Thursday, June 28, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Punjab caught on sticky wicket
Govt in dilemma over Chohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 27
In the absence of any case pending against the top Khalistani ideologue, Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan, who arrived last night at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, both the Punjab Government and its police force have been caught on a sticky wicket over the “treatment” to be accorded to him.

While speculation was rife about his impending arrest, the police and intelligence agencies preferred to watch the developments silently than take any step in excitement or haste.

“There were cases of sedition against him. These were registered when he pronounced Khalistan, issued its currency, issued passports and regularly published literature and brochures in support of his ‘self-styled kingdom in exile’. But in all these cases, he has been either acquitted or the cases have been closed as untraced,” sources in the Police Department said. They said that there was no case of violence, murder, attempt to murder, sabotage, rioting or bombing against him ever.

“There has been no fresh occasion or event which warranted the registration of a case against him. But if he breaks the law of the land, he would be booked accordingly,” the sources added.

Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan, who was first elected to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha from Tanda as a candidate of the Republican Party of India in 1967, became a Deputy Speaker when the Akali Dal-led coalition government assumed office in the state. Later, when Mr Lachman Singh Gill became the Chief Minister, Dr Chohan was made the Finance Minister. He is credited with introducing state lotteries in the country during his brief tenure as Finance Minister.

In 1969, he lost the Assembly election and two years later moved to the United Kingdom. He returned in 1977 and at a public rally in Tanda, raised the demand of “Khalistan”. And before he flew back to England in 1980, he had generated much heat by demanding “Khalistan”.

Since then, he had been in England. There was a case against him for trying to set up a transmitter in the Golden Temple complex. In England, he spearheaded the Khalistani propaganda after becoming Chairman of the Council of Khalistan.

It was he who had been supporting some of the most wanted ultras or militants, including Wassan Singh Zaffarwal, whose return to India in April this year had also created waves.

While the speculations have been made about his intention to return to India for some months now, sources in the Punjab Government maintained that it was in complete “darkness” over the issue.

The return of Dr Chohan in less than three months of the arrest of Wassan Singh Zaffarwal has raised the pertinent issue of lack of a coordinated policy between the state and the Central governments over treating people against whom a plethora of cases, including those of sedition, secession and even heinous crimes, were registered when the militancy was at its peak.

A number of others have also returned after the ban on their travel to India was lifted.

In this particular case, the police, the intelligence and human rights organisations went a step ahead in escorting the Khalistani ideologue to his home country after a gap of 21 years. This was probably a sequel to an understanding reached among these organisations in London before the entourage left for New Delhi yesterday.

Intelligence agencies here have been regularly monitoring the website of Khalistan run by Dr Chohan and his council. As such, the activities of this septuagenarian were always under close watch of Indian and other intelligence agencies. He had been in regular touch with other wanted “militants” now living in various European countries as “political refugees” or “asylum seekers”.

The local police and intelligence agencies would be left with no choice but to watch his movements here closely. Dr Chohan, going by his recent statements, wants to return to the political arena and may contest the ensuing Assembly elections.


Confusion marks Chohan’s arrival
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 27
Confusion surrounded the arrival of Khalistan protagonist Jagjit Singh Chohan to India late last night after 21 years in exile.

After landing in Delhi on a direct flight from London, Dr Chohan was whisked away to an undisclosed destination by the intelligence agencies working apparently in tandem with the Punjab Government. Till late this evening the security agencies in the Capital were not ready to confirm the flight on which Dr Chohan arrived or where he had been taken after that.

Although reports here said that Dr Chohan arrived on a British Airways flight which landed in Delhi at about 10 pm, the airways said that no such passenger was listed to travel on its flight from London yesterday. The other airlines operating direct flights from London also refused to confirm or deny whether Dr Chohan was travelling on their flight.

Sources, however, here said that the whole operation was handled by sleuths from the Intelligence Bureau, who along with their counterparts from Scotland Yard and a representative from Amnesty International brought in Dr Chohan. He was straightaway taken from the Indira Gandhi International Airport lounge to the waiting vehicles in which he was driven by road apparently to Mohali. He is said to have travelled as a sick passenger.

