Tuesday February 19, 2019
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Gurdaspur attack: Five killed as terror attack shatters Punjab calm

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Dinanagar: At least five people were killed and 10 injured when heavily-armed terrorists wearing army fatigues hijacked a car, drove down to this town in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, peppered the bus stand with bullets and then stormed a police station — shattering two decades of calm in the state.

Authorities said that five people were killed in the terror attack, while unconfirmed reports said the toll may be higher.

“So far reports of five deaths including three civilians and two police personnel confirmed from Gurudaspur. Operation is still on,” tweeted Press Information Bureau in Delhi.

Three home guard personnel who were inside the police station were among those feared killed. Other victims were civilians, including a person inside an adjoining hospital.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that he had spoken to director general of Border Security Force (BSF) D.K. Pathak and instructed him to step up the vigil on India-Pakistan border in the wake of attack in Gurdaspur.

Special forces of the army and NSG as well as police commandos took up position around the Dinanagar police station.

This was the first major terror attack in Punjab following the assassination of then chief minister Beant Singh on August 31, 1995.

Monday’s attack began at 5.30 a.m. at Dinanagar town in Punjab’s frontier district of Gurdaspur, close to the India-Pakistan border and near the border with Jammu and Kashmir state.

A gun battle raged between the terrorists, holed up inside the Dinanagar police station, and security forces, including soldiers. Continuous sound of firing and lobbying of grenades could be heard even hours after the first shots were fired by the militants.

The police station, adjoining government hospital, residential quarters inside the police station and nearby private houses were quickly cordoned off by security forces.

Minister of state for home Kirren Rijiju told IANS in Delhi that “as of now there is no information regarding hostages being held. We are looking into it and once I get some more information, I will come out with it”.

The terrorists, numbering four, are believed to have come from Pakistan. They arrived in a Maruti 800 car which they had hijacked after firing at the driver and killing a person in a dhaba nearby. They also fired at people near the Dinanagar bus stand and then attacked the Dinanagar police station, located about 100 metres away.

Eyewitnesses said the terrorists fired on a bus going towards Jammu and later entered the police station.

“We were hit by a burst of gunfire suddenly. I was hit on the shoulder. They are firing indiscriminately every five minutes,” a Punjab police official, who was injured in the attack, told media as he was being taken to the hospital.

The town is about 15 km from the India-Pakistan border and 25 km from the border of Jammu and Kashmir state. It is about 235 km from Chandigarh.

Additional Director-General of Punjab Police, Dinkar Gupta, told media the “attack took the Dinanagar police by surprised”.

Army and police reinforcements were rushed to the spot.

Punjab Police sources said the incident indicated may be a suicide attack.

The attack took place just a day after Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal faced pro-Khalistan slogans while attending a function at Punjab University in Patiala.

In a related development, five live bombs were found on the Amritsar-Pathankot railway track.

The bombs were found by passersby on a bridge near Parmanand railway station on the Amritsar-Pathankot railway section, who informed security forces. Trains on the route were stopped immediately.

A major railway tragedy was averted as the bombs were carefully wired to the railway track at a small bridge near Parmanand railway station, five km from Dinanagar. A police spokesman told media that the army bomb disposal unit had defused the bombs.

A train, which was to pass on the railway track, was stopped just 200 metres from the spot where the bombs had been planted.

(IANS)

Next Story

Sukhpal Singh Khaira’s Exit Raises Questions Over AAP’s Future in Punjab

Though the damage done by the party to itself in the last three years will be known after the forthcoming parliamentary elections, it will be a sad day for people in Punjab who saw AAP as a third viable option but were let down by the party itself

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File photo: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Deputy CM Manish Sisodia.

The recent exit of politically outspoken leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) fold in Punjab, at a time when general elections are around the corner, has raised a question mark over the party’s political future in the state.

It is not that Khaira, who was elected on the AAP ticket in the February 2017 assembly polls, was indispensable for the party in Punjab.

His exit, however, has shown that the AAP central leadership in Delhi continues to be unaffected by the self-created crisis in the Punjab unit that began in August 2016.

Khaira, who was suspended from the AAP along with another legislator, Kanwar Sandhu, in November 2018 for “anti-party activities”, last week floated a new party – Punjabi Ekta Party (PEP) – and has given enough indications of splitting the AAP down the middle.

Six AAP legislators in the state were present at the launch of the new party even though they did not share the stage with Khaira.

The AAP’s Punjab unit is in complete disarray – be it the leadership crisis, lack of political direction or agenda or the complete disillusionment of its cadre.

Max hospital
Arvind Kejriwal.

It’s not the first time that the AAP central leadership has committed political harakiri with the Punjab unit. It has become clear now that the AAP central leadership, instead of letting the Punjab unit take on the ruling Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance, ends up shooting itself in the foot every time.

Khaira was earlier unceremoniously removed as Leader of Opposition (LoP) by the AAP central leadership in July 2018. He openly rebelled against the party high command by dissolving the the AAP’s Punjab organisational structure and seeking complete autonomy for the state unit.

The AAP ousted its then Punjab unit chief, Sucha Singh Chhotepur, on flimsy bribery charges in August 2016, just months ahead of the assembly polls.

Chhotepur, who nurtured the party right from the day of its conception in Punjab, was shown the door after the emergence of a video clip in which an AAP worker was shown giving money to him. Even before this, Chhotepur was being sidelined in Punjab affairs with Delhi leaders like Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak calling all the shots.

As the Chhotepur episode unfolded, AAP leaders at the constituency and district level rebelled. Chhotepur, who accused the AAP central leadership of corruption in allotting tickets for various assembly seats, finally exited the party and formed a new political outfit – the Apna Punjab Party (APP) that has practically remained a non-starter.

The AAP appointed actor-comedian Gurpreet Ghuggi, with no political experience, as its state convener in place of Chhotepur. Ghuggi left the party on a sour note just months later.

Two AAP MPs from Punjab, Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Khalsa, were suspended in August 2015 for questioning the AAP’s leadership style.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Flickr

Gandhi, a cardiologist and known social worker, is the MP from Patiala constituency, while Khalsa, a former diplomat, represents Fatehgarh Sahib in the Lok Sabha. Gandhi was also unceremoniously removed from the post of leader of AAP in the Lok Sabha.

The AAP, which was completely rejected elsewhere in the country in the April-May 2014 general elections, won four Lok Sabha seats from Punjab – Sangrur, Patiala, Faridkot and Fatehgarh Sahib.

The AAP started the year 2016 on an upswing. Poll surveys and the party’s own political calculations gave it anything from 75 to over 100 seats in the 117-member assembly.

The party, however, finished second and managed to end up as the main opposition party with 20 legislators. One legislator, lawyer-activist H.S. Phoolka, resigned from the assembly seat recently and even quit the AAP.

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With Khaira’s exit, his status as a legislator and the future of the six legislators who seem to be in his camp, will be seen in the coming months.

The party, which is the newest entrant on Punjab political scene – dominated largely by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress over the decades – is facing as much a challenge from its implosion.

Though the damage done by the party to itself in the last three years will be known after the forthcoming parliamentary elections, it will be a sad day for people in Punjab who saw AAP as a third viable option but were let down by the party itself. (IANS)