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"Disappearances" in Punjab

...To be "disappeared" in India is of particular concern to human rights organisations. It is widely recognised that torture is routine in every one of India's 25 states. Every day in police cells and military barracks throughout the land pain and indignity are deliberately inflicted by paid agents of the state (Amnesty International, India: Torture, Rape & Deaths in Custody, 1992). This threat of torture is substantial for prisoners who have been legally detained and their details recorded on police charge sheets. For disappearance victims, who do not have even this meagre security, their detention is unacknowledged, the possibility of torture is greater, and the likelihood of an extra-judicial execution is almost inevitable.

The scenario for a disappearance case is familiar. Plain-clothed police officers or members of the paramilitary forces stop a man in the street ( disappearance victims are almost always young men who are suspected of being members or having support for one of India's many armed militant groups), or they may pick him up from his place of work or his home. Often the abduction is done at night, but the dis-regard for the law and the lack of political will to eradicate these practices means the security forces are equally protected if the abduction takes place in broad daylight.

The officers demand, at the point of a gun, that you enter their vehicle, which is unmarked and has blacked-out windows. They do not have an arrest warrant, and because they are not operating in uniform, there is no way of challenging them. The victim is then taken to an unmarked 'safe house'. As he is bundled into the house, manacled and blindfolded, no one makes a note of his arrival. He is like an insect that has crawled under the door, and like an insect the officers think his absence, and possibly his death, will not be significant; they can do what they like with him.

Many cases of disappearances result in death, disfigured bodies found in canals, by railway tracks and roadsides are testimony to the cover-up of state murder that is so much a part of everyday life in some parts of India. If suspicion of the killing is successfully laid at the feet of the police, it is often denied or invalidated by one of two improbable excuses; that whilst trying to escape he was shot or that he died in an encounter. An encounter, according to the security forces, is where a person is killed during a clash between security personnel and armed militant groups. Members of the security forces are allegedly ambushed and during the crossfire the suspect is killed. It is worth noting that, according to Amnesty International (based on newspaper reports), in 1990 alone, encounters claimed the lives of 346 Sikh militants but only 25 police officers.

The interpretation of an encounter by human rights groups is that a suspected militant is either arbitrarily killed or dies as a result of severe torture and the security forces cover up the murder by claiming the person died in an encounter. The lack of an effective response from the Indian authorities has, not surprisingly, accelerated the rate of disappearances. The State authorities in India are notorious for their disregard of allegations of human rights abuses and their unwillingness to bring to justice any member of the security forces who has, in a court of law, found to be a perpetrator.

In their belief that prosecuting the illegal activities of the security forces would create a loss of morale and damage the fight against separatists movements, police, army and government officials dismiss virtually all reports as grossly exaggerated or false. Even when the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances listed a total of 169 specific allegations, the Indian government responded in only 35 cases (and then the response only clarified 18 disappearances.

Finally, the trauma of disappearances has considerable effect on the families involved. The uncertainty of ever seeing a loved one again is demoralising, a situation often encouraged by the police who wish to deter the family from making any official investigation. In one such incident, that of Harjit Singh (see below), the family were told he had been killed and that the urn which was given to them contained his ashes. Two weeks later Kashmir Singh, Harjit's father, saw his son shackled to the bars of a prison cell.

The extremely high number of disappearance cases which are found in Punjab reflects the current struggle between the warring secessionist groups and the security forces who, in their enthusiasm to remove any root of opposition, are still illegally detaining hundreds of people. (However, disappearances are not exceptional to Punjab. In all areas where there are secessionist movements- Assam, Jammu & Kashmir, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, and the many tribal areas of the north-east- allegations of disappearance are common.)

 

CASE STUDIES

Below are cases of people who have disappeared. If you are concerned for their plight please read the details carefully, select one or two cases, and then write to one of the addresses at the end of this document. (Suggestions for your letters can also be found here.) It is worth remembering that publicity for someone who has disappeared is, in many ways, their only chance of survival and release.

