Punjab police on Saturday claimed to have nabbed the man who allegedly threw a grenade on a religious congregation at Nirankari Bhavan in Amritsar last Sunday leaving three persons dead, the second arrest in the case.
“Avtar Singh has been arrested from Khayala village under police station Lopoke (in Amritsar),” director general of Police Suresh Arora told reporters in Chandigarh, adding that they will produce him in court and seek his remand.
Three persons including a preacher were killed and over 20 injured in the attack by two-motorcycle borne men which the police treated as a “terrorist act”.
The DGP said that two pistols (.32 bore), one of them US made, which the perpetrators were carrying on the day of attack have been recovered along with four magazines and 25 live rounds.
Police have already arrested Bikramjit Singh, an operative of militant organisation Khalistan Liberation Force who was allegedly driving the motorcycle on that day.
It is alleged that Avtar Singh threw the grenade. He is a resident of village Chak Mishri Khan, Lopoke (Ajnala), Amritsar.
Avtar's links have also been traced to Harmeet Singh Happy alias PhD, the self- styled chief of ISI-backed KLF, based in Pakistan, said the DGP.
"Happy has emerged as the most active leader of outfits working under the watch and directions of Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence, which is determined to spread terrorism in the border state of Punjab by radicalising poor and gullible youths of the state and motivating them to carry out terrorist actions," DGP Arora claimed.
The DGP said that initial investigations revealed that a person identified as Javed, who is Pakistan-based, was allegedly involved in misguiding the accused to carry out the “terrorist act”.
"Avtar, who is a quack, was contacted on WhatsApp a few months ago by one Javed, who claimed to be a Pakistani national from Dubai.
"The so-called Pakistani national, who spoke in Punjabi, first contacted him on the basis of a reference for seeking consultation for his back problem," the DGP said.
Thereafter, he started discussing Sikh issues with him and motivated him to target the so called "enemies of the Sikh 'quom' (community)", the official said.
A few months ago, Javed put Avtar in touch with Happy who tried to motivate him to carry out terrorist acts in Punjab on the lines of targeted killings of RSS and Dera Sacha Sauda workers in Punjab in 2016-17.
According to preliminary investigations, Avtar Singh claimed that about two months ago, he contacted his maternal cousin Paramjit Singh Baba, based in Italy, to arrange weapons "to settle scores" with some people of his village, police said.
Baba put him in touch with Happy, based in Pakistan, who Avtar had identified as the same person introduced to him by Javed. Happy promised Avtar that he will arrange weapons for him, the DGP said.
Avtar along with Bikramjit retrieved a bag containing two .32 bore pistols, four magazines, twenty-five cartridges and one hand grenade near Majitha on November 4 and allegedly carried out the crime, police said.
During investigation, Avtar said that he was staunchly opposed to 'Derawad' and all the self-styled gurus of sects such as the Dera Sacha Sauda, they said.
Rejecting claims of the families of the two arrested that they have been falsely implicated, the DGP said, “We have enough evidence against them.”
“We do not believe in false implications. We have recovered weapons in the presence of the duty magistrate,” he said.
The DGP also expressed concern that "inimical forces were trying to spread a disinformation campaign" on social media to misguide youth of the state.
Both the accused in this case had no past criminal record, he noted.
Responding to a question, the DGP said there had been two cases of terrorist attacks in Punjab this year- - the Maqsudan police station attack and the Adliwal grenade attack.
"These are both sensitive cases," said the DGP, and assured the people of Punjab that nobody would be allowed to harm them.
He expressed concern over movement of terrorists from Jammu and Kashmir to Punjab, but asserted that the police were keep close tabs on all such developments.
The Sunday incident had taken place inside the Nirankari Bhavan's prayer hall at Adliwal village near Amritsar's Rajasansi.