Double Your Donation: Amplify the Testimonies of Truth

August 19, 2021 in Blog, Community, Legal Advocacy, Press

Thank you for your support in helping us build Testimonies of Truth: A Video Archive of over 200 survivor interviews, thematic clips, and oral histories, exploring key human rights themes and survivor perspectives.

Over the next 12 days, we have an incredible opportunity to raise $30,000 by August 30, the International Day of the Disappeared.

Today, as an example of the survivor interviews that will fill the video archive, we release the testimony of Gurbachan Singh, 70 years old at the time of interview. Gurbachan Singh shares the torture, illegal detentions, and unlawful killing of his brother Khunda Singh, as well as the torture and persecution suffered by himself and his family.

They did not give him back to us. We have no keepsakes. We faced a lot of troubles, even on our bodies in countless ways.

My son and daughter-in-law also died because of this. My wife also died because of police beatings. 

-Gurbachan Singh

Help us amplify the voice of Gurbachan Singh and bring his testimony to the entire world!

Testimonies of Truth: A Video Archive will serve as a permanent, powerful, interactive tool to educate the global community, complementing Ensaaf’s data site on Crimes Against Humanity.

Help bring their voices to the entire world!

Double Your Donation: Support Testimonies of Truth

August 16, 2021 in Blog, Community, Legal Advocacy, Press

Today, Ensaaf needs your help to build Testimonies of Truth: A Video Archive of over 200 survivor interviews, thematic clips, and oral histories, exploring key human rights themes and survivor perspectives.

This human rights video archive will be the first and largest repository of video testimonials from surviving families of the “Decade of Disappearances.”

Over the next 15 days, we have an incredible opportunity to raise $30,000 by August 30, the International Day of the Disappeared. Generous donors will match the first $15,000 raised, dollar for dollar.

Balwinder Singh

Who was Balwinder Singh?

I never forget him. I always think of him. On the day I began construction on this home, I thought, “I wish he was standing next to me today and I had his support.”

On any day, sad or happy, I always think of him, wishing he could celebrate with us. Our family was very poor. So much so that even for our education, my mother borrowed money from her family to pay our fees. Because he was born into poverty, he was determined to stand on his own two feet…So, he worked in electronics, delivered mail, and worked at the dairy in the morning. This is how he made ends meet for his family.

Manohar Singh

What were Manohar Singh’s last moments like?

He told me, “They cut my legs apart. [They] cut open my legs with a cutter, and put hot peppers in [the wounds]. They humiliated [me] a lot.” He was tortured a lot. He was beaten very badly. He was unable to sit up or even stand.

…I was put in one room and he was put in another room. For about 15 to 20 days, they kept us separated like this. His room was next to me and we could hear each other’s voices. We spoke with one another a little.

When I would ask him, he would say, “I have been beaten very badly and they are going to kill me….I am begging them to kill me, but not to kill you as you are a child.”

Talvinder Singh

Memories of a Father

In 1993, the police took [my father] from our home and killed him. After that, we had no one to help us. Our life has been very difficult. No one has listened to us. I was around 13 to 14 years old when the police abducted my father from our house.

By killing my father, he [policeman] didn’t finish any of my family members. But, he did ruin the families of the poor individuals in the village. The village could always rely on the fact that “Bhai” was around. Today, if people get together or there is an issue to discuss, people recall that “Bhai” used to be around. Even today, the world remembers him.

Testimonies of Truth: A Video Archive will serve as a permanent, powerful, interactive tool to educate the global community, complementing Ensaaf’s data site on Crimes Against Humanity.

Help bring their voices to the entire world!

Published In The Wire: Letter Supporting Indian Farmers & Condemning Government Abuses

February 15, 2021 in Blog, Community, Legal Advocacy, Press

We’re writing to share a letter we co-authored with Arjun Sethi. We’re very proud of this intervention.

