Indian Army and Police Terrorism
Date: 08 Jun 2008
Indian Army and Police Terrorism
The following excerpt are taken from “Oppression in Punjab: Report to the Nation” published in 1986 by a team investigating the situation of Punjab and its people. The report shows how innocent Sikhs including women and children were oppressed, tortured, dishonored and killed in the name of “national unity”.
WOMEN: COURAGE IN THE FACE OF HUMILIATION AND DEATH
"My world is lying in shambles all around me." J. P. had written while languishing in the loneliness of his prison. We understood the truth of these moving words when we met the women in the Punjab villages. J. P.'s word was the whole of India which he had loved and lived for, a woman's world is her home, her husband, her children, her land, her cattle and the golden corn. It is a small world which she loves and lives for, and that world today is laying in shambles all around her. Lonely, overworked, harassed daily by the Army and the police, dishonored, beaten up for not being able to produce the men who have been missing - they came to meet us out in the open regardless of the fear of the police, woman after woman told us what they have been facing since the army action.
Fifty-year-old Swaran Kaur, wife of the ex-MLA Harbans Singh Ghuman of Ghumankala village has her house raided 45 times by the army, BSF and the police; every time they come they destroy everything furniture, beads, they mix up different types of cereals with rice; they have taken away her tractor and driven away her servants. They come anytime, enter her bedroom, pull out sleeping children, clutch her at her throat, make her stand in the sun for hours - a high blood pressure patient not withstanding - till she faints. Of her four sons, two are in the Jodhpur Jail, one of them the youngest, a student, had gone to the Golden Temple on the 3rd to keep a vow in connection with some college test, the other had gone there to spend a night till the shops reopened and he could buy something (farmer implements, tools) for his farm. The 3rd son was pounced upon and literally lifted up and taken to CIA staff, Batala from the bus stand where, coming from the doctor, who was treating his child for polio, he was waiting with his wife and the sick child. He has undergone inhuman torture. Swaran Kaur's 4th son who we interviewed has been living away from home because of police harassment. This is not telling you about the boys - it is about their suffering mother. Why are the young men - hundreds of them - find citizens of India not being allowed to live in peace and contribute to the progress of Punjab - is a very relevant question we should all try to answer. They are neither terrorist, nor extremist - but terrible torture inside the jail and the fear of torture if they are caught increasing their indignation which will justify violent action.
Gurdip Kaur who had come out of the police clutches only tow days earlier has not met her husband Manohar Singh a young agriculturist of village Harchowal since October '84, this is what she told us; "My husband is an Amritdhari, so the police and the Army have troubled him a lot. Terrorized by the police, he might have run away. I do not know where, or he may have been killed by the police or by the Army. I have no information about him. The police are troubling me. For the first time on 26 November 84 the ASI of P.S. Sri Hargovindpur pulled me out of my house and pushed me into his van. They kept slapping my face and punched with their fist, they took me to the police station. They abused me in the filthiest language which I fell ashamed to repeat. There was no woman police there and the policeman started interrogating me themselves. I was detained at P.S. Sri Hargovindpur for five days, from November 26 to December 1, 1984 and then at the Ghuman Police Chowki from 1st December to 6th December. I was let off only after giving Rs. 1800 to SHO Amar Singh.
"Since then, I am taken to the police station and kept there for 10 days every month. In all I have been detained seven times. Only yesterday on May 3, I was kept in the P.S. for 12 hours and dishonored. When I was detained in police custody in November - December 1984, they destroyed the little crop that we had grown. The Bhayas I had employed were beaten and driven away!"
Gurdip Kaur's relatives who came to help her were rounded up; her old father, sister-in-law and her husband, her brother, and ever her brother's old mother-in-law were all dragged to the thana, and tortured. It was only after they could collect Rs. 3000 and give it to Amar Singh, SHO, of Sri Hargovindpur, they were released.
"Even now the women fold among my relatives are often taken to the police station and slapped, pushed around and abused. The SHO himself does the interrogation. There are no women police. It is extremely fanfold for us that the policemen themselves should question us. The police lawlessness that prevails here must be brought under check."
