AMRITSAR: Three people and over 20 injured when two motorcycle-borne men threw grenade on a religious congregation on city outskirts here on Sunday, an incident which the police are treating as a “terrorist act”.
The incident took place inside the Nirankari Bhavan’s prayer hall at Adliwal village near Amritsar’s Rajasansi, police said. A congregation of the Nirankari followers was being held inside at the time.
The Sant Nirankari Mission is a spiritual organisation and the Bhavan here is located close to the international airport and Indo-Pak border.
The grenade was lobbed by one of the two people who had their faces covered. One person pointed a gun at the volunteers manning the gate, while the other one hurled the bomb after which they escaped, police and eyewitnesses said.
DGP Suresh Arora, who along with senior officers rushed to the spot, said police was treating it as a “terrorist act”.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh condemened the attack and said the possibility of the involvement of ISI-based Khalistani/Kashmiri terror groups could not be ruled out.
The DGP said three people had died in the incident and 20 were injured, two of them seriously, he said.
The police said the grenade was hurled towards the stage where main preacher Sukhdev Kumar was holding the congregation. He was among the dead. The other deceased were Sandeep Singh, a resident of village Rajasansi, and Kuldeep Singh. Nine women and a six-year-old child were among the injured, they said.
An FIR was registered based on the statement of Nirnakari sect volunteer Gagan, who was on duty at the main door of the premises.
Inspector General of Police (Amritsar Border range) SPS Parmar, who visited the spot, said about 200 devotees, including women, were inside at the time of the incident.
They had gathered for the congregation held each Sunday. No CCTV was installed at the premises, preliminary probe found, he said.
SSP (Rural) Parampal Singh said two armed masked persons forced their way inside by pointing a gun at Arjan and Gagan, who were on duty at the gate. “After they gained entry, one of them threw a grenade-like object at the congregation and escaped,” he said, adding a hunt is on to nab the accused.
After the incident, the Bhavan was sealed by the police and security was stepped up at other “Nirankari Bhavans” in the state. While Punjab was already on high alert, vigil has been stepped up in the state, especially border districts, including Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepur.
The attack took place while Punjab was on high alert after an input claiming “a group of six-seven JeM terrorists were in Punjab” and they were “planning to move to Delhi”.
Moreover, the security agencies were also on alert after four people fled with an SUV after threatening its driver at gunpoint near Madhopur in Pathankot district a few days ago.
The DGP who visited the Nirankari Bhavan in the evening said the police was treating the incident as a “terrorist act” and denied that there was any “intelligence failure”.
“We are treating it as a terror act because it took place against a group, not against any individual…we did not have any specific input of a strike against a particular group (like the Nirankaris), there was no issue with this group as such,” Arora told reporters. He said a team of National Investigation Agency will also visit the site Monday.
Earlier, DGP had told PTI, “There is no reason to throw a hand grenade on a group of people so we will take it as a terrorist act. Till proven otherwise, prima facie we will take it as that.”
Amarinder Singh, who reviewed the law and order situation with senior officials, said preliminary probe revealed the two men, one of them with a flowing beard, with covered faces, forced their way into the hall by brandishing a pistol. They detained the sewadar, lobbed the grenade into the prayer room, and fled.
A small crater, three inches in diameter, was formed by the impact of the explosion, and was being examined by the forensic team. The safety valve of the grenade has also been found and was being examined, he said in a statement.
Singh urged the people to maintain peace and said the state won’t let the “forces of terror” to destroy the hard earned peace. “Nobody will be allowed to get away with trying to disturb the peace and harmony of the state,” he warned.
Last month, the Punjab Police had arrested three Kashmiri students of CT Institute of Engineering Management and Technology, located on the outskirts of Jalandhar, who were allegedly were associated with Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGH). Explosives and weapons were seized from them.
The CM announced a compensation of Rs five lakh each to the deceased’s kin and directed the administration to provide the best possible medical care, free of cost, to the injured.
Though the state had been hit by a series of targeted attacks since 2015/16, this was the first attempt, in a long time, to disturb the peace through indiscriminate killings, he said, adding it strengthened the belief that Pakistan was continuing with its nefarious activities.
On Friday, the police in Gurdaspur had pasted posters of Zakir Musa, the chief of Jammu and Kashmir based Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind terror outfit with reported links to Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
Army Chief Bipin Rawat had recently warned that attempts were being made to revive insurgency in Punjab and he had even cautioned that people needed to be careful to prevent anti-national forces from succeeding. PTI