The shootout that claimed Ponty Chaddha and his brother is a tricky jigsaw for the Delhi Police, finds Brijesh Pandey
MUCH LIKE his life, even in death, Gurdeep Singh “Ponty” Chaddha remains an enigma. A meteoric rise in the liquor and realty business, and an equally sensational death — nothing was ever ordinary for him.
Now, six days, 11 investigative teams, three FIRs, and six arrests later, the Delhi Police is still groping in the dark about the exact sequence of events that led to the twin murders.
It all began on Saturday, 17 November, when a simmering property dispute between the two brothers, Ponty and Hardeep Singh, flared up. A lot had changed between the two brothers after the death of their father Kulwant Singh last year. Though family sources claim the dispute over the distribution of property between the brothers was more or less amicably settled, there were still a few glitches, which ultimately turned ballistic on that fateful day. Farmhouse number 42 at Chhattarpur was one such bone of contention. While it is still not clear what prompted the flare-up on Saturday, the string of events do indicate that an elaborate plan was set in motion by Ponty to take possession of Farmhouse No. 42, as well as another such property at Brijwasan, in Kapashera.
According to sources in the police, between 11 and 11.30 am on 17 November, Ponty’s henchmen reached both the farmhouses in Kapashera and Chhattarpur and started intimidating Hardeep’s men into vacating the premises. They also allegedly fired in the air. At around 12.30 pm, Ponty Chaddha, along with Uttarakhand Minority Commission Chairman Sukhdev Singh Namdhari and his PSO, reached the Chhattarpur farmhouse. In the FIR lodged by Namdhari, he told the police that as soon as their car reached the farmhouse, Ponty’s manager Narendra got down to open the gate. At the same time, Hardeep Singh, along with 25 other men, reached the farmhouse and opened fire at Narendra. When Narendra ran inside the farmhouse for cover, Hardeep turned towards Ponty, fired at him and critically injured him. Namdhari’s PSO Sachin Tyagi also allegedly opened retaliatory fire when Hardeep fired two shots at Namdhari. It was this return fire by the PSO that is said to have killed Hardeep.
Sources in the police have also revealed that Ponty was to meet with his lawyers later that day. They say he thought it would help to grab the farmhouses first and then sort out the legal proceedings. The police also claim Namdhari was there to help him capture the farmhouse. Namdhari, who has now been sacked from his position by the Uttarakhand government, will be questioned again by the Delhi Police.
While the initial chain of events at the shootout looked like an open and shut case, subsequent investigations have thrown up more questions. Ponty had suffered 15 wounds, and four bullets were retrieved from his body during a second postmortem.
HOWEVER, THE nature of the wounds clearly indicate that different calibres of guns were involved, which means that apart from Hardeep, his guards could also have fired at Ponty. While Hardeep had suffered 12 entry and exit wounds, no bullets were found lodged in his body, which has led to speculation that either he was killed in retaliatory fire on the spot, or chased and shot dead at a close range. So far, the police have confirmed the use of one Italian Beretta 7.62 mm and one 9 mm pistol, both used by Hardeep, besides one carbine that was used by Namdhari’s PSO Tyagi. The role of Hardeep’s PSOs, provided by Punjab Police, are also suspect as the Delhi Police have recovered AK-47s from the scene of crime.
Now, the wait is on for the forensic and ballistic reports to establish who fired at whom. But what is adding to the mystery is the alleged inaction earlier on part of the Delhi Police. When the scuffle was on at the Chhattarpur farmhouse, a call was made to Delhi Police Control Room (PCR) at around 11.50 am. But surprisingly, despite reaching the farmhouse, the PCR van returned without investigating as they couldn’t find anyone there. Immediately after this, around 12.30 pm, Ponty reached the farmhouse and the shootout took place. Senior police officers are silent on this particular aspect.
Brijesh Pandey is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.