Press Council of India former chairman justice (retd) Markandey Katju on Saturday arrived at Behbal Kalan village in this district to start his independent inquiry into the October 14 police firing incident in which two Sikhs protesting against the sacrilege incidents were killed.
The former Supreme Court judge has taken up this fact-finding mission on the invitation of volunteer groups Sikhs for Human Rights, Punjab Human Rights Organisation and Lawyers for Human Rights International.
Sometimes people don’t trust the government-appointed commissions of inquiry, biased or not,” he said. Katju opened his three-day visit to the district by going to the spot where Gurjeet Singh (25) of Sarawan and Krishan Bhagwan Singh (45) of Behbal Khurd were killed in what is alleged to be unprovoked and indiscriminate firing by cops on the protesters gathered on the Behbal Kalan link road.
Former director general of police (prisons) Shashi Kant and lawyers from the Sikh organisations were with him.
Talking about his terms of reference, Katju said: “I’ll look into what provoked the police to open fire and whether they had followed the due procedure in this and the cane charge in Kotkpaura.
My inquiry will be fair, unbiased, and based on facts.” Katju refused to comment on the official inquiry commission of justice (retd) Zora Singh. “I have informed the district administration about the public meeting I am going to hold at the village gurdwara to record the statements of the villagers,” he said.
Katju’s report is supposed to be submitted to the People’s Union on Civil Liberties, which might file a public-interest petition on its basis. Katju said the findings would be made public for anybody to take any legal recourse.
‘Zora Singh free to join us’
“I am not in politics, nor do I intend to join it, so I don’t have to please anybody through the inquiry. Our only purpose is to bring forth the truth about what had happened at Behbal Kalan,” said the chairman of the “people’s commission” appointed by the volunteer bodies. Shashi Kant is the commission’s general secretary.
A copy of the inquiry report would also go to the state government, which, though, is not bound to act on it. The state government had already appointed justice Zora Singh, a retired judge of the Punjab and Haryana high court, to look into the Behbal Kalan incident along with the sacrilege incidents at Burj Jawahar Singh Wala and Bargari, reported on June 1 and October 12, respectively.
He has already been to Faridkot in December but found people, including the families of the two victim, reluctant to record their statements with him. Justice Katju denied that his findings would also be laid before the official commission, but said “justice Zora Singh is free to send us a report of his inquiry”.
Besides, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is also examining three related cases — the theft of the ‘bir’ of Guru Granth Sahib from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village on June 1; appearing of two objectionable posters at the village on November 25; and tearing and scattering pages from the Sikh holy book at Bargari on October 12, which triggered widespread protests in the region. Allegedly to shield the police officers, the government did not move the Behbal Kalan case to the CBI.
Shashi Kant said people still had questions in their minds about the police firing, as it was unprovoked, and “the government-appointed commission has done nothing, so far, to bring out the truth”.
He said they had requested the Punjab government through the chief secretary to join the “people’s commission” and would also made a similar request to Justice Zora Singh. He said that on the last day of his visit, justice Katju would also meet some families of the farmers who committed suicide. Katju said these suicides were sad and asking for urgent response.