Human Rights

A Mischief At Nakodar

International Human Right Organisation Report
February 2, 1986


The news of burning of sacred "Birs" of Guru Granth Sahib in Guru Arjun Dev Gurdwara in Guru Nanak Pura Mohalla, of Nakodar in Jalandhar District spread like wild fire on February 2, 1986. There was a spontaneous strike to protest against the desecration of the holy Granth in the town that day. On February 3, 1986, lawyers stayed away Courts and students abstained from educational institutions. On a call by the Akali Dals' a protest march was organised jointly by the Sikh and Hindu communities. Citizens, including women and children participated in the procession. A strike was observed in the town.

Shiv Sena Plans March

The Punjab Hindu Shiv Sena wanted to take out a procession but the authorities thought it prudent to clamp curfew at 7:00 pm on February 3. Baba Joginder Singh and the Shiv Sena leader, Ramakant Jalota, arrived at Nakodar the same day but the Baba left the town at 5:30pm The same night the police arrested 12 Sena activists who were violating curfew restrictions and moving around with unsheathed swords.

Earlier, on February 3, some Sikh youths staged a dharna (protest) outside the Police station and the Bus Stand demanding the arrest of local Shiv Sena leader Mr. Romesh Chopra alias Khan, a vegetable commission agent, who, they alleged, was responsible for the fire. At about 4.00 pm a large number of villagers joined the youths and sieged the police station and demanded the arrest of the alleged arsonists.

The District Magistrate, Mr. S. C. Aggarwal and the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Mr. Izhar Alam rushed to the town with Police re-enforcement. There was tension in the town. It ultimately led to firing by the Police on February 4, 1986, killing at least four persons and injuring many more, for which the Punjab Government announced a judicial inquiry. The All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) rejected the inquiry and called it as "a mere eyewash." The Federation demanded registration of criminal cases against the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) and police officers responsible for killing the people. They denied the official version of "four deaths" and added that many more persons had died and over two dozen injured. The Federation observed "Black Day" on February 8, 1986, and asked the Chief Minister to resign on the ground of his failure to control the police force which had killed "innocent Sikh youths."

Officers Shifted, Transferred

In the meantime, the Punjab Government announced the suspension of Mr. Surjit Singh, Superintendent of Police (Detective), and Mr. Gopal Singh Ghuman, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Nakodar. Mr. Harinderpal Singh, Inspector Police and Mr. Izhar Alam were transferred. Mr. Balwant Singh, Finance Minister of Punjab observed that the police had behaved "as during Congress (1) rule."

Mr. Balwant Singh promised that the culprits responsible for burning the "Birs" of the holy Granth would be brought to book, no matter to which community or religion they belonged. Earlier, Jathedar Harcharan Singh Mahalon, Mr. Kuldip Singh Wadala and Mr. Surjit Singh Minhas sat in dharna in front of the Police Station demanding the arrest of the culprits and a judicial inquiry into the police firing. The situation in Shahkot became tense when some Shiv Sena workers, too, gathered near the Police Station. The police, however, managed to disperse them.

On February 6, the Punjab Government transferred the DIG, Mr. G. S. Bhullar, as a sequel to the incidents at Nakodar. Curfew continued in the town but all the persons who had been arrested for violation of the curfew were released. The Deputy Commissioner, S. S. Aggarwal, declared that cases against 20 Sikh youths under Section 307 IPC (Indian Penal Code) were being withdrawn. However, Mr. R. K. Jalota and Mr. S. K. Sarwal of Shiv Sena welcomed the judicial inquiry and condemned the transfer of Mr. Alam and three other Police officers and demanded suspension of the Sub divisional Magistrate (SDM), Nakodar, Mr. Surjit Singh Rajput. They held him responsible for the disturbances in the town.

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) constituted a two-member committee comprising Mr. Kabal Singh, senior Vice President, and Mr. Kuldip Singh Wadala, an Akali MLA from Nakodar, to inquire into the incident. They concluded that the Police officers were responsible for mishandling the situation and they should be punished. They said, “It was an act of "Anti-Panthic" forces that wanted to create a gulf between Hindus and the Sikhs”.

