Political slugfest over Honeypreet Insan's arrest: Haryana's ML Khattar blames Punjab Police, Amarinder Singh hits back
Triggering a blame game between Haryana and Punjab governments, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Thursday held the Punjab Police responsible for delaying information on Gurmeet Ram Rahim's adopted daughter Honeypreet Insan before her arrest on 3 October.
Honeypreet, the closest aide of jailed Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was arrested along with another woman from the Zirakpur-Patiala Highway in Punjab on Wednesday.
Khattar said Punjab police should have informed the Haryana Police about her whereabouts earlier. Speaking to the media in Panchkula adjoining Chandigarh, after a meeting with the top brass of Haryana Police on the arrest of Honeypreet, Khattar said: "Dal mein kuchh kala hai (Something is fishy about the whole affair)." The chief minister pointed out that the Punjab Police came to know about Honeypreet's presence in their state much earlier but did not share the information with Haryana Police.
"Punjab Police should have shared the information earlier," Khattar said. The Haryana Police on Thursday took Honeypreet to Bathinda to question her about her whereabouts when she was absconding and also regarding the activities of the sect.
There are allegations that senior Punjab Congress leader and former legislator Harminder Singh Jassi, whose daughter is married to Ram Rahim's son, had helped Honeypreet evade the arrest for over a month by using the heavy security cover he enjoys from Punjab Police.
Jassi told media on Thursday that the last time he had met Honeypreet was on the intervening night of 25 August and 26 August. "I never provided shelter to Honeypreet. After a lookout notice was issued against her (on 1 September) by the Haryana police, she did not meet me," he said.
The accusations of sheltering Honeypreet against me are "baseless", he said adding that he would quit politics if the allegations are proved.
Asked about his visit to Sri Gurusar Modia village in Rajasthan, the native place of Ram Rahim Singh who is serving a 20-year prison sentence, Jassi said he had gone to meet his
Jassi, who has been targeted by radical elements, including a car bomb blast earlier this year, has been provided a number of armed security personnel, jammer vehicle and police vehicles by the Congress government in Punjab.
For obvious reasons, he is considered close to Ram Rahim, who was convicted and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by a CBI court in August.
On the other hand the Punjab government denied these claims. The Punjab government had earlier categorically rejected reports that she was in Punjab Police custody or was, in any way, being shielded by the state government.
Meanwhile, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh lambasted Khattar for raising questions about the role of the Punjab Police in the case. Singh asked Khattar to refrain from such alleged fabrications to "shield his own government's failure" in the Dera Sacha Sauda case.
He alleged that after trying "unsuccessfully to pin the blame for the Panchkula violence on the Punjab government", Khattar was once again trying to divert public attention from the collapse of the law and order in Haryana since the rape conviction of Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
Rejecting claims of any involvement of the Punjab government or any of its institutions in the episode leading to Honeypreet's arrest, the Punjab chief minister said if the state police had any information about her they would have shared it with their Haryana counterparts.
Amarinder Singh, in a statement hours after Khattar's remarks, said reports, in fact, claimed that a senior Haryana police officer had known about Honeypreet's whereabouts for several days but had failed to arrest her.
He alleged that instead of probing the role of his own officials in the affair, Khattar was trying to shift focus to Punjab.
He trashed Khattar's charges that the Punjab Police had failed to give intelligence inputs to the police in the neighbouring state.
Amarinder Singh said the Punjab Police had been giving regular inputs to their counterparts in Haryana even before the hearing in Ram Rahim's case in Panchkula. He claimed that the Haryana government and police had failed to take cognisance or act on the information.
The chief minister said though the Punjab Police was not pursuing Honeypreet as she was not wanted in any case in the state, there was no question of shielding her.
He said Khattar should focus on taking the case to its logical conclusion and on maintaining law and order in Haryana, instead of allegedly wasting time and energy in concocting false charges against the Punjab government and the police.
Refuting reports in the social media, a Punjab government spokesperson also said: "The state was not involved in the case beyond supporting the Haryana Police with intelligence and other relevant inputs. There was no question of the Punjab Police taking Honeypreet into custody as there was no criminal case registered against her in the state nor was she in any wanted list," said the spokesperson.
The Punjab government said they would not protect a fugitive at any cost. "The Punjab government would not, at any cost, try to protect a fugitive criminal like Honeypreet who had cases registered against her in Haryana, where she had been declared a 'wanted criminal' after she reportedly absconded in the wake of the Dera violence sparked by Ram Rahim's imprisonment," the spokesperson said.
Within hours of her first interview to media channels since the Dera Sacha Sauda controversy broke out, Honeypreet Insan was taken into Haryana Police custody. CNN-News18 reported that an investigation is underway into how media channels gained access to her before her arrest.
Initially, media reports suggested Honeypreet had surrendered herself in Punjab on Tuesday morning, following which the Punjab police handed over her custody to the Haryana Police. Also, in an interview to India Today, she had also expressed her desire to surrender to the police.
However, Haryana Police denied the reports and insisted that it was them who had rounded up Honeypreet. "It was the SIT team of Haryana Police that rounded up Honeypreet Insan from Punjab. It was indicated to the Punjab Police as per the SoP," Panchkula police commissioner told CNN-News18.
The Haryana Police had earlier issued a look out notice in September, and put her on the top of the most wanted persons list in relation to the wide-spread violence in Panchkula after Gurmeet's conviction.
On Wednesday, Honeypreet was remanded to police custody for six days by a court in Panchkula. She has been charged under sections 151 (knowingly joining or continuing in assembly of five or more persons after it has been commanded to disperse), 152 (assaulting or obstructing public servant when suppressing riot, etc), 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 121B (waging or attempting wage war against Govt of India) in connection with the deadly violence which followed the Gurmeet's conviction on 25 August and is seeking remand for further investigation.
At present, the Haryana Police is mulling a narco test on Honeypreet since she proved tough to interrogate offering only head nods and silences to the 40-odd questions asked by the Haryana SIT.
Panchkula police commissioner AS Chawla had earlier said that Honeypreet was taken into custody by the SIT in-charge Mukesh Kumar from the Zirakpur-Patiala road in Punjab.
Chawla alleged that the role of a relative of Ram Rahim Singh, who is a politician, was under the scanner.
With inputs from IANS and PTI