 

Darshan Singh (40) & Jaswinder Kaur (17) of Mohalla, Sadavarat, Ropar City, District Ropar. It is reported that Surinder Singh, husband of Jaswinder Kaur, visited Darshan Singh' s residence on 26 February, 1995, to see his in-laws. Shortly after his arrival the CIA Staff Ropar visited the house to take Surinder Singh away. He escaped, but the officers detained his wife Jaswinder Kaur, although she was not wanted in any case. On 6 March the CIA Staff Ropar again visited Darshan Singh’ s residence and took him away, again without a warrant because he was not wanted in any case. Moreover, the house was confiscated by CIA Staff, without a warrant, leaving Kurmit Kaur and her five remaining children homeless. A habeas corpus petition, submitted by a human rights lawyer, Ranjan Lakenpal, on behalf of Darshan Singh and Jaswinder Kaur, was issued on 23 March, 1995, and a writ asking the state authorities to return the house to Kurmit Kaur was issued on 16 March, 1995. It is feared that whilst Darshan Singh and Jaswinder Kaur are being illegally detained they may be tortured to extract information regarding the whereabouts of Surinder Singh.

Barjinder Singh (alias Pappu, 25), son of Bahadur Singh Mangat, of village Khanjarwal Tehsil: Jagron, District Ludihana, is reported to have been abducted by the Jagron police on 5 February, 1995, at mid-night, from his in-laws' house: village Sidhwan Kalan (3km from Jagron). Bahadur Singh has petitioned the DIG of Ludihana, Ranjan Gupta, but no further news is available.

Lakhbir Singh (23) of Mohallapreet Nagar, District Ludihana, is reported to have been picked up at 02.30 on 24 January, 1995, from his home by the Sandar police (Ludihana). His wife, Charanjeet Kaur, has approached the SSP for the area, Hardipp Dhillon, however, no further news is available.

Jagbir Singh (alias Jagga, 20), son of Ajaib Singh of village Adliwal (18 km from Amritsar) is a mason by profession. On 15 January, 1995, when he was returning home from work, it is alleged that he was abducted by police cats (or Black Cats, masked undercover officers) on the Gumtala bend of the Ajunla Road at about 18.00. Jagbir Singh' s father believes that his son has been kidnapped by the police. He contacted the DIG of the area, D. R. Bhatti, and petitioned him to search all the local police stations. Unfortunately, Jagbir Singh was not found. Jagga might have been eliminated by police cats rather than tortured Ajaib Singh has said. However, it is reported that four days after his disappearance a telegram arrived from Jullundhur for Ajaib Singh, apparently from his son, saying "I'm ok."

Sukhvinder Singh, of village Chhann Noorowal Thesil Ajnala, Dis. Amritsar, is reported to have been picked up by the Lopoke police (who fall under the jurisdiction of the Amritsar police) on 7 January, 1995. It is alleged that he was tortured, and his wife, Jasbir Kaur, who visited him daily to bring him food, has said that he was in a miserable condition. This included pain all over his body and blood coming from his genitals. On 1 February, 1995, Jasbir Kaur was refused permission to give food to her husband or to even see him. She feared that her husband had been killed late on 31 January. The following day the police claimed that Sukhvinder Singh had escaped by scaling the walls on February 1. However, he has not returned home and despite his wife petitioning the local authorities and police to find her husband, he has not re-appeared.

Sukhpal Singh Pali (24), son of Chhota Singh, is a resident of Sekhuiva village, District Sangrur) and a journalist for the Punjabi paper Aj di Awaz . It is reported that he was picked up by the Punjab police on 13 July, 1994, from his maternal village Churhal Kalan, Sunam district, Sangrur. Witnesses to the abduction are his father, Gulab Singh (uncle), Jasnail Kaur (aunt) Gurdev Kaur and Sukhpal's brother Harpal Singh. They say that the police party included a driver called Pandit of the Punjab police and a Home-guard jawan, Balbir Singh. Petitions have been made by the family and the journalist's union in India, and the Supreme Court have now ordered an investigation into his disappearance. The paper which Sukhpal Singh writes for has already been a target for harassment and intimidation, as well as illegal detention of staff members (campaigns by Index on Censorship and Article 19 have focused attention on this), and the particular case of Sukhpal Singh has featured in the country reports of Index on Censorship's bi-monthly magazine (most recently, Jan-Feb. 1995).

Sukhvinder Singh Bhatti (40), from Badbar village in District Sangrur, is a human rights lawyer. On 12 May, 1994, he was travelling home from work to his village in Badbar, Punjab when the bus he was travelling on was stopped by six plain-clothes men who searched the bus and t ook Sukhvinder Singh Bhatti away in a Murati van which had no number plates. He has not been seen since. The involvement of the police is suspected because close to the spot where the abduction took place are two police check-points (Kooner and Badbar), and yet no officer intervened, and secondly, it is illegal for anyone, except the police, to travel through Punjab without number plates. Moreover, although the abduction was known by 13 May (it was reported in the Ajit newspaper on 14 May), the police did not register a case until 15 May, and then it was registered by the police in Dhanola which is a considerable distance from the actual incident (for full details of this case see Khalsa Human Rights report KHR 06/94).

