When Tarlok Singh and Balbir Kaur celebrated the birth of their son Surjit Singh, they could never have imagined he would live such a short life. Yet, in the midst of the violence that plagued Punjab during the “Decade of Disappearances,” Punjab Police killed Surjit Singh, like thousands of others, in a fake encounter. He was only 17.
In 2010, Ensaaf spoke to hundreds of other survivors in Punjab just like Surjit Singh’s family. Many of them had never before shared their experiences with civil society. Yet they welcomed us into their homes so that the lives and deaths of their loved ones could be documented and acknowledged.
Here, we’ve compiled photographs of several victims, shared by survivors, into a photo essay titled “Our Voices Matter”.
In June 1984, the Indian Army attacked Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, as well as 41 other gurudwaras (Sikh places of worship) throughout Punjab. The assault, codenamed “Operation Blue Star,” marked the beginning of a policy of gross human rights violations in Punjab that continues to have profound implications for the rule of law in India.
This brief photo essay includes photos from the assault itself, the Tribune (Chandigarh) and the BBC. The essay draws on information from the BBC and Chapter 1 of Ensaaf’s report Twenty Years of Impunity.
Ensaaf and the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group released a photo essay in accompaniment to their joint report, Violent Deaths and Enforced Disappearances During the Counterinsurgency in Punjab, India. This report uses quantitative methods to scientifically demonstrate the implausibility that these lethal human rights violations are random or minor aberrations as suggested by Indian officials.
Ensaaf and Human Rights Watch released a photo essay (modified from original) in accompaniment to their 123-page report, Protecting the Killers: A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India. See the photo essay here.