Witnesses testified in BC Supreme Court against Malkit Kaur Sidhu and her brother Surjit Badesha, both of whom have been charged with getting Malkit Kaur Sidhu’s 25-year-old daughter Jaswinder ‘Jassi’ Sidhu murdered in Punjab (India) in June 2000.
Jassi’s mother Malkit Kaur and her uncle Surjit Badesha are in custody pending their extradition trial. The witnesses who testified before BC Supreme Court this week include former co-workers of Jassi, all of whom said that Jassi feared her life was in danger because her mother and uncle did not approve of her marriage to a poor rickshaw driver back in India. They wanted her to get married to a much older but rich man from BC.
In a case of honour killing, Jassi was murdered by contract killers contracted by Malkit Kaur Sidhu and Surjit Badesha, it has been alleged.
“Jassi” Sidhu was found slain in a canal in Punjab state of India in June 2000 when she was in that country in a bid to bring back her husband Sukhwinder “Mithu” Sidhu whom her family strongly disapproved of.
Malkit Kaur Sidhu, the mother of Jassi and Jassi’s uncle Surjit Badesha appeared in a prisoner’s box in the British Columbia Supreme Court to hear a co-worker of the victim testify against them.
Jody Wright, who worked as a receptionist in a beauty salon at Coquitlam in British Columbia, where Jassi worked as an esthetician, described how Jassi spent the last days of her life in fear being closely watched by her family.
“There was always someone there watching her,” Wright was quoted as telling the court, recalling how she would routinely see a member of Sidhu’s family seated on a bench in front of the salon.
“We were always concerned about (Sidhu’s) well-being… we felt like her life was in jeopardy,” she said.
According to Wright, Jassi married Mithu in March 1999 secretly but her family discovered the fact by the end of that year.
She admitted to marrying Mithu after “intense interrogation” by her family, who did not like the latter as he was poor.
The marriage had come to light after Jassi’s previous boss called her home to say that she had left some personal items in her office that needed to be taken. It was then that the family came across a marriage certificate.
“She was happy with Mithu, but she knew she had to keep it a secret because her family disapproved of him,” Wright was quoted as saying.
“Disapproved completely, because the family (of Mithu) wasn’t rich.”
Jassi was then made to sign papers annulling her marriage to Mithu.
In the weeks leading up to her murder, Jassi fled from her home for a co-worker’s apartment.
Since her bank accounts were frozen, she borrowed money from her friends to go to India with the hope of bringing back Mithu and the duo living together in a separate apartment in Canada.
On June 8, 2000, Mithu and Jassi were attacked by a group of eight men in Sangrur, Punjab.
While Mithu was badly beaten up and left to die, Jassi was abducted and her body was recovered the next day. Mithu survived.
The extradition trial in the Canadian court will continue with a total of five witnesses expected to testify.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Gregory Fitch heard that the clandestine union came to light when Sidhu’s previous boss called her home to say she had left behind some personal items. A family member picked up those items and found a marriage certificate.
Wright said she typed a letter for Sidhu that Sidhu said she would take to her lawyer. The letter said Sidhu had been forced to sign the document seeking an annulment, and that she had not, in fact, been forced to marry.
“She was excited about her marriage and she was working on getting his immigration papers and she was hoping her family would eventually accept him once he came over,” testified Belinda Lucas, another co-worker.
Malkit Kaur Sidhu appeared grandmotherly in the prisoner’s box. Wearing glasses, her greying hair pulled back in a bun, she nodded slightly at the quiet words of a translator sitting between her and her brother.
Badesha, in a white turban and white sneakers, shook his head at some of the allegations made by the first of five witnesses expected to testify this week. He and Sidhu are in custody awaiting the outcome of the extradition hearing.
Lucas said the young woman told her that her family had offered her money and a car to get a divorce. When that didn’t work, they took her driver’s licence and passport.
After Sidhu’s family found out about her marriage, Lucas said she was escorted into work by two of her uncles. One of them, who she identified as Badesha, told the salon owner that Sidhu was not to be allowed to leave work during the day or make any phone calls. She was brought into work and picked up every day.
“I think her mother loved her and I think she was feeling the same thing as her daughter — torn,” Lucas testified.
Sidhu and her husband were attacked as they rode a scooter in a village near Sangrur, Punjab. Her husband was severely beaten but survived. Sidhu was kidnapped, and later strangled to death.
Seven men were convicted of the crime in India, but several of those convictions were overturned on appeal