In less than six months after the gangster Sukhpreet Singh Dhaliwal alias Buddha was arrested by the Interpol in Armenia and deported to India, the Punjab Police on Thursday claimed to have arrested 23 criminals and recovered 36 weapons from Ferozepur and adjoining states of Haryana and Rajasthan on the basis of information revealed by him.
Budha, who was operating as a self-styled head of the Davinder Bambiha gang, was deported from Armenia and arrested by the state police at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, when he landed in November 2019. He was wanted in over 20 cases of murder, robbery and demanding ransom in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.
The revelations made by him during interrogation led the police to solve numerous untraced heinous crimes in Punjab besides nabbing many criminals as a follow-up, said the state Director General of Police (DGP) Dinkar Gupta on Thursday.
The state police chief said that further investigation into the cases related to the recently arrested ‘A’ category gangster Budha, the Punjab Police has arrested 23 accused and recovered of 36 weapons from them during raids in Ferozepur range and adjoining states of Haryana and Rajasthan.
Gupta said that a major crackdown on the illegal supply of weapons by unscrupulous weapon dealers had led to recovery of 30 weapons from various criminals arrested. These included 14 DBBL 12 bore, four SBBL 12 bore, five 32 bore pistols, one 45 bore pistol, three 30 bore pistols, one 25 bore pistol and two carbines.
Following the recovery of these illegal weapons, four shops of gun dealers were sealed, several gun house dealers have been booked and thorough investigations are underway. “Further operations are in progress to identify and crack other links of these accused,” he said.
LINK TO TARGETED KILLINGS
Following a disclosure by Budha, the Punjab Police in a joint operation with the Anti Terrorist Squad of Uttar Pradesh arrested Ashish of Meerut on January 30. Ashish was the main supplier of illegal automatic weapons used by the criminals to commit murders, extortions, kidnappings for ransom and other crimes.
Gupta said that Ashish was introduced to Budha by Dharminder Gugni, who is one of the main accused in the cases of target killings of Brigadier Jagdish Gagneja, an RSS office-bearer, and other Hindu religious leaders in Punjab.
Ashish was also wanted in the targeted killings cases and being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
He was arrested for the first time for his alleged involvement in smuggling of 120 crates of illicit liquor and then nabbed by the Punjab Police in an NDPS case, in which he got a 10-year imprisonment in 2012. He was sent to Nabha jail, Patiala, where he developed special friendship with Dharminder Gugni, Sukha Kahlwan among others who were also lodged in same jail at that time.
After his release from jail, he jumped bail in 2014, but remained in touch with Gugni and started supplying illegal weapons to him and most wanted criminals like Jaggu Bhagwanpuria, Davinder Bambhia, Sukha Kahlwan, and others. These criminals had been using the weapons in gang wars, murders, extortions, kidnappings etc in Punjab since 2014.
Investigations further revealed that Ashish had supplied a large number of illegal weapons to various Punjab based criminals, who used them in the Tarn Taran inter-gang wars in 2015, and recently in the murder of Abdul Rashid alias Gudhu in Malerkotla in November 2019.
The weapons supplied to Sukhpreet Budha and his associates were used in attack on Punjabi singer Parmish Verma in Mohali and several other murders, dacoities and extortions committed in Punjab.
Later, his two accomplices, Gurpreet Singh alias Laddi and Neeraj Kumar alias Dhiraj Batta, wanted in 20 and 13 criminal cases, respectively, were arrested. One 0.30 bore and two 32 bore, 36 live cartridges have been recovered from them.
A separate case was registered under the UAPA in Mohali against Ashish and his accomplices.
A special investigation team (SIT), under the supervision of AIG Harkamalpreet Khakh, is conducting the investigation and efforts are being made to recover all illegal weapons by getting the production warrants of criminals in Jails, on whose instructions Ashish had supplied the weapons.
The SIT is also taking the help of UP ATS to track and arrest the persons who manufactured and supplied weapons to .
DEEP NEXUS B/W GUNHOUSE DEALERS AND CRIMINALS
Further interrogation of Sukhpreet Budha also revealed that one Kapil Dev, proprietor of Kapil Arms Company in Jalalabad, was also supplying illegal arms and ammunition to criminals in Punjab for committing murders, dacoities, kidnappings etc in the State.
Disclosures made by Kapil pointed towards a deep nexus between gun house dealers who are procuring illegal arms and ammunition and supplying the same to different criminals in Punjab with impunity.
As many as 14 illegal weapons have been recovered on the revelations made by Kapil from different persons and, accordingly, separate FIRs have been lodged in Fazilka and Ferozepur districts.
Different gun house dealers in Abhor, Jalalabad, Mamdot and Fazilka have been booked and investigations are being carried out under the supervision of Special Investigation Team headed by Organized Crime Control Unit (OCCU) AIG Gurmeet Singh Chauhan.
Notably, Amar Setia, proprietor of Setia Gun House, was earlier involved in the preparation of fake arms licenses case investigated by the CBI and had been sentenced to three years imprisonment and his license had been cancelled.
Apart from his previous role in fake arms licenses, he has been involved in illegal sale and purchase of arms and ammunition without having license to do so.
Similarly, Harish Kumar Rishu, proprietors of Durga Gun House, Abohar, Rahul Gun House, Fazilka and Sandeep Bishnoi of Ellanabad, Haryana and Surinder alias Sumi Godhara of Lalaina, Nohar, of Hanumangarh district in Rajasthan, have been arrested for illegal sale and purchase of arms and ammunition.
STATE-WIDE AUDIT WORKING OF ARMS DEALERS, LICENSING BRANCHES
Punjab police has launched a state-wide audit of the working of arm dealers and licensing branches to check stock, sale and purchase of the arms.
The decision came after large-scale discrepancies and loopholes were noticed in the stock, sale and purchase of arms and ammunition by arms dealers and licence holders. A state-wide audit of working of arms dealers and licensing branches is also being carried out by the state police, said the DGP.
WHO IS BUDDHA?
A native of Kussa village of Moga district, Budha gained notoriety as one of the biggest names in crime in Punjab, along with gangster Vicky Gounder.
In 2018, he had fled the country after the State Government launched a crackdown against gangsters. As part of the campaign, Punjab Police had arrested and killed gangsters in encounters, including Gounder, and Prem Lahoriya.
His first major crime involved the killing of a man in his village on March 20, 2011. A court arrested and convicted him of murder on August 5, 2015.
In 2016, he jumped parole after which he was declared a proclaimed offender. On January 17, 2017, he killed a businessman in Dabwali followed by murder of another Jaito trader Ravinder Pappu Kochhar in July the same year.
In June 2017, Buddha and another gangster killed a poultry farm owner Hardev Singh Gogi Jatana at Rampura Phul in Bathinda. They had claimed that this was a revenge killing as Hardev had given a tip-off to the police about Bambiha’s whereabouts. Budda had claimed responsibility on Facebook for killing Maninder Pal Bittu, an activist of Dera Sacha Sauda, who was murdered inside Nabha Jail.
He was the mastermind behind the attack on Punjabi singer and actor Parmish Verma in April 2018. He was also allegedly behind threats to other famous Punjabi singers and actors, including Gippy Grewal, and businessmen over WhatsApp. A well-known Punjabi singer Karan Aujla was attacked in Canada on his directions.
Budda was also said to be in touch with pro-Khalistan elements. Notably, a few pro-Khalistan activists in Europe had posted about his arrest by the Interpol in Armenia on August 8 last year on Facebook, calling him ‘a strong voice for Khalistan in Punjab’.