‘Secular polarisation’ in Punjab over ‘The Butcher of Punjab KPS Gill’
Chandigarh, January 12: When a hard core RSS leader and a Congress MP in Punjab take the same position on an issue, it certainly can be termed as ‘secular polarisation’.
With ‘The Butcher of Punjab KPS Gill’ having been released by Golden Temple Granthi Giani Jagtar Singh at Akal Takht, this phenomenon has resurfaced. The book focusses on the role of police in the state under Gill’s command who had the ‘democratic mandate’ to unleash repression to ‘restore peace and normalcy’ in the turbulent Punjab after the Congress was facilitated into power with Beant Singh as the chief minister as a result of poll boycott by the mainstream Akalis forced by the militant organisations.
The two leaders who have strongly reacted to the this well-researched book by Sarabjit Singh Ghuman happen to be former BJP minster Laxmi Kanta Chawla and Ravneet Singh Bittu, Congress MP from Ludhiana who is grandson of Beant Singh.
Ghuman has substantiated the title with content, even though only a few pages have been devoted to this aspect.
The book has cited specific cases of people-men, women and children, who became victim of police torture. The author detailed visits to several such families whose members were arrested and killed. Many of them just disappeared without a trace. The list is long.
The Supreme Court ordered probe by CBI into the cases of involuntary disappearances in January 1995. This was mainly on the report of human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra who too became victim of this repressive policy. The result was shocking, although all this was known in Punjab. The probe admitted 2097 such cases of cremation of unidentified bodies just in the cremation grounds of Durgiana Mandir, Amritsar, Patti and Tarn Taran. Finally, compensation was ordered in 1513 identified cases.
According to one report on such disappearances, 8257 persons disappeared in Punjab during the period 1980-1995.
The ambit of the Supreme Court probe should have been widened.
Many of the officers who were part of that team that ‘restored normalcy’ were suitably accommodated under the Akali Dal governments headed by Parkash Singh Badal.
The book demolishes the perception that those who joined the militant movement were young men mainly from lower middle class families and were semi-literate.
The chapter ‘Who are Militants?’ provide interesting details.
It is claimed that about 80 per cent of them from well-off families. The list is long.
That list includes Major General Shabeg Singh (retd), Bhai Amrik Singh, Manmohan Singh Babbar, Labh Singh, Talwinder Singh Parmar, Manbir Singh Chaheru, Kanwarjit Singh Sultanwind, Gurbachan Singh Manochahal, Harjinder Singh Jindia, Sukhdev Singh Sukha, Beant Singh, Satwant Singh, Kehar Singh, Dilawar Singh, Jagtar Singh Hawara, Gurjant Singh Budhsinggwala, Sital Singh Mattewal and so on.
Then those who were well-educated and the list includes Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar (Lecturer in Guru Nanak Engineering College, Ludhiana), Dharambir Singh Kamoke, doctorate in economics, Dr Gurpreet Singh Virk, Dr Pritam Singh Sekhon, Daljit Singh, Ranjit Singh Kukki, Dr Gurnam Singh Butter and the like.
When Union Home Minister in 2018 expresses apprehensions of revival of turbulence, that raises question mark over repeated claims of peace having been restored.
That the book has been released by Head Granthi of Golden Temple is important in itself. This amounts to providing legitimacy to this view point.
KPS Gill was a national hero who was finally convicted in the case of molestation of a woman IAS officer.
He was hero for one section but butcher for those who suffered inhuman indignities and torture at the hands of the police during that period. Killing in fake encounters is a different chapter.
This is why probe must be ordered into the situation in Punjab from 1980 to 1985.
Badal backtracked from this promise to order probe in 1997 after forming the government but made the commitment again in 2014 Lok Sabha election manifesto that too was forgotten.
In case the decision against ordering probe in 1997 was a well-considered decision as has been stated by the party on the record, then why was the issue raked up in 2014 manifesto?
This book provides some basic data.