Dr. Baldev Parkash, President Punjab Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) said in a statement, that the burning of "Birs" of Guru Granth Sahib was a sacrilegious act and the culprits should be punished. Whosoever did it, have committed a grave offence to disrupt the peace and communal harmony. He further warned the people to beware of the forces that wanted to jeopardise the communal amity in the State.

Two views On The Fire

Many people thought that the fire incident was accidental. However, many others were of the view that it was the handiwork of mischievous elements. The International Human Rights Organisation constituted a 5-member Sub-Committee headed by Mr. Dev Raj Sharma, Advocate, to enquire into the circumstances leading to the incident as well as its aftermath. Other members were Mr. Gurbhajan Singh Gill, (Retd DSP), Mr. H. L. Sethi, Advocate, Mr. D. S. Gill, Advocate, and Mr. Bhalinder Singh, Advocate.

The Committee visited Nakodar and went to the Gurdwara where the five sacred "Birs" were burnt. It also visited other places including Kapurthala Road area where the Police had resorted to the firing; the Saw Mill of Natha Singh wherein one person was alleged to have been killed; the residence of Mr. Pritu, a Balmiki from two dead bodies of Sikhs were discovered and the Sherpur Bridge and village including a few farm houses; where the police allegedly beat up and arrested the villagers from their homes. The team also met the SDM, the Electricity Board Staff, advocates and many other local citizens.

I. B. Man Visits Nakodar

The Committee examined Mr. Sukhdev Singh Sandhu. Mr. Ravinder Singh, Mr. Sudarshan Singh Bains, Mr. Varinderpal Singh and Mr. C J Jain, Advocates; Mr. Romesh Chopra alias Khan, Mr. Mohan Singh Sectional Officer (SO) of the Punjab Works Department (PWD), Mr. Swaran Singh, Mr. Tejinder Singh, Mr. Jatinder Singh, Mr. Gurinder Singh, Mr. Pritu Balmiki, Mr. Bachittar Singh, Mr. Mohinder Singh, Mr. Sohan Singh, Bhai Sukhchain Singh Granthi, Mr. Simratpal Singh, Mrs. Gurdip Kaur wife of the Granthi, Mr. Prem Sagar, Municipal Commissioner, Piara Singh, Ex-President Gurdwara and Mr. Vijay Nayar of the Shiv Sena. Observations of several other persons who did not want to disclose their identity were also recorded.

A witness claimed that on February 2, he saw Mr. Umrao Singh, a Congress (1) leader along with Mr. Ranjit Singh Bhinder, a DSP of Intelligence Bureau (IB), getting down from a jeep. They entered the house of Pundit Narinder Nath Bhutara alias "Nindo." Pundit Nindo is said to be a patron of the Shiv Sena and a close confidant of Mr. Darbara Singh, the former Chief Minister of Punjab. Mr. Nindo had also acted as Election in-charge of Mr. Darbara Singh in the past. After Mr. Umrao Singh and the IB person left the town the Shiv Sena workers from outside started reaching the town.

According to Mr. Mohan Singh, (SO, PWD), when the news of the influx of Sena workers reached the villages, about 40-50 persons reached the outskirts of Nakodar where the DSP of Nakodar, Mr. Gopal Singh Ghuman advised them to go back. He told them that they could not be allowed to go inside the town due to curfew restrictions and assured them that the Gurdwaras were safe. Upon which they returned to their homes.

Mr. Ramesh Chopra alias Khan admitted that he was regarded as a prime suspect from the very first day as he had been informed by Mr. Prem Sagar, the Municipal Commissioner (MC) the same evening. He added that the Sikhs had given an ultimatum to the police to arrest him by 6.00 pm on February 3. He had therefore, collected Shiv Sena activists in Mohalla Tandona and took out a procession at 6.30 pm in a show of his strength while raising inflammatory slogans, "Jai Shiv Shakti, Jai Trishul." The administration imposed curfew restrictions immediately.

Mr. Romesh Chopra denied that Mr. R. K. Jalota had stayed with Pundit N. N. Bhutara, he did not allow Bhutara's entry into the Mandir Devi Talab, the headquarters of the Shiv Sena and that no activists from outside, except Jalota and Sarwal, had entered the town. He further denied his hand in the fire incident and said that he held the Holy Granth in reverence. He alleged that Mr. Jaswant Singh, Jathedar Iqbal Singh, and Mr. Ravinder Singh, Advocate, instigated the villagers against him.

