The organised crime control unit (OCCU) of Punjab Police arrested Gangster Saraj Sandhu, alias Mintoo, 26, prime accused in the killing of Vipan Sharma, an Amritsar-based leader of a right-wing organisation called Hindu Sangharsh Sena, in Jalandhar on Tuesday.
“He is an ‘A-category’, hardcore gangster, who carried a reward of Rs 5 lakh. This is the first time Saraj has been arrested despite his long and active involvement in crime,” said assistant inspector general (AIG), OCCU, Jalandhar, Harkamalpreet Singh Khakh.
As per preliminary investigation, Saraj has committed five murders and two bank robberies, besides extortion and drug smuggling in the past five years, he added.
Saraj and his friend Shubham Singh allegedly shot Sharma in broad daylight on October 30 last year in Amritsar. A post on his purported Facebook account had him confessing to the crime too.
Wanted in more than 15 cases of heinous crimes, Saraj has now too “confessed” to the cops that he killed Sharma to avenge the killing of his friend Shubham’s father, a head constable, for which he held Sharma responsible, said the AIG. It had nothing to do with religion, Saraj is reported to have told the cops, underlining that this was not part of anything relating to Khalistan movement.
As for the arrest, police said that on a tip-off a joint team of the OCCU and the Jalandhar (rural) police acted under AIG Khakh, and nabbed Saraj near Bidhipur railway crossing close to the Jalandhar-Amritsar road (NH-1) around 6.15 am. He was going to Amritsar from Delhi, said the AIG at a press meet; two pistols and cartridges from his possession.
At the time of Sharma’s murder, Saraj had grown long hair and beard to conceal his identity, the security camera video footage of which fuelled the speculation of Sikh separatism as reason behind the murder. But he later got the hair and beard cut. He also used to shift base to neighbouring states after crimes, police said.
Saraj and his associates had attacked a police team and freed Shubham when he was being taken to be produced in an Amritsar court on September 1, about two months before Sharma’s murder allegedly by the duo. He also murdered Sukhwinder Singh, alias Lala, an associate of gangster Rana Kandowalia, on a contract given by rival gangster Jaggu Bhagwanpuria, police alleged.