International Human Rights Organisation. October 1990, Ludhiana
The shocking story of a Sikh youth that was tortured and harassed by India’s
Security Forces and who finally joined the Khalistan Commando Force
The Cases Of Disappearance Of Piara Singh And Anup Singh
Hundreds of Akali Dal (B) workers led by Sukhjinder Singh along with
members of the (formerly All-India) Sikh Students Federation, on December
18, 1989, tried to besiege the Kapurthala Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP)
Swaran Singh’s office as also the nearby office of the Crime Investigation
Agency (CIA). They were pressing the police to produce Anup Singh (32), a
senior leader of the AISSF and Piara Singh (60), who were allegedly
abducted, by the police from Kassochahal and Lakhan Khurd villages
respectively in the presence of local residents.
The Akali Conscience Pricked
Sukhjinder Singh, who along with 500 political activists was rounded up by
the Kartarpur police to frustrate the former's attempt to besiege the police
offices, went on hunger strike till the detainee's were set free or produced in
court. The police, resulting in injuries to half-a-dozen activists prevented
thousands of other villagers from joining the agitators.
Again, thousands of Akali Dal workers and AISSF activists, on December 22,
1989, besieged the police picket outside the CIA building in front of the
office of the SSP, Kapurthala. The protesters demanded the production of the
detainee's and the immediate release of all the protesters, including
Sukhjinder Singh, who went on an indefinite hunger strike in the District
Sub-Jail at Kapurthala.
The important leaders who participated in the siege and picketing included
G. S. Tohra, President of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC),
Thekedar Surjan Singh and Surjit Singh Sandhu, an AISSF leader. About 400
women led by Mohinder Kaur, spouse of Sukhjinder Singh, staged a
demonstration against the police. Prominent Hindus of the area also
participated in the protest.
Tohra And Thekedar Join The Race
The Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, D. R. Bhatti, the next day
directed the police to register cases against the police officials who had
taken away Jathedar Piara Singh and Anup Singh. This decision was announced
at a meeting of the District Development and Grievances Committee held under
the leadership of N. K. Arora, Commissioner, Jalandhar Division.
Bhatti also directed the police to withdraw the case under section 107/151
Criminal Procedure Code (Cr. P. C.) against Sukhjinder Singh and others.
Sukhjinder Singh called off his nine-day-old hunger strike on December 26
after I. K. Gujral, Union Minister for External Affairs, made an appeal to
do so. Accordingly, all the political activists along with Sukhjinder Singh
were set free.
Gujral’s Appeal And Withdrawal Of Agitation
More than ten months have passed since the withdrawal of the agitation at
Kapurthala. The police have not released or produced the two detainee's in
court nor have they taken steps to punish the guilty police officials.
This investigation report by IHRO pertains to the disappearance of Jathedar
Piara Singh and the police atrocities on the members of his family.
A Kartarpur Sadar police party, led by Inspector Puran Singh raided the
residence of Jathedar Piara Singh at Lakhan Khurd village on May 24, 1989.
The party picked up his son Gurbachan Singh, Brother Amrik Singh and a few
other villagers. Others included Kapur Singh, village revenue official
Kulwinder Singh, Bhagat Singh, his two sons Amarjit Singh and Sukhdev Singh,
Gurdial Singh, his two sons Amarjit Singh and Nirmal Singh and Sewa Singh,
his two sons Bhagwan Singh and Amrik Singh. They were taken to the Police
Station. Jathedar Piara Singh and his other three sons were not at home
Next day Piara Singh’s spouse, Harbans Kaur and his daughter-in-law Paramjit
Kaur, were also taken away by the same police party. In the evening, the
village elders assured the police that Piara Singh would be produced before
them the next day and got the women released from the police. The police did
not release others arrested by it.