On the other hand, Mr. Ravinder Singh, Advocate, alleged that the Sikhs suspected Mr. Chopra to be a culprit and the authorities had connived with the culprits.

Accusing Finger At Darbara-Balwant

A few senior Hindu Advocates of the Nakodar Bar Association revealed that on the night of February 7, 1986, a similar incident took place in the Shankar village Gurdwara where the culprit had been allegedly captured red-handed and handed over to the Police. He was said to be a Hindu from UP in the garb of Sikh and was let off. Mr. Umrao Singh and Mr. Swaran Singh belong to this village. Similar incidents took place in the Mandirs of Sarinh village and Nakodar. According to them, this type of activity could be the handiwork of none else than those who were active on the eve of operation "Blue Star."

But some Sikh advocates of the Nakodar Bar, on the other hand, blamed Mr. Balwant Singh for all the trouble at Nakodar.

The Gurdwara Incident

Gurdwara, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, is centrally located in Guru Nanakpura Mohalla of Nakodar where the five "Birs" of Guru Granth Sahib were burnt due to fire in the forenoon of February 2. Granthi, Bhai Sukhchain Singh, who lives on the Gurdwara premises along with his family, looks after the Gurdwara.

The Gurdwara has two gates, one facing the Gurdwara Hall and the other towards the left side of the Hall. The residence of the Granthi is on the right side of the main gate while its kitchen is on the left side of the gate. The "Sukhasan" room is on the right side of the half opening in the veranda that connects the room with the side gate through a passage behind the Hall. The "Sukhasan" room is not visible from inside the kitchen, the wall being windowless. If any person comes through the side gate, uses the rear passage and enters the "Sukhasan" room, causes mischief and returns, he cannot be seen either from the residence or from the kitchen.

The Granthi opens (Parkash) one "bir" of the Holy Granth on the "Diwan" inside the "Sukhasan" room at 5:30 pm daily, while four "birs" in closed position (Sukhasan) are kept on the Niwar bed in the room. This "parkash" is done for devotees who want the recitation individually. Thereafter, the Granthi opens two "birs" in the main hall for the routine recitation. No, "Dhoop" or "Jyoti" is inside that "Sukhasan" room.

On the day of occurrence, February 2, 1986, Bhai Sukhchain Singh conducted his routine duties and left the Gurdwara to perform "Anand Karaj" (Marriage ceremony) at the residence of one Sadhu Singh on the Noormahal Road. According to the Granthi, he placed the Gurdwara keys inside the "Sukhasan" room at 8.45 pm as usual and left the place.

Mrs. Gurmit Kaur, a widow and a devotee of Guru Nanakpura Mohalla who lives close to the Gurdwara, was seen cleaning the "Sukhasan" Room at 9.15 pm by many devotees of the locality. It was her routine work.

At about 9.45 pm, Mrs. Gurdip Kaur, spouse of the Granthi, while going towards the kitchen heard cracking of glass panes and saw flames leaping out of the window of the "Sukhasan" Room. She ran outside and raised the alarm. Local residents rushed to the spot and threw water to extinguish the fire.

The administration and the police were informed. The SDM Mr. Surjit Singh Rajput, and the DSP, Mr. Gopal Singh Ghuman, reached and inspected the spot. By the time the Granthi, too, came back.

The "Bir" that lay on the Diwan and open on page 792, was largely burnt. The Niwar bed became a skeleton whereas the Diwan was half burnt. The "Romalas" were also burnt. The room, windows and the door were damaged due to mounting flames of the fire. The mat flooring and cloth sheets were also burnt.

The persons and the officers present there, ruled out the possibility of any accident or negligence. Case FIR (First Information Report) No 50 dated 2.2.1986 under Section 295/439 IPC was registered at 10.35 pm in Police Station Nakodar at the instance of Mrs. Gurdip Kaur.

Accident Or Negligence?

It was decided by the persons present at the Gurdwara including members of the management Committee that the burnt "Birs" would be taken to Sri Goindwal Sahib for the last rites. But some Akali leaders including Mr. Ravinder Singh, Advocate and Jathedar Iqbal Singh advised against such a move. This decision contributed to the deterioration of the already tense situation.

