Amritsar cable operator’s suicide: Wife narrates the story of ruin

  • Harkirat Singh, Hindustan Times, Amritsar
  • Updated: Apr 02, 2015 08:41 IST

'Baba Deep Singhji insaaf karenge',the 36-year old Balbir Kaur muttered softly as she folded her hands and looked towards the large sized photograph of Shaheed Baba Deep Singhji, the legendary Sikh warrior Shaheed Baba Deep Singh, who attained martyrdom while defending Harmandar Sahib.

Having just lost her husband, cable operator Jaswinder Singh Jassi in a very tragic manner, Balbir Kaur is quite well aware of the power and influence that people like Sarabjit Singh Raju and Pritpal Singh Lalli wield. Gazing at the photograph of Baba Deep Singhji hanging on a wall in the front room of her three room home in the narrow lane of Gali Punjab Singh, in the vicinity of the Golden Temple, she is well aware that the two accused of driving Jassi to commit suicide are well connected in the corridors of power and that they will go to any extent to ensure that the family of the deceased does not get justice.

However she is determined to ensure justice for her deceased husband and her two children. She admonishes those who come to her and in whispers suggest that the family should 'compromise' as they will not be able to 'fight' people like Raju, who are well connected politically.

" Baba Deep Singhji will ensure justice for us", she says to friends and relatives who have been pouring into their home to express their sympathies with the family.

Cable business ruined

It all started in 1990-91 when the cable network system became a reality in the country. Raju and Lalli, who were both close friends, joined hands to launch 'Raju-Lalli Cable Services' in the congested areas around the Baba Sahib Chowk of the Golden Temple and Gurdwara Shaheeda.

In the narrow-congested lanes, the number of customers were numerous and almost every home or shop had a cable connection. Homes and shops that were converted to guest houses or hotels further added to the earnings of cable operators.

"Things began to change in 2003, when my husband became a witness in the Siti Cable Sex Scandal case. Lalli began harassing my husband and often told him not to dispose off against Raju if he cared for his family", stated Balbir Kaur.

It was then that Lalli backed by Raju began to 'snatch' the cable business from Jassi. As the signal provider was Siti Cables, Lalli stood to benefit due to the influence of Raju.

" Lalli on his own decided to split the area in which our network was operating. First Lalli took control of 70 percent of the area, leaving the remaining for my husband. Gradually my husband's area of operation was further reduced and currently his source of income was limited to just one narrow lane", she said.

Lalli, whose wife Jaswinder Kaur is a Shiromani Akali dal (SAD) councilor, even brought in another cable network channel in Jassi's area of operation. Jassi lost a large number of customers, when this new channel slashed the monthly rent (for proving services) to customers to Rs 100 as compared to Jassi's rent of Rs 280, the mutually agreed upon rent with Siti Cables.

"What was worse was that my husband was threatened and was forced to share half the operational cost with Lalli. This ruined us as we had very few customers but were forced to pay half the operational costs", stated Balbir Kaur.

Poor financial condition

That the family is not economically well off can be clearly seen from the dilapidated condition of the house. Looking at the condition of the walls and the walls one gets the impression that it has been ages since these have been painted.

Cracks have appeared on one of the walls and at one place, additional support has been given to the roof to prevent it from caving-in. The wet spots on the roof suggest that due to the rains water has seeped into the roofing.

The poor economic condition of the family can be gauged from the fact that last year when Balbir Kaur suffered an attack of paralysis, her husband, Jassi had no money to get her treated. So he demolished the top three floors of the house and sold of the debris to pay for his wife's medical treatment.

"Raju and Lalli first ruined us economically and then took my husband's life. I demand that the two be arrested immediately and the government should stop providing support to them" she claimed.

Present status of Sex Scandal case

In August 2013, Raju and 17 others were acquitted by the CBI Court of Patiala on the bases of the statements given by three girls, whose names figured as witnesses in the case.

PHRO Chairman, Ajit Singh Bains has challenged this acquittal order of the CBI court in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The order has been challenged on the grounds that several pother witnesses had given statements against the accused in the court.

The pHRO has also sought prosecution of the three girls on the grounds that they had given false statements and that too under oath.

However the CBI Court is still hearing the second part of this case----that is related to charges of extortion and fraud having been committed by Raju and others. The final order of the CBI court in this case has been stayed by the High Court due to the case filed by Bains challenging the acquittal in the sex scam

Sex scandal case

It was a car that Jassi had purchased from Raju in 2003 that led to his link-up with the sex scandal case. Though the widow of the deceased is not quite aware of this but a number of cable operators are aware of this. The car in question was seized by the CBI during investigations in the sex scandal case. The reason was because Raju and company used this very car to ferry call girls to customers in this 'sex for favour scam' .

Jassi agreed to become a witness and give details about the purpose for which this vehicle was used prior to it being sold to him. Another reason that led to his being a witness alongwith other operators was that the CBI during investigations came upon an extortion racket that Raju ran in Amritsar. Every cable operator in the city was forced to dish out an extra amount every month and those who did not pay had their cable connections switched off. This the CBI viewed as extortion money which was used to pay off the call girls.

So fed up were the cable operators of this extortion racket that a number of them came forward to dispose off against Raju. Justice Ajit Singh Bains, Chairman, Punjab Humar Rights Organisation in a letter to the CBI Director in 2009, noted, " when the accused persons were in jail, all the witnesses gave correct statements. But turned hostile when the accused were released on bail" .

Raju accepted he had gunmen, Amritsar police still unaware

While the Amritsar police commissioner Jatinder Singh Aulakh has said he is unaware of any security given to Sarabjit Singh Raju, the prime accused in the case related to the suicide of local cable operator Jaswinder Singh Jassi has already accepted it more than a year ago.

Raju acknowledged in an FIR (first-information report) in 2014 what police have been denying for the past few days since Jassi ended his life over harassment by the cable TV cartel. In that report registered in an attempt-to-murder case on Raju’s complaint on February 4, 2014, at the A Division police station here, he has specified that his gunmen, constables Sher Singh and Amarjit Kumar, were around him with their government-issued AK-47 rifles when the attempt on his life was made.

He says in the FIR that Sher Singh fired in the air to save his life. The ignorance feigned by the police puts a question mark on their seriousness. Leave alone give the media the gunmen’s names, the Amritsar police are yet to confirm if Raju even has them or not.

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