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Deadlock ends, Dera followers cremate murdered accused in Punjab

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Chandigarh, June 24, 2019-

After two days of deadlock, Dera Sacha Sauda sect followers on Monday cremated their member Mohinder Pal Bittu, the murdered prime suspect in a case relating to the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in Punjab’s Bargari in 2015, with an assurance by the government of an impartial probe.

Earlier in the day, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordered the constitution of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the murder.

Bittu was beaten to death with rods in the high-security Nabha prison, near Patiala, by a murder convict and a murder accused on Saturday evening.

A 45-member executive committee of Dera Sacha Sauda, which had been camping here since Monday, was demanding a judicial probe into the killing of Bittu and dropping of all criminal charges against all Dera ‘premis’ (followers).

On the assurance of the district administration, the Dera ‘premis’ agreed and cremated the body in the evening.

“We raised our demands with government representatives. Our main demand is to drop all false charges framed against my father,” Bittu’s son Arminder Kumar had told reporters in his hometown Kotkapura in Faridkot district.

“He is no more in this universe. At least now the stigma labelled against him should be dropped. We will not cremate him until he is freed from this stigma,” he had said.

Bittu, who was wanted in many cases including inciting violence in Haryana’s Panchkula town after the conviction of sect head Gurmeet 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 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.

Preliminary investigations said Bittu was allegedly killed by murder convict Gursewak Singh and Maninder Singh, an undertrial in a murder case, with iron rods.

The decision to constitute the SIT was taken by the Chief Minister at a high-level meeting of top police and administrative officials here, a government spokesperson told.

The SIT, to be headed Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Ishwar Singh, will probe all aspects of the fatal attack on Bittu.

It will ascertain the conspiracy, if any, in his killing by prison inmates. It will also investigate the role of the prison staff, said the spokesperson said after the meeting.

Taking a serious view of the incident, the Chief Minister directed the Jail Minister and the police to take all necessary steps to prevent the recurrence of such incidents in the future. Such brazen violation of law and order, and laxity in prison security will not be tolerated, he said.

Reacting to the reported demand of Dera followers for withdrawal of cases against the deceased, the Chief Minister said the law will take its own course as the final reports of investigations into the cases against Bittu had been submitted in courts.

It was up to the court to take any decision on the way forward, he added.

Immediately after the murder in the jail, the Chief Minister had said the culprits would face stringent punishment.

Security in the state has been beefed up following the incident and all steps are being taken to check the spread of disinformation and rumour-mongering.

The Chief Minister has ordered security agencies to take all possible measures to maintain peace and communal harmony in the state.

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.  (Agency)

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