Shaheed Bhai Jaswant Singh Khalra does not need any introduction. This fearless person had gathered information of the innocent Sikh youth who were killed unlawfully by the Indian government and highlighted the injustice of India, internationally. The Indian government was shook by this man and had threatened Bhai Jaswant Singh Khalra to stop the great sewa he was doing or else he would also join the very long list of the singhs that were declared disappeared by the police, but Bhai Sahib remained fearless and continued to expose the Indian government.
Then the Indian security forces abducted Bhai Sahib from outside his house, after which no one got to know what happened. Human rights activist Bhai Jaswant Singh Khalra was killed on 6th September 1995, around 8pm at the Chhabal police station of Amritsar district and his body was then thrown into the Harike canal. This was disclosed by Kuldip Singh, special police officer and prime witness in the sensational Khalra disappearance case. The entire operation at the Chhabal police station where Bhai Sahib had been kept after being kidnapped by the police under orders from SSP Ajit Singh Sandhu and was supervised by Deputy Superintendent of Police Jaspal Singh. Ajit Singh Sandhu had later committed suicide. Bhai Jaswant Singh Khalra had been collecting information on extra-judicial killings by the poilce. Bhai Sahib was kidnapped and kept under illegal police custody despite order to the contrary by the Supreme Court of India. Kuldip Singh narrated the scene before Khalra was killed:
“He was made to stand, thrashed and pushed onto the ground. His legs were stretched apart, more than 180 degrees. Seven policemen kicked him in the abdomen and chest. Save me. Please give me some water, he cried. As I was about to fetch some water, I heard two shots. I ran back into the room and found him bleeding profusely. He had stopped breathing.”
We met the wife of Bhai Jaswant Singh Khalra, Bibi Paramjit Kaur and asked her many questions, Bibi Paramjit Kaur answered every question and thanks to her we can now share the information about Bhai Sahib, a fearless Sikh human activist, with the Sikh nation.
Question: What was Bhai Khalra like at the time of your marriage?
Answer: At that time of our marriage, he worked for Bhagat Singh Union, in fact his family background has been revolutionary. His grandfather, Sardar Harnam Singh was part of the Komagatu Maru’s first committee. Sardar Harnam Singh was jailed for 9 years and after completing his sentence he went to China.
Question: After the marriage, did you stay at Khalra or did you come to Amritsar?
Answer: From 1981 to 1985, we stayed at Khalra and in 1985 when I got a job at Guru Nanak University, we came to Amritsar.
Question: After operation blue star, what change came within Bhai Khalra?
Answer: Straight after operation blue star, he ignored all curfews and became active. For 10-15 days he was always in and out of the house, he was always attending meetings. For this reason he also spent a night in a police station and he was also once shot from a helicopter but that did not stop anything.
Question: How did Bhai Khalra start searching for the dead bodies of Sikhs that were declared disappeared by the police?
Answer: The police had arrested Bhai Piara Singh and Bhai Amrik Singh Matewal who were from his group. As he was searching for them, at this time he was trying to get the shaheedi saroop of Shaheed Baba Gurbachan Singh Manochahal, but the police didn’t give the body. So he kept on searching and soon started checking the records of crematories. Here he found out that many thousands of killed Sikhs were bought to these crematories and cremated. Then he met Bhai Amrik Singh Mukhatsar and started searching for the unknown cremations of Sikhs.
Question: Did the police give any threats, when they found out that Bhai Khalra mission?
Answer: Yes, Ajit Singh Sandhu sent a message stating, “If I can make 25,000 Sikhs vanish then making one more Sikh vanish will not be difficult at all.” But he didn’t care about the threats and carried on with his mission day and night.
Question: Couple of days before the kidnapping of Bhai Khalra by the police, Bhai Khalra released a press note stating that, “I know the police will soon kill me, but by killing me they will not stop the mission to search for the disappeared Sikhs.” How did Bhai Khalra find out that the police wanted him dead?
Answer: Congress minister of Patti village, MLA Sukhwinder Singh Shinda Bhuttar, called him to his house and told him, “The police asked for authorisation to kill you and our government (Butcher Beanta) have given this authorisation to the police, for this reason be careful now.”
Question: After this did Bhai Khalra arranged some kind of security?
Answer: No he said, if he had security than the families he met to get information and prepare reports against the police of disappeared Sikhs would say, “He himself has security then why should we put our lives in danger?” For this reason he did not have security.
