International Human Right Organisation Report
March 26, 1986
The historic "Holla Mohalla" festival started when Guru Gobind Singh created
the Khalsa in 1699. It is held every year at Anandpur Sahib. The grounds in
front of the historic Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib were the venue of the
festivities on March 26, 1986, where seven persons are said to have been
killed and several injured by a police firing on the followers of Damdami
Taksal and the All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF).
The claim of the authorities was that the police had to swing into action to
save the lives of the Chief Minister of Punjab, Surjit Singh Barnala, his
ministerial colleagues and Akali leaders present on the stage from the
While the Taksal and AISSF alleged that the police fired indiscriminately
at the peaceful processionists who wanted just to continue towards the Akali
Dal congregation to voice their demands including the release of Bhai Mohkam
Singh of the Damdami Taksal arrested by the police on his way to Anandpur
Sahib a day earlier.
Official sources gave the names of those killed as Ranjit Singh, Major
Singh, Sukhwinder Singh, Satnam Singh, Puran Singh and Kulwinder Singh. The
seventh body, the sources said, could not be identified. They put the number
of injured in the firing at 15.
Representatives of the Taksal and the AISSF alleged that the number of the
dead exceeded 15 and the number of those injured was 30. But according to
unofficial sources at least 12 persons died. There were also conflicting
versions about the burning of the canopy under which Shiromani Gurdwara
Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) was holding its Diwan (congregation). The
authorities blamed the Taksal-AISSF group for the arson. Some persons
claimed that the fire was caused by tear-gas shells. However, many others
were of the view that it was the handiwork of the police forces who wanted
to justify its unprovoked firing and killing.
To resolve the controversies and to enquire into circumstances leading to
the incident the International Human Rights Organisation constituted a
4-member subcommittee consisting of Shaukat Ali Advocate, D. S. Gill, Lt Col
Harbans Singh Kahlon and Gurdev Singh as members.
The Committee visited Anandpur Sahib, made on the spot enquiries and met the
local Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), hospital authorities including the
police officials. The committee also noted the versions of Takht, AISSF and
Gurdwara Sri Keshgarh Sahib management.
The committee examined Mr. Ajaib Singh, Manager Takht-Sri Kesgarh Sahib,
Nihang Baba Pritam Singh of Budha Dal, Bibi Avinash Kaur, Vice-President,
Istri Akali Dal, Mr. Harjit Singh of village Kabe, Mr. Ram Dev, pharmacist,
Dr. Kiranjit Kaur, Dr. Satbir Singh, Mr. M S Balraj, Head Mohrar of the
Police Station, Anandpur Sahib, along with eye witnesses Mr. Joginder Singh,
Tea Stall owner, Mr. Iqbal Singh, Depot holder, Mr. Bihari Lal of Luxmi
Studio, Dr. Mann Singh, Mr. Jagdish Singh, another Tea stall owner. The
committee also heard Mr. Mohinder Singh, Jawanda, President, Punjab
Khetibari Zimidara Union and Mr. Sarabjit Singh Ropar, a student leader.
They were said to be present at the place of occurrence.
The committee after carefully examining the evidence and other facts gave
the sequence of events as under:
Sequence Of Events
After the arrest of Bhai Mohkam Singh of the Taksal, while he was proceeding
to Anandpur Sahib to attend the function, Mr. Harinder Singh Kahlon and Mr.
Sarbjit Singh Ropar of the AISSF; according to Mr. Ajaib Singh, Manager,
Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, held a meeting with Mr. Gurdev Singh, Secretary,
Mr. Surjan Singh Thekedar, Mr. Piara Singh Padeana, Mr. Harbans Singh Ghuman,
of Akali Dal (L) at the residence of Jathedar Harcharan Singh Mahalon on the
evening on March 25. The federation leaders asked the leaders of the Akali
Dal (L) to convey their message to the Government that in case Bhai Mohkam
Singh was not released by 10:00 am tomorrow, the "Sangat" (Sikh
congregation) would not allow Barnala to speak from there.
The Akali leaders did convey the message. The response of Mr. Barnala came
through Jathedar Mahalon asking the nominees of Taksal and AISSF to see him
at Chandigarh early next morning. Two nominees accordingly went to
Chandigarh, but to no avail. They were asked to go back as Mr. Barnala was
reaching at Anandpur Sahib by 10:00 am By the time Mr. Barnala was reached
Anandpur Sahib, the Federation sources intimated, according to Mr. Sarbjit
Singh Ropar, the intention of the Governments to resist the youth in case
they tried to disrupt the Akali Dal Conference. They had instructions from
the Centre to curb the youths at "Holla Mohalla," Mr. Sarbjit Singh further
revealed. A Chandigarh-based journalist who obtained the information from
Dr. Attar Singh, who was very close to Barnala, confirmed this version.
Mr. Barnala reached at Anandpur Sahib at about 11:00 am Thereafter, at a
secret meeting the Taksal and Federation representatives decided not to
allow him to speak from the venue as he had failed to release Bhai Mohkam
Singh. Mr. Harinder Singh Kahlon made it public at 11:45 am, that all the Sangat present there would peacefully proceed to the Akali Dal congregation
at the time when Mr. Barnala stood up to speak to voice their demands
including the release of Jodhpur detainees and the youths in jails and/or
implementation of the Anandpur Sahib resolution.
A message came to the militants at 1:50 pm, that Mr. Barnala had reached the
venue. Mr. Tarlok Singh, the father of Bhai Satwant Singh (then the accused
in Indira Gandhi murder case) was then addressing the congregation. After a
few minutes Mr. Kahlon stood up and announced the programme.
