In the late 1980s when the Indian state implements a policy of extrajudicial killings in Punjab to snub the Sikh freedom movement, a human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra initiates a very challenging work of finding those Sikhs who became disappeared after their abduction by Punjab police. He had found proofs of more than 25000 unidentified cremations done by Punjab police in various cremation grounds. In 1995, he travelled to Canada on the invitation of Liberal MP Colleen Beaumier to put this data in front of international organisations. In June, 1995 he spoke about the Human Rights Violations of Sikhs in Punjab at west block of Canadian Parliament. He addressed Canadian Sikh Community on 10th April at Ontario Khalsa Darbar Dixie Rd. Gurdwara Sahib in Mississauga Canada. Unfortunately, upon his return from Canada, Indian security forces abducted him from outside his house. Bhai Jaswant Singh Khalra was kidnapped on 6th September 1995 and taken to Jhhabal police station of Amritsar district. The Indian security forces tortured and murdered Bhai Sahib, his body was then thrown into the Harike canal. Kuldip Singh, a special police officer and prime witness in the sensational Khalra disappearance case revealed the truth of the kidnap and murder of Bhai Jaswant Singh Khalra.
We are here sharing the transcript of his speech at Ontario Khalsa Darbar Dixie Rd. Gurdwara Sahib.
BHAI JASWANT SINGH KHALRA’S LAST SPEECH IN CANADA (1995)
“Feeling the warmth in the refuge of the Guru who identifies with Truth, O beloved of the Guru:
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh (The khalsa belongs to the Waheguru and so too the victory.)
There is a fable that when the sun was setting for the first time, as it was completing its journey, the light was decreasing. The light was decreasing and the signs of darkness were appearing. It was said, lamentation was rife amongst the people that sun will set darkness will spread. No one will be able to see anything. And what will happen to us? Everybody was worried. But the sun settled. To show its strength Darkness set its foot on the earth. But it is said- far away, in some hut, one little lamp lifted his head. It proclaimed “I challenged the darkness. if nothing else, then at least around myself I will not let it settle. Around myself, I will establish light.”
And it is said, watching that one lamp, in other huts, other lamps arose. And the world was amazed that these lamps stopped darkness from expanding so that people could see.”
I believe, today, when darkness is trying to overwhelm truth with full strength, then if nothing else, self-respecting Punjab, like a lamp, is challenging the darkness. And I pray to the Guru, who identifies with truth, to keep this light lit.
I have come to this country (Canada) on a specific mission – it is a very small mission. You have chosen a large mission as today’s agenda (Sikh sovereignty), and mine is a very small part of it. Give me a small part of human rights. I have come to Canada to talk about a report. That report describes the story of the oppression of the past ten years. And when we started that report, we had before us a hundred reports, but there was one question to which none of those reports provided the answer. The question was: thousands of mothers await their sons even though some may know the oppressor has not spared their sons’ lives on this earth. But mother’s heart is such that even if sees her son’s dead body, she doesn’t accept that her son has left her. And those mothers who have not even seen their children’s dead bodies, they were asking us- at least find out, is our son alive or not? Those sisters’ brothers!! Those sisters were awaiting their brothers with rakhis in their hands. We stopped some of our sisters from leaving their homes (for marriage) because the boys to whom they were engaged the police picked them up and we don’t know what happened to them. It is our tradition that our daughter belongs to him but we don’t know if he will come or not.
When we started this story, we first collected statics on how many sons, how many brothers, how many husbands and how many children disappeared. But when we started talking about this issue then countless mothers and countless sisters weren’t ready to say that their beloved ones were disappeared. They said “Son if you talk this issue further, and our son is still alive, they will kill them, don’t talk about this. We are not going to tell you. So, we produced a rough estimate for the public that in Amritsar district alone, 2000 children disappeared and govt must tell us where they are. The govt was quiet. Then, we filed petitions before the High Court on behalf of some families, asking the court to tell us where the children are. The govt gave an affidavit denying any knowledge about these children.
When the issue progressed, the person in charge of the oppression, KPS Gill said in a press conference in Amritsar, “the human rights wing folks are doing nothing on human rights. They have one motive to prop up their agenda, so there is no peace in Punjab. They are ISI agents. They are hatching a conspiracy to discourage police machinery to revive militancy.” KPS Gill went to the extent of saying “I’ll tell you where those kids are”. He said “these kids are in Europe, in Canada and in America where they are earning their daily wages. And these human rights groups are saying that thousands of kids have disappeared.” This was a challenge to us; this was a challenge to the truth which we sought to bring forward.
Then, brothers, in order to bring this truth to the public accompanied by evidence, we put ourselves on arduous risk where we had to confront certain dangers but we went where our brothers had gone. We went to the cremation grounds. We went and ask the employees just tell us this much that during this time, how many dead bodies did police give you? Some said we burnt 8-10 every day, some said there was no way to keep an account; sometimes a truck full of bodies came and sometimes 2-4 dead bodies. When we said we need an account, they told us we could get the account from one place. The police gave us the dead bodies, and the municipal corporation gave us the firewood.”
