Three persons, including a Congress worker, were killed and seven injured in twin blasts at Maur, 30 km from Bathinda, around 8.30pm on Tuesday, when a road show was being taken out by Congress candidate Harminder Singh Jassi.
Jassi is a close relative of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who is on the hit list of Sikh extremists and has Z-plus security.
“There were improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted in a scooter and a car and were detonated with remote control,” a top police official, who did not want to be named, said. “Nothing can be ruled out. That a pressure cooker was used to trigger the blast is also a possibility.”
After initial theories that a blast was caused by a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinder in a car, a pressure cooker was found near the white Alto (PB-05C-8973) that was ripped apart. Moments earlier, there were announcements to move the car as it was disrupting traffic. “Both the vehicles sported fake number plates and even the numbers of their chassis and engines had been struck off,” said police sources on the condition of anonymity.
Jassi had a miraculous escape as the blast took place seconds after his vehicle had crossed the car. Shrapnel hit Jassi’s vehicle.
The dead included an unidentified beggar, a nine-year-old girl believed to be his daughter, and Harpal Singh Pali, who was Jassi’s Maur poll office manager.
“Investigations are underway but the needle of suspicion points to an act of terror,” a close aide of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal told HT. A team of the forensic experts was rushed from Chandigarh to Maur, a five-hour journey.
Deputy commissioner Ghanshyam Thori, who was at the site, confirmed the deaths. “The seven persons injured were rushed to the Bathinda civil hospital from where two of them were referred to the government medical hospital in Faridkot,” Thori said.
Meanwhile, Jassi was in state of shock and not in condition to talk to the media. Jassi, whose daughter is married to the dera chief’s son, is pitted Akali Dal candidate Janmeja Singh Sekhon and Aam Aadmi Party’s Jagdev Singh Kamalu in Maur. (With inputs from Chandigarh)