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The opposition parties have reacted strongly for the jailed gangster Lawrence Bishnoi, the main accused in the case of the murder of the rapper Shubhdeep Singh alias Sidhu Moosewala, appearing in a television interview for about an hour on Tuesday evening even as the Punjab prisons department firmly issued a statement that the video was not from Bathinda jail or any other jail in Punjab.
In a series of tweets, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Badal wrote, “The State facilitating the interview of #SidhuMooseWala murder suspect to divert attention from their own complicity shows that @BhagwantMann has no moral authority to continue as Prime Minister.”
He also tweeted “CM @BhagwantMann has attacked gangsters and is using a dreaded gangster to defame #SidhuMooseWala on the pretext of “explaining” a heinous crime. Is this how he will bring justice to the Moosewala family? @Akali_Dal_ is with the family. We will force this government to do justice just in case.”
Sukhbir further wrote, “Lawrence, Warring, Bhagwant – what a deadly connection has been revealed by a dreaded gangster from a Punjab jail!!! Who is safe and who is corrupt and where has the law and order situation in Punjab deteriorated?”
Congress Bholath MLA Sukhpal Khaira tweeted, “I am shocked and horrified how a gangster like Lawernce Bishnoi can give an interview while in custody whether in PB jail or elsewhere! Here is a complete breakdown of Indian law! I urge @BhagwantMann and @DGPPunjabPolice to clarify their position – Khaira @INCIndia.”
Khaira further wrote, “@BhagwantMann government instead of taking strict action against gangsters is trying to silence the voice of media, opposition and people by issuing threats of action for asking questions about the alleged jail interview with Bishnoi. The Government should explain where he was interviewed?”
BJP leader Manjinder Sirsa also took to twitter and wrote, “Lawrence Bishnoi’s interview puts a big question mark on Punjab Police Ministry. Recently, there was News about gang wars happening in Punjab jails. Gangsters are having fun in Punjab jail while parents of #SidhuMoosewala are on the roads for Justice. As #LawrenceBishnoi is currently in Punjab Jail; @AAPPunjab must answer and explain on Ministry of Prisons.”
Punjab BJP vice-president Subhash Sharma said over phone, “This is a very unfortunate development. Prisons have become resting places for gangsters where they operate their network.”
Asked about the Punjab prisons department’s explanation that the video was not from any prison in the Punjab, Sharma said: “Should we see the explanation or the interview? Lawrence Bishnoi has been in various Punjab jails for eight months. At the time the interview was broadcast, he was in Bathinda jail…”
Asked if the interview could have been videotaped outside Punjab, Sharma said: “The matter should be thoroughly probed. The examiner would find the phone coordinates and reveal exactly where he appeared in the interview.”
BJP National General Secretary Tarun Chugh said, “Gangsters have opened undeclared offices in the jails. Punjab jails have now become studios to praise gangsters. Aam Aadmi Party’s biggest gift to Punjab is gangsters and even though no other industry is investing in the state, the AAP government has given Punjab extortion and jungle raj industries where daily murder is the order of the day. Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann should shun political tourism and instead coordinate with Central agencies to get Punjab out of troubled waters. “
In the interview, televised by ABP Sanjha, which came a day before the slain singer’s death anniversary, Bishnoi claimed that “a person was murdered at the hands of Moosewala in Ludhiana, whose responsibility was taken by another person.” Bishnoi, who allegedly masterminded Moosewala’s brutal murder in May last year, claimed that his Canadian associate Goldy Brar and his cousin Sachin Bishnoi planned the murder to avenge the murders of “our brothers Vicky Middukhera and Gurlal Brar”.
Bishnoi is currently being held in Bathinda jail. He returned to Punjab a few days ago from Rajasthan where he was taken for questioning last month in connection with an arson and extortion case registered in January. However, Bishnoi’s position in appearing in the interview in a yellow T-shirt was not clear. Soon after the interview was aired, the Punjab prisons department issued a press release, categorically stating that the video was not from Bathinda jail or any other jail in Punjab.
An official spokesperson for the prisons department said, “It has come to our attention that a private television news channel has broadcast an interview with the prisoner Lawrence Bishnoi allegedly from inside a prison. There are rumors that the interview was recorded from inside the Bathinda jail. This is to clarify that the rumors are baseless and that this video is not from either the Bathinda jail where the prisoner is currently confined or from any other jail in Punjab. It is further explained that this prisoner is currently confined in the high security zone of Bathinda Jail where strict vigil is kept over his activities 24×7. If anyone is caught spreading fake news which damages the image of Prisons administration Punjab, action as per law will be implemented. “
Bathinda Jail Superintendent ND Negi, too, said that the video was not from Bathinda jail or any other jail in the state. He said that jammers in place in the Bathinda jail did not allow phones to work and therefore there was no possibility of any interview from inside the jail.
Punjab Anti-Gangsters Task Force (AGTF) assistant inspector general Sandeep Goel said: “This is not from Bathinda jail or any Punjab jail or Punjab Police custody. Bathinda Jail, where he is lodged, is a high security dead phone zone. “