Tribute to Jaswant Singh Khalra


Surendra Ullal

CHICAGO: Sikh Religious Society, Chicago organized Tribute to Sardar Jaswant Singh Khalra, who was picked up by Punjab Police on September 6, 25 years ago.

He Khalra was Director in Cooperative Bank when one of his colleagues was picked up and disappeared. After searching for few days and finding no answers of his whereabouts he went to Durgiana cemetery in Amritsar to look into funeral records. During discussion, employee there told him, that he has cremated thousands of bodies as Lawaris (unclaimed). When Khalra looked at the records and found names, addresses of people disposed off as Lawaris. He started questioning that if so many people have been cremated as Lawaris in one cemetery, what about other cemeteries?

According to Indian law, the clothes, possessions and pictures of deceased are saved for identification purposes, but no such record was kept for these bodies. He found more than 25,000 records of people cremated as Lawaris. He filed a lawsuit, which was tremendous work due to strong opposition. He was threatened; his lawyers were threatened and harassed.

Seeing not much hope of finding justice, he visited other countries including USA, Canada and met many agencies. Fearing for his life, some countries offered him asylum, but he declined, saying that he has to provide answers to the parents waiting for their loved ones. Finally early morning September 6, Punjab police came to his house, picked him up and made him Lawaris too. One day, one of the police drivers listened to his conscience and stated that he witnessed the killing of Sardar Khalra.

The tribute Program for Khalra started with Shabad recital by Bhai Rajinder Singh and Jatha, then Head Granthi, Palatine Gurdwara Sahib and Bhai Parminderjit Singh explained the meaning of Soora (The Brave) in Sikh religion. He talked about how S Khalra facing threats to his life continued finding the truth about killings and disposing off the bodies without protocols.

This was followed with screening of documentary produced by about his life. Bibi Mohena Kaur, who is a Law student at John Marshal School and works with Human Rights and Black Lives Matter, talked about the significance of S Khalra sacrifice. She appealed to the Sikh community to get involved with agencies seeking justice.

Then S Surinderpal Singh Kalra requested Sangat to start annual scholarship in his name for Sikh youth and also name the vacant Church building after him that Sikh Religious Society acquired few years back and is underutilized now. Thakar Singh Basati recited few lines about Khalra ji’s life and read a letter written by his daughter Bibi Navkiran Kaur Khalra last year, when Sikhs paid tribute to Khalra ji in 2019.

Sardarni Paramjit Kaur Khalra and their daughter Navkiran Kaur are still carrying on his legacy thru Ensaaf.Org. Few police men are behind bars, some died and some are still out of reach of law. Struggle for justice needs to go on for the guilty. Sikh Religious Society can be reached at 847-358-1117.