Jathedar Piara Singh “Arrest” And Torture
Surjit Singh, head of the (“Panchayat”) village council, Piara Singh’s son
Anup Singh, Rachpal Singh, Nishan Singh and Hardev Singh, on May 25, 1989,
produced Jathedar Piara Singh before the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP),
S. S. Bajwa as promised.
Next day the Jathedar was shifted to the Sadar police station. There he was
brutally tortured by DSP Kehar Singh, Inspector Puran Singh, ASI, Nirmal
Singh and Constables Ram Saran Dass and Rattan Singh in the presence of the
detained villagers namely Gurbachan Singh, Mewa Singh, Kapur Singh and Amrik
Singh. Piara Singh was completely unclothed and was divested of his
religious symbols. The eyewitness gave a detailed account of the
hair-raising story of the torture. He was beaten with the butt-ends of
rifles. The constables pulled his hair (from the head and beard), while
police officers continued slapping him with their shoes.
The DSP gave him blows. They were seeking information from Piara Singh about
the whereabouts of his absconding son, Raghbir Singh alias “Bira."
As Jathedar Piara Singh evidently had no knowledge, the police continued
with the torture. He was now tied to a rope. Its other end passed through
the ceiling fan hook. As two constables pulled the rope, up went the
who now hung in a state of suspension in the air with his head positioned
downwards. The police officials took up sticks to hit the old man, until he
lost consciousness while still in the air. The police then loosened the rope
so that Piara Singh’s person landed on the floor. After a while the detainee
regained consciousness. The police officers again pounced upon him. This
time they took up a small log and rolled it on his thighs. His legs were
The entire process of torture was repeated in the case of each of the other
detainee. Gurbachan Singh was tortured and humiliated in the presence of his
father in the same way.
All Members Of Amritdhari Family Held
While all others were released on June 30, 1989, Piara Singh, his brother
Amrik Singh and son Gurbachan Singh were kept illegally in detention as they
were not produced in any court during that period. His brother and son were
also set free on July 18. The police evidently used Piara Singh as a hostage
so that his son’s surrender could be ensured.
After waiting for a few days the village elders, Kapur Singh, Sant Singh,
Amrik Singh and Gurmit Singh (Sarpanch) contacted the police to inquire
about Piara Singh. DSP Kehar Singh and Inspector Puran Singh told them that
Piara Singh had suffered injuries because of the torture and that he was
convalescing under their care. He would be released when he recovered.
The village council waited for another 10 day. They then met DIG, D. R.
Bhatti, SSP, Swaran Singh and SP (Operations), Santokh Singh to seek Piara
Singh’s release. These officers feigned ignorance and flatly denied the
As last resort, the village group again went to Sadar Police Station where
they were threatened with dire consequences in case they did not stop
talking of Piara Singh. It was clear to the villagers that the police in its
custody had killed Piara Singh and that further pursuit of the matter was
In the meantime, Piara Singh’s spouse Harbans Kaur sent telegrams and
registered letters to the President, the Prime Minister, Punjab Governor and
Director General of Police (DGP) requesting them to intervene in the matter
and get Piara Singh released from the police. No one responded and the poor
old woman felt lost in the race to rescue her spouse.
The Army’s Futile Attempt
Constable Gurvinder Singh (No 14482066 K) serving in the Indian Army tried
to move the Army administration for the release of his father. For this
purpose, he wrote an application to his Army Headquarters, 11 Corps, who, in
turn, asked HQ Jalandhar Sub-Area to liaison with the Kapurthala police.
Major S. P. Singh of HQ 23(1) Armed Bde wrote directly to the DGP, K. P. S.
The Punjab DGP wrote on August 4, 1989, to the SSP, Kapurthala, directing
him to report within 15 days the whereabouts of Piara Singh. A copy of that
note was also sent to Gurvinder Singh. After this, nothing was heard from
the Civil Administration. The Army too, fell silent.
International Human Rights Organisation (IHRO) received a letter from the
detainee’s absconding son, Raghbir Singh (24) in September 1990. The IHRO
immediately sent a two-member team comprising advocates Harchand Singh Gill
and Mukesh Inder Singh Dhillon to investigate the entire matter.
