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Bhai Amrik Singh

Bhai Amrik Singh s/o Kirpal Singh was 35 years old living in village Aulakh, Gurdaspur when he narrated the following story.

"I am an agriculturist and my father and brother own 40 acres of land.  We have one tractor, one truck 3 tube-wells and all necessary implements much as thresher trolley etc.  I have received a substantial bank loan of Rs. 1.5 lakhs.  I live with my parents and two brothers and their families.

On 21st June, 1984 at 1:30 A.M. the army people came in 2 trucks and 2 jeeps and about 50-60 soldiers surrounded my house, jumped over the walls, got up on the roof, and entered our building without my warning.  They shouted at my mother when she showed them the light.  I also woke up and rushed to the courtyard.  They shouted, "Hands up, Come here".  An officer went up to the light and opening his diary asked if I was Amrik Singh.  "Come with me" he said, "walk in front of me" he said.  Soldiers followed with weapons, I was asked to sit in the jeep but nobody else in the family was touched.  I was brought to the Harchawal School compound where the army camp had been set up. I was asked to sit in the verandah.  It was about 2.30 P.M.  Three chairs were brought out for a major, a captain and me and tea was ordered.

They asked 'Why have you taken Amrit?  From whom?', I replied, 'My whole family are devout Sikhs, my grandfather, my father, mother, myself all were and are Amritdharis'.  "That is why we have arrested you".  Where did you take Amrit? They repeated. "In my village there is a historic Gurudwara where 5 pyaras of S.G.P.C. once came, prepared Amrit and administered it to 500 people including women and children.

(Amrit Chakha or to take Amrit--people stand in one line and each takes a sip of Amrit from the same container, despite differences in age, sex, caste, class and religion.)

We were baptized collectively.  After this, tea came.  I was asked very politely, "Tell me, who are the people who met Bhindranwale.  You have the list, we have the report.  Please tell us." I said, "I am the eldest in our family and I am a busy man.  I had never met anyone.  My father is old so the entire family is on my shoulders."

They said, "All this we know.  But you must tell us.  You know there are CIA Staff Centers where people are interrogated, tortured, shot down. Tell us.  Give us the list".

But I held on that I did not know.  This went on till 4 AM, then I was blindfolded, my eyes were tied behind my back and I was thrown into a room.  They said "We shall give you time till morning.  If you agree to tell us, we will let you off.  Or else take you to the Interrogation Centre". Sepoys were told to keep eyes on me.

In the morning a sentry opened the bandage on my eyes, untied my hands and I was taken to the toilet, five soldiers accompanying me.  Later in the morning, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Schedule castes, agriculturists, members of the panchayat, and nearly fifty people came from my village and talked to the Army about my innocence.  The major said, "Yes, he is a good man.  Take him back".  Then the Subedar told me, "See that you don't move of your home for 10 days.  We may call on you any time". I said, "No conditions, but normally I am too busy a man to leave my house". I went home.

On the morning of 22 June, 1984 a posse of police officers and CIA Staff of Gurdaspur turned up, and I was called from my bath.  I came out in my towel and was politely told that there was nothing against me, but still the Sardar Saheb (Inspector) from the CIA Staff, Gurdaspur had himself come to fetch me to Gurdaspur.

On arriving at the Interrogation Centre, Gurdaspur I was immediately taken to the torture chamber where I was subjected to the torture with log under the thighs.  To my surprise I found Surat Singh and Sulakhan Singh undergoing similar torture.  After 2-3 hours of torture we were interrogated about the Amrit Distribution Ceremony in the Gurdwara at our village.

Meanwhile, about 80 men from our village had turned up in 2 trolleys and five members of our village Panchayat went on a deputation to SSP Pandey and asked him what I had done.  Pandey said, "We shall release him tomorrow.  After that the Panchayat members talked to Inspector Joginder Singh and he too gave the same reply, being assured, they all returned to the village but I was not released till June 27.

My interrogation continued. I was not allowed water when thirsty.  They would give me food and water whenever they willed. We were not allowed to meet anyone.  Before my release, on the evening of 27 June I was made to write a statement by Inspector Joginder Singh, "I am a good man.  The Panchayat will stand surety for me. I was treated well". I reached home on the morning of June 28 and stayed with my sister.

On 3 July at 10 PM, the same Major turned up in his jeep and said that the Brigadier of Tibri cantonment would like to see me the next morning and I should go with him.  When 6 respectable people of our village, including a retired Havildar, objected to my being taken away, the Major said, "I am taking him now.  Tomorrow I will bring him back myself.  So let him come with me". And so I was taken away.

1 furlong out of the village, I saw a truck with Sulakhan Singh alone inside, blindfolded and his hands tied behind.  I also was put in that truck.  It brought us to the old Harchowal School Ground where I was told very politely that my eyes would be bandaged and my hands tied at my back.  Both of us were taken to Indian ITI army camp to spend the night there sleeping on the floor with eyes blindfolded and hands tied behind.

In the morning at 8 o'clock we were put in a truck and taken to Tibri Military Camp, Gurdaspur where we reached at 3 PM and were handed over to the Central Military Police (in white belt and redcaps) after untying the hands and removing the bandages over our eyes. Sulakhan and I were separated. Then our hands and eyes were tied once again.  Then the torture began; my legs folded back, a man held them in position and another man started hitting the soles of the feet with hands of a pick-axe.  After half an hour I fell unconscious.  When I came to senses they gave me water, they were 4-5 persons sitting around smoking, blowing the smokes on my face.  One of them said "O Sardarji what happened to your resolution to prohibit biris and cigarettes in Punjab; stop us if you have the guts. We are smoking "--Said another "Was Guru Govind Singh your brother-in-law?"  What happened to your great Bhindranwale, your protector?  Let him come and save you."

