A killing and a Khalistani plot

The National Investigation Agency’s headquarters in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Hardeep Singh was spotted by a Sikh terror group, the Khalistan Liberation Force, in Italy when he was 19. A senior KLF leader, Harminder Singh Mittoo, who died of a cardiac arrest in a Punjab prison last month, visited the family in Cremona, Italy in the summer of 2013. Mittoo saw potential in him. Before leaving Italy, Mittoo shared a Skype ID (@billoobakra) with him.

In 2017, Singh was arrested for allegedly killing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) member Ravinder Gosain. Singh told investigators that he was asked to kill any RSS leader but by the time he reached the park in Ludhiana where a shakha (congregation) was being held, everyone had dispersed. He saw Gosain walking on the road and figured that he was an RSS member as he wore the “khaki shorts”. He and his accomplice, Ramandeep Singh, who were on a motorcycle, chased Gosain and shot him dead.

NIA charge

According to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Singh and Ramandeep, a sewing machine mechanic, were involved in eight incidents of murder and attempted murders in Punjab in 2016 and 2017. A pastor was also killed by the accused. The NIA said the crimes were “part of a conspiracy to destabilise Punjab hatched by Sikh extremist elements and others located in various parts of the world”.

The NIA said the KLF was revived by a group of “Khalistan” linked extremists in 2000 in Malaysia under pressure from the ISI of Pakistan. “Organisations and persons, who according to the leadership of the KLF, oppose the ideology of the late Jarnail Singh Bhindarwale are their prime targets for elimination. The members of the organisation also keep a close watch on posts on social media and choose targets who held anti-Sikh views,” the NIA said.

Singh would fly down from Italy every time he was assigned a target.

A killing and a Khalistani plot

“Singh travelled between India and Italy on several occasions. However, during all the periods that he was in India after 22.12.2015, at least one incident of targeted killings/ attempted killings took place. Conversely, none of the incidents of the targeted killings took place during periods when Singh was in Italy. This implies a perfect correlation between the presence of Singh in India and the execution of the incidents of killings/ attempted killings,” the NIA said in its chargesheet filed on May 5.

The NIA filed a chargesheet against 15 persons in a special court in Punjab.

The agency said in its chargehseet that in 2014 when Singh called on the Skype ID, it was answered by KLF chief Harmeet Singh, alias “PhD”. Harmeet Singh was working under the “tutelage of Pakistan’s ISI”. It said he was currently living at Gurudwara Bibi Nanki in Lahore. In 2014, Mittoo was arrested in Thailand and deported to India.

“Harmeet Singh maintained regular communication with Singh, initially through Skype and later through Signal (a Web-based messenger service). Harmeet motivated Singh on the path of violence and terrorism. He convinced him that Sikhs were being persecuted in India, and singled out specific organisations — the RSS and the Shiv Sena of being responsible for carrying out an anti-Sikh campaign. He convinced the impressionable young mind of the need to avenge the so-called persecution of the Sikh community by carrying out terrorist acts targeting members of specific communities and organisations,” the NIA chargesheet said. The agency said Harmeet asked Singh to apply for a visa to Dubai but he was denied the visa as he was “too young to travel without a guardian.”

Training in Italy

Harmeet then arranged for Singh’s training in Italy. “About a week after he was denied the visa, Harmeet told Singh that his trainer would meet him at the Milan railway station. This trainer was Gursharanbir Singh…they boarded a train to Brescia, where they were taken to the house of Gurjindcr Singh. He was told not to reveal or display personal traits while carrying out the killings, to avoid CCTVs, not use personal vehicles, he was told that he would be given the names of he targets,” the NIA said.

It said Singh received around ₹23 lakh between July 2016 and November 2017 from Italy, Australia and the U.K. through various channels like wire transfers and hawala transactions. The agency said Harmeet spotted Ramandeep on Facebook and encouraged him to seek revenge for the so-called persecution that the Sikh community was facing in India.”

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 8:40:47 AM |

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