The IHRO team visited Lakhan Khurd village and interviewed members of Piara
Singh’s family and the village council. The team also recorded statements of
the persons concerned
The Story Of Raghbir Singh
The young Sikh activist, Raghbir Singh, recounted in his hand in Punjabi the
story as below:
“I, Raghbir Singh son of Jathedar Piara Singh, am a resident of village
Lakhan Khurd, Police Station Sadar in district Kapurthala. I was good at
studies and secured 71% marks in Matriculation and 74% in Higher Secondary
Examinations. After that, I got admission in Nawab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia
College in BA Part-I.
All members of my family are baptised Sikhs. That is why I have been taking
interest in the Sikh faith. I too took 'Amrit’ and started maintaining all
Sikh symbols and performed rituals. I joined the All India Sikh Students
Federation in September 1986. While we were busy in organising a Kirtan
Darbar on behalf of the AISSF at Lakhan Kalan village, the police rounded up
the federation activists including Surjit Singh Sandhu and me. We were kept
in Sadar Police station for six days illegally. Likewise, the police
continued harassing members of my family and me.
Arrested 20 times In One Year
“In 1987 my father’s sister’s son Harvinder Singh left his home due to the
unending police terror. The Kapurthala police now started picking me up on
the pretext that Harvinder Singh had been visiting our home. They “arrested”
me about 20 times during 1987. Every time my parents had to pay ransom money
to the police to get me out of their illegal custody.
“To save myself from the Kapurthala police, I joined a college at Jalandhar
in BA (final) to lead a smooth and peaceful life but harassment, humiliation
and torture of my parents and brothers continued at the hands of the
“The Kapurthala Sadar police party led by Inspector Dilbagh Singh Pannu and
ASI Jagtar Singh raided our village house on June 10, 1988. Nothing
incriminating was found but they apprehended my elder brothers, Gurbachan
Singh and beginning of this report: IHRO. They asked them to produce me
before the police. Sarpanch Gurmit Singh, Nambardar Kapur Singh and my
father along with other village elders persuaded me to surrender to the
police on 14 June 1988, on assurance by the police that I would be let off
How Raghbir Singh Was tortured?
“I was immediately shifted to a room where I was asked to put off all my
clothes and religious symbols. My underwear (Kachhaira) was forcibly removed
to make me completely naked. DSP Kehar Singh, Inspector Dilbag Singh, ASI
Jagtar Singh and constables, Karamjit Singh and Avtar Singh started beating
me up with canes, iron rods and leather belts. My hands were fastened with
ropes and I was made to hang from the ceiling of the room upside down. All
body joints and feet were given strokes with heavy sticks. The police
officials wanted me to help them in seizing the under ground activists of
the AISSF and armed groups. I knew nothing about them and could not escape
myself from the police clutches. I lost my consciousness and was brought
down. I was subjected to inhuman treatment for about two hours and not
allowed to sleep at night. Similar treatment was given the next day.
“On June 16, 1988, I was blindfolded, my hands were fastened behind my back
and was shifted to the CIA staff where DSP; S S Bajwa, ASI Gurbachan Singh
along with four constables made me sit on the floor. Head constable Karamjit
Singh while supporting my back with his knees pulled my long hair backwards
and ASI Gurbachan Singh along with others stretched my legs apart resulting
in swooning. When consciousness returned they gave electric shocks on the
chest and other private organs of my body from a Dynamo-Battery apparatus
causing severe pain. After treating me like animal, they threw me in another
room. I was not able even to put on my clothes. At night, an old man
(detainee) fed me, as my hands were numb.
Even Sexual Abuses
“At 10 AM the next day, SSP Swaran Singh and his bodyguards placed an extra
thick pestle on the front side of my thighs, the two of the bodyguards stood
on the pestle and others rotated it. My muscles were broken. This time I was
made to lie on the floor prostrate and pestle exercise was repeated by
pressing my lower legs against a wooden roller. They kept on torturing me
and asked me questions for an hour. They passed on electric current through
my ears due to which I lost hearing power.
