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Tenth Battle – Behla Encounter

Members of the Bhindranwala Tiger Force of Khalistan (BTFK), a Sikh militant outfit fighting for the independence of Sikhs and formation of Khalistan was holding meetings with other militant groups to inflict attacks on India, who for long had targeted innocent Sikhs with the aim of eradicating them.

On receiving a tip of their presence in Behla, police officers completely cordoned off the village and approached the residence of Majinder Singh Behla, opening fire and killing HC Jarnail Singh and LC Harjit Singh. In what continued to be a bloody battle, nine more people were killed. Of these nine, three were militants and six were villagers unconnected with the happenings.

Subsequently, a large force comprising of the police and units of the army and paramilitary, surrounded the old and abandoned house of Manjinder Singh, a former member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly, in Behla. Before storming the house, the police officers decided to round up seven or eight villagers to walk in front of the police force and to act as human shields. Six more were killed in the course of the operation.

Upon entering the house, the security forces discovered a basement with no door to enter from. They began demolishing the floor that also housed the roof of the cellar. When the militants inside opened fire, the police pushed the innocent villagers to the front, leading to all of them being shot. Along with the villagers, three more militants were killed in an encounter that spanned 30 hours.

That evening, the police extricated the bodies of everyone who had been killed in the action without attempting to distinguish the militants from others.

Subsequently, the police released a statement claiming to have killed nine militants. In the aftermath, several questions were raised regarding their claims and how the 7 unconnected villagers had also been killed for no reason. Embarrassed by the events that followed, the Punjab government promised to organize an inquiry which never saw the light of the day.