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1986 Saka Nakodar Case: Long-awaited justice as Punjab & Haryana HC orders the formation of SIT

The HC order instructing the Punjab Government to investigate the missing report of the Justice Gurnam Sing Commission Report, bringing relief to the families of the four killed in unlawful police firing over three decades ago

Sabrangindia 24 Sep 2022

1986 Saka Nakodar Case

After 36 years, the families of the four young men who were killed by police in the Nakodar neighborhood of Punjab will experience deliverance of substantive justice. On September 22, the Punjab and Haryana high court sent a notice to the Punjab government instructing them to form a special investigation team (SIT) to look into the "missing" portion of the Justice Gurnam Singh Commission Report in an effort to ensure justice and the truth for the relatives of those killed in the Nakodar police firing of 1986, known in Punjabi as "Saka Nakodar."

On February 4, 1986, four Sikh men who were taking part in a peaceful religious march and protest in Nakodar, Punjab, were shot and fatally wounded by Indian security forces. The family have painstakingly battled for justice and the truth to hold the offenders accountable for 36 years.

Two days before, on February 2, 1984, the physical copies of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikhs' holy book), were discovered to have been desecrated by miscreants at Gurdwara Arjan Sahib, Mohalla Guru Nanak Pura, Nakodar, Jalandhar. Several hundred people, including Ravinder Singh, Baldhir Singh Multani, Jhilman Singh, and Harminder Singh, had gathered in Nakodar, Punjab, to protest the desecration of Sahib Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and to gather the burned remains for disposal in accordance with Sikh religious customs. This led to one of the worst cases of extra-judicial killings.

Security personnel started firing on the parade without following standard operating procedure (SOP). In the first exchange of gunfire, security officers killed Jhilman Singh, Baldhir Singh, and Ravinder Singh. They pursued Harminder Singh, pulled him from his hiding place, and shot him at close range. As reported by the Wire, among the four fatalities, Baldhir and Jhilman were shot together in a cow shed while Ravinder Singh was killed instantly. On the night of February 4 and 5, Harminder passed away after being fatally shot in the mouth. Harminder was transported to Jalandhar Civil Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The remains of the young men at the Civil Hospital were identified by Baldev Singh, the father of Ravinder Singh. Security personnel stopped the family from claiming the remains when they went to the hospital to get them and discreetly burned them instead. On February 4–5, 1986, the post-mortem of the four young people was performed defying all convention.

As had been reported by the Times of India, Baldev said that he was there at the civil hospital. “I saw the four and blessed all of them on their heads and even performed ardaas. But police then hurriedly took them away to a cremation ground even before 8am on February 5, and when I reached the cremation ground their common fire was already burning. The mindset of the civil and police officials came out not only at that time but later a SP said in the presence of political leaders and SSP Alam and IG GIS Bhullar that they had not what ever they were to do. On this late Ajit Singh Kohar, who was then a local Akali leader, publicly slapped the SP for his obnoxious comment,” he had said.[1]

Additionally, he said that Harminder was shot dead after being captured from a saw mill because he had managed to flee police fire. He said he was ‘murdered’ while being in custody.

Local politicians and community leaders joined Baldev Singh in a civil disobedience demonstration in front of the Nakodar Police Station to protest the wrongful executions and covert cremations. On February 13, the Punjab government decided to form a commission of investigation investigate the shootings in response to the protest.

While Parkash Singh Badal was the chief minister, the first portion of the investigation report was presented to the Punjab Assembly on March 5, 2001, however the second portion of the report was never presented. What was reportedly missing from the Punjab government's possession was the second part of the Commission report dated October 31, 1986, which comprised major evidence, exhibit files, sworn testimonies of police officials, administrative authorities, and witnesses, among other things.

Izhar Alam was the SSP in charge of Jalandhar at the time of the disaster, while Darbara Singh, an additional deputy commissioner, served as the acting district magistrate. Alam passed away in June 2021, and at the time of his passing, Nisara F. Khatoon was a Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA for the Malerkotla assembly district.

