Press Note: “Dead Men Do Speak”: Two Separate and Disturbing Developments in Punjab’s Courts – Victims of Fake Encounters Claimed as Sikh ‘Militants’ Alive and Still in Danger, Actual Victims Were Innocent Sikhs.”

“Dead Men Do Speak”: Two Separate and Disturbing Developments in Punjab’s Courts – Victims of Fake Encounters Claimed as Sikh ‘Militants’ Alive and Still in Danger, Actual Victims Were Innocent Sikhs.”


October 18, 2023

As legal cases continue their slow march through Punjab’s courts, two remarkable and deeply troubling developments have finally a piercing spotlight on a persistent and disturbing pattern in the state – innocent victims being falsely identified as Sikh ‘militants’ and subsequently killed in separate fake encounters. What makes these revelations even more shocking is that both ‘militants’ originally declared killed, are now confirmed to be alive and, even more disturbingly, under threat.

In the first case, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) recently filed murder charges related to a ‘fake encounter’ that unfolded 31 years ago. The Punjab police had initially claimed that the victim was Gurnam Singh Bandala, was a militant killed in an exchange of fire. However, investigations revealed that the victim Sukhpal Singh was, in reality, an innocent Sikh. 

In a parallel development, a legal battle has been unfolding in the CBI Court, Mohali, in the case of CBI v Dharam Singh. During the proceedings, it has come to light that one of the two victims in this case is still very much alive, despite official records indicating otherwise. The ‘militant,’ Jagir Singh, who was supposedly killed in the encounter, is now 71 years old and has spent 15 years in prison for a case registered at the very police station where he was officially declared deceased following the encounter by Ajnala Police.

Jagir Singh, after appearing through video conferencing from the hospital to confirm his identity and existence, has now gone missing, raising grave concerns for his safety. PDAP Lawyers representing Bapu Kashmir Singh, the father of Daljit, the second Sikh victim in the encounter, have implored the court to conduct a thorough investigation into the overlooked aspect of the CBI investigation – the need to ascertain the identity of the second victim, who was allegedly illegally cremated by the Ajnala Police.

These cases highlight disclosures made by Ex-DGP Virk, shedding light on the alarming fact that hundreds of individuals who were claimed to be ‘militants’ and reported as killed were, in fact, alive and living under new identities. Meanwhile, the victims in these encounters were innocent Sikhs, wrongfully targeted. Tragically, these deceptive practices were often employed to create new identities for ‘CATs,’ a euphemism for ‘Militants-turned-informers,’ or to enable Punjab Police officers to claim rewards for these supposed killings, resulting in out-of-turn and accelerated promotions.

As we mark the 17th year of our investigations and legal representation of victim families, it’s evident that these cases merely scratch the surface. They underscore the pressing need for truth, justice, accountability, and transparency in addressing the state-sponsored crimes committed against the predominantly Sikh population during the insurgency across Punjab

The ongoing 44 CBI cases have unearthed a wealth of evidence that was never fully examined or tragically overlooked for over three decades. As we continue our mission to uncover the truth behind these extra-judicial killings, we remain steadfast in our commitment to #IdentifytheUnidentified and bring truth and justice to the victims and their families.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Punjab Documentation & Advocacy Project

Live Mint: “In Punjab, families of the ‘disappeared’ await justice”

In Punjab, families of the ‘disappeared’ await justice

The narrative to discredit the farmers protest harks back to a long dead secessionist movement for Khalistan. But what really remains of the Punjab conflict is hundreds of families, whose sons they say were killed by the police and mass cremated, still awaiting justice.

10 May 2007: Jagir Singh (68) holds a picture of his son Sukhpal Singh, who was allegedly killed in a fake encounter in 1994. (Photo: Getty Images)

On 29 June 1991, Gurmeet Singh was nearly 2 years old, when he last saw his father. His parents—Rattan Singh and Jaswinder Kaur—had gone to attend an ardaas (prayer service) for Gurmeet’s paternal uncle. At 11am, Punjab police raided the gathering. Rattan Singh was among those who were picked up. “He was taken to a police station in Gurdaspur and tortured,” says Gurmeet, now 30. He came to know of this years later from his grandfather, Varayam Singh, who raised him and his younger sister.

By the time the local MLA and panchayat members reached Talwandi in Gurdaspur the next morning to demand the men be released, Rattan Singh had been “killed in an encounter”, and cremated. They returned with his ashes.

From the early 1980s till 1995, Punjab was in the grip of militancy, as a political demand for autonomy developed into a separatist movement. Between bombings and bus-burning, people recall times where men would walk through the districts of Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Amritsar, armed and fearless. Many left the state. The early 1990s saw the bloodiest phase as the state launched counter-insurgency operations, arming the state police with laws such as The Armed Forces (Punjab and Chandigarh) Special Powers Act (1983) and The Punjab Disturbed Areas Act (1983). They would pick up or shoot men on mere suspicion, and often their families as well.

Human Rights Watch report conducted during that period revealed that torture in police custody included “electric shock, applied to the victim’s genitals, head, ears and legs; prolonged beatings with canes and leather straps; tying the victim’s hands behind the back and suspending him or her from the ceiling by the arms.”

At the age of 10, Gurmeet pieced together information from local panchayat meetings and things he was told. This was how he came to understand why his mother had remarried, abandoning both siblings. “Aise mujhe pata chala ki police ne brutality ki (That’s how I learnt of police brutality),” says the daily-wage worker, who earns close to Rs. 300 per day. As we speak, his voice trails after every sentence.“Humari zindagi narak thi (our lives were hell).”