This is the first open, public letter from a coalition to President Biden about the farmers’ protest. It also fills a gap among the statements that have been circulating, as it highlights the connection between the anti-farmer bill, recent authoritarian laws passed by Modi, and the culture of impunity that Sikhs know all too well.

The decision to limit the letter to South Asian civil and human rights lawyers was intentional. We want this to be a call-to-action to many sectors across society, including philanthropists, journalists, academics, environmentalists, and public intellectuals, urging them to speak up and challenge India’s attack on human rights and democratic norms.

The letter is being directed to senior U.S. officials and lawmakers as well, and will allow for further engagement across government.

We’re very proud that The Wire published it. They’re one of the most prominent, independent media outlets in India, and the founder is currently facing sedition charges for covering the protest.

Please read and share.

BART Ad Campaign

October 31, 2009 in Community

BART Ad Campaign: 25th Anniversary of the November 1984 Pogroms of Sikhs in India

Twenty-five years ago, in the wake of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination, members of the police and Congress (I) Party perpetrated mass murder against Sikhs in New Delhi, as well as cities throughout the country.

October 31, 2009

Montgomery Muni Station

The ad was on display at some of the busiest BART and MUNI stations in San Francisco and Oakland.

Ensaaf's Ad CampaignRead about the ad.

2,733 Sikhs were slaughtered in four days in Delhi alone.Read the testimonies.

Indian politicians and police organized and implemented murder, rape, and arson.View the evidence.Photo copyright of World Economic Forum

The organizers remain free, and Sikhs continued to be persecuted in India for over a decade after 1984.Learn about justice denied.


Description of Ad

Throughout November 2009, Ensaaf placed 20 large poster-sized ads at the busiest stops in the San Francisco Bay Area's metro system - both BART (subway) and MUNI (bus), bringing attention to the government-organized pogroms. Over 500,000 individuals ride the BART everyday.

In the ad, an elderly woman wipes tears from her eyes during a protest in Delhi against political leaders implicated in the massacres. Her image is juxtaposed with the words, "25 years ago, our loved ones were burned alive in front of our eyes. Why has India, the world's largest democracy, denied us justice?" The poster further states, "For more information on the organized massacre of Sikhs in November 1984, involving death squads led by police and politicians, please visit"

The posters were on display at the following stations: Embarcadero (MUNI, 3), Montgomery (MUNI, 3), Powell (MUNI, 3), Berkeley (BART, 4), Oakland Coliseum/Airport (BART, 3), and 12th Street Oakland City Center (BART, 4).


Testimonies of Violence

The majority of the Sikhs killed during the pogroms were brutally beaten and burned alive with kerosene oil.

...[S]omeone from the mob threw some chemical on the face of my brother consequently his face started burning and thereafter few persons from the mob put kerosene oil on a truck tyre and then threw it on my brother. Someone from the mob then set on fire the said tyre so body of my brother started burning.-Satu Singh

Read Satu Singh's affidavit.

The death squads humiliated, sexually molested, and raped surviving Sikh women.

After some time the mob arrived...They caught hold of my daughter Maina Kaur forcibly and started tearing her clothes...They broke the hands and feet of my daughter and kidnapped her. They confined her in their homes for three days.-Padmi Kaur, cited in Twenty Years of Impunity, page 38

Read more in Chapter 2 of Ensaaf’s report, Twenty Years of Impunity.

Mobs purposefully attacked articles of the Sikh faith.

Assailants forcibly cut the hair of Sikh men - kept unshorn by Sikhs according to religious discipline - humiliating them before killing them. Over 180 Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) were attacked during the pogroms, and mobs often defiled the Sikh scriptural canon Sri Guru Granth Sahib by urinating on it or by lighting it on fire with cigarettes.

View the official list of subsequently repaired Gurdwaras from the Delhi Development Authority.


Responsibility of Senior Officials

The death squads were organized and directed by senior political party officials.

