A controversial Punjab politician was shot dead on Friday by a local shopkeeper in the middle of a public protest in Amritsar with police present at the spot, ratcheting up tensions and sparking a political row.

Sudhir Suri, a 58-year-old who headed a Punjab-based right-wing outfit called Shiv Sena (Taksali) was staging a protest outside a temple in Amritsar’s Kashmir Avenue when he was shot at five times by Sandeep Singh, who ran a garment shop outside the same temple, according to police officials. Singh was later arrested.

Police didn’t immediately attribute a motive but said that they will swiftly move to investigate all aspects of the crime.

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“We will not allow the situation to be disturbed. We will unveil the entire conspiracy behind the murder and all those who are behind it will be arrested,” said director general of police Gaurav Yadav in a hurriedly called press conference.

A car was also parked near the crime spot with stickers on its windows that appeared to be linked to Waris Punjab De Chief Amritpal Singh, who has courted controversy in the past for his comments backing the creation of Khalistan. But the police refused to confirm if the crime was linked to the outfit.

“The accused told the police that he had never met Suri before. What triggered the accused to kill the Shiv Sena leader is part of the investigation. We are probing the case from all angles and interrogation of the accused is underway,” the DGP said.

City on edge

Tension gripped Amritsar after the murder, around 3.20pm on Friday, prompting police to step up security across the city.

Suri reached Gopal Mandir at 12:00pm on Friday to attend a ceremony but flew into a rage after he saw idols and paintings of Hindu gods in the litter outside, said his aides. He started a protest, alleging the temple’s management was desecrating holy figures. He then went live on social media and was locked in a verbal altercation with office-bearers of the temple. His supporters also held up traffic, prompting police to turn up at the spot.

At 3:20pm, when Suri was engaged in a heated exchange of words with two police officers, gunshots rang out, said witnesses. Singh fired five bullets at Suri with his licensed .32 bore revolver, police officials familiar with the matter said. Three bullets hit Suri. He was rushed to the hospital where he was declared brought dead.

The Shiv Sena (Taksali) is not linked to the Maharashtra-based Shiv Sena. Suri pitted himself as a voice against what he called “Sikh fundamentalists” and triggered controversies in the past. More than two years ago, Punjab Police arrested Suri from Indore in Madhya Pradesh over an objectionable video clip allegedly denigrating women and inciting enmity between different groups, though he had denied the allegations.

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress targeted the Bhagwant Mann-led AAP government over the Suri’s killing, alleging complete breakdown of law and order in the state.

Reacting to the incident, former Punjab chief minister and BJP leader Amarinder Singh tweeted: “I appeal to everyone to maintain peace & harmony & fight enemies of Punjab together. While it reflects poorly on the law and order situation in Punjab, I hope culprits are given exemplary punishment.”

Punjab Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Warring alleged that law and order was deteriorating in the state and situation was “becoming bad to worse”.

He said the Congress condemns the Amritsar incident. “Political differences apart, violence is unacceptable. Culprits must be brought to book,” Warring said in a tweet

HT reached out to AAP leaders but no response was immediately available.

By Shadab

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