Business Standard – “‘Over 8K people disappeared during 1980 till 1995 in Punjab'”

Press Trust of India  |  Chandigarh December 2, 2017 20:20 IST

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Punjab Documentation and Advocacy Project (PDAP), an NGO, today claimed that they have found over 8,000 people going “disappeared” during 1980 till 1995 in Punjab and demanded an independent judicial commission to probe the matter.

Satnam Singh Bains, representing PDAP, claimed that they have identified and documented hundreds of victims who were allegedly “cremated as unclaimed unidentified” and killed in “fake encounters”.

“In our seven-year long investigation, we have identified 8,257 persons from different sources who disappeared from 1980 to 1995 in Punjab,” he claimed.

Bains said the records pertaining to “disappeared” people were collected by visiting villages, meeting victims’ family members and also from media reports.

“The latest report is a further step in the long struggle by people of Punjab for justice and accountability for victims and for their kin,” Bains said.

Retired Bombay High Court judge Justice Suresh, who was also present, said, “people disappeared. They (their families) have the right to know why they disappeared. They have the right to know why human right violations took place.”

People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) national convener Kavita Srivastava, while speaking on the occasion, sought formation of a judicial commission under retired sitting judge of the Supreme Court to probe the “disappearance” of the people.

Bains said they will soon move to the Supreme Court with the findings of their report and demand detailed investigation in the matter.

Release of Investigate Report – Press Release


Compelling new evidence has been collated of 8257 cases of enforced disappearances and fake encounters following a 7-year investigation by the Punjab Documentation and Advocacy Project [PDAP]. The killings  which took place across Punjab from the 1980s to 1995 are released in the PDAP’s report “Identifying the Unidentified.” The investigation reveals thousands of previously unknown, unclaimed, unidentified mass cremations from records recently obtained.

The report presents detailed and verifiable evidence of these systematic killings by the Punjab police and security services, during the period of militancy and counter-insurgency in all of its 22 districts.

The release of our investigative report is a major step for victims. Its findings will be submitted to the Supreme Court of India to investigate and deliver justice to all victims of disappearances and killings across Punjab beginning with these 8257 cases.

Our initial investigations resulted in an Independent People’s Tribunal (IPT) which was held over two days in Amritsar in April, in which a composite panel of retired judiciary, lawyers and activists from across India came together to hear the testimonies of 700 hundred victim families. The IPT comprised of Justice A. K. Ganguly (Retd. Supreme Court Judge), Colin Gonsalves (Senior Advocate, Supreme Court), Kavita Srivastava (National Convener, PUCL), Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra (Khalra Mission Organisation), Justice Suresh (Retd. Bombay High Court Judge), Babloo Loitongbam (Human Rights Alert, Manipur), Tapan Bose (Sec. Gen South Asian Human Rights Forum), Soni Sori (Tribal Rights Activist, Chhattisgarh), and Parveena Ahangar (Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, Kashmir).

The report also critically considers the on-going failings by the National Human Rights Commission in the “Punjab Mass Cremations” case based on the work of murdered human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra in 1995, who first exposed and uncovered 2097 mass killings and cremations in three cremation grounds in the district of Amritsar. We continue his work which remains unfinished and presents only a partial picture of the actual number of killings that took place in Punjab.

“Families need to know what happened to their loved ones who disappeared. The evidence of these new mass cremations must be independently investigated for justice and accountability.”


Photos from the Independent Peoples’ Tribunal – April 2017

The Independent People’s Tribunal: Carrying the scars, burden and legacy of survivors.


On the 1st and 2nd April 2017, we convened an Independent Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT) in Amritsar. Such tribunals play an important role in analysing why the judicial system has been incapable and unwilling to redress serious violations of fundamental rights and highlights institutional failures. In the Indian context, IPT’s have played a significant role in providing a platform for those disenfranchised and exert a moral pressure on the judiciary to act. We felt that in the Punjab context, such an endeavour was particularly important to give many victims an opportunity otherwise denied to them to have their voices heard.

Over two days, a composite panel of retired judiciary and prominent activists and academics from across India heard many testimonies of the forgotten survivors whose loved ones had disappeared. Most victims were themselves victims of torture. It is a sad indictment on the system of justice In India that the phenomena of Independent Peoples’ Tribunal or Indian Peoples’ Tribunal have become an alternative forum for victims to narrate their experiences when courts have failed them.

