espite a long tearful passage of 34 years, the detainees of Operation Blue Star, 1984 are still waiting for the full compensation awarded to them by the District and Sessions Court of Amritsar in April last year ,which had been barricaded by the Center’s BJP-led government.
A total of 365 persons were arrested and detained in Jodhpur jail in the wake of Operation Blue Star, and were later released in three batches, between March 1989 and July 1991. Of these, 224 detainees had appealed for compensation in the lower court, alleging ‘wrongful detention and torture’ but they failed to get any relief from the court in 2011. However, 40 of the detainees went in appeal to the District and Sessions Court, Amritsar, were awarded Rs 4 lakh each as a compensation with 6 per cent interest (from the date of filing of the appeal to payment of compensation) in April last year. The total compensation, including interest, worked out to Rs 4.5 crore rupees approximately. The court had held the Union and the State Governments as jointly liable for payment of the compensation, and although the Punjab government had given an undertaking to the court to pay half the amount, the Union Government had moved an appeal in the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the order.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had urged the central government to withdraw its appeal in the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the award of compensation to those arrested and detained in the Jodhpur prison following ‘Operation Blue Star’ in June 1984.
Captain Amarinder Singh had appealed to the central government to pay, without further delay, half the compensation amount of Rs 4.5 crore that was awarded by the District and Sessions Court of Amritsar in April last year. In a DO letter to the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the Chief Minister in June, 2018, said the central government’s appeal against the compensation, which the court had held to be jointly payable by the Union and State governments, had evoked a strong reaction amongst the Sikh community and It was further likely to lead to an avoidable sense of alienation and perceived injustice among the community.
However, in compliance of orders of the District court, the Congress government led by Capt. Amarindar Singh now on June 28 handed over the cheques amounting to Rs 2,16,44,900 of the state’s 50 per cent share of the approximately Rs 4.5 crore compensation announced by District Court Amritsar for the 40 detainees who had sought judicial relief. On the occasion the Punjab Chief Minister assured compensation for the remaining 325 Jodhpur detainees also, at par with the 40 who have been awarded by the Court, while promising to persuade the Central Government to also do the same.
Though the central government, which has gone for an appeal against the district court decision, does not seem to be extending the help in near future, but the Punjab CM is still hopeful. Expressing confidence that the Centre would agree to his plea to also contribute its share to the remaining 325 detainees, the Punjab CM said, “Even those who did not go to the court were also entitled to compensation and his government will make the same payment to them too. It is a small compensation for the pain they had undergone.”
Blaming the Centre for delaying the compensation by going in appeal before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Congress MLA from Patti, Harminder Singh, who was also detained after 1984, thanked the Chief Minister for coming to the rescue of the detainees, time and again. He recalled Captain Amarinder’s gesture in visiting the detainees in Nabha prison (where they were initially kept before being shifted to Jodhpur), to give them clothes. The detainees had been kept naked in Nabha prison, said Harminder.
Congress leader Harminder further recalls, “It was Captain Amarinder who gave them Rs 1 lakh each in 2006, during his previous tenure – the only compensation given to the detainees before today. The detainees had met former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal several times during the various Akali rules after Operation Blue Star but got no help.”
One of the detainees, Jasbir Singh Ghuman lauds the Chief Minister Captain Amarinder as the `man of the match’ in the entire episode. Ghuman says, “Their acquittal had come after a 20-year court battle and then it had taken them seven years to win the compensation. Only Captain Amarinder understood the pain of the detainees.”
Lambasting on Akalis, Ghuman adds, “Despite their pleas, the Akalis failed to persuade the BJP-led central government not to go in appeal against their compensation. The detainees had met the Badals on several occasions to seek compensation but the Akali leaders simply refused to pay heed to their grief and need.”
Ghuman suspects that he is still doubtful if the Centre would even now pay its share and it might still be left to Captain Amarinder to pay the full compensation.
But here arises a question, despite the undertaking of state government to the court to pay its 50 per cent share, why the central BJP government has gone for an appeal in the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the district court’s decision? Has BJP not thought of its consequences in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections? Did BJP want to linger on the issue by filing the appeal and release the compensation just before the elections to win over the support of the detainees by keeping the issue afresh and live? Will now this trick of BJP get any favour, as the congress led state government has won over the game by distributing its share to the detainees and putting the ball in the court of central government by publically persuading and writing a letter to the Home Minister Mr Rajnath Singh to pay the center’s share? Circumstances speak loudly that ultimately the central government will have to pay the share and will not even get its credit. What the results may come, in the present scenario the BJP seems to be in deep waters.
By Jag Mohan Thaken
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of AFTERNOON VOICE and AFTERNOON VOICE does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.