At about 5.00 pm, the SSP Mohd Izhar Alam accompanied by the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC), Mr. Darbara Singh "Guru," inspected the spot and without any further enquiries concluded that the episode was accidental and the fire was caused due to negligence on the part of the Granthi. Most of the local citizens did not agree with this police version and demanded identification of and stern action against the guilty as it was a case of desecration of the Holy Granth Sahib. But the SSP remained adamant on his stand. It resulted in flaring up of the already tense situation. By the nightfall, the news of burning the Holy Granth and the inaction of the police reached the surrounding villages.

The Sub-Committee of the IHRO, inspected the Gurdwara premises and examined several residents of the Mohalla including Hindus.

The committee after careful inspection of the "Sukhasan" room and eliciting the view of experts has reached the conclusion that the fire could not be the result of an accident as there was no short circuit, the electric wire and fuse were intact. The committee also does not subscribe to the negligence theory because there was no "Dhoop" or "Jyoti" lit nor there was any candle. There was no failure in the supply of electricity that day. This conclusion is also warranted by the assertions of Mr. R. K. Gupta, in charge Sub-Division, 132 K. V. Station and Mr. Amolak Singh, Sub Divisional Officer (SDO) of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), on the subject. According to them there was neither any cut in the supply of electricity nor was there any complaint regarding power failure from Guru Nanakpura Mohalla on February 2, 1986.

Having ruled out the accident and negligence theories as explained above, the committee is inclined to believe that the fire was man-lit possibly with the aim of creating mischief. It is inescapable for the committee to conclude that a communal clash, was the object behind the mischief. This conclusion is supported by the circumstances. The residents reported to the committee that similar incidents took place at Shankar and Sarinh villages as well as in Nakodar itself where mischief was attempted at two Gurdwaras and one Mandir before the Nakodar incident.

The committee is very much concerned and is eager to know the real reason for the presence of an Intelligence Officer, Mr. Ranjit Singh Bhinder along with Mr. Umrao Singh, a Congress (1) leader, at the home of a patron of the Shiv Sena, soon after the incident.

The committee was intrigued to hear from Mr. Ravinder Singh, a close friend of Mr. Balwant Singh, Finance Minister, Punjab, that Mr. Romesh Chopra of Shiv Sena could be the culprit. It is interesting that Mr. Ravinder Singh was instrumental in reversing the local Gurdwara Committee's move to take the burnt "Birs" to Goindwal Sahib for the last rites.

A few lawyers of Nakodar claimed that Mr. Umrao Singh and Mr. Balwant Singh were very close to each other although they belonged to two different political camps. Mr. Umrao Singh contested from Nakodar Constituency and was defeated by Mr. Kuldip Singh Wadala. Mr. Wadala and Mr. Balwant Singh are known to belong to two factions within the Akali Party. Due to a combination of political and other interests, Mr. Umrao Singh, Mr. Darbara Singh and Mr. Balwant Singh are stated to be close to each other.

A few senior Hindu Advocates, who do not want to be identified, are of the view that Mr. Darbara Singh's role in igniting the communal fire could not be beyond the realm of suspicion due to expertise available to persons like him, and because they were responsible for the very elements who had thrown cow tails in mandirs (temples) and packets of cigarettes in Gurdwara Sarovars (Sacred Pool) on the eve of the operation "blue star."

The Firing Incident

On February 3, 1986, a protest march, in response to a call given by Akali Dal, started at 10.00 pm from Gurdwara Guru Arjan Dev Ji in Guru Nanakpura Mohalla. Sikh students of all the three local colleges also joined the march. It was organised after the police failed to apprehend the culprits. Both the communities participated, including the local advocates who in addition observed a strike that day. Akali workers a day earlier had given a call through the public address system for the march.

Mr. Kuldip Singh Wadala along with some local leaders led the march. Five Singhs carried unsheathed Kirpans in their hands as a show of tradition.

Mr. Kuldip Singh Wadala left the march when it reached Sabzimandi. The procession reached Ambedkar Chowk shouting slogans.

The murderers of Guru Granth Sahib should be arrested, the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib shall not be tolerated.

