Gurdaspur — The youth of this district have lived under siege since Operation Bluestar last June. Hounded by the security forces and fearing elimination in Police “encounters “around 500 of them belonging mainly to villages contiguous with the border have simply disappeared.
Many of them, the authorities here fear, crossed over to Pakistan around eight or nine months ago, later crossed and along with others, migrated to other states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, for safety. Some of these estranged youngsters have turned freedom fighters.
Almost all of them are in the 16 to 24 age group, a police officer told on Sunday.
Those who remain are repeatedly hauled in by the police in this turbulence are from where came a substantial number of followers of Bhindranwale. Whenever any shooting takes place they are subjected to third degree interrogation.
“A total lack of information and refusal by similarly estranged locals to cooperate with the police,” confessed a district police officer, declining to be named,” compels the authorities to resort to such highhanded brutality.”
Such treatment, he admitted is counterproductive as it leaves these youngsters and their families bitter and tacit sympathizers of freedom fighters.
Of the 500odd missing, only 47 were hardcore framed in one or more murders. The rest were innocent, wanted either for “questioning” on the basis of “clues” provided by alleged activists or simply because they were boys who had partaken of “amrit” and sported saffron turbans.
The missing youngsters belong mainly to villages within a kilometer of the border in the Dera Baba Nanak sector and in villages adjoining the border in Kalanaur tehsil. Around 20 boys are missing from Fajurpura and Jafarwal villages in the Dhariwal subdivision, 12 kilometers from here.
“The 400 or so innocent youngsters who have fled” said the police officer “did so out of fear for their lives. As a consequence they have become active but are without a record making it difficult to trace them.” Persistent harassment by the security officers earlier and more recently by the police, who continued to “interrogate” the families of those missing to find out their whereabouts, has further weakened the tenuous links between the administration and the simple village folk.
A year after Bluestar people in this area brace themselves whenever a stranger drives up to their village, fearing he is from the CID or the dreaded criminal investigation agency. (CIA)
Treading a blind path in the May 6 killings in Fajur pura village in which three persons were gunned down by “four or five” attackers the police interrogated numerous people from the adjoining area for 11 days before releasing most of them. On May 22 they rearrested three youngsters Kulwant Singh, Gyan Singh and Harjit Singh all of Fajurpura and interrogated them once again for three days before letting them off, having found nothing. All three were not more than 19 years old. Not a scrap of information was forthcoming from anyone in Fajurpura.
Belatedly realizing the damage that indiscriminate detentions and interrogations has caused, the Government recently issued instructions to officers to try and restore confidence amongst the people and urged them to woo the youngsters back to the villages. Sarpanchs are regularly assured by senior district officials that no action is taken against the innocent youngster, who, if he returns even now, may be diverted from choosing confrontationist path.
But villagers, though outwardly acquiescing with official platitudes, do not trust the police. Citing innumerable cases of deception and brutalitites perpetrated upon them jointly by the armed forces and the police, they do not value the Government’s word any more. Besides, most families have no inkling where their youngsters are.
Article extracted from this publication >> July 5, 1985