The third said "Do you know how many prostitutes were found inside Harminder Sahib?  Where is that Badmas gone?" I kept quiet. Then for interrogation my eyes were freed opened from the bandage.  They started pounding my face with their fists. "You must tell us what you know about him". I said 'He was a religious preacher and that\'s all I know about him'. 'We will show you' they said and left.

I was again blindfolded, thrown into a room.  After sometime I was taken out, put into a truck. Through the corner of my eyes I counted ten to twelve persons inside the truck--all blindfolded and hands tied behind including Surath Singh and Sulakshan Singh. After a little while we were left in the Government School, Gurdaspur.  We were made to stand in a line--one hand on each other's shoulder--we heard someone shout, 'Look, Khalistan's caravan is on move". Then after some food and water to drink we were pushed into a room strewn with sand and asked to strip except our underwear.  Our legs were tied with our pagris as usual and then we were thrown on the sand.  Later at night a number of men came in with lamps and we were beaten mercilessly with rifle butts, boots, and bare hands. This went throughout the night in three shifts.  Hurling abusive words, pulling our moustaches, beards, throwing sands on our hair, splashing us dirty water, the tormentors were obviously drunk.  Rum was poured down our throats and meat thrust into our mouths. (This continued for 4 days and 4 nights.)  Those who had trimmed their beards and were non-vegetarians had a better deal and were released after a couple of days on the ground 'Ye pucke nehi hain' (they are not strict Sikhs).

We were taken to Tibri Camp for interrogation which lasted from morning to evening--all about our personal lives--the torture made me ill; but I never complained.  However, one day being asked by an officer what the matter was I told him everything hoping he would help; but that night the beating was more--"Ah you have complained to your relative?"

On July 8 morning the officer told me, Surath Singh and Sulakshan Singh that we were found innocent and police would take charge of us and take us home.  In the evening the military van took us first to Kadiyan, then to Harchowal School Military Camp and finally to Shri Har Govindpur Military Camp.  There we were given the ultimatum.

"We are positive that you know a lot more that you are telling us; so open up.  Otherwise we will have to take you to a big interrogation Centre where you will be given electric shock and you will die as many other have died being electrocuted. "I said if only this is our fate then please do it; we are innocent; if you want to kill us--we are prepared.  At night we were blindfolded and tied up as usual and left in a room but not tortured. We waited the whole day. In the afternoon I was made to sign a statement that:

"I was caught by the military me on 3rd July 84.  From that time up to now I had been with them. I have been provided with food and medical assistance whenever needed.  My clothes and other goods have been returned back to me. During this period no maltreatment has been meted out to me, therefore I do not have my complaint against them.

On the morning of July 9 we were brought to Shri Har Govindpur Police Station.  The Subedar who brought us promptly lodged a FIR in English. According to FIR (as we gathered later): a military officer while going on patrol near Village Aulakh saw three men making provocative speeches to a hundred-strong audience. Three slogans had been raised:

1.  Khalistan Zindabad (Long Live Khalistan)

2.  Indira Gandhi Murdabad (Death to Indira Gandhi)

3.  Hinduon Ko Mardalo (Kill the Hindus)

Seeing the Army the people fled but the three leaders were captured and brought to the police station".

We were put into the lock up; through the bar I beckoned a couple of known faces and requested them to inform my people at home that we were at P.S. Shri Har Govindpur.  In the afternoon 10 to 12 persons from my village including my parents arrived at the PD and they were told that we shall be produced next day in the magistrate\'s court.  On the 16th July we were taken to Batala Tehsil court before a second class magistrate Dilbara Singh.  Instead of 15 days remand asked for by the police, 4 days were given, our physical condition was pitiable with 8 or 10 wounds swelling on various parts of our body and we needed medical help badly.  But police advised us not to apply for medical help.

On the 13th July 1984 we were sent to Gurdaspur Central Jail--cases against us were under sec. 124 A (Sedition). Sec. 13 (Unlawful Activity) we were given C class. After nearly 10 months on May 3, 1985 (Two days before our interview) I was released on bail by the special court Jalandhar. The Jail condition as dreadful;--30 people in one small room, but we were not tortured though we were branded as 'Extremists'.

How we got bail is story that exposes the extent to which police can go to plant false cases. We learnt that the police was bringing 2 eye witnesses to alleged provocative meeting at Aulakh village where we had supposedly raised anti-national slogans heard by the military officer who was supposed to have arrested us. The matter came up for hearing on April 6, the magistrate ordered identification but the public prosecutor pleaded for time to special court, Jalandhar. The next date of hearing was on April 18, when the police said that they had two good eye-witnesses so no bail should be given.  The names of the two eye-witnesses mentioned by the police came to be known Kashmir Singh and Seva Singh s/o Shri Tara Singh.  However, the magistrate kept the matter pending.  Next date of hearing was fixed on April 30, 1985 at Jalandhar, special court.

Between this time these two so-called eye-witnesses were contacted by our people, they were amazed and said that they knew nothing al all about the case but the police had entered their names as witnesses in their record on their own and only afterwards they were simply informed that the police had put them as witnesses in a case, but without telling them what the case was about.  These two men, when requested, gave their affidavits before the special court Judge K. S. Balla at Jalandhar special court, denying that they had seen anything.

This is how we got our bail and came out on 3rd May 1985.

Taken from Report to the Nation: Oppression in Punjab