a painstaking month-long investigation, Ajmer Singh and
Etmad A. Khan dig out the middlemen who acted on behalf
of politicians and played a treacherous role in threatening and buying
off crucial eyewitnesses and victims of the Sikh massacre of 1984
The dead cannot strike
a deal so the living did. To bail out those who led the massacre of
Sikhs in 1984. One witness was offered Rs 25 lakh to forget or not name
the men who led the mob that killed 12 members of her family. She refused
to give in. She was beaten and constantly threatened but she didn’t
Turn Bystanders: Policemen watched as the mobs plundered
and killed Sikhs
But some others did. They turned hostile one by one. Those who stuck
to their deposition were left to fend for themselves, with neither the
protector nor the adjudicator finding anything amiss. Congress leaders
HKL Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar were let off, due to the
behind-the-scenes machinations that included allurement and intimidation.
And the not-so-subtle threat of a 1984 redux. Democracy and justice
Investigations reveal that in almost all cases, deals were struck to
win over witnesses. In Bhagat’s case, Rs 25 lakh was offered to
a witness. In Tytler’s case, a week after changing his statement
the prime witness went abroad for a year and the second witness is still
in the US. There were threats to their lives as well and a prominent
Sikh leader was involved in pressurising the witness to say Tytler didn’t
lead the mob. Further sensational disclosures were made that a prime
witness, who turned hostile, against Sajjan Kumar was taken to the Congress
leader’s residence. Some of these witnesses enjoy a lavish lifestyle
and their families misled Tehelka about their whereabouts.
Our investigations uncovered the network of middlemen who struck dubious
deals to win over witnesses, subvert the truth and derail justice.
Tytler : A changed testimony
Singh, the head granthi of Gurdwara Pulbangash, said in a sworn affidavit
in January 2002 that Congress leader Jagdish Tytler, then the local MP,
led the mob that had attacked his gurdwara. He stated, “Tytler incited
the mob to burn the gurdwara and kill the Sikhs.” According to his
evidence, the mob had then attacked and burnt the gurdwara down. One Badal
Singh was burnt alive in the assault, several were injured.
Singh, one of the witnesses against Tytler, filed two affidavits
before the Nanavati Commission. In the first, he named Tytler
and said the Congress MP incited the mob to ‘kill the Sikhs’.
In the second, he retracted. Tytler had advance knowledge
of the retraction
By the time, the Nanavati Commission summoned Jagdish Tytler on the complaint,
Surinder Singh had been ‘managed’. Tytler drew the Commission’s
attention to another affidavit by Singh , this one dated August 5, 2002,
which amounted to a retraction of Singh’s earlier position —
he said he did not even know what was in the earlier affidavit because
he could not read or write English.
He also said he had not seen Tytler leading the mob that attacked Gurdwara
This affidavit was filed on October 22, 2002 and it came to light a year
later when Tytler was served a notice to appear before the Commission.
The Congress leader’s knowledge of such an affidavit astonished
the Commission as Surinder Singh had named Tytler in his testimony on
January 17, 2002.
Tytler had been trying to work on Surinder Singh. In his testimony to
the Nanavati Commission, Surinder Singh did state that he was contacted
by Jagdish Tytler on November 10, 1984 and asked to sign two sheets of
paper. He declined to sign. But subsequent efforts by Tytler to ‘win
over’ Singh appear to have succeeded.
About Surinder Singh’s changed affidavit, Justice Nanavati stated,
“what appears from all this is that the subsequent affidavit was
probably obtained by persuasion or under pressure. If this witness had
really not seen Jagdish Tytler in the mob or if he was not approached
by Tytler then he would not have come before the Commission to give evidence
or would have told the Commission that the attack did not take place in
that manner. For speaking the truth, it was not necessary for him to wait
till 5-8-2002 and file an additional affidavit.” After these findings,
Tehelka began investigations and tried to contact Surinder Singh.
Tehelka was misled by Surinder Singh’s family about his whereabouts.
Two attempts were made to contact him at his residence in the Gurdwara
Rakabganj family quarters but the family refused to open the door. The
nameplate outside his quarters was also removed. Contact was established
with his son Narinder Singh, who fixed a meeting with Surinder Singh.
But then, the two vanished. Using a fake reference, contact was established
with Surinder Singh and another rendezvous was set but he again failed
to turn up.
This was provocation enough for detailed investigations. Enquiries revealed
that Surinder Singh left for Canada, 10 days after filing his subsequent
affidavit. Being an employee of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee
(DSGMC) Surinder Singh had sought a year’s leave, that too without
pay, from October 30, 2002 to October 29, 2003. On his return, DSGMC president
Prahlad Singh Chandok posted him in a prestigious gurdwara. Surinder Singh
draws a meagre salary but owns a luxury car and is constructing a house
near Majnu Ka Tilla in North Delhi.
After a lapse of two years, the DSGMC sought Surinder Singh’s explanation
for changing his statement against Tytler. The then DSGMC chief Chandok
clandestinely issued a suspension order but held onto it. Curiously, three
days after filing the previous order, another DSGMC office-bearer, Harbhajan
Singh Matharu, sought an explanation from Surinder Singh on March 20,
In his reply on March 23, 2004, Surinder Singh speaks of a threat to his
life. Tehelka has a copy of his reply, which says, “if you seek
an explanation from me, then I be given a guarantee that we, Management
Committee, would be responsible for loss of my life and property, only
then will I give an explanation.” Two months after this episode,
Chandok presented a robe of honour to Tytler.