Mr. Kahlon and Mr. Sarbjit Singh Ropar addressed the “Sangat” while standing
on a tractor seat just in front of their canopy. They were appealing to the
masses to remain peaceful. By 2:00 pm, the congregation was surrounded by
the police and para-military forces. They started this job from 11:00 am,
after Barnala reached Anandpur Sahib.
The Sikh masses led by Mr. Kahlon, Mr. Sarbjit Singh, Bibi Bimal Kaur Khalsa
(widow of Beant Singh - one of the assassins of Indira Gandhi), father and
mother of Satwant Singh, and other activists of the Taksal and the
federation started moving towards the Akali Dal congregation. The police
forces started throwing tear-gas shells on the gathering without any
warning. The teargas affected the police forces as the flow of the air was
towards them. The people ran helter-skelter. The police forces withdrew a
little and a few people continued towards the Akali Dal congregation. They
had hardly moved 50 yards away, according to eye witnesses, when the Police
started firing from the side of Akali Dal congregation. Two persons were
killed on the spot, one was an old person of 70 and the other, a youth of
22. Some activists of Taksal and Federation lifted the bodies from there and
brought them near their stage. After 15 minutes the firing stopped, the
militants again started their stage and appealed to the people to collect
After about 10 minutes, the police forces again opened fire from all
directions barring the Keshgarh Sahib side. The maximum number of killings
and injured was reported from the venue of militants when they restarted the
The committee saw Mr. Diljit Rai, SDM Anandpur Sahib, who showed inability
to say anything regarding the incident. However, he said whatever the
District Magistrate, Ropar had given to the Press was the official version.
Otherwise, he had instructions not to speak. On being questioned who ordered
the firing, he asked the committee to read the First Information report by
the Police (FIR).
The committee visited the Police Station and contacted head Mohrar M. S.
Balraj who refused to say anything. He, however, revealed that the FIR was
not available in the Police Station.
When the Committee approached the Judicial Magistrate, it was learnt that
the FIR was not even available in the court's file. However, an Advocate
informed the Committee that FIR's 1 to 20 dated 26.3.1986 were registered at
Police Station Anandpur Sahib under sections 307, 353, 332, 148, 149 Indian
Penal Code (IPC) and 25/54/59 Arms Act.
The Civil Hospital authorities were tight-lipped about the patients with
firearm injuries. However, Mr. Ram Dev, a Pharmacist revealed that the dead
body of an old person of 70 came to the hospital. He was cremated by the
Municipal Committee. After the cremation, he was identified as Gurdip Singh
son of Chanan Singh of Nakodar.
A list of the injured was however, affixed on the wall of the hospital. The
number of the injured mentioned were 24. Out of them seven persons were
1. The persons killed are much more than the official version of seven.
Twelve persons are said to have been killed. But Nihang Baba Pritam Singh
disclosed that three dead bodies were taken away by a private Matador and
tractor. Some people revealed that the Federation activists did take away
some dead bodies in a truck. The committee feels that more than 15 persons
had been killed while the injured were many more- might be about 50.
According to Baba Pritam Singh, the number of the injured was 52.
2. The protesters were unarmed, according to eye witnesses. However, about
15 persons were carrying Kirpans. They were peaceful and non-violent. The
Police version, the committee feels, is a sheer concoction and is far from
the reality. In fact, the Police wanted to justify its brutal killing by
blaming the youths.
3. The Police allegation about the attempt of the militants on the life of
Barnala is also not borne out of facts. The bonafide of the authorities are
suspect in so far as they started indiscriminate firing under the garb of
protecting the Chief Minister.
4. The Committee is of the view that, indiscriminate firing was not only
excessive but was unjustified considering all the circumstances of the
No, Lathi charge was resorted to by the Police. After stopping the firing
for a while the police re-started firing on peaceful gathering near the
stage of the militants. The firing from all directions on the peaceful
congregation for more than 45 minutes can not be justified. All these
killings were the brutal murders of the people by the Police for which the
State authorities are responsible.
The extent of blind firing made by the police and the para-military forces
could be gauged from the fact that a few persons sitting on the rooftop of
the Langar (Kitchen) building were also killed. One person was killed at
Lohgarh Sahib Gurdwara, more than 1 km away from Keshgarh Sahib. A few
bullet marks could be seen on the walls of Agampur village and another woman
was injured while she was walking along the railway track.
5. All eye witnesses denied that there was any firing from the Keshgarh
Sahib Gurdwara or from the truck of the pilgrims. One woman who was present
near the Akali Dal congregation disclosed that a body guard of Finance
Minister Balwant Singh fired in the air when there was a confusion including
the Chief Minister sped way be cars mostly leaving their body guards behind.
The Police started firing on the mob after the Ministers had left the venue.
The personal Assistant of a Minister confirmed the woman's version as far as
it related to the firing by the bodyguard of Balwant Singh.
6. According to some witnesses, the Shamiana (canopy) caught fire due to
tear-gas shells, but many people revealed that the Shamiana including a
Roadways bus, a jeep, a few Fiat cars, two tractors, etc., were burnt after
the incident of firing was over, and it was the handiwork of the Police
7. The dead bodies were not given to the relatives of the deceased. However,
Mr. Ajaib, Manager, disclosed that two dead bodies were cremated by AISSF
and Taksal workers at Pataal Puri on March 29.
The Committee is of the view that this massacre was avoidable, had Mr.
Surjit Singh Barnala abstained from addressing the Akali Dal conference, had
the government released Bhai Mohkam Singh, or had the authorities stuck to
the norm of using minimum force to disperse an unruly mob.
Finally, the Committee is inclined to believe that the State Government's
action at the Holla Mohalla was premeditated and was planned and executed on
the Centre's instructions.