A Clash Averted

According to Mr. Gurdarshan Singh Bains, Advocate, who was at Ambedkar Chowk just near his residence, when the protest march of about 1,000 persons reached the Chowk, a small rally was held in which some Sikh youths including students demanded the arrest of "Khan" in connection with the Gurdwara fire incidents. About 700/800 Shiv Sena workers who had gathered in Tandona Mohalla adjoining the Chowk, rushed towards the Chowk raising slogans.

The counter-slogan by the Sikh youth was: "Khalistan Zindabad." The local citizens started dispersing from the Chowk while the processionists mostly students and villages proceeded towards the police station and the Shiv Sena workers towards Mandir Devi Talab. Mr. Bains testified that Shiv Sena workers were armed with unsheathed swords and lathis.

When the procession reached the Bus Stand, according to Mr. Ravinder Singh, Advocate, there were about 200 Sikh youths who held a rally there. They were demanding the arrest of Mr. Romesh Chopra again. From there they sat on "Dharna" in front of the Police Station and gave an ultimatum to the police that in case Mr. Romesh Chopra was not called for interrogation by 6.00 pm they would decide the next course of action next morning at Gurdwara Guru Arjan Dev Ji.

In the meantime, Mr. Ravinder Singh said- Mr. Kuldip Singh Wadala, Mr. Ajit Singh Khattar, Mr. Charan Singh and Mr. Jaswant Singh, Circle Jathedars requested the SSP and ADC present in the Police Station to round up Mr. Romesh Chopra so that the inflamed tempers of the Sikhs were pacified. But the SSP remained adamant and asserted that he had summoned more police forces from Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and other districts to deal with the situation firmly.

SSP's Adamant Attitude

Baba Joginder Singh, too talked to the SSP and ADC at Gurdwara Guru Arjan Dev Ji at 5.00 pm but to no avail. Babaji, later pacified the Sikhs and requested the Hindus present there to help the identification of the culprits so that the whole community was not blamed for the act of one individual. He later left Nakodar.

At 6:00pm, two Motor Cyclists, in plain clothes, visited Mohalla Tandona, according to Mr. Bains. They watched the activities of the Sena activists and brought police along with CRPF who dispersed the Sena workers, soon afterwards the curfew was clamped.

Mr. Bains testified: "Mr. Ramakant Jalota and Mr. R K Sarwal, Shiv Sena leaders along with a large number of their members and workers from outside the Mohalla Tandona area reached there before the curfew was imposed. On February 4, 1986, Villagers collected in the Malri Sahib Gurdwara. About 40/50 persons including Mr. Sukhdev Singh Sandhu, Advocate, reached Malri Bridge at about 10.00 pm. By the time Baba Joginder Singh and Subedar Harcharan Singh Rode arrived at the bridge, where the police did not allow them to go to the town as there were curfew restrictions. Babaji then appealed to the people gathered there to disperse.

At about 10.30 pm about 100 persons led by Nihang Pargat Singh of Rauli village entered the town from Mehatpur side escorted by a Sikh Inspector of the Punjab Police and the CRPF. This Jatha reached near Ambedkar Chowk without any hindrance inspite of the curfew restrictions.

About 100 workers of Shiv Sena led by Mr. R. K. Jalota, Mr. Sarwal and Mr. Romesh Chopra alias Khan, according to Mr. Sudarshan Singh Bains, Advocate, who lives near the Chowk, came out of Mohalla Tandona. Both the parties raised slogans. The CRPF intervened near the shop of Pundit Narinder Nath Bhutara and the Sikh Jatha (group) was then escorted out of this town.

A Nihang's Emergence

This Jatha reached Sherpur Bridge where villagers had already collected. By 2.30 pm more than 500 persons had gathered there. No one was leading the assembly. Mr. Sukhdev Singh Sandhu, Advocate, was also present there. He testified that Mr. Jaswinder Singh, President, Akali Dal, Youth Wing, Mr. Paramjit Singh Malhi, Secretary, District AISSF Giani Roshan Singh of United Akali Dal (UAD) and Mr. Harminder Singh Sandhu, Convenor, AISSF Lyalpur Khalsa College, Jalandhar, addressed the assembly. Mr. Sandhu denied that any provocative speech was made. All witnesses blamed the Administration for not taking tactful steps to defuse the tense situation and condemned the officers who refused to talk to the Sikhs.

