How It Started.
PDAP’s work is inspired by the ground-breaking work done by human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra, who was himself murdered for exposing serious rights violations and illegal activities perpetrated by the Punjab police and Indian security forces between 1978 and 1995. Just like many of the people whose killings he exposed, Khalra too was picked up by the state police from outside his house in 1995 and was never seen again.
Khalra unearthed a catalogue of unlawful detentions, torture, fake encounters and extra judicial killings of thousands of people in Amritsar. In a meticulous process of detective work, he matched receipts for wood used for funeral pyres as well as records of bodies cremated by the police of what were recorded as unclaimed and unidentified corpses, against information from newspapers and witness accounts of people who had been picked up by police and never seen again. From these he compiled a reliable body of evidence that subsequently formed the backbone of several subsequent official inquires.
Following Khalra’s pioneering methodology, PAPD has since 2008 uncovered evidence of more than 6,224 unidentified and unclaimed cremations from 14 of the 22 districts of Punjab.
In 1996, the Supreme Court of India considered evidence uncovered by Khalra and ordered several inquiries and in turn gave wide-ranging powers to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as well as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to conduct further inquiries. However, both the agencies unnecessarily confined the scope of their investigations to Amritsar.
The evidence and findings of PDAP’s eight years of investigations forms the basis for a renewed litigation before the Supreme Court for establishing a ‘Missing Persons Commission’, so that a full disclosure of the number of people missing, enforced disappeared and killed in Punjab during the decade of turbulence can be obtained as well as those undefined in records are available with the State and its agencies.