Monday, May 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

SAD leader, five others shot
Plot hatched by minister, allege kin
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Relatives of Gurdial Singh an Akali leader and other five persons who were killed at border town Bhikhiwind during broad day-light on Sunday.
— photo Rajiv Sharma

Bhikhiwind (Amritsar), May 19
Six persons, including a senior Akali leader Gurdial Singh who had lost the Assembly seat to Mr Gurchet Singh Bhullar (now a Cabinet minister) by a thin margin, were shot dead with automatic weapons in this border town while two sustained bullet injuries. One of them has been referred to the PGI.

This is the first political murder after the formation of a Congress government in Punjab.

The dare-devil assailants, armed with an AK-47, stopped the ill-fated Tata Sumo of Mr Gurdial Singh, a former Chairman of the block samiti and confidant of Mr Surinder Singh Kairon, a former Congress MP, by puncturing a tyre with a bullet in the busy chowk before noon. Then over 200 bullets were sprayed from close range, killing five of them on the spot. According to eyewitnesses, the assailants ensured that all occupants of the vehicle were dead before fleeing in a red Qualis. The incident occurred half a kilometre away from the police station.

Mr Surinder Singh Kairon, a close relative of Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Mr Virsa Singh Valtoha, a former member of the Punjab Subordinate Services Selection Board, alleged that the official security to Mr Gurdial Singh was withdrawn after the formation of the Congress government.

Mr Gurdial Singh, who was basically a Congress leader, had joined the SAD along with Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon (son-in-law of Mr Badal) in 1996 at a big rally held at Kairon village at the behest of Mr Surinder Singh Kairon.

Mr Budhi Raj Singh, a BDO and son of Mr Gurdial Singh, alleged that his father was killed by the supporters of Mr Bhullar.

Mr Nau Nihal Singh, younger brother of the deceased who claimed to have witnessed the gruesome incident, alleged that the conspiracy to kill his brother was hatched at the residence of Mr Bhullar.

The supporters of Mr Gurdial Singh blocked traffic until evening and shopkeepers downed their shutters immediately after the incident. In view of the sensitivity of the situation, the police has been summoned from Tarn Taran and Amritsar. Mr Narinder Bhargav, district police chief, has rushed to the site of the incident along with a heavy police force.

According to an eyewitness, Lakha Singh, driver of the Tata Sumo, died on the way to hospital while Mr Gurcharan Singh, who sustained injuries, was referred to CMC, Ludhiana, in a serious condition. Another injured, Bittu, a rehriwala, has been admitted to hospital.

Roor Singh, grandfather of Kuldip Singh (18), private gunman of Mr Gurdial Singh, who was sitting on the front seat of the vehicle had recently got training by the Army. He said one of the assailants had returned near the vehicle to make it sure that all occupants were dead.

Mr Gurdial Singh had met the DSP, Bhikhiwind, a few hours before the incident, complaining that the police was harassing his supporters. The Akali leader was coming from Patti after seeking a legal opinion in a case.

CHANDIGARH: The Akali MLA, Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, has condemned the killing of Mr Gurdial Singh.

He said this was a reflection of the breakdown of the law and order in Punjab. Before leaving for Amritsar, Mr Adesh Partap Singh said Mr Gurdial Singh had sought security and had written to the Governor and the Additional Director-General of Police (ADGP), Security, in this regard nearly two months ago. A copy of that letter is with The Tribune. Appended to it were receipts issued by the post office from where the letters were sent by registered post.

Mr Adesh Partap Singh said only a few days ago the sarpanch had visited Chandigarh and requested him to intervene in getting him security as he apprehended a threat to his life.

The two-page letter to the Governor bears no date. Mr Gurdial Singh, it may be mentioned, was the official candidate of the SAD from the Valtoha constituency in the February Assembly elections. He had lost to Mr Bhullar by 4,945 votes. This is mentioned in the letter.

Mr Gurdial Singh had been sarpanch since 1972 and was Chairman of the Bhikhiwind Panchayat Samiti since October 1994 until it was dissolved.

The letter alleges that Mr Bhullar had engineered two attempts on his life with the help of some others (they are mentioned by name) and goes on to give details of the FIRs registered at Valtoha police station. The letter says that those persons had campaigned for Mr Bhullar and were under his “political protection”.


Badal expresses shock over killings
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 19
The Shiromani Akali Dal president and former Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today expressed deep shock and grief at the murder of the SAD leader from Valtoha, Mr Gurdial Singh, and his associates. Mr Badal described the incident as a gruesome reminder of the extent to which the opponents of the SAD were prepared to go to eliminate those who did not succumb to their political blackmail. “The situation in Punjab has become extremely dangerous and this is the result of the way the Chief Minister has been using the state machinery to fight his political opponents.”

In a statement issued through the party office here, Mr Badal held the government in Punjab responsible for the inhuman act. “The law and order situation in Punjab has suddenly taken a nosedive. This seriously threatens the social fabric of the state. I have been repeatedly pointing to the open incitement to violence by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to anti-social elements in his party. How can the law-enforcing agencies be expected to maintain law and order when the head of the government himself exhorts his party workers to resort to violence as he did at many places, including Malout, during the election campaign. The law of the jungle prevails in Punjab today. We had left the state as the most peaceful region in the country. But in less than three months, the Chief Minister has brought bitterness, confrontation and violence back here.”

Mr Badal said that the murder at Valtoha was not an isolated incident but part of a series of attacks on Akali workers and leaders. Mr Gurdial Singh, he said, had repeatedly written to the state Governor and the ADGP (Security) that he faced a serious threat to his life and wanted his security to be strengthened. On the day of the polling to the state Assembly, his election agent was killed right in the polling booth. In his applications to senior officials Mr Gurdial Singh had even named the persons from whom he faced a threat to his life. But his pleas fell on deaf ears. This showed how callous the state administration had become.

Mr Badal said the assassins came and carried out their heinous deed without the slightest fear. They clearly knew that no harm would come to them as the present government was certain to back anyone willing to eliminate its political rivals, he alleged.

The former Chief Minister said that Akali workers and leaders all over the state were being “intimidated” with threats of violence. There had been many cases of attacks on his party men. But whenever they had approached the authorities for relief, the police had registered “false” cases against them. The trend had become widespread and very dangerous.

Mr Badal recalled how the state administration had gone out of its way to cover up the attack on his life in Jalandhar a few days ago.

Instead of taking note of that assault, the Chief Minister had not only “dismissed it as a joke but had actually written to the centre to ask for the withdrawal of my security.” The mindset of the present administration in Punjab was extremely dangerous and this did not augur well for peace in the state, Mr Badal said.

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