The recent decision of the seven-member committee constituted under Patiala divisional commissioner AS Pannu towards the cancellation of the red cards of 125 riot victims in Ludhiana, majority of whom were untraceable or did not have the requisite documents, has resulted in protests by a group of claimants.
Surjit Singh, the president of 1984 Sikh Katl-E-Aam Welfare Society (earlier referred to as Danga Peedit Welfare Society), claiming to have fought for the rights of riot victims, stated that five widows of the riot victims will sit on fast unto death outside the deputy commissioner's office from August 10.
It is noteworthy that monetary compensation followed by other benefits in housing and commercial booths for the red card holders (the victims of 1984 Sikh riots) has been a bone of contention between various groups claiming to have fought for the rights of victims for years. The district administration despite having conducted extensive scrutiny of the documents of the claimants has been at the receiving end as one victim or the other approaches the court claiming to be a "bonafide allottee" of the flats and booths.
In September 2013, a group of riot victims had filed a writ in Punjab and Haryana high court, Chandigarh, against illegal possession of some flats and issuance of red cards to fake claimants. As a result, the court had asked the government to constitute a committee and complete verification by September 2014. But the government failed to do so, thus the petitioners filed contempt against the government. In April 2015, the high court called the commissioner in person and gave another three months to complete the process.
The "verification" was done by the committee members that had given clean chit to 400 out of 525 applicants. The claimants who were rejected by the committee either did not exist or did not have the requisite proof, mandatory for issuance of red cards. It is pertinent to mention here that each riot victim was given a personal hearing and the administration had also given notices in the newspapers for the same.
The case goes back to year 2010 when some danga pidits had filed a writ against "non-allotment" of the flats with the Punjab and Haryana high court. Thereafter, Ludhiana deputy commissioner (DC) was asked to expedite the scrutiny of documents and act in accordance to their merit.
Having scrutinised the applications, DC had shortlisted 611 applications in 2010, but 20 allottees even after getting the allotment letters were unable to get the possession of the flats as they were in "illegal possession" of Surjit Singh and his group.
As a result, the 20 allottees filed a writ in Punjab and Haryana high court, Chandigarh, which gave the decision in favour of the "bonafide allotees" in July 2012.
The high court orders gave eviction orders asking the then DC Rahul Tewari and police commissioner Ishwar Singh to take the possession of 20 houses allotted to riot victims in the LIG flats in Dugri, Ludhiana.
Meanwhile, Surjit Singh, along with three others, approached Supreme Court and got a stay against high court orders for four flats.
After a long legal battle, following the orders of the Supreme Court five out of six occupants were provided with alternative houses by the district administration. Whereas one petitioner was declared ineligible, hence he was not given any alternative accommodation.
The high court had asked the Punjab government to expedite the process of scrutiny in February. The government officials even had to appear in person before the court to seek time. The inquiry was completed almost a month ago followed by a decision to cancel the invalid red cards.
Harpal Singh, a riot victim, said, "The planned protests by the self-styled leaders are a result of the decision which is against the interests of the self-styled leaders of riot victims who have enjoyed the benefits in the name of victims that do not exist."