Punjab violence: ‘Foreign hand’ behind sacrilege, say cops

Punjab Police are focussing on the possible involvement of foreign elements in fomenting unrest in the state following the arrest of two Sikh brothers with alleged links to “foreign-based radicals” for the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in Faridkot district.

Police announced the arrest of Rupinder Singh and Jaswinder Singh, residents of Panjgrain village in Faridkot, on Tuesday evening though the duo was taken into custody five days ago after their phone calls with their “handlers” in the US, Australia and Dubai were intercepted by authorities, government sources told Hindustan Times.

“The accused Rupinder Singh and his brother had been talking with their masters abroad and discussing about the delivery of cash in lieu of their acts of committing sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib,” a source said.

Additional director general of police (crime) IPS Sahota, who is heading the special investigation team (SIT) set up to probe the incidents of sacrilege, said police had traced the accused in five of the seven cases of sacrilege.

“The brothers were in touch with someone in Australia,” Sahota said.

According to police, the “foreign links” of the accused and their funding by “foreign-based handlers” has been established. The two brothers became “soft targets of anti-national forces” because of their greed.

The incidents in Kohrian (Sangrur), Nijjarpura (Amritsar), Ghawaddi (Ludhiana) and Bathh (Tarn Taran) were of a “localised nature”, police said.

Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal told a hurriedly convened news conference on Tuesday the Punjab government will unearth all conspiracies behind the October 12 desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari village in Faridkot district, which led to widespread “emotional outbursts” across the state.

Flanked by a battery of senior Akali Dal leaders, Badal said the state government is committed to arrest all the culprits behind the incidents of sacrilege.

The incident at Bargari – where a clash between Sikh protesters and police left two people dead – was the first case of sacrilege that sparked unrest across the state bordering Pakistan.

Six people have been arrested so far in connection with the seven incidents that took place in Faridkot, Sangrur, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Bhatinda and Ferozepur.

Ten companies of paramilitary forces, comprising 1,000 personnel, were deployed in Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Tarn Taran districts in view of the sensitive situation. They conducted flag marches in several parts of the state along with the police on Tuesday.

The state cabinet adopted a resolution during a meeting on Tuesday evening that strongly condemned the acts of sacrilege and described them as a “deep rooted” conspiracy to disturb peace and communal harmony in Punjab.

Sikh groups organised dharnas and protest marches in several cities, including Kapurthala and Hoshiarpur, and educational institutions remained closed in Kapurthala, Moga, Bathinda and Ferozepur on Tuesday.

The opposition Congress and Aam Aadmi Party have demanded the imposition of President’s Rule, contending that the SAD-BJP government has failed to tackle the deteriorating law and order situation.

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