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.

Thirty-Five Years: Commemorating the Victims of Saka Nakodar

February 4, 2021 in Blog, Legal Advocacy, Press, Reports

35 years ago on February 4, 1986, India’s security forces shot and unlawfully killed four Sikh men participating in a peaceful religious procession and protest in Nakodar, Punjab.

For 35 years, the families have tirelessly fought for truth and justice to bring the perpetrators to account. Ensaaf stands in solidarity with the survivors and is inspired by their courage and perseverance.

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10 Reasons to Support Ensaaf

December 20, 2019 in Documentation, Legal Advocacy, Press, Reports

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.

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Ensaaf Launches Ground-Breaking Effort to Name Chief Perpetrators

August 30, 2019 in Documentation, Legal Advocacy, Press

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.

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Punjab Mass Cremations Case

May 20, 2016 in Legal Advocacy

The Punjab Mass Cremations Case

The Punjab Mass Cremations Case represented a key opportunity to challenge institutionalized impunity in India.

In 1995, after human rights activists Jaswant Singh Khalra and Jaspal Singh Dhillon released official records exposing the mass secret cremations perpetrated by the Punjab Police in Amritsar district, the Committee for Information and Initiative on Punjab (CIIP) moved the Supreme Court to demand a comprehensive inquiry into unlawful killings throughout Punjab. After Punjab Police abducted and murdered Jaswant Singh Khalra, the Supreme Court ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India's premier investigative agency, to investigate these crimes.

In December 1996, the Supreme Court referred the matter of secret cremations to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), observing that the CBI's inquiry report disclosed "flagrant violations of human rights on a mass scale." The December 1996 report by the CBI showed 2,097 illegal cremations at three cremation grounds in Amritsar district. However, this number does not accurately represent the total number of individuals illegally cremated in Amritsar. Interviews with cremation ground workers disclosed that multiple people were often cremated with the firewood normally required for completely burning one body, and Khalra himself discussed over 6,000 cremations in Amritsar district.

The Supreme Court appointed the NHRC as its sui generis body, with the powers of the Supreme Court under Article 32 to redress fundamental violations of human rights, in the Punjab mass cremations case. However, over the entirety of the proceedings before the NHRC, the Commission has failed to apply Indian or international human rights standards to investigate and provide reparations for these abuses.

The Commission's major failings in the Punjab mass cremations litigation include:

  • Territorially restricting its mandate to three crematoria in Amritsar district, ignoring disappearances, unlawful killings, and illegal cremations throughout Punjab;
  • Limiting its mandate to the narrow issue of the procedural correctness of the cremations, ignoring the violations of the rights to life and liberty;
  • Refusing to investigate a single cremation, and thus never hearing any evidence from survivor families;
  • Basing its findings on information provided by the Punjab Police, the perpetrators of the crimes;
  • Refusing to hold any officials accountable for the violations, repeatedly stating in its orders: "[W]e are not expressing any opinion about the culpability or otherwise of any police officer or officials, nor shall we be understood to have expressed any opinion about the responsibility of any of the officials of the state for the unlawful and unceremonious cremations of the deceased, without following the rules, conventions and the humanitarian law;"
  • Rejecting briefs and reports by international groups, providing relevant evidence. In its October 10, 2006 order, the Commission attacked the credibility and report of Physicians for Human Rights and Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture.

In its October 9, 2006 order, the NHRC compensated the next of kin of 1,051 individuals for the wrongful cremation of their loved ones, where the Punjab Police did not follow the rules for proper cremations, and 194 individuals for the violation of the right to life, where the Punjab Police admitted custody prior to death but did not admit liability for the unlawful killing. It also appointed retired Punjab and Haryana High Court Justice K.S. Bhalla as a commissioner for conducting an inquiry in Amritsar ("Bhalla Commission" or "Amritsar Commission of Inquiry") to identify the remaining cremation victims from the CBI list under its consideration, if possible, within eight months.

The Amritsar Commission submitted its final report in mid-2007. The NHRC responded to the report in its March 2008 order, creating another sub-commission.

The Supreme Court retains seisin over the Punjab mass cremations case, and its ultimate resolution will occur there.