Ry Gurbhaijan Sinch Gill. Secretary

THIS IS A GENERAL REPORT on human rights abuses in Punjab. Detailed district wise rep orts will be made public soon. By Vice Chairman, Sukhdev Singh (Journalist)

The twenty sixth January, 1950. Was a red Letter day in the long and chequered history of Indi: For, on that day, the present Constitution of India was brought into force which, besides granting freedom of conscience, justice, equality and fraternity, secured protect ion of life and personal liberty and provided safeguards against arbitrary arrests. However, even a cur sorry survey of the last year reveals many instances where these Fund a mental Rights have been violated by the police and security forces. The state violence was either directed against political opponents or against those who organized to oppose the arbitrary and unjust use: of force by the state or against the people who were fighting for their survival.

Despite Constitutional guarantees, the state oppression let loose on the people of Punjab has been at its worst during the year 1987 especially after the imposition of the President rule on May 12, 1987, in the state. 5

Administration led by Punjab Governor, S.S.Ray, Director General of Police J.F.Rebeiro combine must be held squarely responsible for the gross human rights violations during this period. These abuses include humiliations, tortures and killings of Sikhs in “encounters” at the hands of the police and paramilitary forces. Many were harassed, arrested and murdered because of their activities as lawyers, journalists, leaders of political groups, or because of their work in human rights or religious organizations.

The Indian Government in Pun jab continued contravening Artic le 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by enacting special laws and courts for the Sikhs and violate the U.N. Convention adopted on December 10, 1984, outlawing torture in any form.

The Centre through its agents in Punjab, under a deep rooted conspiracy of elimination, killed in fake encounters, “escapes”, “dis appearances” and “‘inter terrorists group rivalry” hundreds of Sikh young men who, according to the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “have been compelled as a last resort; to have recourse to violence against tyranny and oppression”.

There have been extrajudicial killings and tortures even in jails. Even the jail inmates of Sangrur who witnessed the barbarous killings in Jail of Four marked under trials, were not spared; at least two of them got their limbs broken by the guardians of judicial lockup.

Many militant leaders  Manbir Singh Chaheru, Tarsem Singh  Kohar, Sukhdev Singh Sukha,  Avtar Singh Pehlwan, Aroor  Singh, Manjit Singh Bhindi,  Roshan Lal Baraigi,etc.  Were rounded up, tortured or taken out of jails and annihilated after showing them “to have escaped from the police custody during transit.”

More than 5000 Sikhs belonging to all shades of opinion are rotting in jails without any charge. These include persons detained outside Punjab such as Chief of Akal Takhat, Bahi Jasbir Singh Rode, SGPC Chief, Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Sharomani Akali Dal President, Mr.Simranjit Singh Mann, Panthic Committee member, Bhai Dhanna Singh, Major

General Narinder Singh, father of late Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and an Akali leader has illegally been put to house arrest at his Rode village in district Faridkot.

There is no rule of law. Fair trial is not possible in face of the draconian legislations. The world known concept of criminal jurisprudence that a person is presumed to. be innocent unless proved otherwise has been turned topsy turby in this part of the country, more recently by enacting the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act,1987, and making amendment in the Evidence Act where. The confession by the accused before the police was made admissible in court of law.

Given the police practice of extracting confessions under torture, we fear that with the new amendment, TADA will become, in hands of the police, a tool to frame any person already debarred under its provisions, the open trial, any access to lawyers, press and the public support as the trials are conducted in jails by the Special Courts. These political courts are aimed at punishing the persons because of their political beliefs.

Numerous persons were picked up; their homes searched and raided, properties destroyed by the ferocious state forces as no warrants of arrest or search are needed under these dreaded laws. Several youths picked up in full view of the public are not traceable.

The Judiciary has been terrorized into silence and made subordinate to the Executive due to certain policies, interference and enactments by the Government of dread ed legislations curving the powers of the judiciary. Even where Judges tried to do justice such as Mr. J.S. Mander, Judicial Magistrate, Ludhiana taking up a criminal complaint against Union Minister Bhajan Lal was transferred post haste in a most disgusting manner in November last.

During last year a number of Punjab Sikh Lawyers Council  (PSLC) members  Mr. Raj Dev Singh, Mr.Balbir Singh Cheema, Mr. Jaspal Singh Sodhi (Rajas than) and Mr. Jagmohan Singh and the PHRO activists  Dr. Rajinder Paul Singh, Mr. Malwin der Singh Mali, both coordinators, Mr. Gucharan Singh Ghuman, Advocate, Mr.Gurdev Singh Benipal and Mr. DS. Gill (GenSecy.  PSLC & PHRO) were repressed, arrested and detained in jails only because of their professional and human rights activities.

Undeclared political censorship has been imposed. Raids, searches, arrests and imprisonment of “often ding” journalists are the indications of the state repression on the Press. Newspapers and journals ‘belonging to minority and Dalit groups in Punjab have been proscribed.,viz. Paigham, Sampark, Jantak Lehar, Sant Sipahi, Qaumi Rajniti, etc., and their printers, publishers and editors have been booked under terrorists and seditious acts. They have been terrorized and forced not to highlight the grievances and human rights posit ion of the people in the state. A constant surveillance, censorship of mail, telephone tapping is the order of the day.

The Radio and Television network is under government monopoly. Despite statute to ensure objectivity and noninterference, these mass media are biased against the ethnic, religious and cultural minorities, particularly the Sikhs. Through this network, the Sikhs and other national minorities, who are fighting to protect their identities, are being dubbed as extremists, terrorists and separatists.

Faced with these reports we are determined not to sit idle. We urge you to take note of these developments in Punjab and to do all in your power to make Indian Government to see reason.

Article extracted from this publication >> March 11, 1988