Enter Gurpreet, the Bilal of Ludhiana

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  • Published 23.10.07

Mullanpur Dakha, Oct. 23: The picture of a youth stared back from a wall of the local police station.

Two words — “Most wanted” — screamed out from the poster.

Twenty-five-year-old Gurpreet Singh is the new Shahid Bilal on the horizon as investigators probing the Shingar cinema blast in Ludhiana on the night of Id focus on a new suspect.

The first suspect, the Babbar Khalsa International, has given way to the Dal Khalsa, and Singh is known to have been associated with the group. Sources said he even spoke to a Dal member a day before he went underground.

Investigators say Gurpreet went to Malaysia in August 2006 and is believed to have gone to Lahore from there for training.

Bilal, alleged to have been involved in the Hyderabad and Ajmer blasts, is also believed to be a trans-border specialist, hopping between Karachi, Dhaka and Hyderabad.

“There is record of his (Gurpreet’s) departure to Malaysia, but none of his return,” said a source in an intelligence agency.

The Babbar Khalsa is also known to be headquartered in Lahore, but chief Wadhawa Singh Babbar’s statement last week denying responsibility for the Ludhiana blast has made investigators change their focus. The sleuths are now looking for clues to where Gurpreet might have gone from Kuala Lumpur before re-entering India. His mother and sister are being questioned.

As elusive as Bilal, Gurpreet escaped in the early hours of September 2 after being caught with 3.5kg of RDX. National Security Guard experts later confirmed traces of RDX in the October 14 blast in the Ludhiana multiplex.

Like Bilal, police do not rule out Gurpreet’s links with agents of Pakistan’s spy agency ISI who have been active in Punjab.

Police sources said the new line of investigation also does not rule out the involvement of Ranjit Singh “Neeta”, the chief of the Khalistan Zindabad Force. The outfit is said to have links with Kashmiri militant groups.

Believed to be mainly associated with the Dal Khalsa — a pro-Khalistan organisation that went underground in 1984 — Gurpreet had returned to the village after a year in Malaysia to set up an electrical workshop outside his house. “The young man was good, not really sociable but he used to work silently,” recalled neighbour Kamlesh Lal. She said he returned from Malaysia only a fortnight before the blast.

An elderly neighbour said she had heard with “sadness” that like his father, the hardworking Gurpreet, too, had turned into a “khadku” (militant). Gurpreet’s late father Trilok Singh was associated with the Dal Khalsa.