Monday, Jul 04, 2022

'Khalistan' Symbols Make An Entry In Himachal In Election Year, One Arrested

Following the appearance of the 'Khalistani' flags in Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha and threats from SFJ leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, an SIT has been instituted to take up the 'Khalistani' matter now.

Himachal Pradesh police commandos guard the Ridge, Shimla on Thursday amid 'Khalistiani' scare
Himachal Pradesh police commandos guard the Ridge, Shimla on Thursday amid 'Khalistiani' scare Babli Thakur 

The discovery of Khalistani flags at the state Assembly building in Dharmshala has left the intelligence agencies of Himachal Pradesh baffled as to how the state has become suddenly a soft–target of pro-Khalistan elements in the election year. Apart from the flag, Khalistan slogans have been seen on the walls in different towns including Solan and Mandi, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur's district.

The Himachal Pradesh police on Thursday arrested a ‘pro-Khalistan’ man accused of tying the objectionable flags at state Vidhan Sabha, Dharamshala, on May 8.

Harvir Singh alias Raju, 30, was arrested from the Marinda area of Ropar district in Punjab after Special Investigation Team (SIT), set up for investigations into the case, raided Chamkaur Sahib and Marinda on the basis of his mobile phone call details.

One more accused—Paramjit, who accompanied ‘Raju’ to Dharamshala to hoist flags and write Pro-Khalistan slogans on the outer wall of the State Vidhan Sabha is yet to be arrested, said Kangra Superintendent of Police Khushal Sharma.

The accused is being jointly interrogated by Himachal Pradesh police, Intelligence Bureau and Punjab police. The police, during interrogation, found that the same accused had also put up Khalistan Flags outside the Deputy Commissioner‘s office at Ropar on April 13.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who was in Delhi and also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, said this is a big breakthrough in the investigations.

“The State Police, in this process, has strictly followed the law and due legal process to apprehend the culprits. The SIT had taken  ‘search and arrest warrant’ from the competent court in Dharamshala,” Thakur said.

When asked why there was a sudden spurt in pro-Khalistani activities in the state, the CM said, 'Due to the political change in the neighbouring state of Punjab, certain secessionist elements have suddenly become active. We will not allow anyone sitting outside the country, or otherwise, to disturb the peace in Himachal Pradesh at any cost. I congratulate the police for their prompt action and arrest. The other accused who escaped will also be nabbed". Thakur refrained from commenting further on the matter since investigations are currently underway and central agencies have also taken up the matter.

Within hours after arrest, UK-based banned secessionist outfit – Sikh For Justice (SFJ) leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannu released a video ,taking responsibility for tying of Khalistan flags at the outer gate of the state Vidhan Sabha, and issued threats to Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and DGP Sanjay Kundu. He also announced a reward for anyone providing foreign travel information about Thakur and Kundu.

“War is on against you, CM Thakur. You did not learn from AAP CM Bhagwant Mann of not starting a conflict with SFJ,” Pannu had said adding to his earlier message wherein he had warned Chief Minister against any arrest in the case.

The appearance of the Khalistan flags at Himachal Pradesh’s important institution at Dharamshala – considered the state’s second capital, and also popular as an abode of Tibetan Spiritual leader Dalai Lama, has caught the BJP government napping.

“This is a shocking and worrying act of pro-Khalistan elements, who managed to reach the gates of Himachal  Vidhan Sabha. More shocking for all of us  is the fact that there were no CCTV cameras installed and no guards at duty,” says former DGP ID Bhandari, who is now in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) .

“They were paid by Gurpatwant Singh Pannu to put flags and graffiti,” said a senior police official at Dharamshala.

“This could also be a game plan to scare peace-loving people in the hill towns or discredit the incumbent government. Pannu who has become a voice of Khalistan from abroad doesn’t have much standing in Punjab. Rather, he is not taken seriously. But, he is getting publicity out of every single action in Himachal Pradesh," a  retired IPS officer analyses .

Last week the state government had sealed its borders, introduced checking at all the barriers, upgraded digital surveillance and introduced massive patrolling in and around crowded places, like Shimla and Dharamshala –witnessing tourists influx.

Sanjay Kundu, DGP, Himachal said that the police have initiated the process of issuing a red corner notice against the UK based Khalistan activist Gurpatant Singh Pannu who is also wanted in several other cases in India.