Mr. Sandhu deposed that he along with Mr. Bachittar Singh, Mr. Mohinder Singh and two others were authorised by the persons present, to request the authorities to assure the Sikhs that "Khan" would be apprehended, and to allow five persons, to see (have "Darshan" of) the burnt holy "Birs" at the Gurdwara so that, on return, they could take the people in confidence about the damage done to the Gurdwara. But the officers did not budge.

Then Nihang Pargat Singh told the gathering at 3.30 pm that they had been through the bazaars, no body would object to their peacefully proceeding to the Gurdwara for "Darshan," according to Mr. Sandhu.

Processionists Allowed

On this assurance, the Police present at the Bridge gave way to the people who peacefully proceeded towards the town and reached near Natha Singh Saw Mills where police and Para-military forces were deployed in strength. The force was led by Mr. Ashwini Kumar Sharma, SP (Detective) and Mr. Jaskirat Singh, Inspector, Station House Officer (SHO), etc.

Mr. Sandhu stated that at this spot, the forces after throwing 2/3 tear gas shells started indiscriminate firing without any warning. The processsionists were unarmed. One Ravinder Singh of Litran, a close relative of Jathedar Harcharan Singh Mahalon, was killed on the spot. Mr. Harminder Singh Sandhu rushed towards the Saw Mill to escape from Police fire, where Inspector Jaskirat Singh challenged him. Sandhu was about six feet inside the Saw Mill. He stopped. Mr. Jaskirat Singh fired at point-blank range with his service revolver hitting the victim's face. He fell down. Mr. Amarjit Singh Dhillon of AISSF Jalandhar rushed to his colleague's rescue and to offer him a glass of water. Mr. Jaskirat Singh prevented Mr. Dhillon from going near the injured young person. Both the young persons were arrested.

Fire Is Opened

The people ran helter-skelter. Jasbir Singh Jassi, gunman of DSP Nakodar, opened a burst with his sten-gun. Just after, two dead bodies were lifted by the people from near the house of Priti Balmiki where one bullock was killed and the other disabled with bullets.

The police, para-military forces and the mounted police continued firing while chasing the people up to Sherpur and Hussainpur villages. They raided and searched the houses of Sherpur village and broke open the doors. They gave severe beatings with rifle butts and lathis to whoever came in their way. They arrested more than 20 persons from Sherpur village including Mr. Sukhdev Singh Sandhu, Advocate, who was sitting with Jathedar Iqbal Singh, in his house.

The mounted police did not stop firing even at the farm housed 2 KM away from the place of occurrence. According to the residents of Sherpur village a reign of terror was let loose. They showed several spent bullet cartridges, said to have been fired by the Mounted Police in the fields near Hussainpur. They also showed bullet marks on the walls of the houses of the other side of the village. The police registered a case FIR No 54 dated 4.2.86 under Sections 307/362/427/332/188/148/149, 511 of IPC and 25/27 of Arms act, at Police Station (PS) Nakodar against the victims of Police high-handedness.

The Findings

According to FIR No 54 lodged by Inspector, Jaskirat Singh, SHO, PS Nakodar, the Police received information at 1.00 pm that 250/300 armed persons after hijacking a Bus were coming to Sherpur bridge to enter the curfew bound town. Under the command of SP (Operations) Mr. Ashwani Kumar Sharma, a big Police force including Mr. Gopal Singh Ghuman, DSP, Patel of CRPF, Hardial Singh, Inspector, Jalandhar along with other officers of the District rushed to the Sherpur Bridge along with tear gas squads and the forces of BSF (Border Security Force) and CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force).

Concoction By SHO

According to the Police Inspector, Jaskirat Singh, 700/800 persons armed with unsheathed Kirpans and pick-axes collected at the Sherpur Bridge. Mr. Harminder Singh Sandhu, Mr. Paramjit Singh Malhi, Mr. Roshan Singh Mehmowal, and Mr. Sukhdev Singh Sandhu, Advocate, were also present and performed "ardas" (prayer).

"Today by disobeying the Curfew order we will oppose the police and by entering the town we will take revenge on the other party and just as we had snatched rifles from the youth workers in Amritsar, we will snatch them from the Police."

