VANCOUVER: Former colleagues of Jassi Sidhu, a 25-year-old Indo-Canadian girl who was murdered in Punjab in June 2000 allegedly at the behest of her mother and uncle in Canada for marrying against their wishes, told a court here on Monday that she was fearful for her life months before she was killed.
Jassi’s friends were testifying at the hearing for extradition to India of her mother Malkit Kaur Sidhu and uncle Surjit Singh Bidesha for allegedly plotting her murder.
Jassi (Jaswinder Kaur) Sidhu, a Canadian-born beautician, was murdered by hired gun men in Punjab where she had gone after secretly marrying (Sukhwinder Singh) Mithu, a poor rickshaw driver of low caste from her mother’s village. She had met Mithu during her previous visit to Punjab and fallen in love with him.
Jassi and Mithu were attacked by hired killers when the couple were going on a scooter to Mithu’s village near Sangrur in Punjab on June 8, 2000. While Mithu survived with serious injuries, Jassi was kidnapped and strangulated to death.
The investigations by police in Punjab said that the gunmen were allegedly hired by Jassi’s mother Malkit Kaur Sidhu and uncle Surjit Singh Bidesha sitting in Maple Ridge in British Columbia.
This was the first case of honour killing of a Canadian woman abroad. Seven men were convicted in Punjab for the killing.
Testifying in the court on Monday, Jody Wright, who was a colleague and confidante of Jassi Sidhu at a Coquitlam beauty salon, said, “She (Jassi Sidhu) had married a gentleman outside of an arranged marriage her family wanted. It was of her own free will. For love.’’
Wright said Jassi confided in her that she kept the marriage secret from her family for about a year as she feared they won’t approve of it as Mithu (the man she married in Punjab) was a lower-caste rickshaw driver.
The secret marriage reportedly came to light when Jassi Sidhu forgot some personal items at the beauty salon. Someone from her family came to pick up her items and they found her marriage certificate among these items.
Wright testified that Sidhu was very fearful about herself and Mithu after her family came to know of her secret marriage
“She was fearful of her life. She told me she didn’t know what they were capable of,’’ Wright told the court.
She said Jassi was forcibly made to sign papers to annul her marriage to Mithu and someone from her family would come and always keep watch on her at the beauty salon.
Wright said Jassi was often locked up in her bedroom and twice she (Wright) made calls to the police about her lock-up. She and Jassi would use a code language so that her family didn’t understand what she was conveying to Wright.
When Deborah Strachan, lawyer for the federal attorney-general, asked about the code words, Wright said, “The code word was, ‘I’m sick or I have the flu.’ That was my trigger to call the cops because she was locked in her bedroom.’’
Wright also told the court that she typed a letter for Jassi that she was give to her lawyer to say that her family has forced her to sign the documents for annulment of her marriage to Mithu and that nobody had forced her to marry Mithu.
Wright described how Jassi fled her family home to live with a co-worker at the beauty salon. Since her bank accounts had been frozen, Jassi had to borrow money to go to India.
She said her last conversation with Jassi happened when she was leaving for India in March 2000.“She was going to go to India and bring her husband back and they were going to start their life together, to get an apartment.’’
Jassi’s mother and uncle were arrested last year under the Extradition Act after 11 years of investigations by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in collaboration with the police in Punjab. The two have been in custody awaiting the extradition hearing.
The hearing continues.