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The Death of Honour


The Indian Express, Patiala, Aug. 28, 2005

Photo: Jagir Kaur

When Bibi Jagir Kaur became chief of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (S.G.P.C.) in 1999, she became the first woman to do so. A year later she hit the headlines again. This time in connection with the mysterious death of her daughter.

Jagir Kaur's daughter Harpreet had defied her to marry Kamaljit Singh, a small time farmer. In April 2000, Kamaljit moved a criminal petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, alleging that his wife was abducted and murdered at the behest of her mother.

Following this, Lawyers for Human Rights (L.H.R.) also moved a petition in the High Court, seeking justice for Harpreet. On June 9, 2000, the High Court observed that the Punjab Police had failed to initiate any investigation into the case. It handed the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (C.B.I.).

After conducting preliminary inquiries, the C.B.I. registered a case on July 11, 2000, charging six people with the abduction and murder of Harpreet. These included Jagir Kaur, Dalwinder Kaur Dhesi, an N.R.I. close to Bibi, and sub-inspector Nishan Singh, who was on the personal security of Jagir Kaur.

The C.B.I. filed a challan in its Patiala court on January 30, 2001. The challan says Harpreet and Kamaljit married on September 6, 1999, in Chandigarh at Motel Oasis. The wedding ceremony was held in the presence of Kamaljit's family. It says on March 18, 2000, Harpreet was abducted. She was administered sedatives and kept confined in Jasdil Mansion in Phagwara. The house belonged to Dhesi.

The C.B.I. alleges sedatives were given to Harpreet to terminate her pregnancy. On March 20, 2000, Dalwinder got Harpreet Kaur's pregnancy terminated at Anmol clinic by one Dr. Balwinder Sohal. The doctor was an accused in the case but he later turned approver. Sohal's deposition is now in progress. The trial began three years ago at the court of the additional session judge in Patiala. The last hearing in the case was on July 30, 2005.

The C.B.I. says on April 20, 2000, Harpreet was again given 30-35 tablets of phenobarbitone - a dose high enough to kill. The tablets were mixed in the vegetables she was served. She died on the intervening night of April 20 and 21, 2000 and was cremated the following day without a post mortem.

The C.B.I. alleged the police had not initiated any action on the complaints of Kamaljit Singh and Lawyers for Human Rights as Jagir Kaur held an influential post and enjoyed full patronage of the Shiromani Akali Dal president Prakash Singh Badal, who was the chief minister of Punjab at the time of the incident.

Jagir Kaur's term as S.G.P.C. chief ended a few months after the death of her daughter. Badal didn't propose her name for the post again and Kirpal Singh Badungar was elected president. But Kaur returned to the chair in November 2004.