Man recalls atrocities he suffered at the hands of Punjab police

It took nine long years for the Bihari migrant labourer to convince the authorities. “My name is Wasil Khan and I am neither a Pakistani nor a terrorist,” he had repeatedly told them. Now he not only seeks adequate compensation, but wants his tormentors brought to book for their crimes.

Accompanied by Chairman of the Majha Ex-Servicemen Human Rights Front Colonel G.S. Sandhu (retd.), Wasil arrived in Chandigarh to petition the Chief Minister and the High Court for justice. His stammer-hampered narration highlighted once again the brutal high-handedness and apathetic attitude of the Punjab police. Col. Sandhu said attempts to seek information under the Right to Information (RTI) had been in vain, while the Punjab Human Rights Commission failed to provide justice.

Wasil, 43, hails from Nikardhuppi village in East Champaran district, Bihar. He came to Punjab in the late 1990s in search of a job. He was employed as the cleaner of a truck that transports apples from Kashmir to Delhi and also worked on fields in Gurdaspur. While he claims to have been taken into custody by the Punjab Police near Pathankot in 2000, the FIR against him records the year of arrest as 2002.

Wasil said that after he was picked up by the police, he was made to cook for some police officers for almost two years. In 2002, the police charged him with involvement in a bomb blast near Sirhind town along the G.T. Road. Wasil now shows his deformed ears to prove the extreme levels of torture he was subjected to. At gunpoint he was made to confess, which ultimately led to a prison sentence in one of the nine cases against him. He was acquitted in the remaining cases for lack of evidence.

After he completed his jail term in the Nabha high security prison in July last year, Wasil was shifted to Amritsar for repatriation to Pakistan. During this period, he managed to send a letter to his family, which had given him up as lost. His sister, Mohazra Khatoon and her lawyer husband Shahid Raza Khan reached Amritsar to provide the necessary documents to establish that he was an Indian national. Through the efforts of the Amritsar Deputy Commissioner, K.S. Pannu, who brought up the matter when Justice Mehtab Singh Gill of Punjab and Haryana Court visited the Amritsar jail, Wasil was able to get a reprieve and was finally freed. Subsequent pleas for justice have fallen on deaf ears.