Never too late for justice

By Inderjit Singh Jaijee

In a video interview recently aired, former Punjab Police inspector Gurmeet Singh Pinky dropped several ‘bombshells’. Among other things, he said that –

– the then DGP Punjab disbursed crores through a secret fund – no questions asked
– he was involved in extorting money at the behest of then Hockey Federation chief KPS Gill
– he paid Rs 50 lakh to former Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini and another senior Punjab Police officer, Aman Kumar ‘Skoda’, to be reinstated

Reacting to the interview, the media has highlighted Pinky’s claim to have paid Rs 50 lakh for reinstatement. Given the facts of “news values”, this is not surprising. Sumedh Singh Saini is not only highly placed, he is something of a celebrity. Celebrities make news and allegedly corrupt celebrities make big news. On the other hand, this particular wrong-doing involves only money. Money can always be recovered.

The allegation that has received surprisingly little attention concerns Pinky’s claim to have been personally involved in the extra-judicial killing of more than 50 persons during the era of militancy. A life snuffed out cannot be recovered.

Pinky’s confession makes us ask many questions …

Who were these 50 men: what were their names, ages, villages; exactly when were they picked up, where were they held, when were they killed. Was there any record of their arrest and detention? Who exactly ordered their death and who exactly carried it out?

These victims must surely have some living relatives. What do the families have to say? What do they know about their relative’s fate? Fifty dead men, 50 families, 50 stories. That is not only enough for a month-long series of media stories, that is enough for a whole book.

What Pinky describes is a gross affront to the rule of law. During the era he describes, magistrates were no where in the picture. Habeus corpus, rightly considered the cornerstone of the judicial process, was completely forgotten. If that was the situation once, it can become the situation again. Journalists should be seeking reactions from the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. If the High Court sits back and ignores this assault on its position, what faith can a citizen have in the court? So far, there is deafening silence from the court.

Pinky has claimed that his revelations are only the tip of the iceberg. One can certainly believe that.

People with long memories have so many questions –

Sitting MPs died in mysterious ways – think of Bimal Kaur Khalsa and Jagdev Singh Khudian. Why were their deaths never honestly and thoroughly investigated – even when High Court judges expressed strong dissatisfaction with police reports and wanted the cases probed afresh by independent agencies?

A senior Punjab Police officer, Ajit Singh Sandhu, allegedly threw himself under a train. A body was cremated but never seen by his wife. Forty-eight hours after the incident Sandhu’s wife addressed reporters and expressed her doubts about the suicide. In subsequent years, reports surfaced that Sandhu was alive and well, living under a false name abroad. Even Shashi Kant, a DG of the Punjab Police has recently said it. A thorough and honest probe would get to the bottom of this.

Over the years, many men recorded as terrorists killed by the police, have resurfaced and approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court for protection. The police collected rewards for killing these men. If these men are alive, then who were killed?

Militancy in Punjab was seen between 1984 and 1994. What is the accurate figure for the number of deaths in this ten-year period? Conflicting figures have been given by authorities. For example,

  1. Punjab DGP KPS Gill said 35,000 died and,
  2. while defending the accused officers of the Punjab Police, former Government of India Attorney General G Ramaswamy stated: “Around 55,000 civilians fell victim and 1700 police personnel.”

(Both men were quoted on the same day – Feb 27, 1997; one in The Tribune and one in the Indian Express.)
Some years later, KPS Gill downsized his death toll to 12,000.

Twenty years have passed – surely it will do no harm to disclose the truth now.

The government of Punjab is clearly indifferent to investigating Pinky’s charges. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has shrugged off the allegations by saying that Gurmeet Singh Pinky lacks credibility and his “character is under suspicion”. Dear Parkash Singh ji, some people may say the same thing about you. Justice must not be blocked on the strength of such observations.

The media claims to be society’s watchdog and committed to exposing the truth without fear or favour. Will journalists follow up Pinky’s allegations pursue this “story” from every angle?

Will the highest courts in the country demand the truth and take effective steps to get it?