Question: Did any of the families of disappeared Sikhs that Bhai Khalra prepared reports against the police for, come and visit you?
Answer: Yes, after the newspapers printed the news on his mission, many families started coming and sharing their stories of their family members that were picked up by the police but never returned. There was young women who would come to us with her young child, her husband worked in the railway industry and was arrested by the police and never returned home. This women like many other families also disappeared, we never saw her again. Whenever he prepared a report against the police for a family, the police would threaten them and then the family would come and tell him. He would give that family his and tell them to give that card to the police and tell the police to come and see me.
Question: Did Bhai Khalra get picked up by the police in front of you?
Answer: No, I had gone on my duty, I normally live five minutes before 9am. When I left home, he was going to go somewhere with the journalists of Indian Express. He had taken his car out while I was at home and started washing it. When I had been at my duty for about 20 minutes, a journalist by the name of Rajiv rang me and said, “The police have taken Khalra Sahib.” Upon hearing this I immediately returned home. This happened on 6th September 1995.
Question: How did the police take Bhai Khalra, did you manage to find out?
Answer: Yes, one of our neighbours told me, that one van had come to the house. Two men got out of the van and showed some sort of paper to him. The neighbour thought that these men were asking him for directions and the address was written on the paper. Soon as he put his head down to read the paper, another two men jumped out of the van and now all 4 men grabbed him and put him in the van and took him away.
Question: What did you do after this?
Answer: At that time I rang his colleagues. Then we met IG Bhatti and told him that this is the work of Ajit Singh Sandhu as he had been threatening us. IG Bhatti said, “What right do they have to kidnap a man from our area, by the evening I will find him.” But IG Bhatti did not do anything.
Question: Anything else happened after that?
Answer: Yes, that day about 1.30pm a man rang me. When I picked the phone up the man on the other side said, “Khalra Sahib?” I replied, “He has been taken by the police in the morning.” Upon hearing this, the man on the phone laughed loudly. I understood that the man was a police officer. Then we started running around to find out where the police has keeping him.
Question: Did you manage to get any information on where Bhai Khalra was being kept?
Answer: No, we didn’t get information from anywhere. The police officers were sending us from one police station to another. The police officers were telling many stories to keep us searching for him, one police officer told us that he has gone to Pakistan.
Question: When did you stop waiting for Bhai Khalra?
Answer: My wait ended a year and half after his disappearance, when Kuldip Singh a special police officer gave his witness account in the newspapers. Before this Kuldip Singh had met me himself and told me that he wanted to talk about Khalra Sahib, but I didn’t believe him as the police d also been sending men to give me false information on him. Then when the article of Kuldip Singh was printed in the newspapers, I read that article in a library. After the printing of this article we had started holding shaheedi barsi in memory of him.
Question: After the witness account of Kuldip Singh was used to file a case against the police, did the police harass you?
Answer: They have never stopped harassing me. The police also tried to bribe Kuldip Singh with 50,000 rupees. We also filed a case against the police regarding this.
Question: according to you, did Ajit Singh Sandhu really commit suicide?
Answer: I surely belive that Ajit Singh Sandhu did not commit suicide, he was killed by KPS Gill and group. Killing Ajit Singh Sandhu had two advantages for KPS Gill and the Indian government. Ajit Singh Sandhu was depressed as his had many cases against him and he had started to threaten KPS Gill, that “If I am not acquitted from the cases then I will tell the court who gave me the orders to kill innocent Sikhs and also to whose order I had killed Jaswant Singh Khalra.” The first advantage was that by killing Ajit Singh Sandhu, the Indian government would shut his mouth which would have exposed the real killers of the Sikhs and the human right groups would look stupid. If Ajit Singh
Sandhu really wanted to commit suicide then he could have done so at home. What was the point to go so far from home and put his head under the train? Also Ajit Sandhu was not a man that would have committed suicide, even his mother gave many accounts that her son couldn’t have done a suicide. Anyway some people also tell me, that Ajit Singh Sandhu is still alive and fooling the government and after killing someone, he had thrown the dead body under the train. One man even told me, that he had seen Ajit Singh Sandhu in Germany. I don’t belive in that, but the police can’t be trusted, they can do anything.
