CHANDIGARH/PATIALA: Eleven Nihangs including a woman were arrested on Sunday in connection with the horrendous attack on a police team at Sanaur vegetable market in Patiala district. In the incident, the miscreants even chopped off the hand of an Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI).
Police sources said that a group of five Nihangs armed with swords and iron rods were travelling in a Tata Zenon car when they were asked to stop at the Sanaur vegetable market by Punjab Mandi Board officials and the cops. However, they did not pay any heed and continued to drive the vehicle and crashed it in the police barricades. The police personnel, who surrounded the Nihangs, were attacked and in the melee, one of them chopped off the hand of ASI Harjit Singh with a sword. Singh is undergoing surgery at PGI in Chandigarh to get his hand sutured back.
Three other police personnel injured in the incident have been identified as Inspector Bikkar Singh SHO of Sadar Patiala, ASI Raj Singh and ASI Raghbir Singh. They suffered weapon injuries on their arms, legs and back. A Mandi Board official, Yadwinder Singh, too suffered minor injuries in the attack.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Senior Superintendent of Police of Patiala Mandeep Singh Sidhu said, "They (Nihangs) crashed their vehicle against the gate and police barricades put up at the vegetable market after they were stopped and asked to show their curfew passes. We chased them and then our teams surrounded the gurdwara where they were hiding.’’
The accused, including a woman, were nabbed after the Patiala Police Party led by Patiala Range IGP Jatinder Aulakh and Senior Superintendent of Police of Patiala Mandeep Sidhu along with a team of the Special Operations Group (SOG), led by Additional DGP Rakesh Chandra then moved into the premises. The premises house the Nihang Dera Complex and Khichdi Sahib Gurudwara.
The operation followed several hours of stand-off and many rounds of appeals and negotiations led by Sidhu with the Dera Head Baba Balwinder Singh to surrender with their weapons and swords.
One Nihang, Nirbhav Singh, suffered an injury in the incident and was immediately rushed to a hospital in Patiala.
Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta said that Baba Balwinder Singh the head of the dera was the main perpetrator of the attack on the police party. He came to the market with four other persons, in a Tata Zenon vehicle.
He said a huge cache of weapons as wells as handheld weapons, such as barchhe and kirpans, and some used cartridges were seized from the accused, in addition to two petrol bombs and LPG cylinders, five bags of poppy husk mixed with sulpha, other drugs in commercial quantity and Rs 39 lakhs in cash. Some bottles with chemical substances were also found inside the premises.
Giving details of the entire incident, Gupta said the accused had set up morchas inside the Dera Complex and had placed LPG cylinders along the Dera perimeter and were getting ready to set off blasts to cause injuries to the police party that chased them. Despite repeated announcements from the public address system, they refused to surrender and, instead abused the police and threatened them with serious consequences if they tried to come closer.
The police then persuaded the Sarpanch and some villagers to persuade the men to come out but they failed. Soon thereafter, the police party heard loud shouts and noises from inside the gurdwara premises, suggesting that some innocent people and hostages within might have got caught in the trouble, he said.
He said that entire operation was handled delicately so that the maryada and sanctum sanctorum of the Gurdwara Sahib was not disturbed in any manner.
Three separate cases have been registered against the accused. The first case has been registered against Balwinder Singh, Jagmeet Singh, Bant Singh and Nirbhav Singh for attempt to murder, grievous hurt, rioting, attack on public servant under the IPC, and also under provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 for the incident at Sabzi Mandi, Sanaur Road at Patiala
While the second case has been registered against 11 persons, including the woman for attempt to murder, attack on police party, and also under DMA Act 2005, Explosives Act, UAPA Act and Arms Act, a third case under NDPS Act has also registered for recovery of 5-6 bags of Poppy Husk and other drugs from Khichri Sahib Complex, Balbera, where the Nihangs were living.
Their property will also be attached on account of the recovery of commercial quantity of drugs.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has strongly condemned the attack and warned that anyone violating the curfew, imposed in the state since March 23 to check the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, would be strictly dealt with.