Terror strikes Punjab again

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Terror returns The three terrorists had plans to strike at other places in the town as well. photo: raman gill
Terror returns The three terrorists had plans to strike at other places in the town as well. Photo: Raman Gill

Kamaljeet Singh Madharu, a middleaged man, woke up at the crack of dawn, as was his usual schedule, to pack his bags and leave for the market before work. He turned on the ignition of his Maruti 800, oblivious to the life-changing turn of events that awaited him. Ambushed by three armed terrorists, Kamaljeet was hit by a bullet on his shoulder before he could react to the situation. Lying in a pool of blood, he pretended to be dead till the terrorists fled away with his car. This was no regular day in the quaint little town of Dina Nagar in Gurdaspur district of Punjab which is nestled between the adjoining states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Recovering at an icu ward of Chauhan Medicity Hospital along with five others injured in the attack, Kamaljeet tells Tehelka: “I was driving to the market when suddenly there was firing in front of me and before I could react, I realised I had been hit on my shoulders and on my hand. I lost control of the car and it crashed into a pole. The three militants opened the door and threw me out. I did not move, fearing for my life, and waited for them to leave.”

Cut to 27 July 2015, 5:15 am right after the break of dawn. Ashok Kumar, on his night duty, had just finished patrolling. It was just him and another home guard in the only police station guarding this small city when a Maruti 800 swerved past the station, constantly firing rounds at the gates of the police station.

“I was on night duty yesterday and while patrolling the rear of the police station we heard loud bangs but dismissed them as firecrackers from a nearby town. It took us a while to realise what was happening and within a second I was shot. I then rushed and hid near a bush and made my way out of the compound till I found some help,” Ashok Kumar, Punjab Home Guard, Dina Nagar tells Tehelka.

According to Sumedh Singh Saini, the director-general of police of Punjab, the GPS-tracking devices recovered from the terrorists suggest that they entered from a village on the Pakistan side of the border, near Bamiyal town. “We are still investigating which outfit the terrorists belonged to but with the help of the GPS tracker we have been able to figure out where they entered from,” he says.

Carrying around three AK-47s, 18 magazines, one rocket launcher, 11 grenades, one pistol and two GPS trackers, the militants capitalised on catching the only two constables in the station off-guard. An eyewitness also reveals that it was on their intimation that martyred sp Baljeet Singh was informed about the situation in the first place. He goes on to say that after hearing gunshots at around 5:15 am, he along with a few others rushed to the police station and found the Maruti parked outside with bloodstains inside it. One of them, a local reporter, immediately called the sp to brief him about the situation, who arrived within half an hour. Sources further reveal that there was no initial back-up for nearly two hours, till units of Raj Rifles and the Sikh Regiment were deployed from Pathankot along with a swat team of the Punjab Police.

Shedding more light on the origins of the terrorists, one resident recalls that he could hear them chanting slogans hailing Pakistan during the firing. At one point, he says, he heard a terrorist shout Allah ki kasam, goli maar ke dikha (swear by Allah, try and shoot me) and he was the last one alive in the shootout.

The CCTV footage of the terrorists walking outside a market also emerged, shedding more light on their modus operandi. Both BSF and Army units are currently deployed to sanitise the area and keep a vigil on other porous parts along the border.

“Their identity as Muslims has been confirmed. We are still investigating the terror outfit they belong to. The Army was deployed for the purpose of defusing bombs placed a railway track. It (the operation to take out the terrorists) was purely the effort of the swat team commandos, the DIG and the entire unit of the Punjab Police in Dina Nagar,” says Ishwar Chandra Sharma, IG of Border Zone.

Perhaps the only heartening thing that came out of the scenario was the commendable reaction of the residents. As soon as heavy firing broke out and troops entered the compound, most of the locals took it upon themselves to feed the armed forces in spite of the difficult circumstances. Even a day after the attack, a few locals could be seen offering cold water to swat team members and other security personnel.

While the resilience of these residents was highlighted in the whole chain of events, politicians on the other hand utilised the opportunity to score brownie points. Political leaders and spiritual gurus were swift to barge into the station to pose for photographs and give bytes to media persons.

Capt Amrinder Singh, the sitting mp from Amritsar and a former Punjab chief minister, while addressing the media, said that it was 100 percent clear that the terrorists were sent and trained by the ISI of Pakistan. He said that this was not an intelligence failure as National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had warned the Punjab Government about the possibility of a terrorist incident; he criticised the state government for failing to act on the information. Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, in a statement put the blame on the Centre. Some local MLAs belonging to the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress visited the scene; bjp politicians were conspicuous by their absence.

Interestingly, on the day of the attack, a large number of police personnel were deployed at a social gathering in Amritsar for the chief minister. The callousness of the government was further highlighted when Punjab’s Deputy Chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, under whose command comes the Punjab Police, left for a trip to Poland the very next day.

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