Gurcharam Kaur (40) of village Damodar, Vice President of Istri Akali Dal Distric Committee (Fatehgarh Churian) said, "I have not been able to till my 5 acre farm as I have been harassed by the minion of Santokh Singh Randhawa, till the other day Punjab-Congress I President. As soon as the land is ploughed and seed sown, these gangsters come and destroy everything. We have complained to the police and even bribed them but to no avail. During the Army action, I was arrested on the grounds that I had failed in my duty to inform the authorities about the huge catch of sophisticated arms and ammunitions stored in the complex, because I was a frequent visitor to the Guru Nanak Niwas."
There was young Satwant Kaur, wife of Ranjit Singh again from Harchowal village, and agriculturist. She said, "My husband and I are both Amritdharis; my husband was arrested and tortured, he must have been killed which may be why I have not seen him since his arrest. I myself was arrested on November 26 by the SHO of Sri Hargovindpur, badly beaten up and abused and kept for five days in the thana and then sent to Ghuman Chowk, where the SHO himself conducted the enquiries. I was released since I was innocent and nothing was found against me. The SHO takes me to the thana every month and detains me there for five - ten days and I am dishonored. Only God knows what they do to me there. My tractor was taken away and kept at the police station from June 84 till December 84; my brothers had to pay Rs. 4000 to Amar Singh, the SHO of Sri Hargovindpur to get my tractor released.
The only request of this poor woman is that "the dishonor to which I am constantly subject to must be forthwith stopped and the SHO Amar Singh transferred."
The list is endless - so is misery and so is fortitude and magnificent pride - excepting once or twice when the memory hurts beyond human endurance - there were no tears! Tears will fall only in the enveloping solitude where none can see. These are the women of Punjab.
ATROCITIES ON CHILDREN
A 12-year-old boy, Kalu, son of Harbans Singh of Village Agwan (P.S. Dera Baba Nanak) had been taken away at night to the dredged Interrogation Centre at Amritsar four days earlier. 'None knew what had happened to him,' his uncle Darshan Singh told us. In Kala Nangal, two boys had become mental wrecks after having been in Military custody.
The story of the children is the story of our shame. So gross and insensitive the political parties have become that not one of the 11 members of Parliament representing 10 political parties visiting Amritsar on August 1, 1984 felt like taking any action, when they were informed that 25 children between 4 and 12 had been detained in the Ludhiana jail under section 107/262 having been rounded up from the Golden Temple in the early July. It was Smt. Kamal Devi Chattopadhyaya - old and very sick - who moved in the matter and discovered the shocking fact some of the detained children were blind and there were in the jail several women and old men. Obviously, they had been found too dangerous by the Army to be allowed to remain outside. She moved to the Supreme Court with a writ petition. Supreme Court ordered the authorities to release "all children kept under detention in various jails and children's homes in the Stat of Punjab" immediately.
The orders however were not carried out - minors continued to remain in jails and being questioned the jail Superintendent, Patiala, admitted that there were many children still inside his jail also. The story of ghastly torture of young boys as well as of other arrested people has been released full by Justice P.S. Cheema, Vigilance Judge, Sessions Division, Patiala, during his visit to Ladha Kothi (Sangrur Distt.) jail. Since violations of the rule of law is now the rule and the Armed Forces (Punjab and Chandigarh) Special Powers Act has made the Army supreme, Major Das picked up six children who were taking their examination in the Jaffarwal village School in September. They were taken to the Military Camp at Tibri and tortured there. He came back to the village again and raided houses of 5 other boys - 3 of them were arrested and tortured for 7 days. There was no FIR, no charge sheet, the only proof that the army had taken them and tortured them was the signs of the torture themselves; young Charan Singh who was a fine runner with ambition to represent his school in Punjab's Running Competition has become lame, he said, "I told them break my arm but don't twist my leg, they did not listen."
The Army tortured people only because they were religious Sikhs; 65-year-old Swaran Singh, was the Sarpanch of Jaffarwal village; young Puran Singh, a technician of Gurdaspur, a highly respect farmer young Amrik Singh of Aulakh village and many others had to undergo the most sadistic, cruel and bestial torture.
Young Puran Singh's, who was tortured so inhumanly by the Army and the Police, case is worth mentioning that it ought to be taken up by the Amnesty International.
Puran Singh became an Amritdhari in 1977 and had no interest whatsoever in politics, but little did he know that because his motha, a Panchayat member did not help a Cong-I man to be elected as Sarpanch and who eventually got elected, it would make him suffer such inhuman torture.
