From Behbal Kalan and other villages of Faridkot district, 32 witnesses on Friday deposed before Justice (retd) Zora Singh Commission of inquiry into the death of two Sikh youths in police firing during an anti-sacrilege protest last year.
The witnesses included seven protesters who had sustained bullet injuries on October 14, 2015, and many even named specific police officers from different stations. Their affidavits mention Moga senior superintendent of police (SSP) Charanjit Sharma (suspended after the incident); superintendent of police (SP) Harjit Singh Pannu; SP Bikramjit Singh; deputy superintendent of police Jagdish Bishnoi; Bajakhana station house officer (SHO) Amarjit Singh Kular; and Jaito SHO Dalbir Singh. The presence of these officers on the scene is established already in the first-information report (FIR) lodged against the protesters on October 14.
The name of the-then Moga SSP, Charanjit Sharma, figures in another FIR related to the two deaths, which was lodged a week after the incident — on October 25, 2015. With same affidavits, some of these 32 witnesses had appeared before Justice Zora Singh in an open hearing and also before an independent commission of inquiry led by Justice (retd) Markandey Katju, formerly of the Supreme Court.
The witnesses accuse police of opening fire on the “unarmed protesters” from 15 to 20 feet on October 14. The Moga SSP had kicked some of the women protesters on the link road, a few metres from the Kotkapura-Bathinda highway, they alleged. Protester Angrez Singh, who had taken a bullet in the arm, said Faridkot police had threatened them not to go before the commission. Villagers say cops burnt own vehicles, besides their tractor-trailers and bikes, while retreating after two deaths in police firing.
Zora Singh Commission had last month visited Faridkot and Moga, asking the witnesses to come to Chandigarh with their affidavits. Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had formed the commission on October 16 last year and given it two months to complete investigation, but it began functioning only in December after a term extension of two months. Another extension is in the waiting.
Preachers still to file replies
The commission awaits replies from the main leaders of the Kotkapura and Bargadi protests, to whom it has sent many reminders.
They include Takht Keshgarh Sahib former jathedar Giani Kewal Singh; and religious preachers Panthpreet Singh; Amrik Singh Ajnala; Ranjit Singh Dharianwala, Sarabjit Singh Dhunda, Rajinder Singh Majhi, Avtar Singh Sadhawala, Satnam Singh Chandarr, Daler Singh Kheri, Sujeet Singh Khosa, Sukhwinder Singh, Gurpreet Singh Dhadrian, and Gursewak Singh Ramgarh Bhunder.
“We will take coercive steps, if these witnesses fail to turn up despite the notices sent to them,” justice (retd) Zora Singh told HT. “The principle of natural justice demands that none should be condemned unheard, so we want to prepare our report after collecting information from all concerned,” he said.
Confronted, Giani Kewal Singh said he was drafting his reply and would send it to the commission on Monday. For the delay, he blamed him Dubai trip for some days and “hectic preaching schedule” later. Panthpreet Singh and Ranjit Singh Dharianwala could not be reached, on telephone, even thought members of their families promised to pass on the message.