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400 arrests and counting: AAP govt in Punjab cracks down on gangsters, terror modules

400 arrests and counting: AAP govt in Punjab cracks down on gangsters, terror modules

As per official data, the Punjab Police have arrested 404 criminals, neutralised two, busted 105 terror modules and recovered 385 weapons between April 6 and December 4 this year.

With over 400 arrests of gangsters and terror operatives following a spate of terror attacks on security establishments, targeted killings, smuggling of narcotics from across the border and incidents of extortion, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab has remained active ever since it stormed to power in the border state, winning 92 seats in the 117-member House.

As per official data, the Punjab Police have arrested 404 gangsters/criminals, neutralised two such individuals, busted 105 terror modules and recovered 385 weapons as well as 90 vehicles between April 6 and December 4 this year.

On Friday, Punjab Police announced the arrest of seven accused in connection with the rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attack at Sarhali police station last week. This was the second such attack in the last seven months. The first RPG attack was at the Punjab police intelligence headquarters on May 9.

Handlers targeting gullible youths

The challenges before the state are grave. While it was already grappling with the issue of gullible youth being used to carry out crime and terror activities by gangsters based outside the country and terror operatives in lieu of money, the recent pattern shows that the handlers located abroad are engaging juveniles in conflict with the law to carry out major strikes, officials said.

Minors were allegedly involved in the Mohali RPG attack as well as in the murder of Dera follower Pardeep Singh. Punjab Director General of Police (DGP) Gaurav Yadav, while announcing the arrests in the Sarhali RPG attack, said that the main perpetrators were juveniles. He appealed to youths not to get misled, but rather channelise their energy to obtain jobs and prepare for competitive exams.

Former DGP Dinkar Gupta, who is now Director General of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), had even launched a social media drive aimed at spreading awareness among youth against foreign-based terror operatives. He had previously stressed that such youths do not realise how such activities would change their lives.

The observed pattern in terror attacks and targeted killing in recent years show that handlers are using “cut-out” and “dead letter box” modus operandi, where the perpetrators, logistics supporters and couriers of illegal consignments do not know each other, making it difficult for investigators to connect the dots, officials said.

‘Repeated crackdowns upsetting handlers’

A senior police officer said crackdowns against such modules have upset the handlers based abroad who are now orchestrating the unrest in Punjab. “This explains the attacks on police and security establishments in the recent past,” the officer pointed out.

In January, the police had busted a module by arresting six operatives, backed by the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), who hurled a grenade at an Army camp outside Triveni gate in Pathankot. No one was hurt in the attack.

In April this year, the Punjab Police arrested three operatives of Pakistan-based gangster-turned-terrorist Harvinder Singh Rinda’s module in connection with the hand-grenade attack at the Crime Investigating Agency (CIA) office Nawanshahr. On the intervening night of November 7 and 8, 2021, the operatives hurled a hand grenade at the office, but no one was hurt.

A minor was among the accused apprehended in the Mohali intelligence headquarters attack. According to investigators, he was paid Rs 9 lakh to carry out the attack. A senior Punjab police officer said such “monetary allurement” was also behind an extortion racket that targeted individuals and businessmen. “The extortion money is used to pay such vulnerable foot soldiers. It is all linked,” the officer told The Indian Express.

On Wednesday, three accused were arrested for the murder of Nakodar-based cloth merchant Timmy Chawla and his personal security officer (PSO) Mandeep Singh on December 7. The DGP said the US-based Amandeep Purewala alias Aman, a native of Nakodar, was the mastermind behind the shooting.

On November 3, Jalandhar Rural Police registered an FIR under IPC sections 387 (extortion) and 506 (criminal intimidation) at Nakodar City police station after Chawla complained that he received threat calls seeking to extort Rs 30 lakh. Two security personnel were immediately provided to him.

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