"Being told that I was busy with my prayer, they took my younger brother and made it clear that he would get released only after I presented myself at the police station. Next morning I went to P.S. Dhariwal from where I was taken to P.S. Gurdaspur where I was kept for 6-7 days and tortured. I was made to lie on my face. A thick log was placed from above on the back of my thighs and the legs were pressed upwards. It caused a lot of muscular pain. Sometimes, I would be forced to stand for long hours with knees bent to the extreme and hands raised upwards, till I felt exhausted and became unconscious. When I came to, they would give me a little water and again continue this torture till I fell unconscious. The third method was to make me sit on the ground , my hands tied at my back, one person would stand behind me with his knees to my back so that would be firmly fixed to the ground and then two other would stretch my legs apart to the very maximum. The pain at the groin was excruciating. Sometimes they would beat the soles of my feet with sticks. While torturing me they would repeatedly ask, "What is your relationship with Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale?" What is you relationship with the Federation (AISSF)? And how many times have you crossed the border?"
"There was no record of my detention. After a week or so, I was released. I was again arrested in July at night and taken to P.S. Dhariwal and mercilessly beaten with leather straps. They made me stand with hands ties and raised high while two persons would pull my legs apart, until I fell unconscious. This time also there was no charge and no record was kept. I was released after 4-5 days.
"I was again taken to P.S. Dhariwal in August and interrogated about people who had absconded, some of who I know. I was again tortured by the same methods but with a little less intensity and was released after five days.
"My agony was not over. On September 10, 1984, as I was coming home from duty I was taken at 11 p.m. at Kanuan (Electricity Substation) and this time by the Army. My eyes were blindfolded and my hands were tied behind my back. I was put inside a military vehicle and vulgar and abusive words were showered at me. The asked, "How many Hindus have you killed", "In how many actions have you been active?"
"I was taken to an unknown destination and there I was hit on my chest and abdomen, and I was not allowed to sleep. I would be kicked whenever I would fall asleep. On September 16, 1894 the army handed me over to the Dhariwal police where I remained till 7th October when I was produced before the magistrate with a charge-sheet that I was shouting slogan of "Khalistan Zindabad u/s 124 A. I was given police remand up to 25th October. On 19th October I was shifted to Ladha Kothi in Sangrur Distt, one of the worst torture chambers. I was again produced before the Migistrate on 26th October, when the remand was extended up 1st November.
"In 'Ladha Kothi' I would hear cries. The same question would be asked of us again and again and we would be told to say something. Not knowing what to say, we would be confused and then we would be tortured separately. A rod would be pressed behind one's neck and hands tied high up and then the body would be bent. Another method applied was a log tied behinds one's back and passed between the arms and hinds ties up and then the legs being stretched to the maximum till one became unconscious. One day I was hung from the ceiling, my legs dangling in the air.
"I was sent to Gurdaspur Jail on November 1st and was there up to December 7th when I was release on bail. I was acquitted in February 1985 as no evidence could be produced by the prosecution.
I was suspended from service in September 1984 when I was picked up by the Army but I have been reinstated on 24th March 1985."
IMAGE OF THE ARMY
One of the painful things which we have to report is that today in Punjab’s rural area which have given their sons to the Indian Army with such pride and love - the image of that Army lies shattered. The inhuman atrocities they have committed on innocent people - shot down little boys because they had black turbans, denied drinking water when prisoners were dying of thirst in the June heat so that they were ready to drink their own urine- the communal overtone in the brutal treatment that have administered to the Amritdaris, the way they have looted valuable and made money and of course their wanton destruction of the Golden Temple and shooting down of the common pilgrims inside the various Gurdwaras of Punjab have earned them the man of an 'Occupation Army' in the countryside of Punjab, and this name is going to stick.
Yet, to be fair the Army is only carrying out orders. If they have tortured people in their various Camps, they had the green signal from the Central Government. India is the only county which did not sign the new UN convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as punishment. The rulers who say that they believe in democracy, secularism, freedom of worship, social justice and human rights have themselves enacted black laws and have let loose unabashed State terrorism which has been unleashed specially on the Sikhs - because they are Sikhs.
