In 1993, after Punjab Police abducted Gurmeet Kaur from her home in Kalia, a witness saw her in illegal detention and reported, “She was…severely beaten.” The Punjab Police killed her and orphaned her two children.
Today, we share her full profile on our data visualization site, the first release of the 121 female victims of disappearances and unlawful killings in Punjab documented by Ensaaf. The new information added to her profile includes why Indian security forces targeted her–her husband was a militant, her experiences of illegal detention, a detailed case summary, and the officials responsible for unlawfully killing her, among other information. Her family did not pursue any legal remedies, and her children eventually dropped out of school.
Please double your donation today to support the Documenting Female Victims project. Your support will help us expand the records of 121 female victims of enforced disappearances and unlawful killings from 1984 to 1995 in Punjab, India.
Today, as we remember the 38th anniversary of the massacre at the Harmandir Sahib complex in June 1984, we announce Ensaaf’s project, Documenting Female Victims. We ask for your donation to help create and preserve the record of 121 female victims of enforced disappearances and unlawful killings from 1984 to 1995 in Punjab, India. Currently, generous individuals have pledged to match up to $15,000 in donations.
I also want to tell you that my sister-in-law, Raj Kaur, was six months pregnant at the time. That [child] was also killed by the police, or died after being born. Afterwards, when I became acquainted with the police employees, they told [me] that, “Gurcharan Singh, Raj Kaur, [and] Kuldev Kaur died while being tortured at Amloh police station.’ [O] learned that the police beat Surinder Kaur and then shot her on the same day, and threw the body in the Bakhra River.
Ensaaf visited over 12,000 villages in Punjab, documenting disappearances and unlawful killings perpetrated by Indian security forces, primarily from 1984 to 1995. Ensaaf released the first data visualization site to map and provide detailed information on crimes against humanity in Punjab, including over 5300 individual profiles of victims, covering over 40 points of information.
What happened to female victims of crimes against humanity?
As Ensaaf has continued to process its data and release information on perpetrators and develop a companion video testimonial site, we asked ourselves about the unique experiences of the female victims. Did security forces target them for different reasons? Did they suffer different patterns of abuse? Who held the information on what the female victims experienced? Documenting Female Victims will provide the resources Ensaaf needs to answer these questions.
Please support the match campaign organized with the Dasvandh Network and learn more about what the project involves, including 121 complete profiles on the female victims with family reflections and case summaries, data visualizations, and an in-depth report.
Thank you for supporting our mission to end impunity and achieve justice for crimes against humanity in Punjab!
With much excitement, we invite you to explore the beta release of our new Testimonies of Truth: A Video Archive, with an initial selection of interviews and clips, exploring key human rights themes and survivor perspectives.
This human rights video archive will grow to be the first and largest repository of video testimonials from surviving families of the “Decade of Disappearances.” 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. With your generous support, this archive will be accessed at no charge worldwide.
By honoring these victim and survivor stories, we hope to continue to educate people around the world about crimes against humanity in Punjab. As you interact with the archive, you can search by theme to learn more about the victims, their stories, and reflections. As this is the beta version of our video archive site, we welcome feedback to email@example.com as we continue to build out the site.
Ensaaf is grateful to the Khalsa Credit Union for sponsoring the Testimonies of Truth video archive. To date, about 150 survivor video interviews have been filmed since 2012, but there isstill work to doto amplify their voices to the 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.
Today, August 30, marks the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. On this day, we thank you for helping us ensure the names and stories of the victims live on.
Sukhminder Kaur holds onto the passport of her son, Sarabjit Singh, disappeared January 26, 1989, from his home when he was 17 years-old. Police barged into their home during wedding celebrations. She told Ensaaf, “No one has told me if my son is alive or not. I’m holding on to my own hopes, if someone tries to tell me that he is not, I feel angry. If you see something with your own eyes only then can you find peace. Like I told you before, he was precious.”
More than 30 years have passed, and she has not received truth or justice for the disappearance of her son. As the United Nation states, the families of victims “alternate between hope and despair, wondering and waiting, sometimes for years, for news that may never come.”
Ensaaf stands in solidarity with victims of disappearances and unlawful killings in Punjab and throughout the world. Thank you for your financial support these past two weeks, helping us reach our goal of $30,000. Your contribution will help us create an undeniable and permanent record of India’s atrocity crimes.
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.
Ensaaf works to address impunity for crimes against humanity in Punjab, with strategies and methods that also impact other regions suffering from gross human rights violations. We already provide technical assistance to human rights defenders working in India and beyond. We provide litigation support to cases in India that will set precedent for the entire country. And we share our data and resources publicly, so any community can learn from our experiences. Our work is innovative, timely, and makes an impact in Punjab and beyond.
