Punjab tightens security ahead of Rajoana hanging

Chandigarh: Security was tightened across Punjab today following a shutdown call given by various Sikh organisations against the hanging of Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) terrorist Balwant Singh Rajoana scheduled for Saturday.

Tension spread after a court in Chandigarh Tuesday directed that Rajoana, who has been given the death penalty in the 1995 assassination case of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, be hanged March 31.

Nearly 60,000 Punjab police personnel and 15 companies of paramilitary forces have been put on alert. Security forces have taken out flag marches in some cities and towns.

In Patiala, 80 km from here, where Rajoana is lodged in the central jail and where the court has directed he be hanged, the entire area around the prison complex has been put under heavy security cover with armed security personnel manning the place.

Barricades have been put on roads leading to the prison complex.

Patiala district police chief Gurpreet Singh Gill said tight security arrangements were in place around the prison complex and elsewhere in Patiala district.

Though life was normal in most parts of the state, the build-up to the hanging of Rajoana in the last few days has led to some tension.

Some Sikh organisations have called for a Punjab shutdown Wednesday against the hanging of Rajoana.

The Punjab government and Patiala jail superintendent L.S. Jakhar are likely to approach the Punjab and Haryana High Court here Wednesday to seek deferment of Rajoana’s hanging.

Jakhar, who had refused to accept the warrant of death for Rajoana for the third time Tuesday from the court of additional district and sessions judge Shalini Singh Nagpal here, has maintained that the legal procedure in the Beant Singh assassination case was still pending before the Supreme Court and hanging Rajoana now was not the right thing to do.

Jakhar sought deferment of hanging pending a decision of the Supreme Court on the appeals of two other terrorists, Lakhwinder Singh and Jagtar Singh Hawara, who were also convicted in the Beant Singh assassination case.

Beant Singh, Punjab chief minister between 1992 and 1995 and largely credited with wiping out terrorism from the state along with supercop K.P.S. Gill, was assassinated by a human bomb, Dilawar Singh, at the high security Punjab civil secretariat here Aug 31, 1995.

While Hawara was the mastermind of the assassination, Rajoana was the second human bomb to be used in case the first assassin failed. Rajoana, during the entire 11-year trial, had admitted that he alone was responsible for the killing of Beant Singh. He had refused to defend himself in court.

IANS

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