The IPT also heard expert evidence from human rights lawyers and activists from Punjab – of their own experiences and long and endless struggle for justice, and the repeated accounts of endemic failures of the judicial process to investigate, prosecute, and hold to account those responsible for mass state violence.

We were overwhelmed by the response. Over 700 victim families and survivors attended over two days. Due to the sheer numbers and constraints of time, we regret that all the victims were not able to depose before the panel. There were diverse cases from all over Punjab, which include those from Amritsar whose loved ones were cremated in the three cremation grounds as well others cases across Punjab of unclaimed unidentified cremations. Cases where the victims were disappeared or killed outside of Punjab. Cases investigated by the CBI where a charge sheet had been filed confirming that the encounters were fake yet have been lingering before the Indian Courts for 20 years or more. The common themes in these cases are the persistent denial of justice and access to justice. 


Independent Peoples’ Tribunal Press Coverage – April 2017 

‘AAP urges Punjab CM to order probe into extra-judicial killings in state’

‘Fake encounters: Panel to collect data, move SC. Collective case on extra-judicial killings and disappearances during militancy to be filled’

‘Khaira to CM: Probe extra-judicial killings’


‘Two-day independent people’s tribunal on disappeared people in Punjab to be organised in Amritsar’

‘Independent People’s Tribunal – Punjab Disappeared: Extra-Judicial Executions Enforced Disappearance’

‘Disappeared, Denied but not Forgotten: Independent People’s Tribunal hears to testimonies of kins of Victims of Enforced Disappearances in Punjab’



Independent Peoples’ Tribunal Press Release

The Punjab Documentation and Advocacy Project (PDAP) in collaboration with Human Rights Law Network, Committee for Co-ordination on Disappearances in Punjab, Lawyers for Human Rights International, the Punjab Human Rights Organisation, Khalra Mission Organisation, Sikhs for Human Rights and many other NGO’s and activists are holding a two-day Independent People’s Tribunal (IPT) on the issues of enforced disappearances, fake encounters and two decades of the denial of justice and accountability in Punjab.

The IPT will hear testimonies of hundreds of forgotten victims whose loved ones were disappeared and many of whom were cremated as “unclaimed and unidentified” by the Punjab Police in 22 of Punjab’s districts. The Tribunal will provide a unique insight into

the practice of disappearances and extra-judicial killings by taking a victim based approach, offering a platform for the victims to depose before the panel their experiences.

The IPT will hear experiences of lawyers, activists and NGO’s who have pursued cases and struggled for justice and accountability in Punjab.

The Punjab mass disappearances during the Punjab conflict have not received the importance and attention they deserve. An overwhelming number of victim’s voices have never been heard in the public domain. The majority have been awaiting basic acknowledgement, accountability and redress. In a tiny minority of cases which could be pursued through the Courts the victims have been grounded down by the endless facades of litigation.


The Tribune – “Khaira to CM: Probe extra-judicial killings”

Khaira to CM: Probe extra-judicial killings

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 3

Backing the Independent People’s Tribunal (IPT) campaign to provide justice to the victims’ families in cases of fake encounters during militancy, AAP MLA Sukhpal Khaira said today that Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh should order a probe into the extra-judicial killings.

Khaira urged the Supreme Court to take suo motu cognisance of the issue. He said, “Capt Amarinder had resigned as a Congress MP after Operation Bluestar. Following former cop Gurmeet Singh Pinky’s revelations on fake encounters, he had sought a probe into the matter. Now, he should take action on the issues raised by the IPT. A Commission of Inquiry should be set up.”

The AAP leader added, “The families of 2,097 ‘unidentified’ people who were illegally cremated have been seeking justice for the past more than 25 years. No punishment has been meted out to the police officers responsible for large-scale fake encounters.”

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Times of India – “AAP urges Punjab CM to order probe into extra-judicial killings in state”

CHANDIGARH: Supporting the initiative of the Independent People’s Tribunal (IPT) to collect data and details of fake encounters and extra judicial killings in Punjab, AAP Punjab Chief Whip Sukhpal Singh Khaira has urged Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to order a thorough probe into these killings as latter had himself earlier demanded when dismissed police inspector Gurmeet Pinky had made disclosures about these killings.

