CHANDIGARH, India, Oct 11, Reuter: Unidentified assailants shot and killed a senior figure in Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress (I) Party in Northern India on Tuesday, police said.

Bhagwan Dass, Congress Vice President in Punjab State, was sitting in his grain shop in the town ‘of Jaito when at least three gunmen opened fire. His bodyguard was also killed.

Police in the Punjab Capital Chandigarh said the assailants escaped from Jaito’s busy market area by car or scooter. Roadblocks were thrown up around’ the area. The town’s shop keepers closed down in protest at the killing,

Violence sparked by a Sikh campaign for an independent homeland Punjab called Khalistan (land of the pure) has killed more than 2,000 people this year.

Jaito was one of three places that Gandhi visited under intense security in September during his first trip to the troubled state for nearly three years.

Dass was a former minister in the Punjab Government.

Gandhi, wearing a bulky bulletproof jacket, briefly addressed a rally in the Southern Punjab town before heading back to the relative safety of New Delhi.

The Prime Minister is expected to venture into Punjab again later this week to survey widespread flood damage caused by recent late monsoon rains.

No details of the trip have been announced but he is expected’ to visit four districts of the state including areas where Sikh Militants are active.

Elsewhere in the state, a shopkeeper and a farmer were killed on Monday night in attacks near the Sikh Holy City Amritsar.

Article extracted from this publication >> October 14, 1988