A day after a court in Amritsar ordered compensation for 40 Sikhs who were detained “illegally” by the Army and Punjab Police from the Golden Temple complex during Operation Blue Star, others who had given up on the long legal battle are once again hopeful of getting justice.
While 365 prisoners were detained “illegally”, only 40 had appealed against a 2011 order rejecting the claim for compensation.
SAD spokesperson and two-time former MLA from Khemkaran, Virsa Singh Valtoha, who was among the 365 prisoners, said he had lost hope and decided not to appeal against the 2011 decision of a lower court in Amritsar. “I am surprised and happy over the decision of Amritsar Sessions Court in which the 2011 decision has been reversed and the court has told Union government and the state to provide Rs 4 lakh compensation to 40 Sikhs who had shown patience to appeal against the decision of lower court..I was advised to go for appeal, but I had no hope of winning this case,” he said.
Valtoha, who says he was arrested from Guru Ramdas inn and kept at temporary jail Kendri Vidyalaya in Amritsar Cantonment till June 17, 1984, added: “I am happy for those who contested and won the case. Now this decision has given us hope of getting justice. I will make effort to again to put up our case for justice and compensation along with others who had (earlier) decided not to contest the case…”
Lawyer B S Sailka, who represented the 40 Sikhs who appealed against the 2011 judgment, said, “There were total 365 prisoners kept in Jodhpur jail till 1989. More than 100 Sikhs had filed the case in 1991. Some of them died and others could not wait for so long. So only 71 Sikhs were contesting case in 2011 when we got defeated from lower court. Only 40 came forward for making appeal.”
Former Sikh Student Federation leader and now Congress MLA from Patti Harminder Singh Gill was also among the Jodhpur jail Sikh prisoners.
Speaking about the decision, Gill said, “I welcome this decision. I have already talked to punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh about this judgment during his visit to Tarn Taran last Sunday. I requested him not appeal against this judgment. I have also asked him to give this compensation to all the 365 prisoners who remained in Jodhpur jail. CM agreed with me in principle and assured me that he will discuss the matter with the Advocate General.”
The state government, meanwhile, is waiting to receive the court order to decide the next course of action. An aide of CM Amarinder Singh told The Indian Express, “We have not received the copy of the order yet. We will take a call on it as and when it reaches us.”
Talking about the case and his days under detention, Valtoha said: “I was office secretary of Sikh Student Federation at that time….We were sent to jodhpur jail in a flight. We faced physical and mental torture… Every agency of the government interrogated as using all their tools. We never thought that we will get out alive from that jail…compensation is small. But at least this has been come on record that our human rights were violated.”
Maintaining that the verdict was a relief to all, Gill added: “I had not filed a case. Many others had not go to court. But this judgement is relief to all. All should be given the compensation announced by the court.”