Ajit Singh (75), is a resident of village Khuradpur, near Adampur, District Jalandhar. It is alleged that he was abducted by police, who were driving a Murati van, at 07.30 on 31 October, 1993. He has not been seen since.

Major Singh, son of Nazar Singh, was working as an assistant to a Head Granthi (priest) in Gurdwara Sant Sahib Tarn Taran when it is reported he was picked up by SHO Sampuran Singh of police station Sadar, Tarn Taran. The abduction took place outside the house of Dilbagh Singh (SP Tarn Taran) on 7 September, 1993. Witnesses to the abduction include four men who were accompanying Major Singh; Hardial Singh (son of Mohinder Singh) of village Kajanpura (District Gurdaspur), Joginder Singh (son of Bawa Singh of village Threwal (Gurdaspur), Jasbir Singh Dimpa of village Lidhar (Amritsar), and Gurinder Singh of Tarn Taran. As Major Singh had not been produced in any court nor has he been released, Col. Surinder Sain wrote to the authorities on 19 November, 1993. According to Sukhvinder Singh, Major Singh's brother (who is also in the army posted in Kashmir), says his brother is not wanted in any case. Suhkvinder Singh has now filed a writ in the Punjab High Court to investigate the disappearance of his brother.

Jagtar Singh, son of Labh Singh, is a resident of village Sidhupur Kalan near Morinda, District Patiala/Rupar. It is alleged that Jagtar Singh was picked up by the Kharar police (District Rupar), in the presence of his elder brother and uncle (Calcutta Singh, a former village official), in a Maruti van (registration number PB -27-1284 or PB-12-1284) at 20.00 on 24 August, 1993. The arrest is reported to have been led by DSP Harminder Singh, and SHO Pritam Singh. According to Calcutta Singh, he was unable to gain access to Jagtar and the SHO refused to register the case. Moreover, despite a deputation of 30 village officials meeting a Punjab Minister, Jagmohan Singh Kang, a lock adalat (proceedings held in private) was held on 14 September, 1993, and attended by the SSP. Calcutta Singh concluded "I have come to know that Jagtar Singh, my nephew, has been killed by the police under the influence of certain persons’ directions." The case of Jagtar Singh is now being looked into by the Punjab High Court.

Satpal Singh, son of Jaswant Singh, is a resident of Phase IV, Mohalli, District Ropar. It is alleged that Satpal Singh was picked up by police in a white Gypsy van on 18 August, 1993 . Despite petitions by his family, he has not yet been produced in court (under Article 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure police are obliged by law to produce a suspect before a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest).

Gursahib Singh, son of Lakha Singh, is a resident of village Vanika, near Chogawan, District Amritsar, is alleged to have been picked up by police in the last week of July, 1993. He has not been seen since.

Harpal Singh (40), son of Subedar Karnail Singh, of village Hardorawal, near Churian, District Gurdaspur, is alleged to have been taken from his home by the Dhilwan police on 17 July, 1993. The police were accompanied by officers from the CRPF. Harpal Singh's brother, Jaspal Singh, and a village Sarpanch (elder), Hazara Singh of Hardorawal, are reported to have seen the officers, who escorted Harpal away, working at the Dhilwan police station. However, the Dhilwan SHO did not allow access to Jaspal Singh to see if his brother was actually being detained and to this day no acknowledgement of the detention has been made. Harpal Singh's parents have sent telegrams to the State Home Secretary, the Punjab & Haryana High Court for their intervention, but Harpal has still not been produced in court (Article 167 also applies).

Tejinder Singh (33), son of Budh Singh, is a resident of District Sangrur. He was last seen on 17 July, 1993, when he was asked to accompany two police officers through the village streets to identify militants. This final abduction is the culmination of a series of police harassments on the family because of the alleged militant involvement of Tejinder's brother, Jagdeep Singh. (For full details of this case see Khalsa Human Rights report KHR 01/94.)

