Nihang leader critical after being set on fire (Lead)

August 28th, 2008 - 10:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Amritsar/Chandigarh, Aug 28 (IANS) Controversial Nihang sect chief Ajit Singh Phoola was in a critical condition Thursday with over 60 percent burns after two inmates at the Amritsar central jail set him on fire after an argument.Phoola was rushed to the civil hospital in Amritsar from where he was referred to the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh with critical burn injuries in the afternoon.

Jail officials told IANS that two prisoners, Harcharan Singh and Navtej Singh, procured diesel from the prison generator and poured it on Phoola, who is an under-trial in a murder case, in one of the barracks of the prison in the morning.

They said while one got into an argument, the other prisoner came from behind and poured the diesel on Phoola. They later set him on fire with a match-stick.

Phoola tried to save himself by running to a nearby water tank and jumping into it.

The assailants, both hardcore criminals, were overpowered by jail security and fellow inmates. They have been booked on charges of attempt to murder.

Jail superintendent S.P. Singh said that three security guards have been placed under suspension.

Phoola, who talked to media persons at Amritsar’s civil hospital, said his complaints of threat to his life were ignored resulting in Thursday’s incident.

Phoola has faced charges of murder, rape and rioting and is facing trial in a number of cases.

He was used by the Punjab police officials as an informer during terrorism days in Punjab (1981-95) and used to have armed private bodyguards of fellow Nihangs besides police personnel for his security.

The police are trying to ascertain whether the incident was the outcome of some terrorists, lodged in the same prison, who wanted to take revenge from Phoola for siding with the police during terrorism days in Punjab.

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