Reason 10: We do 10x the work of other organizations with similar resources. Reason 9: We called out Sumedh Saini for atrocities. Next year, we’ll focus on Izhar Alam. Reason 8: Amar Kaur’s testimony and our Oral History Video Archive project. Reason 7: We recently documented the case of 18-year old Kulwant Singh. Every case matters. Reason 6: We are creating a permanent and thorough human rights archive. Reason 5: We impacted key legal cases. Reason 4: Our work is essential for survivors to be heard. Reason 3: We have a proven track record and great partners. Reason 2: We take charge of our own narrative. Reason 1: We must protect the human rights of the world.
On August 30, 2019, the International Day of the Disappeared, Ensaaf released its first in-depth perpetrator dossier of former Punjab Police Chief Sumedh Singh Saini. Our dossier includes a visualization identifying his victims, command history, awards, and known promotions. The dossier also includes news articles detailing a key legal case and disciplinary hearings, among other materials.
Expert Medical Study Documents Torture and Psychological Trauma Suffered by Families of the “Disappeared” in Punjab
In May and June 2005, Ensaaf organized the Physicians for Human Rights and the Bellevue/NYU School of Medicine Program for Survivors of Torture to conduct a study of 127 families who survived the disappearance of a family member in Amritsar, Punjab. These cases drew from those pending before the National Human Rights Commission in the Punjab mass cremations case. Ensaaf consulted with the investigation team in the U.S. for one year prior to the study, providing guidance and background on the legal proceedings. Ensaaf also organized all of the logistics of the study in Punjab.
October 24, 2005
Expert Study Calls on Indian National Human Rights Commission to Investigate Violations
(San Francisco, CA) Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and the Bellevue/New York University School of Medicine Program for Survivors of Torture (Bellevue) submitted a report today in the Punjab mass cremations matter pending before India’s National Human Rights Commission since December 1996. The report, entitled Evaluation of Litigants Pertaining to Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 447/95 Committee for Information and Initiative on Punjab vs. State of Punjab, is based on structured interviews and diagnostic evaluations of 127 family members of victims killed and illegally cremated by Indian security forces from 1984 to 1995.
“As a result of the death and illegal cremation of a close family member, most of the individuals interviewed demonstrated severe psychological disorders…”Dr. Allen Keller and Dr. Barry Rosenfeld
A six-member PHR/Bellevue investigative team with extensive experience in documenting torture and human rights abuses conducted this study in Amritsar, Punjab in May and June 2005 at the request of Ensaaf, a U.S.-based non-profit organization fighting impunity for human rights abuses committed in India. The PHR/Bellevue assessment reveals a “pattern of intentional abuse by law enforcement officials among multiple family members,” demonstrating that the Commission needs to investigate and adjudicate the fundamental rights violations committed by Indian security forces, beyond the illegal cremation of the family member.
“As a result of the death and illegal cremation of a close family member, most of the individuals interviewed demonstrated severe psychological disorders including depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, with nearly half of those interviewed continuing to describe these symptoms more than ten years after the traumas occurred,” write Dr. Allen Keller and Dr. Barry Rosenfeld, authors of the report. They further write, “Many participants described permanent impairments and long-term disability related to the physical abuse inflicted by the authorities during the time period surrounding the death and cremation of their relative.”
CIIP vs. State of Punjab has proceeded before the Commission for nearly nine years. The Commission, however, has not heard the testimony of a single survivor in the Punjab mass cremations matter; nor has it found a single security official or agency liable for the thousands of disappearances and extrajudicial executions leading to illegal cremations in Punjab. The Commission continues to flout international and domestic law by refusing to investigate the secret cremations, ignoring fundamental rights violations such as the unlawful deprivation of life and torture of family members. The PHR/Bellevue report should compel the Commission to investigate the physical and psychological trauma suffered by victim families, in addition to the murder and illegal cremation of their relative.
Rajvinder S. Bains: This procedure has failed completely.
Rajvinder S. Bains, a human rights attorney in the Punjab & Haryana High Court for over 20 years, discusses his experiences with the High Court in cases filed on behalf of victims of disappearances or extrajudicial executions. (Oct. 2007)
Mohinder Singh: What justice can we get from here?
Mohinder Singh discusses the abduction and murder of his son by the Punjab police and his pursuit of numerous avenues of justice. (Oct. 2007)
Tarlochan Singh: A Mockery of Justice
Tarlochan Singh describes his son Kulwinder Singh’s abduction by the Punjab police, and his 18-year continuing legal struggle for justice for Kulwinder Singh’s extrajudicial execution. (Oct. 2007)
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Gurcharan Singh and his Desire for Justice
In an SBS Dateline program on Punjab, Geoff Parish discusses the Punjab governments offer of compensation to 17 families, with no investigation or admission of liability by the state, in the Punjab mass cremations case. Gurcharan Singh rejected this offer. (Apr. 2002, Uploaded with permission from SBS.)