Attar Singh, son of Harbhajhan Singh, is a resident of village Khilchain, District Amritsar. He is also the priest at the Khilchain gurdwara (Sikh temple). In a letter written by Manjit Kaur, his wife, she states "The first case they [the police], like so many other innocent people, put on my husband was when we as priest family were living in village of Deriwal, District Gurdaspur...My husband was tortured many times. The methods of torture is difficult to put into words. After this we moved onto village Khilchian as village priest family. While we were living here my husband was charged under two different cases of suspicion to helping militants. One case in Jandiala police station, the second was at Bias police station. And my husband was very badly tortured under these two cases. And two months after his release some officers in uniform and some in plainclothes jumped over gurdwara walls and kidnapped my husband, and after this our world was turned into complete darkness." Manjit Kaur has six children and she has now taken to begging. It is alleged that he was picked up from the gurdwara by police on the night of 14 July, 1993 at about 22.30. Attar Singh's father has written and spoken to the District authorities and has sent telegrams to the Chief Minister of Punjab, Beant Singh, and the Director General of Punjab Police, K.P.S. Gill, asking for the release of his son. So far no response has been made.

Balwinder Singh, who works for the panel section of the R.C.F. factory at District Kapurthala, is alleged to have been kidnapped by police on 3 July, 1993, from the main gate of the R.C.F. factory. No further information is available.

Harbhajan Singh, son of Didar Singh, and resident of Hirapur, Tehsil, District Jullundhur, is reported to have been arrested by police at 04.00 on 2 July, 1993. Witnesses, who have testified to the Punjab Human Rights Organisation (including Ravinder Kaur, Harbhajan's wife) have stated that they heard Harbhajan shout that he was being taken away by the police. Other members of the household tried to follow the blue, numberless jeep which drove off, but it got away. According to reports, Harbhajan was not wanted in any criminal case (in previous arrests he was consistently acquitted), his detention by police has not been acknowledged, and he has not been produced in any court.

Palwinder Singh, son of the late Gurbachan Singh Gahil (whose brother Mahesh Inder Singh Gahil is a militant Khalistani activist), is a resident of village Gahil, near Bhawani Garh, District Sangrur. Palwinder Singh is alleged to have been detained by Sangrur police in the last week of June, 1993. He has not been seen since.

Jarnail Singh, a member of the Communist Party of India, was detained by the Jagraon police, District Ludhiana, in May, 1993 . He is alleged to have been picked up from his village, Rasupur, and it is alleged that he has been tortured. Despite protests lodged by his family and members of the Communist Party of India, Jarnail's present whereabouts is unknown.

Malkiat Singh Panch (35), son of Gurdit Singh, is a resident of Sangowal, District Ludhiana. It is alleged that he was picked up in a Maruti van (registration number PB 02 9473) by police cats at 14.00 on 21 April, 1993. It is believed he was then taken towards village Alamgir on the Sangrur Road. No further information is available.

Jathedar Charat Singh Rauke, a President of the Akali Dal (Sikh political party), from District Faridkot, is alleged to have been taken away by plain-clothed policemen at 13.10 on 25 March, 1993. According to witnesses in the village where the abduction took place, the police came in a Maruti car with the registration number PB 10 C 566 and a Maruti van PB 04 B 9593. The abduction took place during village elections. According to village reports, Jathedar Charat Singh Rauke had been harassed and intimidated for a number of days before the abduction. So far, although petitions have been made to the Punjab & Haryana High Court and to District authorities, no further information has been forthcoming.

Sukhdev Singh Chamkaur (48), is a petrol-pump owner and resident at Phase IV, Mohalli, District Ropar. He is also a leading member of the Shiromani Babbar Akali Dal, a political party. On 18 March, 1993, he was told to see the SHO at Sohana police station (District Ropar) at 11.00. He was taken to the station in a Tata Mobile car and both Sukhdev Singh Chamkaur and the driver were detained. The driver was later released but Sukhdev Singh Chamkaur was kept for at least two months. In those two months Sukhdev Singh Chamkaur telephoned his family twice and wrote one letter (the family acknowledge that the letter was in his handwriting) saying he was being held the CIA interrogation centre at Ropar. Then the communication stopped. Kamalijit Kaur, Sukhdev' s wife, has since petitioned the Punjab High Court to investigate her husband's disappearance. No further news is available.

