MUR­DER­OUS HON­OUR, UNDYING LOVE

LAW CATCHES UP Jassi was the daugh­ter of multi­mil­lion­aire or­chardists in Canada. Mithu was a hand­some kabaddi player from a poor Jat Sikh fam­ily in native Pun­jab. The or­der now for ex­tra­dit­ing her mother and un­cle, 17 years af­ter they al­legedly con­spired

Hindustan Times (Amritsar) - - Front Page - Ravin­der Va­sudeva n ravin­der.va­sudeva@hin­dus­tan­times.com

The spot­light is back on the 2000 Jassi-Mithu case af­ter the or­der for ex­tra­di­tion of the girl’s mother and un­cle, who al­legedly con­spired in her mur­der for mar­ry­ing against their wishes. Hin­dus­tan Times re­vis­its the tragic love story set in the land of HeerRan­jha. ››

CHANDI­GARH: It was love at first sight. Sukhwinder Singh Mithu still re­mem­bers the cold foggy evening of De­cem­ber 1994 when he first set his eyes on 19-year-old Jaswinder Kaur Jassi in a ‘bhoond’ (a ‘wasp’-shaped auto-rick­shaw) headed for Kaunke vil­lage in Ja­graon.

She was the daugh­ter of multi-mil­lion­aire blue­berry or­chard own­ers in Bri­tish Columbia, Canada. He was a hand­some kabaddi player from a poor Jat Sikh fam­ily. Jassi was vis­it­ing her ma­ter­nal un­cle’s fam­ily at Kaunke with her mother and aunt (massi). He was re­turn­ing home from a match with a buddy.

Mithu re­mem­bers how in or­der to hide his em­bar­rass­ment at be­ing so dumb­struck by Jassi, he started blab­ber­ing. “Hun aukha hoh gyaa In­dia vich rehna, asin vi ba­har jaan di tyari kariye’ (It’s get­ting tough to live in In­dia now, we should also get ready to shift over­seas),” he re­marked as Jassi and her un­mar­ried aunt gig­gled.

Say­ing they were drawn to each other from the very first look, he re­counts, “We looked into each other’s eyes; I felt some­thing special and she also smiled.” Next day, he fol­lowed the fam­ily to Hero Silk show­room at Ja­graon. While her mother and aunt got busy shopping, he sat behind Jassi. “She was hav­ing cof­fee, and se­cretly passed me the cup. That’s how we started see­ing each other,” Mithu re­mem­bers.

Jassi re­turned to Canada but the cou­ple con­tin­ued to call each other. In May 1999, she re­turned to In­dia and se­cretly mar­ried Mithu when she learnt that her par­ents had started look­ing for a match for her. And then she re­turned to Canada and en­rolled in a course for beau­ti­cians.

WHAT HON­OUR?

Mithu says a vil­lager leaked the news about their mar­riage to Jassi’s ma­ter­nal un­cle, a wealthy man who wielded con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence in the area, and the matter reached Jassi’s par­ents in Canada.

Jassi was kept in con­fine­ment and in In­dia, her un­cle’s fam­ily lodged a po­lice com­plaint against Mithu in Fe­bru­ary 2000 for kid­nap­ping Jassi and forcibly mar­ry­ing her.

How­ever, later that year, Jassi man­aged to re­turn to In­dia and give a state­ment in Mithu’s favour. The cou­ple thought their dream had come true when they started liv­ing to­gether, much against the wishes of her par­ents and un­cle. “Since goons hired by Jassi’s un­cle had started chas­ing us, we spent around 20 days in Shimla and Jaipur and fi­nally my fam­ily sent us to my un­cle’s house in Narike vil­lage near Malerkotla,” re­counts Mithu.

He re­mem­bers the fate­ful evening of June 8, 2000, when he re­turned from Pa­tiala in the evening to find Jassi clam­our­ing for a scooter ride. “She was tired of be­ing holed up at home. She said she was wear­ing jeans for the first time in Pun­jab, and we should go out like any other newly-weds.”

It was around 7.30 pm and his un­cle did not like the idea of their stepping out, but Mithu took Jassi for cof­fee to Malerkotla.

They were about to reach Narike vil­lage when they saw a car parked on the road along­side the lo­cal drain. Mithu slowed down to see if ev­ery­thing was al­right. Sud­denly, two men hid­ing behind the car pounced on the cou­ple. More peo­ple joined them and at­tacked Mithu with swords.

“I fell un­con­scious and the only thing I re­mem­ber is Jassi scream­ing in English, ‘Please help! Some­body is killing my Mithu. Please help!’.”

The at­tack­ers con­tin­ued to thrust their swords into Mithu, say­ing “Badaa aaya sala Ran­jha... Enu chad­naa nahi aj (he thinks he is a Romeo, we won’t leave him to­day)”. When they thought he was dead, they threw him on the road­side and fled.

Mithu sur­vived the at­tack af­ter two mi­grant labour­ers pass­ing by no­ticed him ly­ing in a pool of blood and took him to hos­pi­tal. Next day, Jassi’s body was found in a drain in Lud­hi­ana with her neck slit.

AND THE MOTHER SAID, ‘KILL HER TOO!’

