mis­used”.

WIDEN­ING THE NET CM Amarinder Singh meets para­mil­i­tary and Pun­jab po­lice per­son­nel at the Zi­rakpur-Panchkula bor­der

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