Because the municipal corporation’s policy if they receive an unclaimed body in the city, then the city’s municipality will cremate it on its own expense. So then, Guru’s beloved ones, through divine’s grace we found the way. We went there and saw the full account of our disappeared brothers written.
What we saw when we reached there were records of how much firewood was issued daily. It was written how many dead bodies were left by which police officers. And when we went beyond that, it was also recorded which head officer brought how many dead bodies there. And beyond even that, when one gets too arrogant, we say he has forgotten almighty, and he takes such actions that he does not even know these actions will expose the truth about him. Or how we say colloquially the robber leaves his marks. And these robbers left so many marks that we were amazed that just in Amritsar district’s three municipal cremation grounds 6017 dead bodies were clearly recorded as the dead bodies of Sikh youth between the ages of 15 and 35. And our brothers were not only recorded in the list, but women’s dead bodies were also recorded. And we were amazed that the records included the dead bodies of the elderly, even if it was only a small percentage. And there, the dead bodies of our mothers were also recorded.
There we found the dead body of Mata Gurmej Kaur, the mother of Baba Manochahal. There, we found the dead body of Bibi Mohinder Kaur who gave birth to Paramjit Singh Panjwar. And there we found the body of Harminder Singh Sultanwind’s uncle, Baba Piara singh.
So, brothers, when we received this truth, we went to that country’s (India) High Court. We knocked on the door of Punjab and Haryana High Court, and asked, “Oppressors, at minimum, give us the detail of which dead body belongs to whom. So, we can tell each mother and sister, so we can tell each father, so they can say their prayers to Almighty which they have been keeping in their hearts, “Almighty, please let my son rest at your feet.” This is our tradition, we ask for a son by praying to Almighty, we say farewell to our family members while praying to Almighty to give them refuge. When we made this request to the High Court that we don’t want anything, but just tell us which home’s diamond you burned in which cremation ground and when. Because the law says that the photos of an unclaimed dead body must be kept. The law says that the clothes of an unclaimed dead body are preserved until the survivors claim them. But the country, that calls itself the largest democracy and lover of justice, its Hight Court told us, “This is not a Public Interest Litigation. This creates a huge issue. Instead, do this, send each family to whom the dead bodies belong. We will give them the information.”
A mockery has been made of the law. Mockery has been made with the Sikh nation. And a mockery has been made of those people, who are not asking for anything other than a death certificate. Because we asked the High Court for information on the identity of dead bodies of our brothers., they (the judges) are telling us to only approach the court about those people for whom we already have information. This is the answer the Punjab and Haryana High Court gave us. If desired, we will go to the Supreme Court now. If desired, we will try another legal action. But the biggest court of all is the people’s court. And we want to go to the people’s court on a worldwide level and say to the world, “You have called us terrorists. You have called us communalists. But those whom you regarded as the redeemers of peace, those whom you called the prophets of democracy, recognize their reality and then tell us who is ultimately the terrorist and who is righteous?”
We can say often that we have suffered much oppression. But we have not had the practice or training of keeping a complete record of that oppression. About 50 thousand, about one million, we say all of that. The educated people of the world do not trust that. They want exact figures. And for that, I also say, that you all should unite on this issue. This issue is not just the families’ issue. This is the Sikh nation’s issue, humanity’s issue. You should present this issue, in whatever way you can. Condemn that govt, that machinery, that justice system, and tell the truth to people. Please, brothers, help us in this work.
So, my brothers, pray to the Guru that we maintain our self-respect. We must safeguard the work for which we were created. And earn the pleasure of the Guru. We ask the Guru for everything. But afraid, we don’t ask the Guru for that one gift. The Guru has many gifts, but what is the greatest gift the Guru has? The greatest gift is not milk, it is not a son. And now the Guru does not even pass on the Guruship to anyone. The Guru cannot make any saint a Guru now. When the Guru gave the Guruship to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Guru kept one special gift which any Sikh could invite. And after the time of the ten Gurus, Sikhs paid so much respect to that special gift. And that special gift, which the Guru possesses, is the gift of MARTYRDOM. Those who receive this gift, they don’t get to be Guru but after the Guru, they are the most respected people of our (Sikh) nation.
I am not a political leader, who could give you some political line or pull a political antic- from a forum of human rights platform, I will definitely say this to you that the Khalsa was inaugurated to protect the human rights, the human rights of the world. And if you cannot protect your own human rights, you will not be able to give any definition of the Khalsa in the world. I request you- please don’t just learn how to take from the Guru. Learn how to fulfil the instructions given to you by the Guru also. That will encompass everything. You will obtain all joys. With these remarks, join me in the victorious greetings “The Khalsa belongs to the Waheguru and so too the victory” (Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh).
Note: Transcription work is done by Juzar Singh. This Speech was originally in Punjabi language.