The glaring discrimination show at the Navel Center against the Apprentice Rajinder Singh (20) son of Mohinder Singh of village Ladha Kunda at Jamnagar Navy Training Centre ought to be taken not of by authorities in the Naval Headquarters. The unceremonious way he was discharged, the closing down of the Gurdware preventing him for taking part in the Guru Nanak's birthday festival show how communal our entire set up is in our defense forces. It is a dangerous portent and one must beware of it.
During the Curfew in June according to Advocate Bhagowaila the Hindus were allowed to go out but not the Sikhs, and in the encounters it is always the Sikh youth who is killed, because either he is a smuggler or a terrorist - obviously there is no Hindu smuggler in Punjab these days nor one Hindu who believes in violence.
In the past 2 years the enactment of new laws in quick succession: (i) the Punjab Disturbed Area Ace, the Chandigarh Disturbed Areas Act, (ii) The Armed Forces (Punjab and Chandigarh) Special Powers Act, (iii) The code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment Act) (iv) The Terrorist Affected Areas (Special Courts) Act - besides the National Security Act (2nd Amendment) - each remaining one of the South Africa's repressive laws - was meant to bring Punjab to her knees, not merely 'to subdue' her but 'to vanquish' her a word much used by Mrs. Ghandi during Emergency while referring to the Opposition leader who were accused of attempting to disintegrate the country as the Akali Sikhs are alleged to be doing today.
The police who in any case are not known for their adherence to law - have now become immeasurably more arbitrary, more cruel because of the sanction provided by the black laws. The have devised a distinct pattern of behavior: (i) repeated arrests, (ii) repeated raids on a particular household, (iii) repeated torture of one particular person, (iv) repeated harassment of relative, (v) terrorizing of women and children often molestation of women, (vi) demanding of huge sums of money for agreeing to release innocent people, (vii) planting of arms to show encounters and then killing young men, (viii) active participation with Cong-I leaders, (ix) preventing the crops being harvested.
Mahinder Kaur (50), the widowed mother of Mukhvinder Singh (24-25) of village Barriar, P.S. Distt. Gurdaspur, said her son never returned home after the Army action - she does not know if he is dead or alive, but the police have raided her house countless times, often twice a week. The crops have not been allowed to be harvested. So acute is harassment by all the Security forces - the police, Army and the CRP - that "We had to leave our house, it remained locked between July-December 1984". Their economic condition is pitiable. Balkar Singh (45) of village Khujala P.S. Sri Hargovindpur, surrendered himself to the police in October - an agriculturist owning 8-9 acres of land, for 20 day he was tortured in P.S. Qadin and continuously interrogated on whether he was associated with 'extremists', whether he had supplied them arms etc. After 20 days he was released to be again arrested after one month and again illegally detained without any record of arrest, any charge sheet and without production before the Court of Magistrate. For 10 days he was again tortured and interrogated and then released. Once again he was arrested on 27th April 1985. Again there was no FIR, no charge sheet but the case of rifle - snatching by two extremist from the Home Guards near village Panchgarina P.S. Qadin was hoisted on him and another young man Kulwant Singh who was working on his farm with the thresher when he was taken away, and for 40 hours nobody knew what had happened to them. They were continuously tortured and interrogated and not allowed any food or water during this time. On May 4, a day previous to our meeting Balkar Singh they were released. His rice crop has been destroyed, he has six children and the economic hardship he is facing is considerable.
In Khajera village at least in 10 families arrests have been made - 6 men are still in jail but without FIR or production before the Court. "For every 1 member of a family missing or detained members of 20 other families would be harassed and troubled in ever conceivable way and their crops would be destroyed", said Sukhdev Singh, a villager. He added "repression is counter - productive, repression of an Amritdhari - does not reduce their number, rather fresh recruits have multiplied". "When the attack takes place, then the sprit is kindled."
For the release of Amarjit Kaur, wife of Joginder Singh, a graduate and an Amritdhari Granthi of Darbar Sahib of Village Manepur, P.S. Kalanaur, - missing since the Army Action - Amarjit Kaur's father has paid Rs 1400 on one occasion. She has been taken to the P.S. and illegally detained four times - ten days each time. Every time the police want money. Now they are harassing Joginder Singh's sister's husbands - Prem Singh of village Ahawan P.S. Kalanaur; Bibi Bir Kaur, mother of Amarjit Kaur said - "this harassment must stop." Even the fodder for the cattle is destroyed.
