H. S. Phoolka

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Harvinder Singh Phoolka
Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Legislative Assembly
Assumed office
16 March 2017
Personal details
Born 24 August 1955
Bhadaur Barnala, Punjab
Spouse(s) Maninder Kaur
Education Bachelors in Law, Chandigarh
Occupation Leader of Opposition Punjab Legislative Assembly, MLA Dakha Constituency, Senior Supreme Court of India & Delhi High Court Advocate
Known for pro bono representing 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims since 1984 and individual cases against influential Congress-I leaders Sajjan Kumar, H. K. L. Bhagat, Kamal Nath and Jagdish Tytler

Harvinder Singh Phoolka, commonly known as H. S. Phoolka, is a senior advocate of Delhi High Court, politician, Human Rights activist, and author. He is known for spearheading one of the longest and most tortuous legal[1] "crusades"[2] to gain justice for the victims of 1984 anti-Sikh riots and fighting individual cases on the involvement of Congress-I leaders H. K. L. Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler despite the government cover-up.[3][4] He received threatening letters[5] for unearthing involvements of ruling political party leaders in what the Asian Age called "the Mother of all Cover-ups" in a front-page story.[3][4] The special anniversary edition of the Outlook included Phoolka in its list of 50 people that make a difference in India, alongside Amartya Sen and Abhinav Ghosh.[6] He unsuccessfully contested 2014 Lok Sabha Polls as an AAP Candidate from Ludhiana .[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Phoolka's formative years were spent at his native village Bhadaur, in the Barnala district of Punjab, India.[8] His education began in a small school in his village. He graduated from Ludhiana, and went to Law School in Chandigarh. He belongs to the glorious Phoolkian dynasty's Bhadaur chiefs. One of the most famous families of India. This is senior branch of Patiala royal family. His ancestors were great rulers of Punjab.


Phoolka married Maninder Kaur in 1983. She is a food technologist and was a 1990 "outstanding graduate" of American Institute of Baking, Kansas.[8] She is said to have declined job offers in the United States and returned to India to support her husband's struggle for justice[8]


After completing his law degree in Chandigarh, Phoolka landed in Delhi to practice law. He served as member-secretary of the Justice Narula Committee formed in 1993 to probe the carnage.[9] He was later appointed the counsel for Central Government in January 2001.[10] He is known as a lawyer who won't take up a case if he finds that the client is in the wrong.[11]

1984 Anti-Sikh massacre[edit]

Phoolka is well known for spearheading the crusade to seek justice in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in New Delhi that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi and resulted in the killing of approximately 2,733 Sikhs and displacement of over 50,000 Sikhs within 2 days.[12] He was then just 28 years old and new to practising law and the city of Delhi.[13] He has put the cause of justice for 1984 Sikh massacre victims before his career[10][14] and family life.[14]

First encounter and escaping the massacre[edit]

Phoolka was caught in the massacre while driving pregnant wife Maninder Kaur home on his motorbike. When informed by a friend of the attacks on Sikhs, he avoided the main roads to reach his home in South Delhi via the slums of Kotla Mubarakpur.[15] Phoolka's Hindu landlord drove the mob away by telling them that the Phoolka family had left Delhi and hid them in his store room. There the Phoolkas spent 2 days, and came out under escort. They then flew to Chandigarh in the cockpit of an overcrowded plane.[16]

Resolution to fight[edit]

Phoolka planned to move his residence to Chandigarh after the riots, but he learned that lawyers were needed to draft affidavits on behalf of the victims, and went to the Farsh Vihar relief camp[13] to help. The sight of orphans, bereaved mothers and wives in the relief camp prompted the Phoolkas to change their plans. Instead of relocating to Chandigarh, they chose to stay and help the victims of the massacre.[6] Since then, Phoolka has fought cases relentlessly[6] for the victims despite government cover-up.[6]

Formation of Citizens Justice Committee[edit]

Phoolka conceived and pursued the formation of the Citizen's Justice Committee (CJC). The CJC served as an umbrella organisation for several human rights activists and legal luminaries. Floated in May 1985,[17] the CJC has been pivotal in representing the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre victims before the various judicial commissions that have been formed for inquiry into the massacres. Membership included Justice Ranjit Singh Narula, Soli Sorabjee, General Jagjit Singh Aurora, Justice V. M. Tarkunde and Khushwant Singh.[17] As a counselor for the CJC, Phoolka represented the victims before the first formal sitting of the Mishra Commission on 29 July 1985. The proceedings of the sitting were not made public and were closed to the press.[18] In March 1986, the CJC withdrew its co-operation from the Mishra Commission because it disagreed with the commissions decision to hold secret proceedings, and started filing individual court cases.[19]

Mooting of Carnage84 website[edit]

To make the many documents and findings of Citizens Justice Committee on 1984 Sikh massacre available to the general public, Phoolka mooted the idea of the "Carnage84.com" website, which was launched 10 July 2001 and claimed 150,000 visits from people of 30 different countries within only 10 days of it going online[20]

Blog on 1984 trials and related issues. Mr. Phoolka has recently started to write a blog on matters relating to the 1984 riots. His blog can be accessed at www.phoolka.org and at phoolka.wordpress.com Mr. Phoolka has also decided to tweet on issues relating to 1984 riots. His Twitter address is www.twitter.com/hsphoolka

Political career[edit]

Phoolka joined the Aam Aadmi Party in Jan 2014.[21] In the Lok Sabha election of 2014, he contested well from Ludhiana in Punjab on the Aam Admi Party (AAP) ticket but he lost to the Congress candidate Ravneet Singh Bittu by just 19,709 votes.[22] He is the potential chief minister candidate for Punjab assembly election 2017 from AAP.

