A recently-released report ‘Identifying the Unidentified’ by the Punjab Documentation and Advocacy Project (PDAP) states that over 8,000 extra-judicial executions and enforced disappearances took place in the state between 1985 and 1995. The Report is the result of seven years of investigation.
For the entire decade 1985 -1995 Punjab was a killing field. Thousands of youth were killed by the Punjab police. There is indisputable evidence to show that there was nothing to prove that any one of the victims was a “terrorist” or a threat to society at the time of his death. No cases were filed, nor was there any judicial process. They were simply taken away in police vehicles, declared “militant” or “terrorist” and shot in cold blood.
The PDAP and its team of volunteers travelled to 1400 villages in Punjab across 22 districts of Punjab. The team carried out systematic investigation and pieced together evidence on the thousands of enforced disappearances. By visiting numerous cremation grounds in Punjab, this team of human rights lawyers and activists was able to gather 800 pages of records from across the 22 districts.
The investigations have revealed that 5,648 mass cremations of unclaimed and unidentified persons took place in Punjab between 1984 and 1995. The highest concentration of killings and illegal cremations took place between 1990 and 1993. The identities of another 2,609 victims have been ascertained, thereby bringing the total to 8,257.
Several police constables and SHOs have spoken out at various points of time to tell the facts behind the stories made up by the police to cover up their crime. These lower rank police are among those who received monetary awards and out of turn promotions, but their conscience did not let them continue, so criminal and dastardly were the actions they were order to commit.
Thousands of youth were just picked up from their homes and even public places, taken to police cells, tortured and killed. Their families – mothers, fathers, wives, brothers and sisters – were not even informed of their whereabouts for days and months, and would later hear the news of their killing in an “encounter” with the police. The families were denied even the bodies of the loved ones to perform the last rites as the victims were declared “unclaimed and unidentified” and cremated by the police themselves. Mere boys were picked up from their houses or fields and taken blindfolded to isolated places and told to run. A burst of AK-47 rifle-fire ended their lives.
The investigation revealed cases like that of 17 year old Kulwant Singh who was in his aunt’s house when the police came knocking. The cops were looking for a militant by that name. The boy was picked up though the cops knew he was innocent. He was tortured and killed and his body was disposed by throwing it in the canal.
Another police officer admitted to having participated in 50 such encounters. These very police officers and their family members have since been harassed, implicated by false cases and threatened with death by those who were identified as the ‘higher-ups’ who ordered them to carry out these crimes.
Many earlier investigations that had led to exposures of the truth behind the mass disappearances and killings have come to naught because the very investigators have “disappeared”. The first identification of mass cremations of 2097 individuals were unearthed and identified in Amritsar’s three cremation grounds, by a human rights activist who himself was abducted and killed in 1995.
While various individuals and organisations have taken up the cases of the victims on behalf of their families, the Indian state has officially not admitted to these wanton mass murders of innocent people by the Punjab Police during the years of ‘Operation Rakshak’. The Indian State claimed that Punjab was teeming with militants and terrorists who had armed themselves against the State and were fighting for a separate Khalistan. . The truth is that organising terrorist bomb blasts, painting entire communities as terrorists, arresting, torturing and killing innocent people, especially youth, had become a regular part of the method of rule of the Indian State in order to crush the struggles of the people. The lie that that Sikhs were behind terrorist killings of Hindus was repeated a thousand times through the monopoly media in order that people should start believing it and accept state terrorism.
The Indian state stands indicted for the dastardly murder of thousands of innocent Punjabi youth and men.