As per the FIR reg­is­tered in the case in the Amar­garh po­lice sta­tion, Jassi’s un­cle Sur­jeet Singh and mother Malkiat Kaur hatched a con­spir­acy in Canada to kill Mithu.

They con­tacted Dar­shan Singh of Kaunke vil­lage, whose son was en­gaged to Sur­jit’s daugh­ter, and asked him to hire pro­fes­sional killers.

The chal­lan filed in the court says Dar­shan Singh re­port­edly con­tacted Gurnek Singh Bhatti, a pho­tog­ra­pher from Moga, who knew Jogin­der Singh, then sub-in­spec­tor and in charge of the crime investigation agency (CIA), Lud­hi­ana. Jogin­der has since been awarded life in jail as he had aided the mur­der, and even promised to “set­tle” things if the body (of Mithu, as per plan) was dumped in his area of ju­ris­dic­tion.

Bhatti took Dar­shan Singh and Sur­jit to meet Sub-In­spec­tor Jogin­der Singh. The SI put them through to Anil Ku­mar, who al­legedly headed a land grab mafia in Lud­hi­ana. Dar­shan Singh, Sur­jit Singh and Anil Ku­mar met and struck a deal for Rs 7 lakh.

Then Sur­jit flew back to Canada af­ter in­struct­ing Dar­shan to pay Rs 4 lakh as ad­vance.

The po­lice recorded Mithu’s state­ment when he re­gained con­scious­ness around 15 days af­ter the at­tack, and ar­rested sev­eral mem­bers of the killer gang, namely, Anil Ku­mar, Ash­wani, alias Ashu, Gur­winder Cheema, alias Gin­der, Gur­sha­ran, alias Tony, Jaswant Singh, alias Soni, Ravin­der Singh, alias Leelu, and Ka­maljit, alias Ko­mal by the first week of July 2000.

The po­lice also ar­rested Dar­shan Singh and an­other man, Gurnek Singh Bhatti. Later, on Jan­uary 19, 2001, the San­grur po­lice ar­rested SI Jogin­der Singh.

Seven per­sons, in­clud­ing SI Jogin­der, Dar­shan Singh, and Anil Ku­mar, were given life im­pris­on­ment by San­grur court, which was up­held by the Pun­jab and Haryana High Court and Supreme Court of In­dia as well.

“Dur­ing our in­ter­ro­ga­tion of the con­tract killers, we found that Jassi’s un­cle and mother had hired the killers only to kill Mithu, and the plan was to take Jassi in an­other car and leave her at a rel­a­tive’s place from where she would be sent back to Canada,” says then San­grur SSP Jatin­der Au­lakh, now an In­spec­tor Gen­eral of Po­lice (IGP) (head­quar­ters) who had per­son­ally in­ter­ro­gated the killers in this case.

The in­ter­ro­ga­tion found that while tak­ing Jassi along, the at­tack­ers called up her mother and un­cle to tell them that they had com­pleted their task.

“We made Jassi talk to her mother. But she was cry­ing badly and ac­cused her mother of killing her Mithu. She was re­peat­edly say­ing, ‘Mom ! I will ex­pose you be­fore po­lice to­mor­row’. Her mother again spoke to us and fi­nally said, ‘Kill Jassi too’,” prime ac­cused Anil had told the po­lice. The killers were given Rs 7 lakh more for this. She was taken to a lonely farm­house where her throat was slit with a sharp-edged weapon and glass from beer bot­tles.

AF­TER EX­TRA­DI­TION

The Pun­jab Po­lice had sought the ex­tra­di­tion of Sur­jit and Malkiat in 2005, but the Royal Cana­dian Mounted Po­lice (RCMP) re­fused and raised a num­ber of ques­tions about the jus­tice sys­tem in In­dia.

The matter reached the Supreme Court of Canada af­ter some ac­tivists in the coun­try started a ‘Jus­tice for Jassi’ pe­ti­tion. In May 2014, the Supreme Court of Bri­tish Columbia or­dered Malkiat and Sur­jit to be ex­tra­dited to In­dia to face charges re­lat­ing to the case. Later, how­ever, the Bri­tish Columbia court of ap­peal blocked their ex­tra­di­tion. But on Septem­ber 8 this year, the Supreme Court of Canada fi­nally gave its nod for the pro­ce­dure.

“It may take us a few more days to bring the two for trial. CBI is the nodal agency for car­ry­ing out ex­tra­di­tions, and we are in touch with the cen­tral agency,” says Pun­jab DGP Suresh Arora.

As per In­ves­ti­gat­ing Of­fi­cer (IO) Swaran Singh Khanna, who is now an SP, Sur­jit had called the con­tract killers and other ac­cused 147 times four days be­fore the at­tack, and there is enough ev­i­dence in the case for a suc­cess­ful trial. Khanna told HT, “Jassi’s fam­ily con­tacted me and of­fered me a blank cheque to bury the case. But I told them, ‘Not ev­ery cop in Pun­jab po­lice is for sale!’.”

PHOTO: MITHU’S AL­BUM

HAP­PI­NESS CUT SHORT: In March 1999, Sukhwinder Singh Mithu and Jaswinder Kaur Jassi got mar­ried se­cretly at a gur­d­wara in Am­rit­sar.

FILE

PART­NERS IN CRIME: Jassi’s mother Malkiat Kaur, un­cle Sur­jit S Bade­sha

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