Five teams comprising 35 men meticulously executed the highly technical and intelligence-based operation that culminated in the death of wanted gangster and Nabha jail-break mastermind Vicky Gounder, thus putting the lid on 10 cases of heinous crimes, and also bringing to an end a saga of blatant criminal threats and naked propaganda on the social media.The operation, which also led to the killing of Gounder’s associate Prema Lahoria and an unidentified man, has put another feather in the cap of the Punjab Police, which had won accolades recently for cracking the high-profile targeting killing cases in the state.Briefing mediapersons here on Saturday, DGP Suresh Arora thanked Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh for his fulsome appreciation of the police success and assured of continued efforts to crack down on other gangs and gangsters still active in Punjab. He disclosed that as many as 17 A category and 21 B category gangs were believed to be active in the state as of Jan 2017. While some gangsters had been arrested since then OCCU was now concentrating on the remaining 8 A category 9 in B category gangsters.
Giving details of the operation, DGP Arora and DGP Intelligence Dinkar Gupta, who coordinated the teams along with IG OCCU Nilabh Kishore, told mediapersons that the most wanted `A’ category gangster Harjinder Singh @ Vicky Gounder was finally traced, after more than a year-long manhunt, through intelligence gathering, and from multiple sources coupled with ground operations.Two pistols of .32 bore and one pistol of 0.30 bore, and a large quantity of ammunition along with an ammunition belt were recovered from the possession of the gangsters, along with mobile phones and dongles, used for communication through social media. A Swift Dzire car with fake number plate was recovered from the house. In fact, many fake number plates were also recovered from their place of hiding.Gounder, who had a reward of Rs 7 lakh from Punjab Police and another from Rajasthan Police, was using the social media as a tool to create terror and issue threats to rival gangs and police officers. He was using multiple Facebook accounts, operated through associates in various countries including the Gulf nations, Cyprus and Germany, disclosed Dinkar, adding that the most followed account had more than 1 lakh followers and collectively, Gounder had around 4-5 lakh FB followers. The police, he said, was augmenting its presence on the social media to counter the false propaganda which gangsters such as Gounder were spreading online, the DGP Intelligence added.
A proclaimed offender, wanted in 10 cases of murder, gang-war, jail break, extortion, drug smuggling, weapon smuggling etc, Gounder was under examination for his possible links with militant/radical elements, as well as ISI. Recently, he got delivery of an automatic assault rifle from Pakistan through his close associate and handler, Ramanjit Singh @ Romi (Hong Kong), who is also wanted by Punjab Police and against whom Red Corner Notice has been issued. The possible role of Romi is also being examined in targeted killings in Ludhiana and Jalandhar in 2016/2017.Gounder came into limelight when he killed Sukha Kalwan on January 21, 2015 in police custody, after which he danced, made a video and boastfully told the policemen in the escort party that “I am Vicky Gounder and I have killed Sukha Kahlwan”. He posted this video on social media, after which he was arrested by Tarn Taran Police in December 2015, and sent to the high-security Nabha Jail, from where he escaped in November 2016. Gounder was the last of the criminals still absconding after the jail-break. Prem Singh @ Prema Lahoria, another 'A' Category gangster having a reward of Rs. 2 Lac, was also a proclaimed offender wanted in 10 cases of murder, gang-war, jail break, extortion, drug smuggling, weapon smuggling etc.
Sharing operational details of the encounter, the DGP said the Organized Crime Control Unit (OCCU) of Intelligence Wing, under the guidance of Dinkar Gupta, was collecting information regarding the movement of these two gangsters from field formations. Last week, OCCU got information that these two gangsters were spotted in the border districts of Fazilka, Ferozepur and Taran Tarn. On January 24, an OCCU advisory was issued listing out five districts reporting possible movement of the gangsters and additional forces were sent out there.On further getting specific information that their movement was seen in the area of Police Station Sarwar Khuhian, district Fazilka, a team of OCCU, under command of AIG Gurmeet Singh Chauhan and Inspector Bikram Brar, was dispatched there. The team started doing reccee of the area, and checking their suspected hideouts and associates.On 26th January 2018, the police received information that both the offenders were hiding in Village Panjawa, and also discovered that Lakhwinder Singh @ Lakha s/o Iqbal Singh, a close associate of Vicky Gounder, was also residing in the same village. Upon further reccee, the team found that both the accused were hiding in the 'Dhanni' of Lakhwinder Singh @ Lakha.
Five teams were constituted to raid the `Dhanni’ and nab the gangsters. The operation started at 5.30 p.m. on Friday. While one team covered the house from the roof-top of the neighbouring house, another covered the rear boundary wall, and the third entered from the main gate, with the remaining teams covering the two other doors.On seeing the police party, three persons came out from a room and started firing on the cops. One of them took shelter behind a mini bus, while two others ran towards the rear boundary wall, with the former giving them covering fire. In spite of repeated appeals to surrender, they also continuously fired at the police party, injuring SI Balwinder Singh and ASI Kirpal Singh. In retaliatory firing, Gounder and Lahoria were shot dead. The third person, whose identity is yet to be established, was shifted to Civil Hospital, Abohar, with injuries, to which he succumbed. The injured police personnel were also shifted to Civil Hospital, Abohar, from where they were referred to Faridkot Medical College. A total of 40 shots were fired from by the police party in exchange of about a dozen fired by the gangsters, said IG OCCU.On checking, it was found that the 'Dhanni' where the gangsters had been hiding for the past two days was technically inside the jurisdiction of village Pakki, PS Hindumal Kot, district Ganganagar, Rajasthan, which is hardly 50 meters from Punjab’s border. The information was immediately shared with SP/Ganganagar and SHO, PS Hindumal Kot, who reached the spot. On the statement of Inspector Bikram Brar, case FIR No. 26 dated 27-01-2018, u/s 307, 332, 34 IPC, 25-27-54-59 Arms Act, PS Hindumal Kot, District Ganganagar (Rajasthan) was registered and investigation was taken up by Ganganagar Police. In fact, the Punjab Police had been having operational meeting with the Rajasthan police following intelligence reports of movement of gangsters in the bordering areas.
Responding to questions, DGP Arora justified the need for a stringent law like PCOCA to effectively deal with criminals, who needed to be given a strong message that they could not get away with their criminal activities. The DGP appealed to the youth not to be lured by crime, which never pays. Criminals have a limited life while the State is ageless, he added. Prominent among others present on the occasion included Media Advisor to CM Punjab Sh. Raveen Thukral, DGP Law & Order Sh. H.S. Dhillon and AIG Gurmeet Singh Chauhan.