Wednesday, February 23, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Residents allege torture, financier denies it
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Feb 22 — A financier operating in the Vishal Nagar area here has been accused by the residents of terrorising them and of allegedly running a “parallel administration” with the help of his henchmen.

The residents of the area have alleged that the financier, Mr Jaswinder Singh Jassi, has been torturing, beating up or ridiculing anyone daring to object to his way of functioning.

Mr Jassi, however, has denied the allegations and claimed that the residents who had borrowed money from his finance company were trying to defame him in order to avoid paying the money back.

In spite of his denial several residents narrated incidents of harassment to this correspondent today. They alleged that he had contacts with some senior police officials.

The residents of the area also held a protest march in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office yesterday and urged him to cancel the arms licence of the financier as he was “misusing” it to terrorise people.

Mr Bikram Singh, a resident of the area, alleged that a few years ago, the financier’s younger brother, a constable, had attacked him, his brother, Karan Singh and his father, Nirbhay Singh. “But Mr Jassi used his contacts in the police and instead we were booked under Section 326 of the IPC and were later sentenced to 18 months of rigorous imprisonment. Our father died of shock and humiliation and we are now out on bail, after the acceptance of our appeal in the Sessions Court.”

He further alleged that on January 22, Jassi’s henchmen again attacked his brother, Karan Singh and mother, Harjit Kaur and beat them up. Harjit Kaur was also stripped. It was only with the intervention of the neighbours that we were “released” and “the residents had to take to the streets to get an FIR registered against him”, says Bikram Singh.

In a voice choked with emotion, Harjit Kaur says, “Even after the FIR was registered, the police would not arrest Jassi. Then, on January 28, we sought the help of senior officials in the crime branch, who directed the police here to take action against the accused. However, the accused has now taken anticipatory bail and has registered a complaint against us under Section 326 of the IPC and accused us of injuring one of his men.”

Another person, Baljit Singh, was also beaten up allegedly by Jassi’s men as he had “dared” to socialise with a person “boycotted” by Jassi. Another person, who runs a medical store in the area, was beaten up when he asked Jassi’s men to pay-up for the items they had bought from him.

Residents told about numerous instances of land grabbing by the financier and alleged that many residents had fled from the area because of his fear. They alleged that he had also made an interrogation room, where people were harassed. The residents also alleged that the financier had forcibly “married” a neighbour’s daughter even though his first wife was alive and well.

The people residing in the Vishal Nagar area say that they are afraid to move out of their houses at night because of Jassi’s terror. A young housewife in the area says: “Women cannot go out of the house alone for fear of being harassed by his goons.”

Mr Jaswinder Singh Jassi admitted that he had employed six men but explained that they were to recover “his money from the borrowers”. “Some use of force is inevitable in the finance business, but I am certainly not terrorising anyone. I carry a licensed revolver with me because there is danger to my life from certain business rivals and borrowers”, he said. He also denied that he interrogated people at his office.

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