The families obtained Part 1 of the investigation report in 2019, more than three decades later and only after persistent agitation, which revealed that the bullets were purposefully targeted into the important body portions of the four people killed, while the command that effective firing should be on the lower half of the body was utterly disregarded. On February 4, 1986, Nakodar was the target of police shooting that was both unnecessary and preventable.

A petition regarding the missing second part of the Commission report was then filed by Baldev Singh in 2021. In the aforementioned petition, Justice Namit Kumar served notice on the respondents—the state government and others—and requested the formation of a SIT to locate the report's missing portion. Finally, justice, though delayed, but wasn’t denied.

The families have sought a number of redress options, including petitioning the Punjab & Haryana High Court, making requests under the right to information legislation, and registering a complaint with the UN Human Rights Council. With the exception of Ravinder Singh's parents, all of the victims' parents have passed away during the subsequent 36 years while waiting for justice. Baldev Singh, currently based in the US, hailing from the Litran village in the Jalandhar district, has been fighting the issue on his own and attended the court hearing in Punjab.

As reported by the Wire, Baldev Singh said that he felt a sense of relief when he got to know about the court’s order. “I didn’t attend the court proceedings on Thursday. However, the moment I got to know about the court’s order from advocate H.C. Arora, I could not control my tears and thanked the almighty,” he said.

The Wire further reported that when the verdict came, Baldev Singh, choking on his emotions, said, “All these years, I was being victimised for no fault of mine. It has been a long and a lonely war, an ordeal, in which I faced many hindrances. There were people who did wrong to me but I never lost hope in the almighty. My prayers have borne fruit. Only my heart knows how difficult this journey has been but at least there is some positive development. I am waiting for the day when I will get justice. My faith in the judiciary has been rekindled, and I am hopeful that the AAP government will play its part positively,” he added.

On an emotional note, Harinder Singh, son of Baldev Singh, said that it was important that this case got closure. “My father has been fighting a lone battle for 36 years. The guilty should be punished so that they can leave this world peacefully. My parents have endured a lot in these 36 years,” he added as reported by the Wire.

The order of the Punjab and Haryana Court was as follows:

 

1986 Saka Nakodar Case: Long-awaited justice as Punjab & Haryana HC orders the formation of SIT

The HC order instructing the Punjab Government to investigate the missing report of the Justice Gurnam Sing Commission Report, bringing relief to the families of the four killed in unlawful police firing over three decades ago

1986 Saka Nakodar Case

After 36 years, the families of the four young men who were killed by police in the Nakodar neighborhood of Punjab will experience deliverance of substantive justice. On September 22, the Punjab and Haryana high court sent a notice to the Punjab government instructing them to form a special investigation team (SIT) to look into the "missing" portion of the Justice Gurnam Singh Commission Report in an effort to ensure justice and the truth for the relatives of those killed in the Nakodar police firing of 1986, known in Punjabi as "Saka Nakodar."

On February 4, 1986, four Sikh men who were taking part in a peaceful religious march and protest in Nakodar, Punjab, were shot and fatally wounded by Indian security forces. The family have painstakingly battled for justice and the truth to hold the offenders accountable for 36 years.

Two days before, on February 2, 1984, the physical copies of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikhs' holy book), were discovered to have been desecrated by miscreants at Gurdwara Arjan Sahib, Mohalla Guru Nanak Pura, Nakodar, Jalandhar. Several hundred people, including Ravinder Singh, Baldhir Singh Multani, Jhilman Singh, and Harminder Singh, had gathered in Nakodar, Punjab, to protest the desecration of Sahib Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and to gather the burned remains for disposal in accordance with Sikh religious customs. This led to one of the worst cases of extra-judicial killings.

Security personnel started firing on the parade without following standard operating procedure (SOP). In the first exchange of gunfire, security officers killed Jhilman Singh, Baldhir Singh, and Ravinder Singh. They pursued Harminder Singh, pulled him from his hiding place, and shot him at close range. As reported by the Wire, among the four fatalities, Baldhir and Jhilman were shot together in a cow shed while Ravinder Singh was killed instantly. On the night of February 4 and 5, Harminder passed away after being fatally shot in the mouth. Harminder was transported to Jalandhar Civil Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The remains of the young men at the Civil Hospital were identified by Baldev Singh, the father of Ravinder Singh. Security personnel stopped the family from claiming the remains when they went to the hospital to get them and discreetly burned them instead. On February 4–5, 1986, the post-mortem of the four young people was performed defying all convention.

