Monday, June 8 marked 20 years to the day that Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu was murdered in the Indian state of Punjab for marrying without her family’s blessing.
And in her honour, former Pitt Meadows Secondary principal James Longridge is intent on keeping his former student’s memory alive by starting up a scholarship.
Starting June 2021, the scholarship will be presented annually to a graduating student from School District 42.
Jassi – as she was known to her friends – graduated from Pitt Meadows Secondary in 1993.
“She was just like so many other kids,” Longridge recalled.
“She had a great sense of humour and was good friends with a number of people.”
The daughter of wealthy blueberry farmers, Jassi met her husband, Sukhwinder Singh Sidhu (a.k.a. Mithu) during a trip to Punjab province in India the following year.
After continuing a long-distance romance in secret for more than four years, the couple married in March of 1999.
In June of the following year, they were attacked while riding a scooter near Sangrur. Mithu barely escaped with his life, but Jassi was killed.
In 2005, seven men were convicted on murder charges in India, but three later had their convictions overturned on appeal.
Jassi’s mother, Malkit Kaur Sidhu, and uncle Surjit Singh Badesha, were accused of orchestrating her murder and the attempted murder of her new husband. But they were only extradited to India in January 2019 to face charges of conspiracy to commit murder in connection with her death. They are currently in an Indian jail awaiting trial.
Longridge said the case really hit home for him when he was watching the news shortly after Jassi’s death.
He began a correspondence campaign, sending letters to MPs, justice ministers, and attorney generals.
“It was because her mother and her uncle were walking around Maple Ridge as if nothing has happened,” Longridge said, “I thought, why aren’t they applauding the idea of a trial so they can prove their innocence?”
Even with the case still ongoing, Longridge fears Jassi’s story is in danger of being forgotten, so is hoping the scholarship will lead to future students striving for justice in her name.
“It’s not like we can bring her back,” the former principal said.
“It would just be nice for people to know who Jassi Sidhu was, and recognize that something really bad happened to a student who was like so many others in the school.”
He brings up that 20 years after her death, he’s still hoping and waiting to see justice for Jassi.
The Jassi Sidhu scholarship will be administered by the Ridge Meadows Education Foundation.
Those looking to contribute to the scholarship or find out more can visit the foundation website at rmef.ca.