Notable quotes[edit]


Phoolka, along with human rights activist and journalist Manoj Mitta, has written the first account of the 1984 Anti-Sikh massacre in the form of a book titled When a Tree Shook Delhi.[23]


  1. ^ "'Judges have been a party to a cover-up'". India Times (English Daily). Retrieved 28 December 2008. He has been the force behind setting up of the Citizen's Justice Committee and has spearheaded one of the longest and most torturous legal battles for the riot victims. 
  2. ^ Warrier, K. Hari (20 October 1996). "Advocate of a just cause". The Pioneer. Twelve years ago, Phoolka was just another lawyer trying to find his feet in the legal jungle of Delhi. Then came assassination of Indira Gandhi, and the genocide of Sikhs in the capital. Phoolka himself did not suffer. But the event turned his life upside down, into a long crusade for the victims of the massacre against the entire system which allowed itself to be a silent witness of those gory days… 
  3. ^ a b Mustafa, Seema (9 August 2005). "1984 Sikhs Massacres: Mother of All Cover-ups". Front page story. The Asian Age. p. 1. 
  4. ^ a b c Agal, Renu (11 August 2005). "Justice delayed, justice denied". BBC News. 
  5. ^ "'Judges have been a party to a cover-up'". India Times (English Daily). Retrieved 28 December 2008. HKL Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar were very powerful those days. My wife gave me her full support though other member of my family had some apprehensions and said this is too dangerous a work. But my response was that if on October 31, 1984 I could pass through a burning gurdwara, this was certainly less dangerous. Slowly young boys and girls joined our team. They visited areas dominated by Sajjan Kumar and HKL Bhagat and worked day and night. We were getting threatening letters, but nobody got scared. Soli Sorabjee, Tarkunde and Sikri were there with us through all this. 
  6. ^ a b c d Deb, Sandipan (1996-10-33). "Fifty Faces, A Million Reasons". Outlook (magazine, first anniversary special edition).  Check date values in: |date= (help);
  7. ^ "AAP releases its list of first 20 Candidates for Lok Sabha Polls 2014". IANS. news.biharprabha.com. Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c "Authors". SikhSpectrum Quarterly. Retrieved 28 December 2008. 
  9. ^ "No justice for 84 carnage victims". The Statesman. 30 October 1998. Fourteen years after the November 1984 genocide that claimed, officially 2,733 Sikh lives in the capital, victims families continue to await compensation. Mr H S Phoolka, member-secretary of the Justice Narula Committee set up by Chief Minister, Mr. Madan Lal Khurana to probe the carnage in 1993, laments that 'not a single person' has been punished so far. Mr. Phoolka, who is the Central Government standing counsel in the High Court and convenor of Citizens Justice Committee set up after Indira Gandhi's murder in October 1984, suggested a one-man commission be constituted to decide cases where the government has rejected/disputed victims claims. 
  10. ^ a b "Senior govt counsel quits". Indian Express (Newspaper). 13 February 2001. 
  11. ^ Warrier, K. Hari (20 October 1996). "Advocate of a just cause". The Pioneer. Apart from a conscience, Phoolka is also an unusual lawyer in that he doesn't take on a case if he feels that client is in the wrong 
  12. ^ John, Shobha (13 July 2003). "The X-Files: Where the mob goes scot free". The Economic Times. 
  13. ^ a b c Suryamurthy, R. (3 December 2001). "A lawyer obsessed with the rights of riot victims". The Tribune. 
  14. ^ a b Warrier, K. Hari (20 October 1996). "Advocate of a just cause". The Pioneer. …if it were not for my wife, I would not have been able to do all this. She was the one who kept the house going when I didn't have a steady income. I refused a couple of good jobs in the US because I was not willing to abandon my work half-way 
  15. ^ "'Judges have been a party to a cover-up'". India Times (English Daily). Retrieved 28 December 2008. (Where were you on October 31, 1984?) – Phoolka: I was at the High Court when I heard of Indira Gandhi's assassination. I picked up my pregnant wife from my office and was driving to out home in south Delhi on my motorbike. At a traffic crossing, a friend called to warn me about attacks on Sikhs a few meters ahead. Skirting the main roads, I drove through slum clusters of Kotla Mubarakpur to reach home safely. But looking back we could see smoke bellowing from the South Extension market. The Kotla gurdwara was burning and bodies of the head had begun to pile up. 
  16. ^ Warrier, K. Hari (20 October 1996). "Advocate of a just cause". The Pioneer. They were living in the first floor house in South Extension, one of the areas badly hit in the riots. His landlord told the invaders that the Phoolkas has left Delhi. He later took them into his house and hid them in the store room. A couple of days later, there was fire in the neighbouring house, and when the fire-fighters and Army personnel came in, the Phoolkas managed to escape with escort. "I didn't go to a relief camp. If I had I would have known at once what was going on". 
  17. ^ a b "Justice Narula passes away". The Tribune (Chandigarh). 7 November 1985. 
  18. ^ "Judicial inquiry into November 1984 riots". BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. The Press Trust of India. 31 July 1985. 
  19. ^ Tenorio, Vyvyan (6 June 1986). "Victimized Sikhs await redress". Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA). p. 19. 
  20. ^ "1,50,000 visit website on '84 riots since launch on July 10". The Press Trust of India. 21 July 2001. p. 19. 
  21. ^ "Senior lawyer HS Phoolka joins AAP". IBNLive. 7 January 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  22. ^ "IndiaVotes; PC Ludhiana 2014". 
  23. ^ "Defamation suit: Tytler may depose in city court today". Indian Express. 11 September 2008. 

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