Family after family has to pay never less than Rs. 1000 to keep the arrest a by. "But how many of us can pay so much money all the time?" They said.
From one family - in Qadian village, 21 people were arrested and interrogated together at Amritsar. They were being harassed for not producing Ajit Singh, son of Hardial Singh - he was arrested, tortured, then released, then again arrested again tortured, again released- this has gone on at least 10 time since May 1984 when Ajit
Singh had left home saying he was going to drive trucks. There was no news of him - when in July '84 the police came and demanded that he must be produced. 'The story of the police was that he had crossed over to Pakistan and we know his whereabouts' said Ajit Singh's mother - "We are a poor family having only 2 acres of land and we have 10 children, we work for big landlords as share-croppers, my husband has been so badly tortured that he cannot work."
During our stay we read in the news papers that Ajit Singh who was actually driving a truck in Gwalior had been arrested. One realizes the enormity of oppression that has been going on mere suspicion - and without any check.
KEEP UP THE SPIRIT
In spite of the prevailing sadness and tenseness the spirit of the people is being kept up through songs and poems. Even though Guru Nanak's songs are forbidden as Tagore's had been during the emergency. The irrepressible Surinder Singh Ragi (Patna Sahib walla), the head ragi of Darbar Sahib with a golden voice said, "I speak out through the songs of Guru Nanak". He was under house arrest from June 10 - June 18 and then kept inside the Golden Temple for two and half months. "We were ordered to sing Gurbani in order to tell the world that all was well and everything was normal. On August 4 the Government warned him that he must not sing Guru Nanak's Shabad. "I did not stop singing it only reduce the number of lines. There is a warrant against me under section 124-A Sedition, but Government has not arrested me yet though it has banned my songs." The allegory which is clear to a Punjabi speaking person cannot be brought out English translation - so we are giving both the original as well at the English rendering of a couple of stanzas of the songs of the Ragi:
Kutta Raj Behaliye Phir Chakki Chatte
Sappey Dudh Pilaiye Mukh Thi Satte
Pathar Paani Rakhiye Man Hatth na Chatte
Chooa Chandan parhare khar kheh Palatte
Teaun Mindak par Nindeaun Hatth Mool no Hatte
Aspan Haathi Aapn Jarh Aap as Patte
A dog even if crowned would per his habit still lick the flour mill.
A snake, even if fed with milk, would still spout venom
A stone kept immersed in water would still have a dry inner portion.
A donkey, even if smeared with 'chandan' would still roll in dust.
Whatever happens, a backbiter would not change his/her habits
(Accordingly, a backbiter would uproot and destroy oneself).
Kal Kaati Raaje Kasai
Dharam Paankh kar Oodoreya
Koorh Amavas sach Chandrama
Deesay Naahi Kay Chharhaya
The time was the sword, the king were butchers
The righteousness had taken wings and flown away
There was darkness of untruth all around the Moon of Truth was enveloped.
There was a time when the National All India Congress had rushed a fact-finding committee headed by Jawaharlal Nehru to Nabha, where hundreds of Akalis protesting the arbitrary taking over the Sikh State of Nabha by the British Administrator had been thrown into jail and tortured. Later when the Sikhs sent a thousand strong jatha many of them were killed and several of them wounded. Gidiwani, a member of the team was also arrested with the Akalis and inside kept the Nabha Jail till he was on the verge of death. There was wide appreciation of Sikhs for their spirit of sacrifice, religious fervor and passionate love for their faith. Gandhi ji had sent a telegram congratulating them after they won the Battle of the Key to the Golden Temple's Toshakhana.
Things began to change- attitude hardened after independence of India but today in 1985, 1923 looms to dim that almost it almost feel like other times in other climes.
Yet there are the same people, the same patriotic citizens of India who today as in those days would, without complaint, while being tortured die reciting the name of their Gurus. These are those who were killed in Jallianwall Bagh - 799 of them compared to 501 non-Sikhs.
What has been lost sight of is that to a Sikh, be he a religious on atheist or an agnostic - a Gurdwara is not just a building of mortar and cement, of marble and stone, it stands for his living Guru who sustains him in his hours of trial. By desecrating that place of worship which could have been avoided that symbol of strength and solace has been desecrated.
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8 JUNE 2008