| Chandigarh |
Published: April 13, 2020 4:42:15 am
A group of five men from the Nihang sect attacked policemen and officials in Patiala early Sunday and chopped off the hand of an Assistant Sub-Inspector after being asked to show curfew passes at a lockdown barricade.
Three other policemen and a Punjab Mandi Board official were injured in the attack after police stopped the mini-SUV in which the group was travelling near a vegetable market on the Sanaur-Patiala road.
Police said the attackers crashed the vehicle into the barricade, charged out wielding sharp-edged weapons, and chased and attacked the policemen. One of the assailants cut off the left hand of ASI Harjeet Singh (50) who was rushed to PGIMER in Chandigarh where the severed part was successfully sutured back in an operation that lasted over seven hours.
Later, police arrested 11 Nihangs, including a woman, from a dera complex in Balbera village, which also houses a gurdwara.
Identified by their trademark blue attire and elaborate head gear, Nihangs carry traditional weapons and describe themselves as warriors of the Sikh faith. However, the Shiromani Panth Akali Budha Dal, which is the supreme body of Nihangs, condemned the attack on the policemen and said the attackers were “not associated with the Dal in any way”.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh warned that anyone violating the coronavirus lockdown will be strictly dealt with. “The police personnel were risking their lives amid the pandemic to save the people of Punjab and any attack on them will not be tolerated,” he said. Last Friday, the state extended the lockdown until May 1.
Providing details of the shootout at the dera, police said it was fired upon from inside the complex. “The Nihangs refused to surrender after several rounds of negotiations by police and the village panchayat, and appeals through a public address system. They responded by abusing and threatening the policemen,” said an officer.
Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta said police decided to enter the dera after it “heard shouts and noises from inside the premises, suggesting that other innocent people and hostages may have got trapped inside”.
Police identified Balwinder Singh, the dera chief, as the “main perpetrator” of the attack at the barricade, and said another Nihang was injured in the firing at the dera. Police said it also recovered Rs 39 lakh in cash, a 9 mm pistol, a 32 bore countrymade pistol, a 12 bore pistol, ten swords, two iron rods, four spears, two petrol bombs, a bow and an air gun, apart from 5 kg of poppy husk and drugs, from the complex.
Police have registered three cases against the accused, including on charges of attempt to murder and under the Explosives Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Arms Act and NDPS Act.
The other police personnel injured in the attack have been identified as Inspector Bikkar Singh, ASI Raj Singh and ASI Raghbir Singh. Mandi Board official Yadwinder Singh sustained minor injuries.
Apart from prime accused Balwinder Singh, the others arrested are Bant Singh (50), Jagmeet Singh (22), Gurdeep Singh (24), Jangir Singh (75), Maninder Singh (29), Jaswant Singh (55), Sukhpreet Kaur (25), Darshan Singh, Nirbhav Singh and Nanna.
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