Jaswant Singh Khalra: Investigations into Illegal Cremations
An SBS Dateline program on Punjab describes human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalras discovery of the Punjab polices use of secret cremations to hide evidence of extrajudicial executions. The clip includes an interview with human rights activist Ram Narayan Kumar. (Apr. 2002, Uploaded with permission from SBS.)
A Witness Among the Bodies: Surviving Bluestar
On the 30th Anniversary of Operation Bluestar, Ensaaf presents an eyewitness account of the Indian Army attack on The Harmandir Sahib Complex in Amritsar, Punjab, from June 1 and June 6, 1984. This exclusive interview reveals how the Indian Army intentionally killed thousands of civilians and used excessive force during this assault.
Ensaaf Speaks with Manak about Court Decision, November 28, 2013
On November 26, 2013, the Punjab & Haryana High Court allowed the appeal of the State of Punjab and reversed and nullified the decision of the Single Judge directing investigation by the CBI. Not only did it refuse to order an inquiry into Satwant Singh Manak’s allegations that he witnessed the Punjab Police torture and unlawfully kill ten people, it also fined Manak, ordering him to pay 2,000 rupees to each of the accused police officers.
A Labor Of Love: Contesting Impunity
On July 23, 1989, Punjab Police officers abducted, tortured, and unlawfully killed 35-year old Sikh community leader Kuljit Singh Dhatt. For 25 years, his family has relentlessly pursued justice, attending over a hundred hearings, petitioning various courts and commissions, and enduring police harassment and intimidation of witnesses. On May 9, 2014, a judge convicted three police officers of abduction in order to murder Kuljit Singh Dhatt, sentencing them to a mere five years. The legal battle continues, now in the higher courts.
Navkiran Kaur Khalra:
“We are proud of what our father did.”
Navkiran Kaur Khalra, daughter of murdered human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalra, recounts her family’s struggle for justice and her father’s discovery of thousands of killings and secret cremations by the Punjab police to hide evidence of wrongdoing. (Oct. 2007)
Jaswant Singh Khalra: Last International Speech – The Struggle for Truth
In his last speech made to a Canadian audience, Jaswant Singh Khalra discusses his investigations into the thousands of illegal killings and secret cremations by the Punjab police and his readiness to die to expose the truth about these crimes. Jaswant Singh Khalra begins his speech with a moving fable about the struggle of truth and light against expanding darkness. He recounts how he traced the fate of many disappeared Sikhs to Amritsar’s municipal cremation grounds. Through government records obtained from these municipalities, Khalra exposed a detailed history of systematic human rights violations in which security forces abducted, murdered, and secretly cremated an estimated 6,017 Sikhs in Amritsar district alone–then one of 13 districts in Punjab–from 1984 to 1995. (Apr. 1995)
Paramjit Kaur Khalra on Impunity in Punjab
In this video, Paramjit Kaur Khalra describes the need for a truth commission to redress the thousands of disappearances and killings in Punjab, India perpetrated during the counterinsurgency of 1984 to 1995. In September and October 1995, Indian security forces illegally detained, tortured, and killed her husband, human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra, for his work uncovering over 2,000 cases of extrajudicial executions and secret cremations in Amritsar district alone. On November 4, 2011, India’s Supreme Court upheld life imprisonment for five officers involved in Khalra’s unlawful abduction, torture, and killing. Mrs. Khalra continues to seek justice for the all victims of illegal killings and disappearances.
On Human Rights Day, we share this documentary to show you how your support helps us document abuses on the ground. Seeking Ensaaf, filmed by Andrew Heskett, Ryan Westra, and David Thompson, recipients of the Sikh Scholarship Program at Chapman University, in August 2013, follows Ensaaf field workers as they document a case of extrajudicial killing in Punjab. Thank you for joining us on this journey to end impunity and achieve justice for the disappearances and unlawful killings of the Decade of Disappearances in Punjab.
A Light of Justice: Commemorating Jaswant Singh Khalra
On the 20th anniversary of the police abduction of human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalra, Ensaaf released A Light of Justice: Commemorating Jaswant Singh Khalra. This 30-minute film contains interviews with Khalra’s family, as well as archival footage of Khalra when he was investigating secret cremations and disappearances in Punjab.
Twenty years after Khalra’s martyrdom, the architects of the widespread and systematic human rights abuses in Punjab remain free. The Indian government is no closer to bringing Gill and the other perpetrators to justice for organizing Khalra’s – and thousands of other innocent Sikhs’ – death.
Please watch and share this film via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
The Last Killing
Satwant Singh Manak joined the Punjab Police to provide his family with a stable income. But in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in response to an insurgency, Indian security forces committed systematic and widespread torture, disappearances, and unlawful killings in Punjab. Manak silently witnessed the torture and executions of 15 unarmed individuals at the hands of his fellow police officers. The killing of Kulwant Singh, a teenager who had passed 10th grade, deeply affected Manak. No longer able to suppress his conscience and the horror of what he witnessed, he resigned from his job and filed a case against his fellow police officers. That case covers ten of the victims.
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