The FIR further recorded that the police gave a warning through the public address system and resorted to a lathi charge, fired from riot guns and exploded tear gas shells, but to no avail. Rather the mob started firing at the police party and thereafter the police and the CRPF opened fire in self-defence killing three unidentified persons and injuring eight on the spot. Mr. Harminder Singh Sandhu and Giani Roshan Singh were amongst the injured. I too fired two shots from my service revolver and arrested 14 persons from the spot.

After site inspection and meeting persons connected with the incident, the Committee is of the view that the contents of the Police version contained in the FIR are a sheer concoction and is far removed from the reality.

The persons participating in the procession wanted to have "Darshan" of the burnt "birs". They were peaceful, non-violent and un-armed.

Was "Ardas" Performed?

The gathering at the Sherpur Bridge, did not perform "ardas" as alleged by the police. Rather they requested the administration to allow only five representatives to have "Darshan" of the burnt "birs" in the Guru Arjan Dev Ji Gurdwara. On refusal, Nihang Pargat Singh convinced the gathering that the Administration would not object to the peaceful procession being taken to the Gurdwara as they had reached there escorted by the police through the bazaars of the town where Shiv Sena workers freely roaming about. On hearing this assurance the villagers started proceeding towards the Gurdwara. The police force at the bridge gave way. When this procession reached near the Saw Mill of Natha Singh, the police stationed near the Octroi Post after throwing 2/3 tear gas shells started indiscriminate firing, killing on the spot one Ravinder Singh of Littran, a close relative of Jathedar Mohalan, two Sikh youths in the nearby lane and one bullock of Preetu Balmiki while injuring the second one as a result of the firing.

As a result of the sudden fire, the people ran helter-skelter. Mr. Jasbir Singh Jassi, a gun-man of DSP, Nakodar, opened a burst of fire from his stengun on the fleeing villagers. Some Sikh youths including Mr. Harminder Singh Sandhu rushed towards the Saw Mill of Natha Singh for safety. SHO Jaskirat Singh allegedly fired at Mr Sandhu at point-blank range after challenging him by name. The committee regards Sandhu's death as plain, unprovoked murder.

Any evidence does not support the police allegation about the attempt to set a Bus on fire.

The arrest of Giani Roshan Singh on the spot is not borne out by any evidence. He was apprehended and beaten near Hussainpur, while he was coming to Nakodar on his scooter along with his son Jatinder Singh. Mr. Sukhdev Singh Sandhu, Advocate was arrested from Sherpur from the house of Mr. Iqbal Singh, according to witnesses.

SP Sharma Gave Order

The local SDM stated that SP (Operations) Ashwini Kumar Sharma gave the firing order on the spot, while ADC and SSP were sitting at the police station.

The IHRO Committee is of the view that, indiscriminate firing without warning was not only excessive but was also unjustified, considering all the circumstances of the happenings. There are many unanswered questions for the district administration.

The Committee is unable to believe the death toll of the firing, and it may well be more than four. There is no evidence to disbelieve the figure given out by the district administration. However, the number of those injured may be more than the officially stated figure because many people appear to have dispersed to get private medical assistance.

The Conclusions

After the five holy "Birs" of Guru Granth Sahib at Gurdwara of Nakodar were burnt, a case FIR No 50, dated 2.2.1986 under Sections 295/436 IPC (injuring religious sentiments and setting fire) was registered at Police Station Nakodar at 10:35 pm Inspite of the registration of the case, the police seemed to be in no hurry to conduct investigations. The matter was obviously very serious but the police took it lightly. Due to this inaction on the part of the police, the Sikh community felt deeply aggrieved and a section of the community suspected, on the same day, the hand of Mr. Romesh Chopra alias "Khan" in this mischief.

Next day on February 3, the ADC and SSP reached Nakodar. The local leaders including Mr. Kuldip Singh Wadala MLA and Baba Joginder Singh apprised the officers of the gravity of the situation and requested them to "at least round up Romesh Chopra". But the ADC and SSP "flatly" refused to touch Mr. Chopra due to reasons best known to them. Meanwhile Shiv Sena workers assembled at Nakodar from outside led by Mr. R K Jalota and Mr. S K Sarwal. There was no evidence of any official effort at curbing the entry of these outsiders. Nor any effort was made to stop them from raising provocative slogans or from marching during curfew hours with unsheathed swords.

