Terror returned to Punjab after an interlude of eight years when three heavily armed fidayeen militants from Pakistan turned Gurudaspur into a theater of violence, firing indiscriminately at a passenger bus, gunning down a Superintendent of Police (SP), three home guards, an officer of the Punjab provincial service and three civilians. The terrorists, who were holed up in an abandoned building, were eliminated after a 12-hour gun battle with the security forces. Gurudasdpur is located on the Punjab-Jammu border.
The otherwise peaceful town of Gurudaspur woke up to the rattle of gunfire as the three terrorists, believed to be members of either Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) or Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), opened fire at a roadside kiosk, then tried to waylay an auto rickshaw, snatched a Maruti car, targeted a passenger bus, and finally stormed the Dinanagar police station. The terrorists were dressed in army fatigues.
SP Baljit Singh was the highest ranking police officer to be martyred in the gun battle. He succumbed to bullet injuries sustained while fighting the militants.
The audacious attack has sent shock wave across the country as it came days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, and the two sides had agreed to peacefully resolve all issues affecting the bilateral ties.
The attack will force India to rethink on its strategy towards Pakistan. The attack is also indicative of the fact that Pakistani Army and Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) are not ready to allow the civil government to take steps to normalize relations with India.
After the parliament condemned the attack, the government held high-level parleys to discuss its response. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Defense minister Manohar Parrikar, and top officials of parliamentary forces reviewed the security situation along the border and decided to take steps to further plug all routes used for cross border infiltration. Later in the night, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also reviewed the situation with the Home Minister and Defense Minister.
Director General of Punjab Police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini, who supervised the operation, told media persons that 15 persons were injured in the attack. He said the terrorists snatched a Maruti 800 car at gun point and used it to storm the police station. Chinese-made weapons and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) were recovered from them, Saini said.
“The terrorists were carrying sophisticated weapons. We have recovered ‘Made in China’ grenades from them. They were wearing combat fatigues,” DGP Sumedh Singh Saini told reporters.
According to the DGP, the terrorists carried AK-47 guns and hand grenades. When they attacked the police station they killed the sentries before gunning down the SP. The terrorists also hurled hand grenades at the part of the police station which housed the quarters where family members of the policemen resided. Later, they took shelter in an abandoned building.
Intelligence sources said that the militants might have sneaked into India from Pakistan through the border point between Jammu and Pathankot or Chak Hira in Jammu district. After the review meeting, the Government is reported to have asked the director general of Border security force to find out how the militants crossed the border, which is guarded by the BSF.
The attack is seen as part of an ISI plan to revive the Sikh militancy and spread the network of terror from Kashmir to Punjab.