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Friday, September 17, 2021

36 years after Sikh riots, probe team picks evidence from locked Kanpur house

Set up by the Yogi Adityanath government, the SIT probe is the first-ever investigation in Uttar Pradesh into the violence against Sikhs in 1984. Kanpur had seen the worst rioting after Delhi, with 127 killed.

Written by Manish Sahu | Lucknow |
Updated: August 13, 2021 7:37:00 am
As per the SIT probe, on November 1, 1984, a mob had forced its way into Tej Singh's house and caught hold of him and Satpal, as other family members hid themselves. After killing the two, they had robbed the house. (Representational)

More than three decades after the anti-Sikh riots swept Kanpur in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) unlocked a house in the city to collect evidence, including human remains, Tuesday.

Businessman Tej Pratap Singh, 45, and son Satpal Singh, 22, were killed in the house in Govind Nagar area on November 1, 1984, and their bodies burnt. The family members who survived moved first to a refugee camp, and then Punjab and Delhi, selling off the house. The new owners never entered the two rooms where the killings took place, and the SIT found them virtually untouched.

Set up by the Yogi Adityanath government, the SIT probe is the first-ever investigation in Uttar Pradesh into the violence against Sikhs in 1984. Kanpur had seen the worst rioting after Delhi, with 127 killed.

With Tej Singh’s wife, and another son and daughter-in-law leaving Kanpur, an FIR had been lodged in the case by a Sub-Inspector against unidentified persons, under IPC Sections 396 (dacoity with murder), 436 (mischief with intent to destroy house, etc) and 201 (destruction of evidence).

The SIT entered Tej Singh’s former house with forensic experts on Tuesday, in the presence of an eyewitness to the incident who lives in the same area. Superintendent of Police and SIT member Balendu Bhushan told The Indian Express that officials of the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) had determined that the samples collected were human remains.

“Since the crime scene was not disturbed, we called an FSL team. It has been established that murders took place at the spot,” Bhushan said.

The new occupants reportedly kept to the first floor, keeping the rooms on the ground floor associated with the killings locked, not even entering them for cleaning.

On Wednesday, the SIT also got the statement of Tej Singh’s surviving son Charanjeet Singh, now 61, recorded before a magistrate. Charanjeet lives in Delhi with his wife and family. Tej Singh’s wife died a couple of years ago.

As per the SIT probe, on November 1, 1984, a mob had forced its way into Tej Singh’s house and caught hold of him and Satpal, as other family members hid themselves. After killing the two, they had robbed the house.

Bhushan said, “Charanjeet witnessed the incident from where he was hiding. In his statement, he told the names of the people involved in the murders.”

Earlier, in January this year, the SIT had collected blood samples and evidence of arson from a house in Naubasta area of Kanpur, where Sardul Singh and his relative Gurudayal Singh had been killed and set ablaze. In this case too, the family had moved away, leaving the house locked as it was.

Sardul’s family told the SIT that after the riots started, his brother Purushotam had tried to shift all the family members to neighbouring houses. But the rioters had arrived when Sardul and Gurudayal were trying to flee. Purushotam had lodged a case against eight people, but the accused were released after the local police filed a closure report, citing lack of evidence.

The Adityanath government had tasked the SIT with re-examining 1,251 cases filed following the riots. It had shortlisted 40 for further investigation. Of these 40, the Kanpur Police had filed a chargesheet in 11 and closure report in the rest.

Among the 11 chargesheeted cases, the SIT has sought permission from the state government to file an appeal against the judgment of lower courts in five cases. The matter is pending with the government.

Of the 29 cases where closure reports were filed by police, the SIT is reinvestigating 19. It could not probe the remaining as it could not find any evidence in them. Sources said that in nine of the cases, the complainants and witnesses refused to come forward.

In 11 of these 29 cases, sources said, the SIT investigation has reached an advanced stage, and legal opinion has been sought for further action.

As part of its investigations, SIT teams travelled to states such as Haryana, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh to meet witnesses and record their statements.

The SIT is also trying to trace the 135 Kanpur residents who had filed affidavits before the Ranganath Mishra Commission, set up in 1986 by the Rajiv Gandhi government to probe the anti-Sikh riots. Charanjeet was among those who filed an affidavit before the panel, naming the people involved in the killing of his father and brother.

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