It was not only the militants who were being killed by the police in its
custody but their sympathisers and relations were no exception. Avtar
Singh Shatrana’s death in custody is a glaring example of this nature.
Avtar Singh was the brother of Jarnail Singh Shatrana, Lt. General of
the Khalistan Commando Force (Panjwar Group) from Shatrana village in
Patiala district. He was also a candidate for Punjab Assembly from the
Lehra Gaga constituency. He was picked up by the Patran police party led
by its SHO (Inspector) Sukhwinder Singh from the Patran Road on July 25,
1991 at 10 AM along with his scooter and taken to Patran police station.
He was shifted to CIA, Patiala the same day. He was seen in custody
among many by Gurnam Singh of Paind village and Ajit Singh, a PRTC
Station Conductor, Patran.
The people from about a dozen villages around Shatrana gathered at
Patran and protested against the illegal arrest of Avtar Singh,
demanding his immediate release. The headmen and mayors of the villages
met state and police officials at Chandigarh and Patiala, urging their
intervention. In the meantime, the police picked up Avtar Singh’s father
Kehar Singh from his village on July 31. The Patiala SSP, Satish Kumar
Sharma even refused to talk to the deputation regarding Avtar Singh.
Later, the police came out with a story that Avtar Singh was killed in
an encounter between a police party led by Patiala CIA Inspector Gurnam
Singh and militants close to Avtar Singh near Gurdialpura Bir on August
6. According to the police FIR, CIA Inspector Gurnam Singh arrested
Avtar Singh on August 6 in the morning. Avtar Singh on a brief
interrogation, disclosed to the police party that some top militants
were scheduled to meet him on that day at 10 AM at a specific place. The
police party along with Avtar Singh proceeded to that place in a Gypsy
jeep. An encounter took place there (near Gurdialpura Bir village) for
three hours. Avtar Singh was killed in the cross firing.
However, IHRO investigations into the matter suggested otherwise:
Avtar Singh was killed in custody. He was in police detention since July
25. At least three persons had seen him in the police custody. Moreover,
on August 5, the advisor to the Punjab Governor categorically told a
five-member delegation of the Shatrana village council at Chandigarh
that he had talked to the concerned police officials. Avtar Singh, he
assured, would be released or produced in court, as the case may be, on
August 6. All these facts showed that he was killed in custody.
The people in large numbers laid a siege to the Patran police station on
August 6 at 2 p m and pressurised the police to hand over the body of
Avtar Singh to them. They also asked for the release of Avtar Singh’s
father. Kehar Singh so that they could cremate the body in time.
The body of Avtar Singh bore torture and burn marks, there was no bullet
injury on the body:
His right fore-arm was cut open, hot pitchers were used on his wrists to
poke burn his skin and All the major bones in both of his arms were broken.
His abdomen was burnt by using a hot ironing-press
Hot Steel rods were used to burn the soles of his feet