“Then I was shifted to the Sadar police station, where I was repeatedly
tortured in the presence of others just to humiliate me. The police also
indulged in sexual abuses. There were 15/20 illegal detainees in the Sadar
police station while 20/25 in the CIA staff who were rotting there for the
last two or three months.
“On June 18, 1988, at about 6 PM, I was blindfolded and was taken to an
unknown place by ASI Gurbachan Singh and his force. In the meantime, I was
informed that my end had come and that I should prepare myself for the
eventuality. After about one and half-hours’ drive I was helped to get down
the jeep. I was asked to say my first prayers. If I wanted to live, I was
asked, I should sit in a van with tainted glasses to identify and have
arrested other members of the AISSF and the Babbar Khalsa. When they failed
to elicit any positive response from me, I was taken to the room of a huge
building that, I learnt later, was the camp office of the Central Reserve
Two Novel Ways Of The CRPF
“There I was confined for five days. Needless to repeat that I was subjected
again to the same somewhat gruelling experience as I had recently undergone
in the custody of the police. However, my CRPF tormentors had two new
methods employed on me. One, red chillies were thrown into my eyes. Two, I
was made to lie straight on the ground with my face towards the roof. Then
water in a thin constant stream was put into my nose so that I gasped for
breath and became unconscious. This process was repeated all the five days.
“On June 22, 1988, DSP Kehar Singh and his force comprising Inspector
Dilbagh Singh, ASI Jagtar Singh, Havildars Karamjit Singh and Avtar Singh
and a few others took me to Sadar police station, Kapurthala, where I was
stripped naked and was severely beaten up with leather belts. This caused
blood to ooze out of my body. Later a 200-Watt bulb was pressed against my
body. I was also given electric currents. On June 23-24, Inspector Dilbagh
Singh, Havildars Karamjit Singh, Avtar Singh and Lal Singh took me in a car
with tainted glasses. I was asked to identify and have arrested any suspect
and was promised release in the unilaterally settled bargain. Since I could
not identify anyone I was taken back to the police station. I was again
beaten and tortured. This way I was taken out for two days, with no
Attempts To Turn Him Into “Cat” Fails
“On June 25 at about 9 AM, I was taken to the CIA staff office where SSP
Swaran Singh, SP (Operations) Santokh Singh, Inspector Gurbachan Singh, ASIs
Pargat Singh and Gurbachan Singh ‘Butcher’ (the tyrant) as well as a few
constables were present. There I was subjected to torture again.
“In the next few days I was taken to Kala Sangha and Bholath police
stations. Because of the torture, I was very miserable. I could not stand up
on my own. I could not eat, as my hands were totally paralysed. I was helped
by the police officials to eat my food. I could not change clothes or ease
myself. My left ear lost hearing power.
The Court Finds No Evidence
“When the police totally failed to get anything out of me, they registered a
case on July 6, 1988, under sections 212/216 of IPC and sections 3/4 of TADA
at Sadar police station, Kapurthala. In the case they alleged that I was
harbouring and aiding Babbar Khalsa activists Wadhawa Singh (a member of the
Panthic Committee), Tarsem Singh, Makhan Singh and Balbir Singh. The
Designate Judge, Kapurthala, Gurjit Singh Sandhu, on February 27, 1989,
found me falsely implicated because I was earlier a member of the AISSF and
acquitted me of all the charges.
“After my release, I went to Madhya Pradesh, two thousand kilometres away
from Punjab, to stay with one of my relations. There I joined a computer
course. I received reports from back home of harassment of my father and
other members of my family. It was clear to me that the police were still
after me. I had no option except to go underground."
The Quest For Honourable Life Ends
Thus, it ended Raghbir Singh Bira’s quest for honourable, peaceful life away
from Punjab. He returned to Punjab to actively join the militant ranks. He
is now a member of the Khalistan Commando Force headed by Paramjit Singh
Panjwar. Although he renounced his relations with the family, the police
arrested other members of Raghbir Singh’s family, tortured them and kept
them in illegal custody. The process is on as we make this report to the
world. Meanwhile, Jathedar Piara Singh and Baba Anup Singh, mentioned
earlier in the report, remain “untracked."