Police are investigating suggestions that a Punjabi newspaper editor gunned down in a west London street may have been the victim of a professional "hit-squad". An alternative theory circulating in the Sikh community was that he may have made ene mies bynaming rape victims and adulterers.
Tarsem Singh Purewal, 61, editor of Des Pardes newspaper, was shot outside its offices in The Crescent, Southall, on Tuesday night. Detectives yesterday said possible motives included political assassination, personal vendetta and failed robbery.
Copies of Des Pardes - the best-selling Punjabi language paper among Britain's million Sikhs - are being translated into English as one avenue of inquiry concerns reports that Mr Purewal may have upset Sikh community members by publishing the names of rape victims, their assailants, and adulterers. He both owned and edited the paper, which he started in 1965.
Police sources said the rape reports were thought to have been based on court cases. But, because the newspaper was in Punjabi, legal authorities had no idea contempt of court rules were being breached.
"It's believed that Mr Purewal had named rape victims and rapists themselves on many occasions," the source said. "We cannot rule out the fact that the murderer may have been a member of the family of one of these rape victims. The publication of their names would have brought great shame upon their families."
Det Supt Colin Hardingham, leading the inquiry, told a press conference that the paper had taken strong views on controversial issues. "His newspaper takes a particular stance on community issues such as individuals' personal lives or the way people run their businesses. There are often articles about individuals in the community and their personal lives and their business associates and the ways they run their businesses.
"I believe Mr Purewal had many friends in the community but also many people who disagreed with what he was doing. He talked about people's relationships outside marriage and he put names to it. I think that's the attraction of the newspaper. People buy it to see if they are in it or to see if anyone they know is in it."
Mr Hardingham added that police were following up rumours that an eight-man assassination squad from India had been hired to kill Mr Purewal, a leading member of the Sikh community. Mr Hardingham confirmed he was liaising with the Indian High Commission and would be asking them about possible political assassination.
Relations between Hindus and Sikhs in the UK are said to have remained good. However, there has been criticism within the British Sikh community about Des Pardes' coverage of the fight for independence in Punjab.
The paper has been a consistent critic of the Indian government and has run articles supporting a separate Sikh state of Khalistan in the Punjab state.
Gurbux Singh Virk, acting editor, said the paper had been threatened once directly and once indirectly by the Indian government. He also said Mr Purewal was arrested and thrown out of India in 1983 while visiting his sick mother.
"The murder was not a personal matter, it's a political matter," he said. "The Indian government have crushed the Sikh movement in the Punjab with bullets and want to crush the movement abroad as well."
Detectives are appealing for witnesses to the killing. The body was found at about 8pm by a member of the public.
Mr Purewal is survived by his wife and two children.
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