Rajbir Singh, son of Rattan Singh, is a resident of village Rampur, Bhootuind, District Amritsar. Rajbir Singh enrolled as a constable with the Punjab police and was sent to a training college at Phillaur on 1 January, 1993. On 26 February, 1993, Rajbir' s father went to visit his son but was unable to see him. The Duty Section officer told him that Rajbir had gone absent from the course. The Principal of the college, K. S. Ghuman added that Rajbir Singh had been taken away by the Superintendent of Operations, H. S. Sekhou at 17.00 on 24 February, 1993. Rajbir's father and the village sanpanch (elected village official), Hardev Singh, went to meet SP Sekhou at the Jagraon Police Headquarters. He told them that Rajbir had to be interrogated and this resulted in him being ill and that he will be released when he is better. Nothing has been heard of him since. Rajbir's parents have filed a writ in the Punjab High Court but this was disposed off by the magistrate. They then took the same writ to the Indian Supreme Court. Again this was disposed off. However, the Supreme Court directed the High Court to review the matter afresh .

Harjinder Singh, son of Kashmir Singh of village Waring Suba Singh near Khadoor, District Amritsar, is alleged to have been taken from his shop and detained by police on 5 February, 1993. According to his father, Kashmir Singh, "My son Harjinder Singh was picked up by the Tarn Taran Division police, whose SHO is Swaran Singh, on 5.2.93 at 9.45 morning time from my house/shop." Harjinder' s father was told by the SHO that his son would be released in 2-4 days, but "we [Kashmir and a village official] went to Tarn Taran for 8 days continuos, but my son was not released." After 8 days, Harjinder Singh was taken from Tarn Taran police station to Kang police station by the officer in charge, SHO Mohinder Singh..."[When challenged] Mohinder Singh said it was not him who' s got my son, but it was Gurdev Singh, SHO of Bheronwal. He took your son from Kang police station on 14 February 1993. After talking to Gurdev Singh, he refused that he got my son and he also refused that he took my son to Bheronwal police station." Kashmir Singh has now written to many officials and even placed an advertisement in the local newspaper, however, no further news of his detention has been acknowledged by the police and no further information is available.

Gurdeep Singh, who works at the sugar mill at Dhariwal and is a resident of village Pachnawat, near Dhariwal, District Gurdaspur, was produced before the Qadian police by the village panchayat (elected elder) in January, 1993. Other members of the village committee ar e reported to have seen Gurdeep Singh in police custody for at least a week after his detention for questioning. The Qadian police claim that Gurdeep Singh was released immediately after interrogation. However, to this day, Gurdeep Singh has not returned home. Family and friends believe he has died through excessive torture and that his body has been disposed.

Bikkar Singh, son of Surjit Singh, is alleged to have been picked up by plain-clothed policemen at 18.00 on 29 December, 1992. Bikkar Singh's brother, Avtar Singh of village Sarhali Kalan near Tarn Taran, District Amritsar, and his mother, Bibi Gurmej Kaur, have petitioned for his release. No further information is available.

Mela Singh, an analyst with th e Co-operative Societies and a resident of Khalsa Avenue, District Amritsar, is alleged to have been picked up by plain-clothed policemen from near the railway workshop, Putlighar, District Amritsar on 14 December, 1992. Mela's wife, Bibi Kuljinder Kaur, has contacted police officials asking them to make a FIR with regards her husband's alleged kidnapping. So far the FIR has not been lodged, leading to suspicions that the police may have been involved in the abduction and are trying to cover-up the incident. Similarly, writs of habeas corpus (which demand that an individual has to be produced in court) have been met with no response.

Wassan Singh, an activist for the Akali Dal, is alleged to have been abducted by two police officers on 7 November, 1992. It is reported that Wassan Singh, a resident of Nawan Pind Hundal, District Gurdaspur, has been tortured by the Amritsar police where it is believed he is being illegally detained. The police of Gurdaspur deny all knowledge of Wassan’ s detention and have made no attempts to obtain information from the Amritsar police about the allegations of torture and illegal detention.

Parminder Singh, son of Hardeep Singh Dhillon, was arrested by the Punjab police on 9 October, 1992, as he travelled from his native village Jhabal, District Amritsar, to Baba Budha Secondary School in Bir Sahib, Amritsar, where he is a science master. Parminder' s father, a senior assistant at the Guru Nanak Dev University, has already written to the District authorities and has sent telegrams to the Chief Justice of the Punjab & Haryana High Court, and to Beant Singh, the State's Chief \par Minister, but has not received any reply and his son's whereabouts is still unknown.