Despite repeated requests from various quarters, the SSP remained adamant and threatened, in presence of ADC, the leaders, saying, "I would not at any cost, apprehend Khan and would tackle the situation with a firm hand by calling police re-enforcement from other Districts also" which further aggravated the already explosive situation.

On February 4, 1986, about 100 villagers were permitted to pass through the bazaars escorted by the police and CRPF and allowed to join another assembly of Sikhs at Sherpur bridge despite the Curfew restrictions. This act of the administration provoked the Shiv Sena men, who led by Jalota, Sarwal and Chopra came out in the streets to make a show of their strength. Luckily, no clash took place.

Bonafide of the ADC and the SSP are suspect, in as far as they permitted a Sikh Jatha to take out a procession through the bazaars of the town. This Jatha should not have been allowed to enter the town and should have been diverted through the by-pass. Whatever the real intentions of the district administration the Committee cannot help observing that circumstances were so created, as to make a frontal clash inevitable. It is another thing that such a clash did not take place, to the good luck of the people of Nakodar and its surrounding area.

Unarmed devotees from ten villages, who wanted to visit Gurdwara and to see the burnt "Birs" for themselves were encouraged by the Police to move to the outskirts of the town. When the devotees reached a place from where they could not safety escape or disperse, they were subjected to indiscriminate firing. It is a fact that the firing was without warning, without neither resorting to Lathi-charge nor using the riot guns. However, only two or three tear gas shells were exploded, just before the firing, killing four persons and injuring many.

This tragedy could have been averted had the administration listened to the request of the devotees for allowing only five representatives to be escorted to the Gurdwara.

The trigger-happy Inspector, Jaskirat Singh, shot Harminder Singh with his service revolver from close range when the boy was taking shelter. It is a cold-blooded murder by a public servant supposed to be responsible for the protection of lives and liberty of the public.

The police firing on the order of SP (Operation) Ashwani Kumar Sharma, SP of CRPF even did not spare the two bullocks of poor Pritu Balmiki causing a loss of about Rs. 5000. Even a bullet mark on the wall inside his compound could be seen. The police ran amuck and continued chasing the fleeing people beyond two kilometres from the place of occurrence, beating them and firing upon them incessantly.

Excessive Force Used

The mental set up of the police force can be gauged from an instance wherein on February 4, on Swaran Singh s/o Sohan Singh of Sherpur village was severely beaten with rifle butts and lathis when he was giving water to an injured person. He showed us his back and limbs, which carried many criss-cross lashes of lathi blows. His HMT watch was taken away by a Sikh Policeman. He was arrested and thrown in a vehicle to be put in the lockup. Neither he was given any medical aid nor was he produced in any Court till his release on February 6 after 9.00 pm

There is another instance wherein an old Akali worker Roshan Singh of Mehmonwal was beaten so recklessly when the police ran amuck that his legs and arms got multiple fractures. Roshan Singh was travelling by his Scooter No PAJ-6923 near Hussainpur more than two kilometres away from the occurrence when he was given a thrashing and his scooter was taken away by the Police. It was revealed that this man was beaten up because he had an altercation with Surjit Singh, SP (D) a day earlier when he blamed the police for conniving with the culprits of the sacrilege of Holy Granth.

The role of Local Administration i.e. SDM and DSP virtually eclipsed at 5.00 pm on 2.2.1986 when the ADC and the SSP took direct charge of the situation reaching Nakodar, following a telephone message from the SDM.

When the situation became tense in the evening, the SDM suggested to the ADC and the SSP to round up the subject, Mr. Romesh Chopra, to defuse the situation. But the suggestion was rejected. Thereafter, the ADC and the SSP took command of the situation.

The SDM revealed that he received a telephone message from Mr. Balwant Singh, the Finance Minister; when he was sitting with the SP (D) Surjit Singh at the police station asking him to hand over the dead bodies to their relatives. The SDM replied that the police was reluctant to do so and he may talk to SP (D) who was sitting next to him. But the Minister refused to talk to the Police. The SDM further revealed that the ADC and the SSP remained in constant touch with Chandigarh. He also disclosed that three dead bodies had been en identified by the February 4 night.

Despite the identification of the dead bodies, the administration did not hand over bodies to their relatives. The dead bodies were cremated by the Administration as "unidentified and unclaimed". Even the post-mortem examination was conducted at midnight.

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