On 1st Nov.'84, Sajjan Kumar then Member of Parliament of our area, whom I know for past few...came to my house with a mob and ordered them to kill the inmates and burn the house. My two sons were dragged out and Sajjan Kumar got my sons Hoshiar Singh, 21 yrs. and Mohan Singh 18 yrs. burnt before my eyes.-Bhagwani Bai

Read Bhagwani Bai's affidavit.

When my brother fell down on the road immediately thereafter HKL Bhagat, who was already standing in the mob with black goggles and the people standing there were calling him as Bhagat Ji, Bhagat Ji, uttered the words to the rioters that “Yeh Saap Ka Bacha Hai, Isko Maro, Mat Choro, Agar Choroge To Bada Dukh Dega.” (“he is the son of a snake, beat him, don’t let him go, if you let him go he’ll hurt you a lot.”)-Satu Singh

Read Satu Singh's affidavit.Learn more about the Congress Party's role in Twenty Years of Impunity.

Senior police officers ordered their subordinates to ignore attacks against Sikhs, ordered policemen to disarm Sikhs, systematically disabled any officers who deviated from the norm of police inaction, released culprits, and manipulated police records to destroy a paper trail of the violence and perpetrators.

...On 1-11-84 around Noon time, I went to the Wireless Room of the P.S. [police station]. There I heard a message that “Sikhs carrying kirpans are moving in Angad Nagar area.” From the other side the instructions came, “Send force to arrest them immediately.” I heard numerous other messages where the information was given about the attack on the Gurdwaras and the houses of the Sikhs but in response to those messages no instructions were given to take any action. I was totally disillusioned over this approach...-Harbans Singh, a retired New Delhi police officer

Read Harbans Singh's affidavit.Read more about the police role in the pogroms, as well as the complicity of other state institutions, in Chapter 3 of Ensaaf's report, Twenty Years of Impunity.


Justice Denied

Police destroyed evidence, and concealed and manipulated survivor accounts.

Police actively engaged in covering up the carnage. Under superior orders, they refused to hand over dead bodies to surviving family members, aware of the potential significance of the physical evidence. On November 2, the East District Control Room sent a wireless message, indicating police attempts to quietly remove bodies: “Deputy Comm’r of Police/East be told to remove eight dead bodies lying in Vinod Nagar.”-Mittal Report, paragraph 3.14 (cited in Twenty Years of Impunity, page 58)

Read more about the police’s role in destroying evidence in Chapter 3 of Twenty Years of Impunity.

Over 10 Commissions of Inquiry have not resulted in any justice.

While the most recent commission, headed by Justice Nanavati, acknowledged that the violence must have been organized, the closest the report came to assigning responsibility was to state:

...there is credible evidence against Shri Jagdish Tytler [former Home Minister] to the effect that very probably he had a hand in organizing attacks on Sikhs.

The imprecise language used by the report did not provide the impetus for the government to take legal action against Tytler, or any other individual. In his speech given after the Nanavati Commission report, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologized, but refused to assign responsibility for the massacres.

Read more about the governments response to the pogroms in the Supplement to Twenty Years of Impunity.

Sikhs continued to be persecuted for over a decade after 1984 in Punjab.

From 1984 to 1995, Indian security forces engaged in systematic human rights violations in the state of Punjab, India, as part of counterinsurgency operations aimed at crushing a violent self-determination movement. During this time Director General of Police KPS Gill expanded upon a system of rewards and incentives for police to capture and kill militants, leading to a dramatic increase in disappearances and extrajudicial executions. By the end of the “Decade of Disappearances” in 1995, security forces had disappeared or killed tens of thousands of Sikhs. As demonstrated in Ensaaf's joint report with Human Rights Watch, Protecting the Killers: A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India (Oct. 2007), India’s institutions have failed to acknowledge the systematic and widespread nature of the abuses, and accordingly have not provided truth, justice, and reparations to the victims and survivors.

Browse Ensaaf's website to learn more about the work to end impunity and achieve justice for mass state crimes in Punjab.