Buta Singh Bhatti, President of the Bharti Ghat Ginti and Dalit Mukti Front, is a resident of village Leelan, Jagraon, District Ludhiana. It is alleged that he was abducted by the Punjab police in an unmarked Maruti car on the morning of 24 September, 1992. Reports state he was taken to a secret detention centre.

Hardial Singh Karseva Wala is a Kar Sewa Saint (a Sikh holy man who builds gurdwaras- Sikh temples). It is reported he was abducted by the SHO at Sarhali whilst at the Gurusar Mehraj gurdwara near Ram Pura Phul, District Batinda, at 10.30 on 14 September, 1992. He has not been seen since.

Mukhtiar Singh, son of Harbhajhan Singh, is a resident of village Kalan Bala, near Dhariwal, District Gurdaspur. Mukhtiar Singh is a police constable. It is reported that whilst on duty at a police check-point, Mukhtiar Singh and Gurmeet Kaur were picked up by the Jalandhar police on 30 August, 1992. Gurmeet Kaur was released after a few days, following petitions raised by the families of both people, however, Mukhtiar Singh is still being detained.

Sukhmander Singh, son of Major Singh Dallah (of village Dallah, District Ludhiana), is a soldier serving with the Indian army. It is alleged that whilst returning to his village for a holiday, he was abducted near the village Akkhara by police cats on 19 July, 1992. His family say that he had Rs 25,000 on him. No further information is available.

Jasbir Singh, son of Bibi Balwant Kaur, is a resident of village Kangniwal, District Jalandhar. It is alleged that he was abducted by the Jalandhar police from his village at 09.00 on 25 June, 1992. His mother has petitioned the Chief Justice of the Punjab & Haryana High Court and Beant Singh, so far no response has been forthcoming. (See also Amnesty International, An Unnatural Fate : Disappearances and Impunity in the Indian States of Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab1993, A.I. Index ASA 20/42/93, p.59).

Mohinder Singh, son of Avtar Singh, is an agricultural inspector. He is a resident of village Jeon Singh Wala, near Sardulgarh, District Bathinda. It is alleged that he was abducted by four policemen in plain clothes and driven away in an unmarked vehicle on 21 June, 1 992. He has not been seen since. Mohinder's wife, Bibi Bhajhan Kaur, has petitioned District officials, the SP Bathinda and Beant Singh. No further information is known.

Param Satinderjit Singh, son of Sawinder Singh (a lecturer at a State Secondary School), of village Kalanour, District Gurdaspur, is alleged to have been taken away by the Punjab police on 18 May, 1992. It is reported that he was abducted between 16.00-18.00 from Lawrence Road, Amritsar and taken away in a jeep. He has not been seen since. Param Satinderjit Singh is a student at the Guru Nanak Dev (GND) University in Amritsar. His father has already petitioned the Chief Justice of the Punjab & Haryana High Court, K.P.S. Gill, and has been interviewed by a research team from Human Rights Watch/Asia (see report, Dead Silence: The Legacy of Human Rights Abuses in Punjab, May, 1994, p.51-52. Following the abduction, Dr. Atamjit Singh, the dean of student welfare at GND went to the police but was told Param was not in custody. Further protests by students and lecturers resulted in a meeting with the SSP Amritsar, Hardeep Singh Dhillon, who told them that Param had not been detained by his officers but by police belonging to another district who were operating without permission. They were also told, "You cannot always talk in legal terms; the law only exists in the books. There is a 99% chance that the boy has been killed." On September 23, 1993, another university delegation met with A.S. Chatha, the Chief Secretary. He told them that Param was still in custody, that he is suspected of participating in a bombing incident but that the police had not registered a case against him because they could not find any witnesses. Mr. Chatha also promised the delegation that if Param is charged under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act, they could then see him. As yet no charge has been made, no access to Param been permitted and the police have provided no further information.

Harjit Singh was abducted by police on 29 April, 1992, whilst he was standing at a bus stop. Later the police claimed Harjit Singh was captured on 11 May and then killed in an attack by Sikh militants, he was actually seen alive in police custody on two occasions by his father. He was last seen alive on 15 October, 1992, when he was being held in a CIA building in Mal Mundi (for full details of this case see Amnesty International, An Unnatural Fate pp. 29-31).

