| A security guard frisks a man outside a cinema in Amritsar on Monday. (AFP)
New Delhi, Oct. 15: The Union home ministry had warned Punjab less than a month ago that Ludhiana, one of the richest industrial towns in the state, could be a prime target for terror strikes.
An Intelligence Bureau report, forwarded by the home ministry to the state, had listed details of growing links between Islamic extremists and pro-Khalistan groups.
The warning had followed the seizure of 3.5kg of RDX and other material needed to make explosives in Ludhiana in early September. They were found in a car belonging to a member of a radical Sikh outfit, the Dal Khalsa.
The state was also warned that some local unemployed youths were being tapped by militant groups to help carry out the attacks.
Pakistan’s ISI was coordinating and encouraging the links between Islamic and Khalistani groups, facilitating training in explosives and use of arms and ammunition, according to the report.
The Lashkar-e-Toiba had strong links with the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) and also with the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF). Jamaat-e-Islaami was also playing a key role in the revival of Sikh militancy and had a meeting with the BKI in July 2007 at its headquarters at Mansoora in Pakistan.
The Lashkar and the BKI have been operating out of a common office outside Nankana Sahib in Shekhupura, western Punjab, in Pakistan.
Various Sikh and Islamic groups had a get-together in June 2007 in England. The IB report said the ISI was willing to provide support to these militant outfits and had provided them with bungalows to live in and impart training.
“The ISI has taken upon itself to revive Sikh militancy as it needs a partner to carry out attacks in the country,” the report said. It also quoted excerpts from speeches made by Pakistan-based militants, invoking the historical links between Sikhs and Muslims.
Aimed at creating common ground between the two groups and to portray them as natural allies, the ISI also took an initiative to set up the Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee.
Internal security expert and former Punjab DGP K.P.S. Gill confirmed to The Telegraph that links between Islamic terror groups and pro-Khalistan outfits were known for some time. Two Khalistani groups, the BKI and the Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF), had been active even after the end of terrorism in Punjab, he said. The KZF was the link between Kashmiri and Sikh outfits, and through Kashmiri groups to the ISI.
According to Gill, the recent death sentence given to two Babbar Khalsa militants for the assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh could also have acted as a trigger for the blast in Ludhiana.
Moreover, he said, Punjab police, over the years, had lost their touch in fighting militancy and handling terror attacks. “They lack the initiative, especially after the way the officers who were committed to wiping out terrorism in the state were treated.”
Union home secretary Madhukar Gupta said the security checks in Ludhiana appeared to be lax. He said constant vigil was required, particularly in areas that were vulnerable and where people gathered.
The IB report also mentioned the names of wanted Sikh militants who had taken refuge in Pakistan. These include BKI chief Wadhawan Singh Babbar, the KZF’s Ranjith Singh Neeta, the Khalistan Commando Force’s Paramjeet Singh Panjawar, the ISYF’s Lakhbir Singh Rode and the Dal Khalsa’s Gajinder Singh. All of them are said to be based in Lahore.