Extrajudicial execution on February 4, 1986
Male, age 26
Abduction preceding extrajudicial execution
Yes, February 04, 1986
Place of abduction
Security officials informed witnesses about destination
Security officials uniformed
Victim presented before judge/magistrate
Additional data forthcoming
Location of killing
Body disposal by security forces
Cremated the body
Municipal cremation ground
Condition of corpse
Forces involved in abduction
Officials involved in abduction
Jaskirat Singh Chahal, Station House Officer, Punjab Police, Nakodar
Forces involved in extrajudicial execution
Officials involved in extrajudicial execution
Security officials approached
Legal remedies pursued
Impact on family
Family member(s) was mentally disturbed
Genuine encounters in family
Co-victims of abduction
Co-victims of extrajudicial execution
Twenty-six year old Harminder Singh was a student from Chalopur, Hoshiarpur. He was the Jalandhar Unit convenor of the All India Sikh Students Federation.
On February 2, 1986, unidentified individuals burned five saroops of the Sikh scripture Sri Guru Granth Sahib at Guru Arjan Sahib Gurdwara in Nakodar city. On February 4, 1986, local Sikhs joined a procession to collect the remains of the burned saroops from the Gurdwara, so they could be taken to Sri Goindwal Sahib for proper treatment as per Sikh religious practice. Eyewitnesses report that the Punjab Police, along with officials from the Central Reserve Police Force and Border Security Force, opened fire on the procession, without warning.
The Punjab Police attack on the procession killed four Sikh men. Eyewitnesses report that Ravinder Singh was the first person killed. Next, the security forces killed Baldhir Singh and Jhilman Singh. Harminder Singh had taken shelter inside a saw mill. According to an eyewitness, the police opened fire on the saw mill and specifically called Harminder Singh by name to come outside. When he responded, Station House Officer (SHO) Jaskirat Singh Chahal, led by Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Swaran Singh [Ghotna] then shot Harminder Singh in the mouth, presuming him dead.
Security forces collected all four bodies in a truck and took them to the Civil Hospital in Nakodar for post mortem. After discovering that Harminder Singh was still alive, the Punjab Police led by Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Swaran Singh [Ghotna] forcibly took custody of Harminder Singh. They later killed him near Lambra and took his body to the Civil Hospital in Jalandhar, which transferred his body to the Civil Hospital in Nakodar.
One of the doctors at the Civil Hospital of Nakodar was a friend of Ravinder Singh's father Baldev Singh, and informed the victim's father about the killing and the presence of the body at the Civil Hospital. After persistent efforts, Baldev Singh was shown the dead body of his son on February 5, 1986, in Room No. 26 of the Civil Hospital in Nakodar. Baldev Singh saw all four bodies of the victims. They all had bullet wounds and bloodied clothes.
The police told Baldev Singh the families would be allowed to claim the bodies. While the families brought vehicles to claim the bodies, Superintendent of Police (Detective) Surjit Singh and Inspector Harinder Pal Singh Kang confiscated the bodies and illegally cremated them in a municipal cremation ground in Nakodar.
Despite Baldev Singh's viewing the bodies and identifying his son's body, the police recorded the victims as unidentified and unclaimed when they illegally cremated the bodies. Ravinder Singh's father Baldev Singh initiated a sit-in protest in front of Nakodar Police Station and was joined by political and community leaders. They ended their civil disobedience action after the Punjab government promised to constitute a time-bound Commission of Judicial Inquiry.
The Justice Gurnam Singh Commission of Inquiry submitted its report to the Punjab government on October 31, 1986. The government failed to place and discuss the report, along with the attendant Action Taken Report, in the state assembly within six months of submission. Only after consistent media reporting and advocacy by members of the Punjab Assembly, did the family receive a copy of Part I of the report in early 2019, 33 years after the killings. Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker Rana Kanwar Singh disclosed in the February 13, 2019 session that the report was placed in the state assembly on March 5, 2001, but it was the last item on the agenda. The report was never discussed and no Action Taken Report was tabled at that time. In response to requests by Baldev Singh's legal counsel, the Vidhan Sabha Library and Home Department have indicated that Part II of the report, which contains hundreds of pages of testimony, is missing.
Part I of the Commission report, as well as the post mortem reports collected by the families, reveal that all individuals died from gunshot wounds above the waist, counter to police orders to shoot below the waist. According to paragraphs 76 to 77 of Part I, the report states, "The order that effective firing should be on the lower part of the body was completely ignored, and it appears that the bullets were intentionally aimed towards the vital body parts of the four persons killed so that they might be eradicated ... The congregation was moving forward with the intent to pay respect (Darshan) to the desecrated Sikh scriptures (Bir), and the order was given to begin firing. To kill four individuals, and seriously injure eight [other] individuals, because of some superficial injuries sustained by police employees was not justified or reasonable. Due to this, the police firing at Nakodar on the 4th of February, 1986 was not justified and could have been avoided."
The police claim that they first warned the crowd, that the police suffered injuries from objects thrown at them, and that they first fired plastic bullets, ordering the crowd to disperse because of a curfew. Doctors who examined the injured reported that none of them had injuries from plastic bullets. The Punjab Police have consistently denied involvement, with one senior police official even denying that there had been any killings on that day.
There have not been any criminal proceedings in this case. Baldev Singh, Ravinder Singh's father, has filed over 15 Right to Information Act requests for the remainder of the report, to no avail. Baldev Singh also filed a Public Interest case No. CRM-M-10715-2019 in the Punjab and Haryana High Court on March 8, 2019. There have been no substantive proceedings since notice was issued to the State Government, the police officials, and others on July 10, 2019.
The parents of Harminder Singh have died waiting for justice.
Note: Subdistrict and district boundaries are based on the 2001 census. Read more about our methodology.