Hindu right-wing leader Sudhir Suri, 58, who headed Punjab-based Shiv Sena (Taksali), was shot dead in broad daylight while he was taking part in a protest outside a temple in the presence of police, including a DSP-rank officer and an SHO, in Amritsar on Friday.
Suri was staging a protest outside Gopal Mandir in Amritsar’s Kashmir Avenue locality when he was shot at five times by Sandeep Singh, who ran a garment shop outside the same temple, according to police officials. He was later arrested. The police also recovered a .32 bore licensed weapon used in the crime.
Police didn’t immediately attribute a motive behind the murder but said that it will swiftly move to investigate all aspects of the crime. “We will not allow the situation to be disturbed. We will unveil the entire conspiracy behind the murder and all those who are behind it will be arrested,” said director general of police Gaurav Yadav in a hurriedly called press conference in Chandigarh.
“The accused told the police that he had never met Suri before. What triggered the accused to kill the Shiv Sena leader is part of the investigation. We are probing the case from all angles and interrogation of the accused is underway,” the DGP said.
Tension gripped Amritsar after the murder, around 3.20pm on Friday, prompting police to step up security across the city. Suri reached Gopal Mandir at 12pm to attend a ceremony but flew into a rage after he saw idols and paintings of Hindu gods in the litter outside, said his aides. He started a protest, alleging the temple’s management was desecrating holy figures. He then went live on social media and was locked in a verbal altercation with office-bearers of the temple. His supporters also held up traffic, prompting police to turn up at the spot.
At 3:20pm, when Suri was engaged in a heated exchange of words with two police officers, gunshots rang out, said witnesses. Singh fired five bullets at Suri, police officials familiar with the matter said. Three bullets hit Suri. He was rushed to the hospital where he was declared brought dead.
The Shiv Sena (Taksali) is not linked to the Maharashtra-based Shiv Sena. Suri pitted himself as a voice against what he called “Sikh fundamentalists” and triggered controversies in the past. More than two years ago, Punjab Police arrested Suri from Indore in Madhya Pradesh over an objectionable video clip allegedly denigrating women and inciting enmity between different groups, though he had denied the allegations.
Enraged over the attack, supporters of the Hindu leader damaged a car parked in the area, which they said belonged to the shooter, but the police did not confirm it. The mob also set ablaze the shop run by the accused.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress targeted the Bhagwant Mann-led AAP government over Suri’s killing, alleging complete breakdown of law and order in the state.
Reacting to the incident, former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh tweeted: “I appeal to everyone to maintain peace & harmony & fight enemies of Punjab together. “While it reflects poorly on the law and order situation in Punjab, I hope culprits are given exemplary punishment,” Amarinder Singh, a BJP leader, said in a tweet.
Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring alleged that law and order is deteriorating and becoming bad to worse. He said the Congress condemns the Amritsar incident. “Political differences apart, violence is unacceptable. Culprits must be brought to book,” Warring said in a tweet.