P K Jaiswar, Tribune News Service
Amritsar, May 17. A day after the killing of a Peoples Party of Punjab (PPP) leader in Bathinda, two persons were shot dead in an exchange of fire between two groups at Chak Mishri Khan village in Lopoke near here this morning, pushing the toll in the run-up to the May 19 local body elections in Punjab to four.
The deceased are Congress worker Gurjinder Singh of the Master Manjit Singh group and SAD worker Balkar Singh, an associate of Chak Mishri Khan village Sarpanch Jagir Singh. The injured has been identified as Major Singh, also an associate of Jagir Singh. He is admitted to the Guru Nanak Dev Hospital here.
Tension was brewing between two groups of Chak Mishri Khan village over a consensus to elect the village panchayat, without polls. Both groups were preparing for Panchayat elections though members of the Zila Parishad and Block Samiti were elected unanimously after the Congress decided not to contest. The SAD leader wanted unanimous election to the village Panchayat, but Manjit Singh was opposing the move, it is learnt.
Today, Jagir Singh and his armed companions, who were camping in the house of his associate Shinder Singh in the village, moved towards Manjit Singh’s house with an intention of attack. On the way, Congress worker Gurjinder Singh tried to stop them and asked them to settle the dispute with “mutual understanding”. Jagir and his group were in no mood to relent and reportedly opened fire, killing Gurjinder.
Jagir Singh and his men then reached Manjit Singh’s house, where they were allegedly fired upon. Major Singh said Manjit and 20 others attacked them. Balkar Singh suffered a gunshot injury in the firing and died on the spot.
However, Border Range IG Ishwar Chander Sharma and DIG Paramraj Singh Umranangal, in a hurriedly convened press conference, said the incident was the outcome of personal enmity between two groups.
“There was a controversy between two groups in the village over possession of land measuring over two kanals between two groups headed by Jagir Singh and Manjit Singh. This was the reason behind today’s firing and subsequent killing of two persons” said Ishwar Chander.
On the statement of Gurjinder’s son, the police have booked 14 persons, of which three persons — including Jagir Singh, Mangat Singh and Major Singh — have been arrested. Narinder Singh, Gurpreet Singh and Nirmal Singh besides others are at large and a manhunt has been launched to arrest the remaining accused, he said.
As many as 15 police parties headed by SHOs from Batala and Amritsar Rural police have been conducting raids at various places to nab the accused. Senior police officials including SSP Amritsar rural police district have been stationed at Lopoke to supervise the operation.
The firing incident has raised a question mark, as the police administration had already launched a drive to deposit licenced arms. The arms used in the crime belonged to Narinder Singh, a former sarpanch of the village. He is affiliated to Jagir Singh, present Akali Sarpanch from Chak Mishri Khan village.
DIG Border Range Paramraj Singh Umranangal said till today morning, 85 per cent licenced arms had been deposited with respective police stations in police districts falling under the Border Range. He said the remaining weapons would be in police custody by the evening.
District Rural Congress president Harpartap Singh Ajnala condemned the incident and said it had nothing to do with the ongoing Zila Parishad polls and was the result of tension between two groups regarding forthcoming Panchayat elections.
May 16: One person killed in a shootout at a PPP-Congress rally in Adampur in Jalandhar; Congress worker Rajwinder Singh injured
May 15: Nine persons belonging to two groups of the ruling SAD injured in a fierce hour-long clash at Mianwala village in Tarn Taran
May 8: Youth Congress leader Sukhraj Singh shot dead in Tarn Taran
May 7: Personal assistant of Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi , Guruharsahai legislator, attacked
Both killed by same weapon
The death of SAD worker Balkar Singh has become a mystery for the police. Investigations pointed out that the same weapon was used to kill both Gurjinder and Balkar, which raises a question mark on the theory of Balkar being killed in crossfire. DIG Border Range Paramraj Singh Umranangal confirmed doubts over whether crossfiring had taken place, adding that the firearm used in the crime has been recovered.