Addressing a press conference here on Monday, Khaira, who is spokesperson of Punjab unit of AAP, also argued that when BJP government in Gujarat had passed a law of life imprisonment for killing a cow it should have sensitivity towards killings of humans also. “Cows should be protected but human life should not be less important than a cow’s life and BJP led union government should not dither to order a thorough time bound investigation into the sensational matter of fake encounters and illegitimate and clandestine cremation of thousands of bodies in Punjab,” he said.

Reproducing a statement issued by Captain Amarinder Singh in December 2015 in which he demanded from the state government for a thorough probe in extra judicial killings in Punjab following Pinky’s disclosures, Khaira said that it was never too late to set things right and even cited examples of apology offered by Canada after a century of Kamagatamaru incident to Indians.

AAP leader also held that Supreme Court should take suo moto cognizance of the large scale extra judiocials killings in Punjab as it had already ordered a probe in such killings in Manipur. He said that while speaking for those killed in fake encounters at the same time he strongly condemned the killing of thousands of innocent people and officers of the police force.

He also questioned the complete silence of Sikh religious and political leadership in Punjab when non-Sikhs like senior SC lawyer and Director Human Rights Law Network Colin Gonsalves, former SC Judge AK Ganguly, former Bombay High Court judge Justice Suresh and other activists were taking initiative to get justice for the families of those who were killed in fake encounters. “The families of 2097 unidentified bodies who were illegally and clandestinely cremated in Punjab during the same period, have been running from pillar to post for last more than 25 years for justice but no meaningful punishment has been meted out to the police officers responsible for such large scale fake encounters,” Khaira said. “These cold blooded murders and denials of justice remains a blot on the democracy of India, its judicial system and the executive,” he said adding that justice was neither delivered for massacre of Sikhs in November 1984.


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The Tribune – “Fake encounters: Panel to collect data, move SC”

Collective case on extra-judicial killings and disappearances during militancy to be filed

Fake encounters: Panel to collect data, move SC
Family members of youths killed during the militancy period, in Amritsar on Saturday. tribune photo

Neeraj Bagga

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 1

The Independent People’s Tribunal (IPT), an outfit of human rights organisations, will collect information on extra-judicial executions and enforced disappearances during the militancy era to the Supreme Court.

Senior SC lawyer and Director, Human Rights Law Network, Colin Gonsalves, said, a collective case of such executions and disappearances would be prepared in the next six months and it would be filed in the apex court. After the verdict of the SC in a similar case in Manipur, hope for the affected families of Punjab for justice has rekindled.

Retired SC Judge AK Ganguly, said, it was disappointing that the courts did not take notice of human rights violations in Punajb at that time. Such violations were undergoing in Manipur, Chattisgarh, and Jammu and Kashmir.


Groups of victims from these states must approach the judiciary to direct the governments concerned to reform its working, he added.

Advocate Barjinder Singh Sodhi from Patiala, who is pursuing such cases, said justice has not been delivered in the case of the cremating 2,097 unidentified bodies and investigation was started only in 30 cases.

The organisations today came together to form the IPT to discuss – Punjab Disappeared: On extra judicial executions and enforced disappearances during days of terrorism’ for two days starting today.

Family members of about 400 affected families from Gurdaspur district participated and narrated their cases.

Members of the Jury panel for the IPT included Justice Ganguly, Suresh, a retired Judge of the Bombay HC, Kavita Srivastava, National Convener, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Soni Sori, a Tribal activist from Chattisgarh, Babloo Loitongbam, Human rights activist from Manipur, Tapan Bose, secretary general of South Asia Forum for Human Rights and documentary film maker, Praveena Ahanger, Chairperson of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, Kashmir and Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra.

IPT moderator Satnam Singh Bains said they will hear testimonials of hundreds of forgotten victims.

Human rights activists from Manipur and Kashmir valley sought repeal of the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA).

Activists of Punjab Documentation and Advocacy Project (PDAP), Human Rights Law Network, Committee for Co-ordination on Disappearances in Punjab, Lawyers for Human Rights International, Punjab Human Rights Organistion, Khalra Mission Organisation, Sikhs for Human Rights and others took part in the deliberations.

Read the original article here.