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Security up after Punjab sacrilege accused killed in jail

June 23, 2019 19:12 IST

Dera Sacha Sauda members who gathered at Kotkapura in Punjab after a sect follower, a key accused in the 2015 Bargari sacrilege case was killed inside Nabha prison, have demanded judicial probe into the incident.

IMAGE: Police and BSF personnel maintain a strict vigil the Dera Sacha Sauda compound at village Salabatpura in the wake of the murder of a dera supporter, in Bathinda. Photograph: PTI Photo

Tight security measures were put in place across Punjab and in Kotkapura town in Faridkot to prevent any untoward incident, a day after Mahinderpal Bittu was killed allegedly by two inmates in high-security Nabha prison.

 

Bittu, a follower of Dera Sacha Sauda sect, was allegedly attacked by two inmates on Saturday evening after which he was rushed to Nabha civil hospital near Patiala, where he was declared brought dead.

His body was brought to native town Kotkapura, where large number of Dera followers gathered since morning. They demanded judicial probe into the incident, saying the body will not be cremated till then.

"We want judicial probe into the attack incident. While police has identified two persons who carried out the attack, but we want that those who planned the attack should be identified and punished.

"How did Bittu, who was lodged in a separate cell, come out in the open and was attacked. Till that time these things become clear we will not cremate the body," a Dera member told reporters in Kotkapura.

Another sect member claimed that Bittu was "falsely booked" in the sacrilege case and it should be dropped.

As tight security measures were put in place across Punjab, officials on Sunday said that checking of vehicles has been intensified at various places while paramilitary along with state police force has been deployed in Kotkapura, where Bittu's body was brought from Nabha in the morning.

Police conducted flag marches in Moga and Faridkot districts as a precautionary measure to ensure that law and order remains maintained.

Earlier, police had said that preliminary investigations revealed that Bittu (49), a resident of Faridkot, was allegedly attacked by Gursewak Singh and Maninder Singh, who were lodged in the Nabha prison in a murder case.

The two attackers were produced before a court on Sunday which sent them on four-days police remand.

A panel of three doctors conducted postmortem in the early hours of Sunday in the presence of duty magistrate.

Bittu's body was kept in 'Naam Charcha Ghar' (congregation/prayer centre) of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect at Kotkapura. A large number of Dera followers started gathering there after the body reached there in the morning.

Kotkapura and many of its adjoining towns in Punjab have sizeable presence of Dera followers. Security has also been stepped up in 'Naam Charcha Ghars' at other places in the state.

Inspector General of Police, Ferozepur Range, M S Chhina told reporters in Kotkapura that sufficient paramilitary and state police force has been deployed in the town to maintain peace.

Punjab's Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa Sunday said a magisterial probe has been marked into the attack.

"The Bargari accused were kept in separate cell so that such incident does not take place. Unfortunately, such a thing happened. Three jail officials have been suspended," the minister said.

He said under what circumstances Mahinderpal come out of his cell and attacked will be known once probe is held.

Bittu's son Parminder told reporters in Kotkapura that family used to meet him in jail every Saturday.

"Every Saturday we used to meet him. As soon as we left yesterday, minutes later we were informed that he has been attacked... My father has been killed under a conspiracy," he alleged on Sunday.

Bittu's son also alleged that case against his father "was registered under a conspiracy … His name was dragged into this case, we want justice".

Meanwhile, a gangster Sukhpreet Budda has in a Facebook post claimed responsibility for the attack on Bittu, saying the two inmates were members of his group.

A senior police official in Moga said that cyber cell of the police had been asked to investigate the claims posted by the gangster on Facebook.

The attack inside prison incident also evoked sharp reaction from the opposition, with SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal demanding an inquiry while his party's senior leader Balwinder Singh Bhunder saying "if this is the state of jails in Punjab, then one can imagine law and order situation in the state".

Notably, after the incident Saturday evening, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had ordered beefing up of security in the state, while appealing to all communities to maintain peace and "not give in to rumours."

Those involved in the attack would face punishment, he asserted.

A special investigation team of the Punjab Police, probing the four-year-old sacrilege incident and other similar events, had named Bittu as the key accused. He was booked for various charges including allegedly hurting religious sentiments of the Sikhs and being involved in unlawful activities. He was nabbed by Punjab police from Palampur in Himachal Pradesh a year ago.

In 2016, the maximum security Nabha jail was in the news when a group of armed men in police uniform had stormed the prison and managed to free six prisoners including two terrorists.

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