Assassination of IG Trilok Chand Katoch

Inspector General of Prisons, Trilok Chand Katoch, who was due to retire soon, he was the top administrative officer for prisons in Punjab, of which Chandigarh is the state capital. He had been shifted to the post from direct supervision of prisons in 1985 under pressure from Sikh politicians who alleged his treatment of Sikh youth in detention was inhumane.

As typical of the Indian state, instead of taking any legal action to prosecute Trilok Chand Katoch for his commands to mentally and physically torture and starve the Sikhs held in jail cells without trial, he was simply taken out of mind and sight, and protected by mass personal security and CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force).

Bhai Harjinder Singh Jinda and Bhai Pehlwan Singh assassinated the top prison administrator of Punjab state near his home in Chandigarh on Saturday, 11thJanuary 1987 and then escaped on a motor scooter. Trilok Chand Katoch, 57, inspector general of prisons, was the highest-ranking police official to be killed by Khalistani’s in the movement for freedom, justice and equal rights. He was due to retire in September.

Police said that TC Katoch was returning to his home from a market when two Sikh gunmen accosted him. He tried to flee but was hit by three bullets and died on the spot, police said.

Hours after the assassination of TC Katoch, underground rebels ambushed a paramilitary police patrol and killed one trooper near Amritsar, state police said. Four other soldiers were wounded.

The following is how Harjinder Singh Jinda fondly described this action in his jail letters:

I had left a set of weapons to be stashed away and safe-kept with Ajmer Singh Pardhan in Amritsar, little did I know that with those weapons Ajmer Singh committed a bank robbery with Gurmeet Singh Tony from Jalandhar and Harjinder Singh Khali of Ludhiana. On that occasion they had gone into the bank and fired straight away causing commotion for no reason, this resulted in a long time getting everyone together; however they made sure that they got all money.

When I found out about what had happened I asked Ajmer Singh why he fired shots, and he replied “To spread fear and make them take us seriously”, I explained how dangerous his actions could have been if the authorities had been alarmed due to the shots, before the loot had been collected and it would lead to him being caught if he did this again.

Ajmer Singh Pardhan accepted my advice and promised not to fire unnecessarily again. He was an intelligent academic with a university degree, but on street he was fairly simple and had a lisp when pronouncing certain words, physically he had very sharp features and a striking presence.

Gurmeet Singh Tony on the other hand was from the Jalandhar district and first he was with Babbar Khalsa, I was introduced to him by Bhaath. He was a very smart and sharp operator, he was a very confident and high spirited character; he was 5ft 7 and clean shaven to help him fit in different crowds. He was such a master at withholding his true identity that he even managed to create an Alias as RK Gupta.

The first time these 2 Singhs along with Harjinder Singh Khali had gone on an action they had planned to steal weapons from the Ludhiana Army Base, as arms and ammunition were running low for the group. Harjinder Singh Khali had the scooter ready to take off as Ajmer Singh and Gurmeet Singh approached the guard at the gate to attack and disarm him. In the scuffle to snatch the weapon from the guard the singhs realised it was attached to his belt and would not come undone, as the guard grabbed a hold of Gurmeet Singh, Ajmer Singh shot him and they both fled the scene before more Army personnel were alerted as the injured guard blew his whistle.

Bhai Gurmeet Singh always showed me a huge amount of love and respect, he would always ask me to come and stay at his house so he could host me, and when I would go to meet Satnam Singh Bawa and Manju, I would stay a night at Gurmeet’s and he would get happy and order food from the best places so we could all feast. Due to his brotherly love and kindness towards me I know I could trust him with my life without a shadow of doubt. He had learnt the business of selling and trading spare parts and gadgets with Ajmer Singh in his shop in Amritsar, and they had grown to become very close with each other as well as had all our families.

I had travelled to Hoshiarpur with Charanjit Singh Channi to meet a Singh who had told us about all the misdeeds of IG Katoch, he told us he had ensured every Sikh youth that was in jail due to being part of the Dharam Yudh Morcha was brutally tortured, he was a staunch enemy of the Sikhs. Nachattar Singh Rode who was in prison due to assassinating Lala Jagat Narain also had an attempt on his life whilst inside as per the orders of IG Katoch. IG Katoch would also talk against the Sikhs and for these reasons I myself and Channi got the full details of his house address and hangouts, and made our way to Chandigarh to spy on his comings and goings and get a good record of his security and police forces locations.

Channi had done most of spying and found the house and the office of Katoch in Sector 35, whilst myself, Bittu and Pehlwan were making preparations at a safe-house in Chandigarh. Because on previous actions Channi had missed out he was adamant to go along and partake in this one, and would daily remind me “Gaddari nai karni!” (Do not betray me this time.)

There was a heavy CRPF and Police presence in Chandigarh, and the area around Katoch’s office and home was very busy and affluent. As extra precaution in these times the state had banned allowing 2 people on a scooter, the combination above made it very difficult to plan this hit.

Gurmeet had delivered us a scooter from Ludhiana and parked it up the local bus stop for collection. A few times we had gone out to plan the hit and saw him on his routine walk from his home to the office, however each time the CRPF presence was too close and alert so the mission was aborted on those occasions. After this the weekend had come so our group headed back to Ludhiana to rest up and revise our strategy.

 The very next Monday about 10:30am me and Pehlwan pulled up on the scooter and waited in the path of his daily route. There was still on this day a large number of CRPF swarming the area, however I told Pehlwan, “The entourage and security were a few hundred yards behind Katoch and if we time this right we could finish him and escape through the alleys.” Pehlwan agreed that we should do it now before the armed units caught up and closed the slight gap.

I let Pehlwan off the scooter as he walked up to IG Katoch and put the revolver to his ear, I kept the scooter going anticipating him to run back after completing the hit. As Pehlwan pulled the trigger, Katoch flinched and the shot missed, they broke into a grapple, Pehlwan started to beat him, so I pulled the stand down on the scooter and ran up to Katoch drawing my pistol.

We both unloaded our bullets into his torso until he dropped dead at our feet, I took out the letter claiming responsibility in the name of Khalistan Commando Force, under the command of General Labh Singh and threw it on his body, before we jumped back on the scooter and darted through the alleys. This all happened very quickly, and by the time the CRPF had got to his body we were long gone.

We had a Singh waiting for us at Mohali, who took the scooter and guns from us, from here I jumped in a 3 wheeler rickshaw and got on to a road towards Delhi, Pehlwan had got onto a bus going directly to Ludhiana. I stopped the rickshaw at the next bus stop that came and took the local bus to Banoor, from there to Rajpura, then to Khanna, before finally arriving at Ludhiana, I changed buses, so that if I was stopped in Ludhiana evidence would show that I had come from Khanna.

During this action I had worn Ray ban sunglasses and a motorcycle helmet as disguise, No-one in the sector had realised what was happening when we executed Katoch even though it was in front of a busy market place. When the CRPF heard gunshots they got scared and did not come close, but when we escaped they came running to the dead Katoch.

The letter that we left on his body was hand written by myself and sign stamped by General Labh Singh on behalf of Khalistan Commando Force. In the letter we had given a warning to all prison staff, if they tortured any Sikhs they would meet the same fate as Katoch. When I met up with the Singhs, Pehlwan was already there waiting for me. All the singhs were delighted with this action. Channi approached me and I could tell he was not happy “Pehla di taraan kargay gardari?!” (Like before, you betrayed me once again) I said that we didn’t do this, but he knew that it was us. We apologised for not taking him with us on this action. After we all joked about and had a laugh.

Assi Attankwadi Nahi – Sukha Jinda