For this act, the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs,
summoned Chandok but the Takht Jathedar didn’t impose a penalty.
The Sikh Forum —
which then had the late Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora as its
chief patron — sought a meeting with Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh
Vedanti as it resented the lack of action against Chandok. In its letter
to Vedanti dated August 2, 2004, the Sikh Forum stated that some witnesses
who had filed affidavits before the Nanavati Commission are now reluctant
to appear for cross-examination. The Forum sought a clarification on the
Jathedar’s order, as Chandok’s exoneration had created an
impression that no wrong was committed by honouring Tytler. The Forum
stated that Tytler, now summoned by the Nanavati Commission, had a role
in the 1984 carnage and this decision has aggrieved the riot victims.
In another letter dated September 22, 2004, the Sikh Forum sought a review
of the decision exonerating Chandok. It further requested the Akal Takht
that Chandok be summoned again and directed to snap all ties with people
guilty in the Sikh carnage.
Forum met soon after the Nanavati report was tabled. The confidential
minutes of the meeting accused Chandok (left), the then president
of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, of pressurising
witnesses. The Forum also wanted him punished for honouring Tytler
The Forum’s members included Dr Amrik Singh, Major General MS Chadha,
Dr Anup Singh, Lieutenant Colonel Manohar Singh, advocate HS Phoolka,
Wing Commander RS Chhatwal, Dr Mahip Singh and Dr AS Narang among others.
After the Nanavati report was tabled in Parliament, the Sikh Forum met
on August 12, 2005. Tehelka accessed the meeting’s confidential
record which accused Chandok of pressurising witnesses. According to the
minutes of the meeting, “Sardar Prahlad Singh Chandok…had
honoured Jagdish Tytler, For this act he has called by Jathedar Akal Takht
(sic). But on intervention of some influential persons, he was not given
any punishment. But now for his role in pressurising Bhai Surinder Singh
to change his affidavit against Jagdish Tytler, we should take up this
case with Jathedar Akal Takht Sahib.”
Tehelka spoke to the Sikh Forum which appeared reluctant to state the
facts openly. This forced us to use the spycam and it was revealed that
this group had confronted Chandok and Surinder about the subsequent affidavit.
The details of this meeting were recorded by the Forum. Wg Cdr Chhatwal
shared the Forum’s strategy about taking action against them. The
conversation has been edited and the operative part goes:
What action will you take against Chandok?
It will be a religious action without going to the press and we will write
to Akal Takht that he is treacherous fellow and is instrumental in seeing
that Jagdish Tytler is not blamed. Akal Takht should haul him up.
What will you write to Akal Takht? That he struck a deal?
I do not know whether we will write this thing.
Then what exactly will you write?
This has not been decided as yet.
Why was Chandok not summoned earlier if he turned treacherous,
why no action was taken against him?
This is not the first instance, first Babbar did it and then Atma did
it. Now we will confront him.
When you questioned Chandok did his body language give an impression
Yes, that he has pressurised Surinder Singh to change his statement.
And what about Surinder Singh?
He does not deserve to be head granthi, he has changed his statement and
now he is running away. He succumbed to the pressure.
Singh, another witness, gave graphic details of how Tytler rebuked
the mob because there had been ‘only nominal killings in
his constituency as compared to the others’. Tehelka traced
the family and found them living incognito and in constant fear.
Jasbir’s mother-in-law said she was offered a bagful of
It is one and the same thing.
Were some recordings made in the confidential sheets?
Yes, a part of it has been done, we can only build up the moral pressure
and can’t do anything legally.
When had you asked Chandok about this issue?
This was a week after Tytler had appeared before the Nanavati Commission
and he talked about Surinder Singh’s changed affidavit.
This affidavit was filed on October 22, we were all surprised about it
and then we asked Chandok about this.
Further, Nanavati report mentions the affidavit filed by another witness
Jasbir Singh. Jasbir, who had seen Jagdish Tytler on November 3, 1984,
stated, “He (Tytler) rebuked the persons forming the group that
his instructions have not been faithfully carried out. His position has
been greatly compromised and lowered in the eyes of Central leaders. There
has been only nominal killings in his constituency compared to East Delhi,
Outer Delhi, Cantt etc. How he would be able to stake claims in future?
I had promised large scale killing of Sikhs and sought full protection
but you have betrayed and let me down and he left in a huff.”
Tehelka investigations revealed that Jasbir Singh was threatened and his
family is living incognito and in constant fear. Speaking to Tehelka,
Jasbir’s mother-in-law Gurdeep Kaur stated that he went abroad (USA)
because of the constant threats. Jasbir had confided in her about being
waylaid by some people near Peeragarhi. Anticipating danger, she pleaded
not to disclose the whereabouts of Jasbir’s wife and son. Jasbir’s
wife remained mum throughout and was very protective of her son.
Gurdeep Kaur added that she was offered a bag full of notes to change
her statement but she refused. More than 50 persons of her clan were killed
during the carnage. She had testified against councillor Dr Ashok and
some supporters of HKL Bhagat.