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1984 Anti-Sikh Pogrom The Ambushing Of Witnesses


Jun 1, 2004
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The dead cannot strike a deal so the living did. To bail out those who led the massacre of Sikhs in 1984. One witness was offered Rs 25 lakh to forget or not name the men who led the mob that killed 12 members of her family. She refused to give in. She was beaten and constantly threatened but she didn’t yield.

But some others did. They turned hostile one by one. Those who stuck to their deposition were left to fend for themselves, with neither the protector nor the adjudicator finding anything amiss. Congress leaders HKL Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar were let off, due to the behind-the-scenes machinations that included allurement and intimidation. And the not-so-subtle threat of a 1984 redux. Democracy and justice lay shamed.

Investigations reveal that in almost all cases, deals were struck to win over witnesses. In Bhagat’s case, Rs 25 lakh was offered to a witness. In Tytler’s case, a week after changing his statement the prime witness went abroad for a year and the second witness is still in the US. There were threats to their lives as well and a prominent Sikh leader was involved in pressurising the witness to say Tytler didn’t lead the mob. Further sensational disclosures were made that a prime witness, who turned hostile, against Sajjan Kumar was taken to the Congress leader’s residence. Some of these witnesses enjoy a lavish lifestyle and their families misled Tehelka about their whereabouts.

Our investigations uncovered the network of middlemen who struck dubious deals to win over witnesses, subvert the truth and derail justice.

[/FONT][FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Jagdish Tytler : A changed testimony

[/FONT][FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Surinder Singh, the head granthi of Gurdwara Pulbangash, said in a sworn affidavit in January 2002 that Congress leader Jagdish Tytler, then the local MP, led the mob that had attacked his gurdwara. He stated, “Tytler incited the mob to burn the gurdwara and kill the Sikhs.” According to his evidence, the mob had then attacked and burnt the gurdwara down. One Badal Singh was burnt alive in the assault, several were injured.

By the time, the Nanavati Commission summoned Jagdish Tytler on the complaint, Surinder Singh had been ‘managed’. Tytler drew the Commission’s attention to another affidavit by Singh , this one dated August 5, 2002, which amounted to a retraction of Singh’s earlier position — he said he did not even know what was in the earlier affidavit because he could not read or write English.

He also said he had not seen Tytler leading the mob that attacked Gurdwara Pulbangash.

This affidavit was filed on October 22, 2002 and it came to light a year later when Tytler was served a notice to appear before the Commission.

The Congress leader’s knowledge of such an affidavit astonished the Commission as Surinder Singh had named Tytler in his testimony on January 17, 2002.

Tytler had been trying to work on Surinder Singh. In his testimony to the Nanavati Commission, Surinder Singh did state that he was contacted by Jagdish Tytler on November 10, 1984 and asked to sign two sheets of paper. He declined to sign. But subsequent efforts by Tytler to ‘win over’ Singh appear to have succeeded.

About Surinder Singh’s changed affidavit, Justice Nanavati stated, “what appears from all this is that the subsequent affidavit was probably obtained by persuasion or under pressure. If this witness had really not seen Jagdish Tytler in the mob or if he was not approached by Tytler then he would not have come before the Commission to give evidence or would have told the Commission that the attack did not take place in that manner. For speaking the truth, it was not necessary for him to wait till 5-8-2002 and file an additional affidavit.” After these findings, Tehelka began investigations and tried to contact Surinder Singh.

Tehelka was misled by Surinder Singh’s family about his whereabouts. Two attempts were made to contact him at his residence in the Gurdwara Rakabganj family quarters but the family refused to open the door. The nameplate outside his quarters was also removed. Contact was established with his son Narinder Singh, who fixed a meeting with Surinder Singh. But then, the two vanished. Using a fake reference, contact was established with Surinder Singh and another rendezvous was set but he again failed to turn up.

This was provocation enough for detailed investigations. Enquiries revealed that Surinder Singh left for Canada, 10 days after filing his subsequent affidavit. Being an employee of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) Surinder Singh had sought a year’s leave, that too without pay, from October 30, 2002 to October 29, 2003. On his return, DSGMC president Prahlad Singh Chandok posted him in a prestigious gurdwara. Surinder Singh draws a meagre salary but owns a luxury car and is constructing a house near Majnu Ka Tilla in North Delhi.

After a lapse of two years, the DSGMC sought Surinder Singh’s explanation for changing his statement against Tytler. The then DSGMC chief Chandok clandestinely issued a suspension order but held onto it. Curiously, three days after filing the previous order, another DSGMC office-bearer, Harbhajan Singh Matharu, sought an explanation from Surinder Singh on March 20, 2004.

