Sikh sect leader who was set ablaze dies

August 29th, 2008 - 2:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, Aug 29 (IANS) Controversial Nihang sect chief Ajit Singh Phoola, who was set ablaze by two inmates inside Punjab’s Amritsar central jail, died at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) here Friday morning, an official said.Phoola was brought to PGIMER here in a critical condition Thursday with over 60 percent burns.

“He was declared dead Friday morning by doctors,” PGIMER officials said here.

Phoola was rushed to the civil hospital in Amritsar Thursday after two prison inmates set him ablaze inside the jail.

Jail officials had told IANS that two prisoners, Harcharan Singh and Navtej Singh, procured diesel from the prison generator and poured it on Phoola, who is an undertrial in a murder case.

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 jumped 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.

S.P. Singh, jail superintendent, 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.

He faced charges of murder, rape and rioting and was on trial in a number of cases.

He was used by the Punjab police officials as an informer during the 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 handiwork of some terrorists, lodged in the same prison, who wanted to take revenge on Phoola for siding with the police during the days of terrorism.

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