What has made the murder of Shiv Sena (Taksali) leader Sudhir Suri particularly shocking is the manner in which it took place in full public view in a crowded area in Amritsar and in front of several police personnel, including a high ranking police officer.
According to reports, an additional DCP was also present at the spot besides the police security detail assigned to Suri, when the shooting took place on 4 November.
Suri, according to a 2020 report by Kamaldeep Singh Brar in The Indian Express, had been assigned 15 Punjab Police personnel in his security detail. He was murdered in near the busy Gopal Mandir in Amritsar.
So the main question that the Punjab police needs to answer is - how was Suri murdered despite having so much security?
The person who allegedly shot Suri, one Sandeep Singh Sunny, was nabbed from the spot itself. He is said to have had a shop near the Gopal Mandir where Suri was shot.
The motive, however, remains unclear.
There are several angles doing the rounds.
1. Landa Harike 'Claims Responsibility' on Facebook
A Facebook post has come up in which Canada-based gangster Lakhbir Singh Landa - better known as Landa Harike - has purportedly claimed responsibility for the killing. This is what the post says:
"The murder of Sudhir Suri in Amritsar was committed by my brothers. The others who speak ill of Sikhism or any other religion, their turn will also come. They shouldn't think they can save themselves by getting security. Those brothers who are with us all this while, we'll stand with them as long as we are alive. This is just the beginning".
Now, it cannot be verified whether the Facebook account genuinely belongs to Harike or not. This method of using Facebook posts to take credit for killings has been a common modus operandi for Punjabi gangsters for some years now, including by a Goldy Brar account for killing singer Sidhu Moose Wala earlier this year.
Mostly these pages aren't directly operated by the concerned gangsters so it is nearly impossible to use them as evidence.
The Punjab Police have said that they are trying to verify the authenticity of the social media post attributed to Landa Harike.
In a similar Facebook post, Landa Harike purportedly had taken responsibility for the killing of Tarn Taran based shopkeeper Gurjant Singh. The post accuses Gurjant Singh of "being a police informant" and ruining the life of his own cousin Arshdeep, now an accused in the former's killing.
Besides Arshdeep two other people were arrested for being involved in Gurjant's killing Gurkirat and Ishmeet. According to a report by known crime journalist Ritesh Lakhi, the next target for Gurkirat and Ishmeet is said to have been Sudhir Suri. But due to their arrest, they couldn't carry out the attack on Suri then.
Was Suri's killing also orchestrated by Landa Harike as claimed by the Facebook post? Or is the post mainly giving the gangster credit for an unrelated killing?
There is a pattern to the posts. They present the killings as having been done for an "honourable cause" - Gurjant was accused of having "been a police informant" and "ruining" a youth's life (both allegations are unverified) and Suri was accused of insulting Sikhs.
Whether or not Landa Harike is behind the killings, the posts clearly are aimed at giving him a larger than life image.
2. Waris Punjab De and Amritpal Singh
A number of right wing media channels alleged that the shooter Sandeep Sunny, has links to Waris Punjab De, the organisation founded by actor-activist Deep Singh Sidhu just before his untimely death.
They allege that Sandeep Sunny's vehicle had a 'Waris Punjab De' sticker on it.
A few right wing social media handles also began claiming that Sandeep Sunny met Waris Punjab De head Amritpal Singh and posted a video alleging the same.
The video and these claims are yet to be verified.
Amritpal Singh's popularity among a section of Sikh youth has been increasing of later, especially with his preaching of a lifestyle in line with Sikh principles and advocacy against drugs. He has also been actively speaking against 'state policy' in Punjab.
"Even before a crime is committed, Amritpal Singh gets blamed for it," has become a common narrative among his supporters.
Whether there is any truth to the allegations against Amritpal Singh, would be clear only after a police investigation.
However, one thing is clear that Hindutva outfits are likely to turn the heat on the AAP government in Punjab, demanding action against Amritpal Singh. As of the evening of 5 November, Amritpal Singh had been placed under house arrest at Singhawala in Moga district.
3. Sudhir Suri's Long List of Enemies and Controversies
The search for a 'motive' behind Sudhir Suri's killing is further complicated by the long list of enemies that he had and controversies he had courted.
He was recently involved in a tussle with the management of the Gopal Mandir in Amritsar, where he was carrying out a protest. In fact, he was reportedly having an argument at the time he was shot.
Then he has faced multiple cases of hate speech in the past. He is known to make hateful remarks against Sikhs, Dalits and Muslims. In one video, Suri can be heard saying that "Sikhs are just 2 percent and it's very easy to eliminate then".
One of the complaints against Suri was lodged by Bhai Manjit Singh of SGPC and members of Damdami Taksal in 2021.
In the same year, he was also accused of making derogatory remarks about the Sikh practise of langar.
Then he has also been booked under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for his remarks against Bhagwan Valmiki.
In 2020, Punjab Police went all the way to Indore to arrest Suri for allegedly objectionable remarks against Sikh women.
In 2018 he was accused of making casteist remarks on WhatsApp.
One of the earliest cases of hate speech by Suri was related to his alleged remarks against Muslims in 2014.
In one of Suri's confrontations, buses run by him were pelted with stones and bricks by his rivals.
Suri was also one of the complainants against US-based Sikhs For Justice and its representative Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.
Given the long list of confrontations Suri has had, it becomes all the more difficult to decode the motive behind his killing.
What is relevant, however, is the Punjab Police's comment soon after the incident that the shooting by Sandeep Sunny took place "on the spur of the moment".
If it indeed was a "spur of the moment" act, it is difficult to understand how it could be the handiwork of Landa Harike or any of his previous enemies as that would involve some amount of pre-planning.
Maybe more details might emerge with the police probe.