Key witness testifies in Jaswant Singh Khalra case

February 23, 2005 | Comments Off on Key witness testifies in Jaswant Singh Khalra case

On February 16, the key witness in the Jaswant Singh Khalra case testified, implicating the highest police officer in Punjab at the time of the murder. Special Police Officer (SPO) Kuldeep Singh, the key witness, said that he saw former Director-General of Punjab Police KPS Gill enter the room Khalra was kept in at Manawala in Tarn Taran.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has charged six police officers with the abduction of Jaswant Singh Khalra.

In 1995, Kuldeep Singh was a gun man for Senior Superintendent of Police Ajit Singh Sandhu. Sandhu was one of the main accused in the case before he committed suicide about five years ago. While Kuldeep Singh was posted to the Jhabal police station, he was handed the keys to the room Khalra was kept in and was told to provide food to him.

He further alleged that Mr K.P.S. Gill remained in the room where Khalra was being kept for half an hour adding that during the journey back to the Jhabal police station, SHO Satnam Singh told Khalra that he would have saved himself if he had listened to the “advice” of the DGP.

During this time, DSP Jaspal Singh, his body guard Arvinder, Sarhali SHO Surinderpal Singh, Manochahal SHO Jasbir Singh, Prithipal Singh and Balwinder Singh Gora came to the police station in separate cars.

He alleged that the police officials started beating up Khalra and “I was asked to get a glass of hot water by SHO Satnam Singh’’.

The SPO said even as he was heating up the water he heard the sound of two shots and when he rushed towards the room, he was told by Satnam Singh to go where the cars were parked.

Subsequently Balwinder Singh Gora reversed the Maruti van in which he had come and he and Arvinder took hold of Khalra’s legs and arms to dump him into the boot of the vehicle. “I saw blood oozing out of Khalra’s chest,” he claimed. Kuldeep said while he sat in SHO Satnam Singh’s vehicle the two other cars containing the same police officials moved ahead.

At around 10 pm the cavalcade reached Harike where Arvinder and Balwinder Singh Gora took out Khalra’s body and threw it into a canal, he alleged.

Telling a gory tale of brutality, the SPO alleged that all cars proceeded to the Harike guest house after the act where other police officials, including Mr Ajit Singh Sandhu, were present.

Kuldeep Singh said that he decided to report the murder three years after it happened when he heard a human rights activist give a speech about Khalra in 1997.

Asked further during an interview as to why he had remained quiet for so long after the alleged act, he replied forthrightly, “I kept quiet because I was mortally afraid of Ajit Singh Sandhu (then SSP) and only decided to speak up after he committed suicide”.

“Trying to speak the truth has been the most difficult decision of my life”, says Kuldeep. “After I deposed before the CBI in 1998, the accused police officials met me and claimed the CBI officials who had recorded my deposition had already apologised to K. P. S. Gill for the same. This, as well as a false case registered against another witness in the case, shook me and I gave a statement that Khalra’s widow had paid a witness’’. The star witness maintains that only when he was able to get CRPF security did he pick up the courage to speak the truth.

Kuldeep Singh added that on February 13, his father-in-law was picked up by the Adampur police from Jalandhar and pressured to tell him not to name KPS Gill in his deposition. When he approached the Jalandhar police, they denied pressuring his father-in-law.

On February 21, Khalra’s wife, Paramjit Kaur, asked the CBI to summon KPS Gill for his connection to “encouraging custodial deaths and fake encounters.”

“The CBI should make up for the lapse it had earlier committed by omitting Gill’s name from the chargesheet and should move the court for summoning him in the Khalra case,” Ms Paramjit Kaur asserted.

Addressing a press conference this morning, his wife said “between January 23 and till date at least three crucial eyewitnesses have shed their fear and told the court how Jaswant Singh was abducted, detained in a police station, done to death and the body thrown into a canal without last rites ….”

She added: “Burial with honour is accorded even to an enemy soldier, but was not granted to Jaswant Singh Khalra in his own country though he was exposing the cremation of about 25,000 bodies by policemen in the cremation grounds of Amritsar and Tarn Taran.”


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