As had been reported by the Times of India, Baldev said that he was there at the civil hospital. “I saw the four and blessed all of them on their heads and even performed ardaas. But police then hurriedly took them away to a cremation ground even before 8am on February 5, and when I reached the cremation ground their common fire was already burning. The mindset of the civil and police officials came out not only at that time but later a SP said in the presence of political leaders and SSP Alam and IG GIS Bhullar that they had not what ever they were to do. On this late Ajit Singh Kohar, who was then a local Akali leader, publicly slapped the SP for his obnoxious comment,” he had said.[1]

Additionally, he said that Harminder was shot dead after being captured from a saw mill because he had managed to flee police fire. He said he was ‘murdered’ while being in custody.

Local politicians and community leaders joined Baldev Singh in a civil disobedience demonstration in front of the Nakodar Police Station to protest the wrongful executions and covert cremations. On February 13, the Punjab government decided to form a commission of investigation investigate the shootings in response to the protest.

While Parkash Singh Badal was the chief minister, the first portion of the investigation report was presented to the Punjab Assembly on March 5, 2001, however the second portion of the report was never presented. What was reportedly missing from the Punjab government's possession was the second part of the Commission report dated October 31, 1986, which comprised major evidence, exhibit files, sworn testimonies of police officials, administrative authorities, and witnesses, among other things.

Izhar Alam was the SSP in charge of Jalandhar at the time of the disaster, while Darbara Singh, an additional deputy commissioner, served as the acting district magistrate. Alam passed away in June 2021, and at the time of his passing, Nisara F. Khatoon was a Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA for the Malerkotla assembly district.

The families obtained Part 1 of the investigation report in 2019, more than three decades later and only after persistent agitation, which revealed that the bullets were purposefully targeted into the important body portions of the four people killed, while the command that effective firing should be on the lower half of the body was utterly disregarded. On February 4, 1986, Nakodar was the target of police shooting that was both unnecessary and preventable.

A petition regarding the missing second part of the Commission report was then filed by Baldev Singh in 2021. In the aforementioned petition, Justice Namit Kumar served notice on the respondents—the state government and others—and requested the formation of a SIT to locate the report's missing portion. Finally, justice, though delayed, but wasn’t denied.

The families have sought a number of redress options, including petitioning the Punjab & Haryana High Court, making requests under the right to information legislation, and registering a complaint with the UN Human Rights Council. With the exception of Ravinder Singh's parents, all of the victims' parents have passed away during the subsequent 36 years while waiting for justice. Baldev Singh, currently based in the US, hailing from the Litran village in the Jalandhar district, has been fighting the issue on his own and attended the court hearing in Punjab.

As reported by the Wire, Baldev Singh said that he felt a sense of relief when he got to know about the court’s order. “I didn’t attend the court proceedings on Thursday. However, the moment I got to know about the court’s order from advocate H.C. Arora, I could not control my tears and thanked the almighty,” he said.

The Wire further reported that when the verdict came, Baldev Singh, choking on his emotions, said, “All these years, I was being victimised for no fault of mine. It has been a long and a lonely war, an ordeal, in which I faced many hindrances. There were people who did wrong to me but I never lost hope in the almighty. My prayers have borne fruit. Only my heart knows how difficult this journey has been but at least there is some positive development. I am waiting for the day when I will get justice. My faith in the judiciary has been rekindled, and I am hopeful that the AAP government will play its part positively,” he added.

On an emotional note, Harinder Singh, son of Baldev Singh, said that it was important that this case got closure. “My father has been fighting a lone battle for 36 years. The guilty should be punished so that they can leave this world peacefully. My parents have endured a lot in these 36 years,” he added as reported by the Wire.

The order of the Punjab and Haryana Court was as follows:

 

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