The following are excerpts from the English version of the last international speech given by Jaswant Singh Khalra:
I have come to Canada to talk about a report. That report describes the story of oppression of the past ten years. When we started that report, we had before us hundreds of reports, but there was one question to which none of those reports provided the answer. That question was: Thousands of mothers await their sons even though some may know that the oppressor has not spared their son’s lives on this earth. But a mother’s heart is such that even if she sees her son’s dead body, she does not accept that her son has left her. And those mothers who have not even seen their children’s dead bodies, they were asking us: at least find out, is my son alive or not? But when we started talking about this issue, then countless mothers, countless sisters weren’t ready to say that their loved one has disappeared. They said, “Son, if you take this issue further and our son is still alive, they will kill him, don’t talk about this, we are not going to tell even you.” So we produced a rough estimate for the public that in Amritsar district alone, 2,000 children are missing and the government must tell us where they are. The government was quiet. Then, we filed a petition before the High Court on behalf of some families, asking the Court to tell us where those children are. The government then gave an affidavit denying any knowledge about these children. When the issue progressed, then the person in-charge of the oppression, KPS Gill said in a press conference in Amritsar, “These Human Rights Wing folks are not doing anything on human rights. They have one motive, to prop up their agenda, so that there is no peace in Punjab. They are ISI [Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence] agents and are hatching a conspiracy to discourage the police machinery to re-incite militancy.” KPS Gill went onto the extent of saying, “I’ll tell you where those kids are.” He said, “These kids are in Europe, in Canada, and in America, where they are earning their daily wages. And these human rights organizations are telling us that thousands of kids have disappeared.” This was a challenge to us. This was a challenge to that truth which we sought to bring forward. Then, brothers, in order to bring this truth to the public, accompanied by evidence, we put ourselves on an arduous task where we had to confront various dangers. But we went there where our brothers had gone. We went to the cremation grounds. We went and asked the employees there just tell us this much that during this time, how many dead bodies did the police give you? Some said we burned 8-10 every day. Some said there was no way to keep an account; sometimes a truck full of bodies came, and sometimes 2-4 dead bodies. When we said we need an account, they told us we could get the account from one place, “The police gave us the dead bodies, and the municipal committee gave us the firewood.”
So brothers! When we received this truth, we went to that country’s High Court. We knocked on the doors of Punjab and Haryana High Court, and asked, Oh Oppressors!, at least give us the detail that which dead body belongs to whom so that we can tell each mother, sister, so we can tell each
father. So they can say their prayers to Almighty which they have been keeping in their heart, “Almighty, please let my son rest at your feet” But that country that calls itself the largest democracy and lover of justice, its High Court told us, “This is not public interest litigation. This creates a huge issue. Instead, do this – Send to us each of that family to whom the dead bodies belong and we will give them the information.” A mockery has been made of the law. A mockery has been made of the Sikh nation. And a mockery has been made of those people, who are not asking for anything other than a death certificate.
But the biggest court of all is the people’s court and we want to go to the people’s court on a worldwide level and say to the world, “You have called us terrorist. You have called us communalists. But those whom you have called the prophets of democracy, recognize their reality and then tell us who is ultimately the terrorist and who is righteous?” We can say often that we have suffered much oppression. But we have not had the practice or training of keeping a complete record of that oppression. About 50,000, about 1 million – we say all of that. The educated people of the world do not trust that, they need exact figures. And for that, I also say, that you all should unite on this issue. This issue is not just the issue for those families. This is the [Sikh] nation’s issue, humanity’s issue. You all should present this issue, in whatever way you can. Condemn that government, that machinery, that justice system, and tell the truth to people. Please Brothers help us in this work.
So my brothers, pray to the Guru that we maintain our self-respect. We must safeguard the work for which we were created and earn the pleasure of the Guru. We ask the Guru for everything, but we’re afraid to ask the Guru for that one gift. The Guru has many gifts, but what is the greatest gift the Guru has? The greatest gift is not milk, is not a son. And now the Guru does not even pass on the guruship to anyone. The Guru cannot make any saint a guru now. When the Guru gave the guruship to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Guru kept one special gift, which any Sikh could invite. And after the time of the (Ten) Gurus, Sikhs paid so much respect to that special gift.
And that special gift, which the Guru possesses, is the gift of martyrdom. Those who receive this gift, they don’t get to be Guru but after the Guru, they are the most respected people of our (Sikh) nation.
I hope, I am not a political leader, which could give you some political line or pull a political antic – from a human rights platform I will definitely say this to you, the Khalsa was inaugurated to protect human rights, the human rights of the world. And if you cannot protect your own human rights, you will not be able to give any definition of the Khalsa in the world.
Source 1984 Tribute