On November 1, 1984, a mob had gathered near the Raj Nagar Gurdwara, shouting slogans such as ‘Indira Gandhi amar rahe’ and ‘In Sardaron ko maaro, inhone hamari maa ko mara hai’. They took Nirmal Singh with them, and tried to burn him — succeeding only in their third attempt.
Nirpreet Kaur, who was 16 at the time, testified to how the mob caught hold of her father, Nirmal, and burnt him, and how police were complicit. On Monday, the High Court said the accused were brought to justice only because of the courage and perseverance of Nirpreet and two other eyewitnesses, Jagsher Singh and Jagdish Kaur. The court further said: “There was an abject failure by the police to investigate the violence.”
Nirpreet deposed in court that Congress leaders Balwan Khokar and Mahender Yadav, both convicts, left with Nirmal on a scooter after police told them to reach a compromise. Nirpreet ran after them.
“There, the mob doused him in kerosene oil but they were unable to find match sticks to set him on fire. At this time, one of the police personnel present there allegedly shouted at the mob: ‘Doob maro, tumse ek Sardar bhi nahin jalta’. He then gave a matchbox to accused 6 (Krishan Khokar), who set fire to Nirmal Singh,” read the section on the prosecution’s case in Monday’s judgment.
Nirpreet’s testimony went on to say how once the mob moved along, her father jumped in a drain nearby. But the mob noticed he was still alive and returned. Captain Bhagmal, another accused and a retired Naval officer tied him to a telephone pole and he was again set on fire, Nirpreet told the court. Nirmal again managed to jump into the drain but was noticed.
Khokar, Nirpreet said, beat him with a rod and Yadav sprinkled phosphorus on him, causing burns. He finally died. The gurdwara was burnt down.
Murders at Shiv Mandir Marg, Jagdish Kaur’s testimony
Kaur’s testimony in court implicated the police directly. While the defence tried to paint her as an unreliable witness, the High Court on Monday said she “comes across as a fearless and truthful witness… Nothing in her deposition points to either untruthfulness or unreliability”.
She told the court that on November 1, 1984, around 1.30 pm, an armed mob entered her house and pounced on her son Gurpreet Singh. The mob dragged her husband Kehar Singh, “effectively crushing his head, till he dropped dead”. Her injured son, she said, ran down the street before he was attacked again and set on fire. She also identified Khokar as one of the perpetrators.
She said that she went to a nearby police post, where the assistant sub-inspector present said, “Bhag yahan se, abhi to aur marenge, jab sab mar jaenge jo kuch hoga. (Go away. More will die. Only when all of them are dead will something happen)”.
It was on her way to the police post that she said she heard Sajjan Kumar say at a public meeting: “Sikh ek nahin bachna chahiye, jo Hindu bhai unko sharan deta hai, uska ghar bhi jala do aur unko bhi maaro (No Sikh should be spared, kill the Hindus who give shelter to Sikhs and burn their houses).”
On the same day, she said, she saw a mob armed with lathis beat and burn her cousin Narender Pal Singh, and two other cousins being attacked and taken away by the mob.