It was not only the militants who were being killed by the police in its custody but their sympathisers and relations were no exception. Avtar Singh Shatrana’s death in custody is a glaring example of this nature.
Shaheed Bhai Avtar Singh Shatrana was the brother of Jarnail Singh Shatrana, Lt. General of the Khalistan Commando Force (Panjwar Group) from Shatrana village in Patiala district. He was also a candidate for Punjab Assembly from the Lehra Gaga constituency. He was picked up by the Patran police party led by its SHO (Inspector) Sukhwinder Singh from the Patran Road on July 25, 1991 at 10 AM along with his scooter and taken to Patran police station. He was shifted to CIA, Patiala the same day. He was seen in custody among many by Gurnam Singh of Paind village and Ajit Singh, a PRTC Station Conductor, Patran.
The people from about a dozen villages around Shatrana gathered at Patran and protested against the illegal arrest of Avtar Singh, demanding his immediate release. The headmen and mayors of the villages met state and police officials at Chandigarh and Patiala, urging their intervention. In the meantime, the police picked up Avtar Singh’s father Kehar Singh from his village on July 31. The Patiala SSP, Satish Kumar Sharma even refused to talk to the deputation regarding Avtar Singh.
Later, the police came out with a story that Avtar Singh was killed in an encounter between a police party led by Patiala CIA Inspector Gurnam Singh and militants close to Avtar Singh near Gurdialpura Bir on August 6. According to the police FIR, CIA Inspector Gurnam Singh arrested Avtar Singh on August 6 in the morning. Avtar Singh on a brief interrogation, disclosed to the police party that some top militants were scheduled to meet him on that day at 10 AM at a specific place. The police party along with Avtar Singh proceeded to that place in a Gypsy jeep. An encounter took place there (near Gurdialpura Bir village) for three hours. Avtar Singh was killed in the cross firing.
However, IHRO investigations into the matter suggested otherwise:
Bhai Avtar Singh Shatrana was killed in custody. He was in police detention since July 25. At least three persons had seen him in the police custody. Moreover, on August 5, the advisor to the Punjab Governor categorically told a five-member delegation of the Shatrana village council at Chandigarh that he had talked to the concerned police officials. Avtar Singh, he assured, would be released or produced in court, as the case may be, on August 6. All these facts showed that he was killed in custody.
The people in large numbers laid a siege to the Patran police station on August 6 at 2 p m and pressurised the police to hand over the body of Avtar Singh to them. They also asked for the release of Avtar Singh’s father. Kehar Singh so that they could cremate the body in time.
The body of Bhai Avtar Singh Shatrana bore torture and burn marks, there was no bullet injury on the body: