Five Sikhs Arrested in Gandhi Shooting Incident
Five men from Sikh-dominated Punjab state have been arrested in connection with the apparent attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the United News of India reported Tuesday.
It quoted Punjab police as saying that four of the men were from the Sangrur district of southern Punjab, where Sikh extremists are fighting for an independent homeland, and the fifth was a Sikh priest from the Amritsar area.
Officials at the Central Bureau of Investigation, which has been given responsibility for the case, declined to comment on the agency’s report.
A lone gunman fired a homemade handgun in the general direction of the 42-year-old Gandhi last Thursday as the prime minister was leaving a Hindu prayer meeting in New Delhi. Gandhi was not injured.
The suspect arrested at the scene, 26-year-old Karamjit Singh, is from Sunam village in the Sangrur. He has been ordered held by police on charges of attempted murder and violating anti-terrorist laws.
The Indian Express, the nation’s largest English-language daily, reported that Karamjit Singh acted to avenge the death of a friend who died in the New Delhi riots that followed the October, 1984, assassination of Gandhi’s mother and predecessor, Indira Gandhi. More than 2,000 people, most of them Sikhs, were killed in rioting in New Delhi and other cities following the murder of Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards.
United News of India said police identified the suspects from Sangrur District as Amarjeet Singh, Baldev Singh, Paramjit Singh and Vikram Singh. The Amritsar detainee was identified as Lakhwinder Singh.
It was not immediately clear what role the new suspects may have played in the apparent attack on Gandhi, or what charges might have been lodged against them.
Also Tuesday, the Indian government appointed a four-man committee, headed by Cabinet Secretary B.G. Deshmukh, to investigate the incident at the prayer meeting.
Among its tasks will be to determine whether any of Gandhi’s security officers were derelict in their duties and to recommend changes in the prime minister’s security coverage.
Militant Sikhs have been waging a four-year guerrilla campaign in Punjab state for creation of an independent Sikh homeland. More than 530 people have been killed this year in the state, the only state in India where Sikhs are in the majority.