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"K.P.S. Gill, You Have Questions to Answer"
A review of Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab by Ram Narayan Kumar with Amrik Singh, Ashok Agrwaal and Jaskaran Kaur.
By KHUSHWANT SINGH
The Tribune, Jun. 1, 2003
"At the time when Khalistan militancy was at its height, I visited Amritsar, Mehta Chowk (headquarters of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale), Tarn Taran and several surrounding villages. I also interviewed a few young Sikhs who had deserted militant groups and surrendered. Despite my strong disapproval of Operation Bluestar and the repressive methods adopted by our army and police, I regarded Bhindranwale as an evil genius who had misled a gullible section of the Sikh community along a separatist path and the demand for Khalistan as suicidal for the Khalsa Panth [Sikh community]."
"I supported K.P.S. Gill for resorting to extra-judicial methods to stamp out terrorism. The judiciary was in a state of collapse and magistrates too terrified to refuse applications for bail put by terrorists. The administration was paralysed and people gave in to extortion and violence perpetrated by gangs. If the police caught those with criminal records or those who admitted to murdering innocent people, instead of taking them to court, the police eliminated them. It was jungle justice but it had an element of justification behind it. But even in this savage war of attrition, we expected the police to discriminate between criminals and others who were proving a nuisance to them."
"When stories came out about abductions and cold-blooded killings of over 2,000 young Sikhs in Amritsar and Tarn Taran, I refused to accept them simply on records of purchases of wood made by the police to cremate them. Then came the case of Jaswant Singh Khalra, a human rights activist who was picked from his house on Sep. 6, 1995, within sight of a few witnesses; he was later seen in police custody by others. He was executed by the police on Oct. 28 and his body dumped in a canal. Khalra belonged to a well-known family with a record of involvement in the freedom movement. He had committed no crime. There were others like him who were disposed of because the police did not like them. All this has been brought out in Volume I of Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab by Ram Narayan Kumar, Amrik Singh, Ashok Agarwaal and Jaskaran Kaur. It is spine-chilling."
"Asked for his comments, Gill, who claims credit for putting down the insurgency, dismissed it with one word: 'Rubbish.' Well, Mr Gill, it is not rubbish; you and the Punjab police have quite a few awkward questions to answer. The case is with the National Human Rights Commission. You can clear yourself before it. I often wonder why so many senior police officers drink so hard. Now I have a clue."
Committee for Information and Initiative on Punjab
They Did What C.B.I. Could Not, By A.J. PHILIP, The Tribune, Jun. 1, 2003