NEW DELHI: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday said that Sikh extremist elements living abroad, including Pakistan and Britain, were behind the murder of RSS leader Ravinder Gosain in Ludhiana and over half a dozen incidents of murder and attempt to murder of right-wing leaders, aimed at destabilising Punjab.
The anti-terror agency's revelation comes within two weeks of its investigation into the killing of Gosain, 60, who was fired at by two bike-borne assailants on October 17 near his house while returning after attending a morning RSS drill. He died on the spot.
The NIA, which took over the case following a November 16 order issued by the Union Home Ministry, said the questioning of two arrested accused persons -- Ramandeep Singh and Hardeep Singh -- by Punjab Police and further investigation in the case revealed the conspiracy. The NIA had taken custody of Ramandeep and Hardeep from Punjab Police on November 22.
NIA officials said the arrested shooters have admitted their involvement in the killing of Gosain as well as in seven other incidents of murder or attempted to murder in Punjab that have taken place since January 2016. The killing of the RSS leader was the latest in a series of murderous attacks on right-wing and religious leaders in Punjab.
"Targets in these incidents generally were members of the RSS and Hindu organisations."
In July 2017, the shooters also murdered a Christian pastor named Sultan Masih in Ludhiana, the officials said.
They said a conspiracy to "destabilize Punjab has been hatched by Sikh extremist elements and others located in various parts of the world including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, United Arab Emirates and Pakistan".
"The investigation conducted so far has revealed channelling of funds from foreign countries for execution of these incidents. The conspiracy also included an element of ideological brainwashing and incitement of the above accused persons on religious grounds by their mentors settled abroad. Investigation of the case is continuing."
The agency took over the case from Punjab Police and re-registered FIR under charges of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and sections of murder and common intention of Indian Penal Code along with Arms Act. The case was initially registered and probed by Punjab Police.
Gosain, who lost his wife to cancer some years ago, is survived by four children.