In his reply on March 23, 2004, Surinder Singh speaks of a threat to his life. Tehelka has a copy of his reply, which says, “if you seek an explanation from me, then I be given a guarantee that we, Management Committee, would be responsible for loss of my life and property, only then will I give an explanation.” Two months after this episode, Chandok presented a robe of honour to Tytler.
For this act, the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs, summoned Chandok but the Takht Jathedar didn’t impose a penalty.

[/FONT][FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The Sikh Forum — which then had the late Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora as its chief patron — sought a meeting with Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti as it resented the lack of action against Chandok. In its letter to Vedanti dated August 2, 2004, the Sikh Forum stated that some witnesses who had filed affidavits before the Nanavati Commission are now reluctant to appear for cross-examination. The Forum sought a clarification on the Jathedar’s order, as Chandok’s exoneration had created an impression that no wrong was committed by honouring Tytler. The Forum stated that Tytler, now summoned by the Nanavati Commission, had a role in the 1984 carnage and this decision has aggrieved the riot victims. In another letter dated September 22, 2004, the Sikh Forum sought a review of the decision exonerating Chandok. It further requested the Akal Takht that Chandok be summoned again and directed to snap all ties with people guilty in the Sikh carnage.

The Forum’s members included Dr Amrik Singh, Major General MS Chadha, Dr Anup Singh, Lieutenant Colonel Manohar Singh, advocate HS Phoolka, Wing Commander RS Chhatwal, Dr Mahip Singh and Dr AS Narang among others.

After the Nanavati report was tabled in Parliament, the Sikh Forum met on August 12, 2005. Tehelka accessed the meeting’s confidential record which accused Chandok of pressurising witnesses. According to the minutes of the meeting, “Sardar Prahlad Singh Chandok…had honoured Jagdish Tytler, For this act he has called by Jathedar Akal Takht (sic). But on intervention of some influential persons, he was not given any punishment. But now for his role in pressurising Bhai Surinder Singh to change his affidavit against Jagdish Tytler, we should take up this case with Jathedar Akal Takht Sahib.”

Tehelka spoke to the Sikh Forum which appeared reluctant to state the facts openly. This forced us to use the spycam and it was revealed that this group had confronted Chandok and Surinder about the subsequent affidavit.

The details of this meeting were recorded by the Forum. Wg Cdr Chhatwal shared the Forum’s strategy about taking action against them. The conversation has been edited and the operative part goes:

What action will you take against Chandok?

It will be a religious action without going to the press and we will write to Akal Takht that he is treacherous fellow and is instrumental in seeing that Jagdish Tytler is not blamed. Akal Takht should haul him up.

What will you write to Akal Takht? That he struck a deal?

I do not know whether we will write this thing.

Then what exactly will you write?

This has not been decided as yet.

Why was Chandok not summoned earlier if he turned treacherous, why no action was taken against him?

This is not the first instance, first Babbar did it and then Atma did it. Now we will confront him.

When you questioned Chandok did his body language give an impression that…

Yes, that he has pressurised Surinder Singh to change his statement.

And what about Surinder Singh?

He does not deserve to be head granthi, he has changed his statement and now he is running away. He succumbed to the pressure.

[/FONT][FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Pressure or allurements?

It is one and the same thing.

Were some recordings made in the confidential sheets?

Yes, a part of it has been done, we can only build up the moral pressure and can’t do anything legally.

When had you asked Chandok about this issue?

This was a week after Tytler had appeared before the Nanavati Commission and he talked about Surinder Singh’s changed affidavit.

This affidavit was filed on October 22, we were all surprised about it and then we asked Chandok about this.

Further, Nanavati report mentions the affidavit filed by another witness Jasbir Singh. Jasbir, who had seen Jagdish Tytler on November 3, 1984, stated, “He (Tytler) rebuked the persons forming the group that his instructions have not been faithfully carried out. His position has been greatly compromised and lowered in the eyes of Central leaders. There has been only nominal killings in his constituency compared to East Delhi, Outer Delhi, Cantt etc. How he would be able to stake claims in future? I had promised large scale killing of Sikhs and sought full protection but you have betrayed and let me down and he left in a huff.”

Tehelka investigations revealed that Jasbir Singh was threatened and his family is living incognito and in constant fear. Speaking to Tehelka, Jasbir’s mother-in-law Gurdeep Kaur stated that he went abroad (USA) because of the constant threats. Jasbir had confided in her about being waylaid by some people near Peeragarhi. Anticipating danger, she pleaded not to disclose the whereabouts of Jasbir’s wife and son. Jasbir’s wife remained mum throughout and was very protective of her son.

Gurdeep Kaur added that she was offered a bag full of notes to change her statement but she refused. More than 50 persons of her clan were killed during the carnage. She had testified against councillor Dr Ashok and some supporters of HKL Bhagat.