Delhi Arrests: Police In Punjab, Delhi Differ As Kashmir Families Protest

by Khalid Bashir Gura

SRINAGAR: A day after an “encounter” in Delhi’s Shakarpur area, the versions of the police in Delhi and Punjab are at variance. Delhi police have arrested two Punjab residents and three Kashmiri in the case and they were produced before the court today.

Three Budgam men arrested by Delhi police – Reyaz Ahmad, Shabir Ahmad and M Ayub Pathan, on December 7, 2020. Families say they are innocents. Pic: Social Media

Unlike Delhi Police, the cops in Punjab do not see a “terror or radical angle”, in the high-profile killing of Shaurya Chakra awardee Balwinder Singh Sandhu – the main focus of the case, or even “any Kashmiri link”.

An Assassination

“We have thoroughly investigated the case. So far, we have not found any evidence to prove that it was a case of terrorism. We believe that there is no terror or radical angle to it,” Hindustan Times quoted a senior Punjab Police official investigating Sandhu’s killing, saying. “Our probe so far has not found any Kashmir link in the case. We don’t know about the theory of Delhi Police. We have checked all the activities of the pro-Khalistani elements but nothing was found.”

Family members of three Kashmiri men, arrested by Delhi Police on Monday demanding their release in Srinagar, Tuesday, December 8, 2020. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Sandhu, a key counter-insurgent from CPI (M) was assassinated on October 16, days after the authorities withdrew his personal security. He was killed at his Bhikhiwind village home in Tarn Taran. The police in Punjab have already stated that they solved the killing and arrested 11 persons, including jailed gangsters Ravinder Singh, alias Gian and Sukhdeep Singh, alias Sukh.

“The police had said Gian and Sukh hatched the conspiracy to kill Sandhu from the Patiala and Ferozepur jails. Gian and Sukh are close associates of Bhikariwal, who had given them the task, according to the police. Gian is a prime conspirator of the Nabha jailbreak episode,” Hindustan Times reported.

But, with the arrest of five men a few days back, Delhi Police is offering a new story. They are linking the two Punjab persons to Sanadhu’s killing.

Delhi police stated that the two persons from Punjab – Gurjeet Singh, alias Bha and Sukhdeep Singh of Gurdaspur district, are suspected members of the banned terrorist group Babbar Khalsa International while three people – Shabbir Ahmed, Ayub Pathan and Riyaz from Kashmir were working as middlemen. Quoting a police official, The Indian Express reported, “They were working on the directions of Khalistan movement leaders sponsored by Pakistan’s ISI.”

But the Punjab Police is defending its investigations. “Our probe so far has not found any Kashmir link in the case. We don’t know about the theory of Delhi Police,” the officer who talked to The Hindustan Times was quoted saying. “We have checked all the activities of the pro-Khalistani elements but nothing was found. Gurjeet is a drug addict. It is also possible that he had gone to the Kashmiri men for getting drugs. But, everything will become clear once we get details from the Delhi police.”

Families Protest

In Srinagar, the three families are in panic and mourning. Braving rain and chill, three families from central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Tuesday staged a protest in Srinagar, seeking the release of their kin who were arrested by Delhi Police on Monday. As weeping women had gathered at the press colony one of the female family member said, “I called my husband at 1 pm but his phone was switched off. Later, I received the call from his number and the persons were speaking in Urdu which I could not understand,” said the wife of one of the accused. Adding she said that yesterday her sister –law-s daughter when inquired about her maternal uncle, she informed her that he has been trapped in an encounter along with another two people. Scared Pathan, had speeded away his car in haste. “We are appealing to JK Governor to do justice with us. All three accused are innocents. They are labourers,” she said.

Two Punjab ans three Kashmir residents who were arrested by Delhi Police were produced before the court on December 8, 2020. They were sent on 4-days remand to Delhi Police. Pic: Tribune

“My husband is a driver. He has no past record related to militancy. We are in shock,” wife of the accused said.

“My father is 65 years old. He had gone to buy a motor. I appeal to Lieutenant Governor to give us justice,” said the son of one of the arrested man, Muhammad Ayub Pathan. As the news came from social media that the three persons from Central Kashmir’s Budgam have been killed in an encounter in New Delhi, the earth beneath our feet slipped away. But later various versions were doled out in various media outlets, some accusing them of pistol recovery, drugs, and other incriminating materials from their possession. “We do not know anything about the whereabouts of our innocent father,” the son said.

The family members of the arrested men emerged in Press Enclave Srinagar, alleging that Delhi Police, like in past, have enacted a drama and implicated their loved ones in a fabricated case.

The family members of all the three arrested, while seeking the intervention of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and Director-General of Police Dilbag Singh appealed Delhi Police to release them. “We have seen in past how Kashmiri men were implicated in false cases and after spending years together in jails, acquitted by the court of law,” they said.

The calls to DGP Dilbagh Singh were not received while as IGP Kashmir, Vijay Kumar said he is busy in meeting at the time of filing of this report.

Police in Srinagar maintains is tight-lipped over the issue.

4-Day Remand

A Delhi court, reports said has sent the five men to Delhi Police remand. Delhi post had sought 8-day remand but Duty Metropolitan Magistrate Sahil Khumri gave them only four days. Police maintained that one of the five is involved in the sensational murder of Balwinder Singh Sandhu. Besides, police said they have also recovered 2 kg heroin worth Rs 8 crores in the international market along with Rs 1 lakh cash and two cars from the accused. The police also recovered two semi-automatic pistols along with 10 live cartridges from their possession, according to the newsgathering agency, the ANI.

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