The case of Sukhwinder Singh

Published : Nov 07, 2003 00:00 IST

The textile shop, which was the scene of Sukhwinder Singh's killing. - HARPREET SINGH

The textile shop, which was the scene of Sukhwinder Singh's killing. - HARPREET SINGH

What Reduced to Ashes says

Sukhwinder Singh's brother, Harjinder Singh, was the main source of information for the authors of Reduced to Ashes on this case. On July 12, 1989, he claims "officials led by SHO Sita Ram from Tarn Taran city police station Nanga Pairan Wala Chowk thrashed him severely in public when he resisted the arrest. He was bleeding and unable to walk when the police officials lifted him into a jeep and drove away. The family members came to know about the arrest late in the evening. The next morning, Sukhwinder's brother, Harjinder Singh, accompanied by a large number of local people, went to the Tarn Taran police station and learnt that Sukhwinder had died in the police lock-up." According to this account, the police refused to hand over the body to relatives, but did allow village elders to identify it.

The record

According to FIR 108, two terrorists arrived on a scooter at the shop of one Sukhdev Singh, and attempted to kidnap him. A scuffle broke out, during which one terrorist fled and the other opened fire, injuring Sukhdev's Singh's father, Gurbachan Singh. A mob gathered, and lynched the terrorist. The police recovered a 9 mm pistol-milimetre pistol, eight live rounds and two empty cartridges, along with a scooter, RJD 6866. Sukhwinder Singh was wanted by the police in an earlier case, FIR 36 of February 14, 1988, for offences under the Indian Penal Code and the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. According to the police, the family asked for officials to carry out the cremation. Whatever the truth, there is no suggestion that an effort was made to make Sukhwinder Singh disappear.

Eyewitness testimony

Gulshan Kumar, who now runs the cloth shop where the incident took place, is clear that the version of Harjinder Singh is untrue - as are all the owners of adjoining shops. "One of the boys pretended to be buying something," he recalls, "when the other pulled out a gun and asked Surinder Kumar and Sukhdev Singh for money. This was Sukhwinder Singh, whom we knew as `Nikku.' His family had often bought goods from our shop. When Nikku pulled out a gun, Gurbachan Singh grabbed hold of his wrist and pinned him down. He opened fire. Gurbachan Singh was badly injured and spent several weeks in hospital. Other people in the market pitched in, and someone started hitting Nikku with a metal chair that was sitting in a corner of the shop. All hell broke loose. He was unconscious and bleeding badly by the time the Central Reserve Police Force arrived, and died a little later. It was all very ugly, but I have no regrets. That January, the Khalistan Commando Force had ordered all Hindus to leave this market. If we hadn't fought back, and if the CRPF hadn't set up a picket here, there would be no Hindus left in Tarn Taran."

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