CHANDIGARH: Followers of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect on Sunday refused to cremate Mohinder Pal Bittu, the murdered prime suspect in a case relating to the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in Punjab's Bargari in 2015, until the sacrilege cases were dropped against him.
Bittu was beaten to death in the high-security Nabha prison, near Patiala, by a murder convict and a murder accused on Saturday evening. He was taken to the local Civil Hospital where doctors declared him dead, police said.
Belonging to Kotkapura town, Bittu, wanted in many cases including for violence in Haryana's Panchkula town after the conviction of Ram Rahim Singh in 2017, was arrested by a special investigation team from Himachal Pradesh's Palampur town last year.
He was considered to be close to Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of a journalist, as well as a 20-year sentence for raping two female disciples.
"After conducting post-mortem, Bittu's body reached his hometown Kotkapura. As per the wishes of the family, the body was kept in Naam Charcha Ghar of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, where a large number of sect followers had gathered since morning," a senior police official told IANS.
Kotkapura, in the Faridkot district, has a huge number of sect followers, who are now on the warpath.
Bittu's son Arminder Kumar, who met his father in the prison a few hours before his killing, said his father was innocent and falsely framed in the sacrilege cases.
"First he was farmed and now he was murdered in a conspiracy. There is no one who can give us justice," he told reporters in Kotkapura, demanding a through probe into the crime.
Preliminary investigations said Bittu was allegedly killed by murder convict Gursewak Singh and Maninder Singh, an under-trial in a murder case, with iron rods removed from a barricade.
Inspector General, Patiala range, A.S. Rai said both the attackers are baptised Sikhs. "They say they attacked Bittu because he is the main accused in the Bargari case."
Akali Dal leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said Bittu was murdered because of high emotions of the people, especially the Sikhs, against the sacrilege cases.
"Killing in a prison is a big issue and needs to be thoroughly investigated," he told reporters in Amritsar. Badal, who was also the Home Minister when the sacrilege issue occurred, blamed the Congress government in the state for registering false sacrilege cases.
Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said Assistant Superintendent of Jail Ajmer Singh and warders Major Singh and Aman Giri had been suspended for "lapse in security".
He said all the accused involved in sacrilege cases have been kept in a separate barrack as a preventive measure. "Bittu was also in the separate barrack. How he came out in common area is being investigated," he added.
Following the incident on Saturday, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had ordered an inquiry into the fatal assault on Bittu.
Additional Director General, Prisons Rohit Chaudhary will head the fact-finding committee, which has been asked to submit a report within three days.
The inquiry will be in addition to the mandatory judicial inquest into the murder of the accused, a government spokesperson told IANS.
Amarinder Singh had ordered beefing up of security in the state in the wake of the attack, while appealing to all communities to maintain peace and not give into rumours.
Those involved in the attack would face punishment for the crime, he said.
The sacrilege case relates to the alleged desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in Bargari village in Faridkot in October 2015.
Following the crime, two people were killed and many others injured in Behbal Kalan village of the district on October 15, 2015, in police firing on protesters.