Karam Singh, a resident of village Bhattian, District Amritsar, has not been seen since 1991. His family believe he has been illegally detained, tortured and killed. His brother, S. Bachittar Singh, his brother's wife, Jasbir Kaur, his brother-in-law, Amrik Singh, and his children have all been repeatedly detained and allegedly tortured by the Goindwal police. Karam Singh's family are in constant fear of further abuses.

Harcharan Singh Brar, Chief Minister of Punjab, Office of the Chief Minister, Chandigarh, Punjab, India. Fax: 00 91 172 540 936
O.P. Sharma, Director General of Police, Police Headquarters, Chandigarh, Punjab, India Fax: 00 91 172 540 437
Dr. L. M. Singhvi, Indian High Commission, India House, Aldwych, London SW1A 0AA Fax: 0171 836 4331
[Your MP's Name], House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

 

SUGGESTIONS FOR YOUR LETTERS

Ask the Indian government to implement the following measures;

prompt and thorough investigations into all cases of disappearances;

all State and District authorities should maintain a central, up to date and accurate register of all detainees in the State, clearly indicating the place of detention;

all units of the security forces should be obliged to notify the State and District authorities as soon as an arrest is made, and as detailed an account of the arrest should be recorded (including name, age and address of detainee, place of arrest, place and period of detention, name of arresting officer and under whom the detainee is responsible);

members of the judiciary, relatives of the detainee and their legal representatives as well as relevant bodies and other interested parties should have immediate access to all information being kept on the detainee;

relatives should be immediately notified of the arrest and place of detention;

detainees should only be held in officially recognised places of detention;

the authorities should adopt an active policy to prevent disappearances, such as:

taking immediate and effective steps to ensure that all those against whom there is evidence that they have participated in or sanctioned disappearances should be promptly brought to justice, and;

the government should strengthen legal safeguards to prevent disappearances and abide by its international obligations under the human right standards which it has signed and ratified (most notably the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights and India's own Constitution, all three guarantee the right to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention).

The partition of British India that created the independent nations of Pakistan and India in 1947 drew a line through Punjab. When the resultant civil conflicts and migrations ended, the Sikhs were concentrated in east Punjab. In 1953, India' s central government appointed a commission which redrew the boundaries of all states, with the exception o f Punjab, along linguistic lines. In response, Sikh leaders mobilised for a Punjabi language-majority state. Fearing that a Punjabi state might lead to a separatist Sikh movement, the central government opposed the demand. In response, Sikh politicians launched a civil disobedience campaign that led to the arrest of thousands by the end of 1955. Continuing civil disobedience campaigns precipitated the arrest of over 50,000 Sikhs between 1960 and 1961.

Between 1981 and the army assault on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June, 1984, there were protracted negotiations between the government and the Sikh Akali Dal leadership. After 1982, the Akali Dal demanded more autonomy for the state, the promised transfer of the capital city Chandigarh and other Punjabi- speaking areas to Punjab, a Sikh code of personal law, quotas for Sikhs in the military, and the deletion of language in the Indian constitution which brackets Sikhs with Hindus.

On 1 May, 1982 the government of India broke off talks with the Akali Dal and banned several Sikh organisations. Members of these banned groups retreated to the Golden Temple complex, becoming an armed headquarters for sections of the independence movement. Talks between the government and the Akali Dal resumed in late 1982 but en ded in stalemate, and the failure of the civil disobedience campaigns to achieve a breakthrough prompted some politicians to align with the militants and justify the resort to violence. Attacks on policemen and civilians escalated. President's Rule, direct rule from Delhi, was imposed on Punjab on 6 October, 1983, after a bus was ambushed and six Hindu passengers murdered.

Increasingly, Sikh men were reported to have been executed in staged encounters with security forces, setting in place the cycle of violence. The army led an assault on the Golden Temple on 4 June, 1984, and because foreign journalists were deported and domestic journalists were prohibited from reporting it is difficult to asses how the confrontation was conducted.

On 31 October, 19 84, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards. In the days that followed, anti-Sikh rioting paralysed New Delhi, ultimately claiming at least 3,000 lives. Sikh men were beaten, stabbed, and doused with kerosene and burned to death by mobs. In some neighbourhoods, children were also killed, and women were raped. At least 50,000 people were displaced, and tens of thousands of Sikh homes and businesses were burned to the ground.

Since then, the negotiations for peace have been constantly undermined by the lack of continuity in India's government, the lack of a political will for a solution, and because of the increasing number of atrocities committed by both Sikh militants and security personnel.

Posted on 1999-01-01



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