The Justice Zora Singh Commission of Inquiry has held the police firing at Behbal Kalan as “absolutely unwarranted”. Two people were killed when violent protests erupted in Faridkot district over the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in October last year.
The commission has also blamed Sikh preachers for the October 14 clash of protesters with the police at Kotkapura in which 40 cops were injured.
Sources said the 51-page report attempted to ascertain who was behind the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib. Avoiding a remark on the ticklish issue, the report quotes witnesses saying: “there was a general perception amongst the public that the sacrilege incidents took place at the instance of big people.” The report doesn’t touch the sensitive issue as to who these “big people” could be.
Also, the inquiry panel has held that the investigators didn’t “investigate into the sensitive matter” of June 1, 2015, theft of Guru Granth Sahib from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village gurdwara in Faridkot district and subsequent sacrilege incidents.
The panel was tasked to inquire into three incidents —Sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in Faridkot, police-public clash at Kotkapura and police firing in Behbal Kalan — that killed two protesters.
BEHBAL KALAN EPISODE
“The upshot, therefore, is that the police firing killing two people (Gurjeet Singh and Krishan Bhagwan Singh) and injuring six was absolutely unwarranted,” the commission said.
The victims were killed “in sitting position”. “...what impelled the police official(s) to fire at them, and that too, from a close range, is beyond comprehension. More so, when the victims were defenceless and unarmed,” the report says, recommending action as per law against the erring officials who fired gunshots.
“Not only the officials who fired the gunshots but also Charanjit Singh Sharma, then Moga senior superintendent of police (SSP) who was indubitably leading/commanding the entire police force... also deserves to be dealt with in accordance with law,” the report says.
Police told the commission that the protesters were armed with swords, sticks, spears, stones and guns and became violent when asked to disperse. “Even the police claim of firing teargas shells is rendered doubtful by its own record,” the report says, referring to forensic report that bullet that hit one of the victims was of 7.62mm — a rifle bullet.
“There is no gainsaying that rifles were only with the police and not with any of the protesters... it stands established on the record that as a result of the police firing, two persons died and six persons received injuries,” the inquiry has held.
Whether the police firing was in self-defence, the commission said: “Answer to this is to be found in the negative in view of the evidence on record.”
Recommending the investigators to identify the erring officials who caused bullet injuries and killed two protesters, the commission has directed to “investigate” into the “complicity of the SSP” in the perpetration of the crime. “If the evidence to be collected so warrants, include his (SSP) name in the chargesheet,” the report says.
In what is now known as the Bargari sacrilege incident that took place in the wee hours of October 12, 2015, some “angs” (torn pages) of Guru Granth Sahib were found strewn in the street near Gurdwara Pathshahi Daswin in Bargari village.
Various Sikh organisations started visiting the sacrilege spot and brought the “torn angs” reverentially to Kotkapura Chowk. Having placed the “torn angs” in a palanquin and anguished over desecration of Guru Granth Sahib and the police failure to nab the culprits, the protesters led by Sikh religious preachers, including Panthpreet Singh Khalsa and Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale held a protest at Kotkapura (Battian Wala Chowk) on October 12, 2015 and blocked the way leading to various towns, says the report.
The protest was called off after officially machinery intervened. But the protesters again started the dharna on October 13.
The report says: “On the intervening night of October 13 and 14, an understanding was reached between the protesters and the police/civil administration that they will call off the stir in case police arrest them. Thereafter, the police started taking protesters into custody. When police were in the process of making arrests, a misunderstanding developed. Some protesters refused to court arrest, saying arrests were not in accordance with law.”
The 15-odd Sikh preachers made “inflammatory speeches and kept on provoking” the protesters who had brought brickbats and stones in tractor-trailers, says the report. “The role of Panthpreet Singh Khalsa, a religious preacher, and that of Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale and other religious preachers, who were heading the gathering of protesters, was not appreciable. Had the preachers exhorted the gathering to keep peace when the police was in the process of making preventive detentions, the situation could have been controlled,” justice Zora Singh (retd) said in his report.
* File chargesheet against erring officials who opened fire on protesters, killing two persons and injuring others
* Investigate into the complicity of SSP Charanjit Singh Sharma in perpetration of the crime and include his name in the chargesheet if evidence so warrants
* Pay Rs 10 lakh compensation each to Ajit Singh, who was injured in police firing at Kotkapura, and Beant Singh of Behbal Kalan firing
* Rs 25 lakh compensation and regular employment to kin of Gurjeet Singh and Krishan Bhagwan Singh, who were killed in firing, within six months.
WHAT PANEL SAID
On Sacrilege: “Various Sikh organisations who were protesting against the police inaction had suspected six persons...but none of them was interrogated...not to speak of any police endeavour to take them into custody for custodial interrogation,” the report states.
On Kotkapura episode: “Had the Sikh preachers exhorted the gathering to keep peace when the police were making preventive detentions, the situation could well have been prevented from taking a violent turn.”
Behbal Kalan firing: “It stands established on record that as a result of police firing, two persons died...The police firing...was absolutely unwarranted.”