A few hours after Supreme Court acquitted Punjab’s Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder in the 1988 road rage case, an eerie silence prevailed at the house of the victim, Gurnam Singh, in his native Ghalori village.
Residents said they were sad for the victim, who was 65 years of age then, but happy that the “minister, who was working hard, was given a chance to help Punjab.”
The iron gates of the house of Narvedinder Singh Suyach, the village sarpanch and the only surviving son of Gurnam Singh, remained locked from inside throughout the day with door-bells not answered. A servant, found asleep inside a shelter meant for security guards, woke up and said nobody was at home and neither was anyone expected back soon. “I do not know when they will come back,” said the servant.
No member of Suyach family, known as Ghalori wale Sardar because they own huge tracts of land in the neighbourhood villages, was available for comment.
Earlier, in a statement to media, Narvedinder Singh had stated that his family had been struggling for the last 30 years and was hopeful the apex court would deliver justice. A Congress leader, considered close to the family, said they were disappointed and would not like to speak.
While a few village residents said they were unaware of the pronouncement of apex court’s decision and did not want to comment, several others said they were delighted that Sidhu was not sent to jail.
“I am not aware of any such development. Also, I do not want to comment,” said 65-year-old Harnek Singh, a member of gram panchayat. “I just know they have been fighting the case for many years.”
However, another resident, Des Raj, was more forthcoming. “Thank God Sidhu was acquitted. He is a minister and doing good work. We are sad for Gurnam Singh. But he cannot be brought back to life now,” he said.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Mohan Lal, a 30-year-old working with a private firm. “Sidhu is the doing good work. What would have anyone achieved if he was sent to jail? Thank God he is not convicted,” he said.
Mukhtiar Singh, another resident, said the Sarpanch’s family was feared so much in the village that nobody dared enter their fields. “We remember the incident when Gurnam Singh was killed. We are aware of the fight. But Sidhu had not wanted to kill him. Patialvis (residents of Patiala) do not kill in rage. It just happened. Sidhu was a player that time. He was a tall and young man. He just hit the man and he died,” said Mukhtiar.