Ground Zero: Judicial probe into all killings must for closure of Punjab’s dark chapter


Akal takhat

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, April 6: The sentencing of 47 cops in the heinous killing of 11 innocent Sikh pilgrims in Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh on the night of July 12, 1991 has once again brought under focus the need for the closure of macabre chapter relating to militancy period in Punjab during which thousands of people became target of senseless violence from both the sides- militants as well as the security forces.

It has been a long wait for the families of these eleven persons from Punjab who accompanied the victims on that unforgettable bus journey and thus they knew that they had been targeted for just being the Sikhs. They were dragged down their bus in which they were travelling to pay their shrines in UP, taken away in three groups and then shot in cold blood. The official version given out at that time was that 10 militants had been killed in different encounters with security forces. The body of eleventh person was never traced. It was only when Supreme Court was approached that the probe was handed over to the CBI. However, it has taken years for the court to pronounce the verdict that is life term. Ten of the accused have died over the years.

These killings reflect the functioning of the security forces in the conflict zones. UP was not a conflict zone as such but the Punjab militants used to take shelter with some Sikh families settled in the Terai area  and this provided  the excuse to the policemen to gun down innocent pilgrims and take credit for killing terrorists. The Akali Dal has betrayed the victims of violence.

The Akali Dal has never pursued the cases of  cold blooded killings by the security forces after coming into power. The militants targeted innocents, both Hindus and Sikhs. It was a vicious circle. Going by the official figures, more Sikhs became victims of  militant violence  than the Hindus but when attempting closure, there has to be broader view of the situation rather than such parameters.

More than 90 per cent of the militants were gunned down and towards the last phase, the harassed people themselves came forward to provide the much needed information to the security forces.

Badal must order high level judicial probe into the entire period beginning 1978 as such a probe can’t be selective. It is a fact that more Sikhs were killed by the militants but there is one very significant difference as the Hindus were targeted as a group beginning with the gunning down of six Hindu bus passengers near Dhilwan on the night of October 5, 1983 that led to the dismissal of the Congress government in the state headed by Darbara Singh. The situation kept on worsening year after year.

Not that just ordinary people became the victims of this bloody politics of violence. All the main players were hit with Indira Gandhi on the one extreme and Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale on the other. Operation Bluestar, the army attack on the Golden Temple complex, was an avoidable blunder that boomeranged on Indira Gandhi. There were forces that added fuel to the fire. Badal just can’t go on blaming the discriminatory policies of the Congress. The truth must come out. There are skeletons in the Akali Dal cupboard too.

Such an inquiry can be time bound as otherwise, it might take years. People of Punjab and Haryana have simply forgotten about the Eradi Commission that was set up to adjudicate upon the apportionment of river waters as part of the Punjab accord signed in 1985.

It may be mentioned that Badal had given the logic in 1998 against such an inquiry saying it might open old wounds. However, it is to the contrary. Such an inquiry might heal old wounds but it might make certain startling exposures that might not suit the ruling elite.

However, in the election year, this calculated risk is worth taking for which Badal should manifest some boldness that otherwise he has never displayed. Politics of opportunism is opposite of political boldness.


Jagtar Singh


[email protected]

Related Editorials