With officials not ready to divulge information here, the confusion that surrounded Dr Chohan’s arrival grew further by the evening with reports emanating from the Home Ministry suggesting that he was still in Delhi. This specially, as his application seeking anticipatory bail in the Punjab and Haryana High Court having been rejected on technical grounds.

Sources said that the operation was well handled and all arrangements to take him into hiding were in place.

Reports also suggested that the drama over his identity and whereabouts had been worked out in consultation with the intelligence agencies in view of his application pending in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The Punjab Government is also said to have lent its support in providing the atmosphere for the return of Dr Chohan.

Incidentally, there had been a “look out” notice pending against him at Indira Gandhi International Airport and he could not have moved out of the airport without the support of the intelligence agencies and Delhi police under which the Immigration Department operates.

Dr Chohan was exiled in 1980 for raising a flag of Khalistan, printing its currency and also opening an office of the Republic of Khalistan in England.


Punjab’s prodigal son returns
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 27
When he fled the country 21 years ago, Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan was among the vocal protagonists of Khalistan. For several years during the height of militancy in Punjab, the self styled president of the so-called Khalistan’s “government in exile” continued to make vituperative statements from his headquarters in London and even went as far as to have special currency printed there.

However, when he arrived at Indira Gandhi International airport here early on Wednesday, he was in a wheelchair escorted by intelligence and airline officials. The prodigal son of Punjab had returned.

His return became imminent following the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s directions to the government to issue him the required travel documents after he had expressed a desire to return to his homeland, having been disillusioned by the cause he was espousing. In fact, his statements had lost the acerbity during the past few years. They were more conciliatory.

The return of Wassan Singh Zaffaral, of the Khalistan Commando Force, in April this year had virtually paved the way for his return.


Chohan to continue fight for Khalistan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 27
Sikh separatist leader and Khalistan ideologue, Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan, who arrived here tonight ending over 21 years of exile in London, declared that he would “continue his struggle for Khalistan in a peaceful manner as it was a noble cause.”

Talking to reporters at his residence in Phase II of SAS Nagar, near here, the self-styled chief of the Council of Khalistan, said he would chalk out the future strategy in consultations with his close associates in the days to come. I would continue with the Khalistan movement, he said, adding that the very concept of the movement was misunderstood by the country and the world.

Putting at rest rumours that he would join active politics or form his political party, 82-year-old separatist leader said there was no question of his joining the active politics again. Rather I would work for giving a “ideological lead” to the movement by writing articles, including memoirs, to further the cause of the “Khalistan”.

Answering a question on his impending the arrest by the Indian securities agencies, Dr Chohan quipped,” I am ready for the arrest. I have committed no crime and no case is pending against me.”

On why he remained in exile for 21 years he replied that his travel documents, including visa, were “revoked” by the Central Government. It was only at the intervention of the courts that he was allowed to come to India, he said, adding that he had a lot of faith in the judiciary. He said he came to India as “he wanted to live and die in Punjab”.

Meanwhile, Mr Ranjan Lakhanpal, counsel for Dr Chohan, while claiming that the Punjab and Haryana High court had not rejected the anticipatory bail application of Dr Chohan, said he had withdrawn the bail plea on “technical grounds” He said he would move the bail application in the high court again and even the Supreme Court could be approached in the matter.

Earlier, a beaming Dr Chohan alighted from the Shatabdi Express around 8.30 pm on his own unlike at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi where he was reportedly moved in a wheel chair.

There were no crowds to receive but only a handful of close relatives. A human rights lawyer, Mr Arunjeev Singh Walia, reportedly accompanied him from New Delhi to the city.

As soon as he alighted from the train, journalists jostled with one another to have a glimpse of the separatist leader. The scene at his residence in Phase II of SAS Nagar, near here, was no different with a number of mediapersons, including from the electronic media, camping.

Despite being tired he obliged the journalists by elaborating on various issues. His wife, Mrs Charanjit Kaur, was all smiles as she offered sweets to the mediapersons and occasionally posing with Dr Chohan for photographs.

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