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Punjab Police Step Up Security After 2015 Sacrilege Accused Killed in Jail, 3 Prison Officials Suspended

Mahinderpal Bittu, a follower of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, was an accused in the case related to the desecration of Shri Guru Granth Sahib in Bargari, Faridkot, in 2015.


Updated:June 23, 2019, 4:57 PM IST
Punjab Police Step Up Security After 2015 Sacrilege Accused Killed in Jail, 3 Prison Officials Suspended
File photo of protests against the desecration of a Guru Granth Sahib in Punjab. (AFP)

Chandigarh: Security measures across Punjab were stepped up to prevent any untoward incident, a day after a key accused in the 2015 Bargari sacrilege case was killed allegedly by two inmates in the high-security Nabha prison.

The murder took place around 5.15 pm on Saturday when Mahinderpal Bittu was attacked by other inmates. Bittu was rushed to the Nabha civil hospital near Patiala, but he was declared brought dead, said the police.

The officers said that preliminary investigations have revealed that Bittu, 49, a resident of Faridkot, was allegedly attacked by Gursewak Singh and Maninder Singh, who were lodged in the same jail in a murder case. According to an official, the accused used iron rods picked up from a construction site inside the jail. The deceased had suffered serious head injuries in the incident.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordered an inquiry into the attack and warned of stringent punishment for the assailants, an official statement said.

Additional Director General of Prisons Rohit Chaudhary will head the fact-finding committee, which has been asked to submit the report within three days, the statement said.

"The inquiry will be in addition to the mandatory judicial inquest into the murder of the accused, Mahinderpal Bittu, who was arrested last year," it said.

Officials on Sunday said that checking of vehicles has been intensified at various places while paramilitary, along with the state police force, has been deployed in Kotkapura town in Faridkot, where Bittu's body was brought from Nabha in the morning.

Bittu, a follower of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, was accused in the case related to the desecration of Shri Guru Granth Sahib in Bargari, Faridkot in 2015.

A panel of three doctors conducted a postmortem in the early hours of Sunday in the presence of a duty magistrate after which Bittu's body was handed over to his kin and sent to his native town of Kotkapura, where his last rites will be performed later on Sunday.

Bittu's body was kept in 'Naam Charcha Ghar' (congregation or prayer centre) of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect at Kotkapura. A large number of Dera followers started gathering there after the body reached there in the morning.

Kotkapura and many of its adjoining towns in Punjab have a sizeable presence of Dera followers. Security has also been stepped up in 'Naam Charcha Ghars' at other places in the state.

Ferozepur Range Inspector General of Police MS Chhina said sufficient paramilitary and state police force has been deployed in the town. "We will maintain peace," he said.

Punjab's Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said a magisterial probe has been marked into the attack.

"The Bargari accused were kept in a separate cell, so that such an incident does not take place. Unfortunately, such a thing happened. Three jail officials have been suspended," he said, adding it was not clear under what circumstances Bittu came out of his cell and was attacked.

Bittu's son, Parminder, told reporters in Kotkapura that the family used to meet him in jail every Saturday.

"As soon as we left yesterday, minutes later we were informed that he has been attacked. My father has been killed under a conspiracy," he claimed.

A special investigation team (SIT) of the Punjab Police, probing the four-year-old sacrilege incident and other similar events, had named Bittu as the key accused. He was booked for various charges, including allegedly hurting religious sentiments of Sikhs and being involved in unlawful activities. He was nabbed by Punjab police from Palampur in Himachal Pradesh a year ago.

In 2016, the maximum security Nabha jail was in the news when a group of armed men in police uniform had stormed the prison and managed to free six prisoners, including two terrorists.

(With inputs from PTI)

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