x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Four Britons arrested over murder of Sikh politician

Four men from the West Midlands have been arrested over the shooting of a controversial Sikh leader in the Punjab last year.

Four British men have been arrested over the murder of a Sikh politician in India last year. Rulda Singh, 62, who was shot outside his home in Patiala in northern India in July 2009, was the head of Rashtriya Sikh Sangat (RSS), the Sikh wing of the otherwise Hindu supremacist paramilitary volunteer organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Mr Singh had visited the UK and other countries to try to persuade Sikhs to return to India. His role in the RSS was controversial, and seen by some as an attempt to damage the Sikh religious community from within. He was also a leader of the Sikh wing of India's main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

He was shot outside his shop five times in the body and head by either two or three attackers, according to Indian press reports, and died two weeks later. Indian police named two UK-based Indians as suspects. Ranbir Khatra, the senior superintendent of police in Patiala, told the Daily Telegraph in London that he believed Mr Singh was murdered by members of the Babbar Khalsa International terrorist group, which wants an independent Sikh homeland called Khalistan, and the British Sikh Council. Mr Khatra told the Telegraph: "He had differences with the radical people who were opposed to his proposal to install the Guru Granth Sahib [Sikhism's Holy Book] in Hindu temples," he said.

In April this year, three detectives from West Midlands police's counter-terrorism unit travelled to India to work with Indian police on the investigation into Mr Singh's murder. A West Midlands police spokesman said yesterday that four men had been arrested on suspicion of the murder of Mr Singh. Two of the men, who all were arrested at their home addresses, are from Coventry and the others from Smethwick and Wolverhampton. All are British subjects and aged between 27 and 36. Initial reports said that no request for extradition had been made, and the four, who have been bailed, could face trial in the UK if they are charged. Det Supt George Tracey of the West Midlands Police Counter Terrorism Unit was quoted as saying: "The investigation into the murder of Mr Singh is a complex one, and further complicated by the fact that it took place overseas. We have further investigations to conduct here and in the Punjab.

"We are continuing to work very closely with the Indian authorities with the clear intention of bringing the offenders to justice." Two men in the Punjab have already been charged in connection with the killing. Both are reported to have links to a Sikh extremist group, police said. foreigndesk@thenational.ae