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New Delhi: Khalistan flags were found tied on the main gate and slogans scrawled on the walls of the Himachal Pradesh legislative assembly complex, police said on Sunday, May 8. The Himachal Pradesh Police booked Sikhs for Justice leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun under the Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act and sealed the state’s borders in response.
“It might have happened in the late night or early morning today [May 8]. We have removed the Khalistani flags from the Vidhan Sabha gate. We are investigating,” superintendent of police Kangra Khushal Sharma told PTI.
Pannun has been booked as the main accused under section 13 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and sections 153 A and 153 B of the India Penal Code, besides section 3 of the HP Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act, 1985.
While section 13 of the UAPA pertains to the offence of inciting or abetting terror acts, sections 153 A and 153 B of the IPC deal with the offences of promoting communal or sectarian divides and animosity.
Himachal Pradesh police chief Sanjay Kundu said the FIR against Pannun and others was lodged on the complaint of Ram Chand alias Ajay Kumar of Kaned village under Dharamshala tehsil of the Kangra district.
The HP DGP also set up a seven-member Special Investigation Team to expeditiously investigate the case involving the putting up of Khalistani banners and scrawling of pro-Khalistan slogans and graffiti over the outer walls near the main gate of the Himachal legislative assembly complex Tapovan in Dharamshala.
The members of the SIT are Kangra’s Additional Superintendent of Police Puneet Raghu, Jawalaji’s Sub-Divisional Police Officer Chander Paul, Mandi’s Deputy SP (CID) Sushant Sharma, Jawali SDPO Sidharath Sharma, besides the Dharamshala police station’s SHO and the Yol police post in-charge, the DGP said in his statement.
The SIT has been directed to take up the investigation of the case immediately and carry out a professional and impartial investigation to ensure transparency, the HP police chief said.
The SIT has also been directed to contact with the state and central intelligence agencies to unearth the inter-state and international linkages if any, he added.
Kundu also ordered to seal the state’s border and beef up security at crowded and sensitive places in Himachal Pradesh.
Condemning the incident, Himachal Pradesh chief minister Jai Ram Thakur said the culprits will be caught soon.
“I condemn the cowardly incident of raising Khalistan flags at the gate of Dharamshala Assembly Complex in the dark of night. Only the winter session of the assembly is held there, and hence require tighter security arrangements during that time only,” he wrote on Twitter.
धर्मशाला विधानसभा परिसर के गेट पर रात के अंधेरे में खालिस्तान के झंडे लगाने वाली कायरतापूर्ण घटना की मैं निंदा करता हूं।
इस विधानसभा में केवल शीतकालीन सत्र ही होता है इसलिए यहां अधिक सुरक्षा व्यवस्था की आवश्यकता उसी दौरान रहती है।
— Jairam Thakur (@jairamthakurbjp) May 8, 2022
“Taking advantage of this, the cowardly incident was carried out, but the government will not tolerate it. Wherever the culprits are, they will be caught soon. Strict action will be taken against the perpetrators of this incident,” Thakur added.
Sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), Dharamshala, Shilpi Beakta, said, “It is an alert call for us… We received an information this morning around 7.30 am. We have removed the flags and walls have been painted again. We are inquiring about the matter and are going to register a case under relevant sections of Himachal Pradesh Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement Act), 1985.”
The rest of the details can be shared after investigation, she added.
NDTV reported, citing sources, that an intelligence alert was issued on April 26 claiming that the chief of banned Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), Gurupatwant Singh Pannu, had warned the chief minister of such an incident.
As per the report, Singh had written to the chief minister saying that a flag of Bhindranwale and Khalistan would be hoisted in Shimla.
Himachal Pradesh had banned vehicles carrying Bhindranwale and Khalsitani flags, which agitated the SFJ. The organisation had announced that it would hoist the Khalistani flag on March 29 but could not do so due to heavy security.
(With inputs from PTI)
Note: This is a developing story and will be updated.