Punjab: Shaurya Chakra Awardee Shot Dead; Government Withdrew Security Cover

The motorcycle-borne men pumped four bullets into 62-year-old Balwinder Singh Sandhu when he was at his office adjoining his home at Bhikhiwind in Tarn Taran.

New Delhi: Shaurya Chakra awardee Balwinder Singh Sandhu who fought terrorism in Punjab was shot dead by two unknown assailants in Tarn Taran district on Friday, months after the government withdrew his security cover.

The motorcycle-borne men pumped four bullets into 62-year-old Sandhu when he was at his office adjoining his home at Bhikhiwind in the district and escaped, police said.

He was taken to a hospital, where doctors declared him brought dead.

Sandhu had fought against terrorism in the state for years, facing scores of terror attacks during the height of Khalistani militancy. He was awarded the Shaurya Chakra award to Sandhu in 1993. The award is handed for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice.

Singh’s security cover was withdrawn by the state government a year ago on the recommendation of the Tarn Taran police, his brother Ranjit said, adding that their entire family had remained on the hit list of terrorists.

Sandhu’s wife Jagdish Kaur said it was the handiwork of terrorists, maintaining that their family did not have any personal enmity with anyone.

“The family always fought against terrorists. As many as 62 attacks were made on my family by terrorists. We made numerous requests with DGP Dinkar Gupta for the security cover but all in vain,” she said.

According to the Indian Express, Sandhu’s family said their security was withdrawn despite their complaints to police about threats. When Tarn Taran SSP Dhruman H. Nimbale was asked by the newspaper why Sandhu’s security was withdrawn and not reinstated despite complaints by the family, he said, “We are looking into the matter.”

His wife Jagdish Kaur said that the family will not cremate Sandhu’s body until the government takes action against the officers who are responsible for removing the security cover. “Our family should be provided security and the accused should be arrested as soon as possible,” Kaur demanded.

Sandhu is survived by his wife and three children, Gagandeep Singh, Arshdeep Singh and Prandeep Kaur.

Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh condoled Sandhu’s death and set up a special investigation team headed by Ferozpur deputy inspector general to probe the killing. The chief minister said the SIT will probe the killing, taking all possibilities into account. The guilty will not be spared, he added.

Sandhu was killed by two unknown assailants at around 7 am, said Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta, adding the victim died on the spot.

CCTV footage from the area shows that the assailants arrived at Sandu’s house and one of them entered the premises and fired at him from point-blank range.

The details of the vehicle and its registration number are being ascertained, the DGP said in a statement.

Giving details of the SIT formed to probe the killing, the DGP said in addition to Ferozepur Range DIG Hardial Maan, the team comprises Tarn Taran senior superintendent of police Dhruman Nimbale and Bhikhiwind deputy superintendent of police Rajbir Singh.

A case under relevant sections including 302 (murder) of the IPC and the Arms Act has been registered, he added.

The Tarn Taran braveheart also featured in some documentaries. Inspired by Sandhu and his family, many people followed him and defended themselves from terror attacks.

Sandhi was a former CPI(M) member and joined the Revolutionary Marxist Party of India in 2009. There were 42 FIRs registered for attacks on Sandhu and his family.

The Union government awarded him Shaurya Chakra in 1993.

“Balwinder Singh Sandhu and his brother Ranjit Singh Sandhu are opposed to the activities of terrorists. They were on the hit lists of terrorists. The terrorists so far have made 16 attempts to wipe out the Sandhu’s family within in about 11 months,” the citation for the gallantry award said.

“The terrorists attacked them in groups of 10 to 200, but every time, the Sandhu brothers with the help of their brave wives Jagdish Kaur Sandhu and Balraj Kaur Sandhu have successfully foiled the attempts of militants to kill them,” it said.

Militants had attacked the family on January 31, 1990 for the first time.

The family faced its deadliest attack on September 30, 1990 when around 200 terrorists surrounded their house from all sides and attacked them continuously for five hours with deadly weapons, including rocket launchers.

In this well-planned attack by the terrorists, the approach road of the house was blocked by spreading underground mines so that the police could not help them, the citation said.

Undaunted, the Sandhu brothers and their wives fought terrorists with pistols and sten-guns provided by the government. The resistance shown by Sandhu brothers and their family members forced the terrorists to retreat, it said.

All these persons have displayed courage and bravery of a high order in facing the attack of the terrorists and failing their repeated murderous attempts, it further says.

(With PTI inputs from Amritsar and Chandigarh)