The politics in Punjab has heated up after an SIT probing into the desecration of scriptures in 2015 has filed a chargesheet, claiming that the subsequent police firing on protesters was a “pre-planned handiwork” of the then deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, former state police chief Sumedh Singh Saini and Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
The chargesheet, filed on May 27 in a Faridkot court, has also accused six others, including former Kotkapura MLA Mantar Singh Brar, then Ludhiana IG Paramraj Umranangal, former SSP Charanjit Singh Sharma, additional DCP Paramjit Singh Pannu, DSP Baljit Singh and SHO Gurdeep Singh Pander.
The charge sheet, accessed by The Indian Express, gives a detailed insight into how several top police officials and political leaders were allegedly taking important decisions on the ground, allegedly with conspiracy in mind, a few hours before the police firing at protesters in Behbal Kalan and Kotakpura areas of Faridkot. Two persons were killed in the firing, which the SIT charge sheet, filed by IG Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, says was unprovoked.
SIT chargesheet into 2015 sacrilege: How Sukhbir Badal, Akshay Kumar and Dera Sacha Sauda came into play
Punjab politics has remained centred around the incident for last four years. The SAD-BJP combine, which was in power when the incidents took place, lost power in 2017 with the Akali Dal returning to the Vidhan Sabha with worst ever numbers. The issue had an effect on the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections too with the SAD winning only two of the 10 seats it contested.
Here’s how the team pieced together the evidence.
CCTV camera footage nails many
There were several CCTV cameras installed at Kotakpura Chowk, where police allegedly opened fire at at the Sikh protestors, who were staging a dharna against the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib on October 14, 2105.
While the SIT couldn’t secure the footage of those cameras from the local police, it did get access to some related footage of the same CCTV cameras from other sources. This footage has been used as a key point to prove the conspiracy behind whole incident. “The clipping shows, in unambiguous terms, that Paramraj Singh Umranangal, then commissioner of police, Ludhiana, was all in all at the place of occurrence at Kotkapura actively commanding the force. He was in civil dress purposely not to be identified by people sitting on dharna. He was in same attire during the press conference on the same day, which was held in the DSP office, Kotkapura. It also shows that Charanjit Sharma, the then SSP Moga, was handling AK-47. It is also evident that there was no provocation from the people sitting on dharna and the use of force on protestors by police was unprovoked and unwanted. It also reveals that Amar Singh Chahal, then DIG, was also active at the place of occurrence,” reads the charge sheet while detailing the CCTV footage.
“The investigation reveals that weapons used in police firing were intentionally kept in hiding, which was in the personal knowledge of then Moga SSP Charanjit Singh Sharma and then SHO and DSP of Kotkapura… also destroyed the CCTV footage of the place of occurrence and the list and the other details of injured person in the police station at Kotkapura Chowk… It is evident from the statement of official photographer that original video clips has been deleted during the course of investigation. Neither the DSP nor the SHO of Kotakpura could produce the same,” it further reads.
Injured named Sukhbir Badal
The SIT compiled a list of persons who were injured in the firing but were allegedly not treated at the government hospitals at first place or not given the Medico Legal Reports (MLRs), required for legal action.
The SIT also recorded statements of witnesses, who blamed then deputy chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal for violation of their legal rights at hospitals.
“It has also been revealed by the witnesses during the course of investigation that injured persons had not been given treatment and medico legal reports were not prepared by the hospitals at the instance of Sukhbir Singh Badal, the most powerful person in Punjab at that time…There are many persons who sustained serious injuries during the police action, who were not provided treatment by the police authorities under the influence of high-ups including senior police officers and politicians in power. The SIT has recorded statement of many such people who were denied treatment in government hospitals or provided minor first aid without preparing medico legal reports,” the charge sheet mentions.
The role of then Kotkapura MLA
The charge sheet states that it was established during the course of Investigation that Mantar Singh Brar had reached residence of the Divisional Commissioner of Faridkot on the intervening night of October 13 and 14, 2015 at around 2:15am.
“From here, he spoke to then Punjab CM regarding the dharna at Kotkapura Chowk. Regarding this conversation, a statement given by Vijay Kumar Syal, then SDM Faridkot, has been reproduce as under: ‘…that situation at Kotkapura was alarming and if protestors were not dispersed the numbers could swell in thousands in the morning. After the call was over he (Mantar Brar) said that the CM (Parkash Singh Badal) was going to talk to the DGP (Saini) for passing on necessary instructions’”. This statement was recorded under section 164 of CRPC.
“In this way, the name of Mantar Singh Brar came into picture. He was also known as Halka in-charge of Kotkapura. It is pertinent to mention here that Halka in-charge at that time was a destination who enjoyed command over local administration especially in matters of police Stations concerned,” reads the charge sheet.
The SIT has also produced the call details of telephonic conversation between Mantar Brar and Gagandeep Singh Brar, special principal secretary to then Punjab CM. Details of calls between Mantar Brar and Gurcharan Singh, the OSD to then CM was also brought on record.
Apart from that Mantar Brar also received three phone calls from Saini. He was also in touch with SHO, City Kotakoura and SHO, Bajakhana. All these calls were made in the intervening night of October 13 and 14.
Mantar Brar talked to Gagandeep Brar at 2:28 am on October 14 for 81 seconds. He also received two calls from Gurcharan Singh’s phone number and made three calls in return. All these calls were made between 2:53am and 3:17am.
Two minutes after the last call he made to Gurcharan Singh, Mantar Brar started received a call from Saini at 3:19 am. He received a second call at 3:22 am, which lasted for 838 seconds. Saini made the last call to Mantar Brar at 5:59am, which lasted for 537 seconds. “It is evident that he remained busy on the phone since 2am till the firing took place in the early morning of October 14. Calls of 838 and 537 seconds duration with then DGP shows that both were planning to carry forward the plan of firing and dispersing the people sitting on dharna, which he earlier planned with then CM in an illegal and unlawful manner,” the charge sheet reads.
It further states that “Mantar Brar had called or received call 157 times with various persons during the period from 5 pm on October 13 to 1pm on October 14”. “Out of these 157 calls, 102 were during the period 8 pm on October 13 to 11am the next day. It shows that he remained very much involved in the process and in touch with many persons, including officers of the rank of SHO to the DGP and then CM during the intervening night of October 13 and 14, when police action was taken early in the morning at Kotakoura on October 14, and after the firing took place at the Behbal Kalan…He was also in touch with various officers that shows his motive and conduct, as given under Section 8 of Indian Evidence Act of 1872, which connects him with the incident of police firing. The above facts and circumstances…establishe that the firing at Kotkapura Chowk was an outcome of the conspiracy between Mantar Brar, then CM and Saini”.
The transfer of ADGP intelligence
The charge sheet has also hinted at a link between the transfer of then ADGP Intelligence and the incidents of sacrilege throughout Punjab in the month of October 2015.
The SIT argues that 1985-batch IPS officer H S Dhillon was transferred from the post of ADGP Intelligence on October 10, 2015. He was replaced by DIG-rank officer RK Jaiswal with instructions that “he (Jaiswal) will report to Punjab DGP”. The SIT has contended that Jaiswal was given charge the despite there being several senior officers eligible for the post.
The SIT has also submitted a list of 15 cases of sacrilege, which were reported from October 10 till October 31 that year, in context of the transfer of the then ADGP intelligence.