Varayam, too, was routinely detained until 1997. The children would spend hours at a neighbour’s home, unsure whether their grandfather would return. With an education cut short—Gurmeet studied till class 8 at the Dhan Mata Gujri Ji Trust “where children of martyrs were sent”—he grew up in the shadow of violence, silence and a persistent terror. “Main kisi se nahi baat kar saka. Aap ko toh pata hai ki Sarkar kuch bhi kar sakti hai, sab unhi ke haath mein hai (“I could never speak to anyone about this. You know the state can do anything, everything is in their hands.”)

Nearly three decades later, Gurmeet may be looking at a glimmer of hope. On 20 December last year, the non-profit group Punjab Documentation and Advocacy Project (PDAP) filed a writ in the Punjab and Haryana high court, detailing the “disappearance” and mass cremations of more than 8,000 men by the police between 1984-95, across 1,600 villages in 14 of the state’s 22 districts. Among this number, which hides the trauma of broken families and psychological stress, is the “extrajudicial killing” of Gurmeet’s father, Rattan Singh.

As farmers gather today at the borders of Delhi, demanding a repeal of three new laws they fear will put corporate interests before theirs, a counter-narrative has emerged to discredit the protests. It harks back to this tumultuous phase in Punjab’s history, alleging links between farmer groups and the secessionist movement for Khalistan, ignoring nuance and the barely healed lesions of a decade-long conflict.

“Kisanon ka Khalistan se kya lena dena? Kisan hai toh jahan hai (What have farmers got to do with Khalistan? The world lives on the toil of farmers)” says Jaspal Singh, a 50 year old farmer from Gurdaspur. His younger brother Rashpal, he says, was killed and cremated by the police in 1992. There was no warrant, no trial and no due process. Jaspal has remained silent for over 25 years, but now his brother’s name finds mention in the PDAP petition.

In 2008, the PDAP started a fresh investigation into the human right abuses during the conflict. Over 10 years, it filed queries under the right to information Act, studying 1,400 police FIRs and decades-old records of cremation grounds, analysing archived newspapers and recording testimonies of eyewitnesses and the relatives of those who had disappeared.

“The investigations and records presented to the court show that the Punjab police and security forces would abduct, kill and secretly cremate bodies. Instead of cremating one body at a time, the police often cremated several together in a single pyre and in some cases, up to 18 bodies were cremated in a single day from just a single incident,” says Satnam Singh Bains, a barrister and convener of the PDAP.

The petition includes a call to establish a “Missing Persons Commission” on the lines of the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons in Argentina. “…even the Geneva Convention provides that during times of war or inter-country conflict bodies of enemy combatants are to be identified, treated with respect and not defiled, yet these victims were citizens of India, who were accorded less rights than a foreign enemy combatant,” it says.

History of blood and ashes

In 2017, the PDAP organised a People’s Tribunal in Amritsar. Over two days, a composite panel of retired judiciary members, prominent activists and academics from across India heard testimonies of the forgotten survivors whose loved ones had ‘disappeared’. The audience was a sea of bodies—nearly everyone either wiping tears or with fixed gazes, holding frayed photographs and old paper clippings—memories and scraps of news about the dead. For many of these 700 families, this was the first time they told their stories.

The cruel irony of human rights in Punjab was that one of the first to raise this question during the 1990s was also among the last of the victims of state excesses: Jaswant Singh Khalra. A human rights activist, he uncovered disappearances, killings and secret cremations, drawing attention globally to the issue.

“Thousands of mothers await their sons. Even though some may know that the oppressor has not spared their sons’ lives on this earth,” said Khalra in June 1995 in the Canadian Parliament. “But a mother’s heart is such that even if she sees her son’s dead body, she does not accept that her son has left her. So the mothers who have not even seen their children’s dead bodies, they were asking us, at least find out: is our son alive or not?”

Punjab witnessed unprecedented violence between 1978 and the early 1990s. In 1966, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ceded to a demand from Sikhs for their own state and created a separate Punjab state along linguistic lines, separating the Hindi and Haryanvi-speaking parts from East Punjab state (as the part of Punjab province in India after Partition was known), and incorporating other Punjabi-speaking areas. A sense of discrimination and of being a minority persisted, and in 1973, the Shiromani Akali Dal made a list of demands, in its Anandpur Sahib Resolution, for “creation of such an environment where Sikh sentiment can find its full expression”.

Fall outs of the Green Revolution, the Union government’s interventions and an increased communalisation of politics led to a struggle for an independent Sikh state of Khalistan during the 1980s. Operation Blue Star, when the military launched an operation against militants in the Golden Temple, the subsequent assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, and the ensuing violence in Delhi in which more than 3,000 Sikhs were killed, fanned the embers of sectarian violence. In 1988, the 59th Amendment to the Constitution suspended fundamental rights in the state. By 1995, the resistance of the rural Sikh population to both militancy and counterinsurgency put an end to Punjab’s most tumultuous phase after independence.

By then, according to a report in The Tribune, over 21,000 people had been killed in Punjab—over 8,000 were categorised as militants, 11,696 were civilians, and 1,746 were security force personnel (among them, 1,415 Punjab police officials). The militants would abduct people, threaten or kill judges, politicians, media professionals and police officers and their families. In this context, the state was given a free hand. The first DGP sent in at the time, Julio Ribeiro implemented the famed “bullet for bullet” policy and then under Punjab police DGP KPS Gill until 1995, Punjab saw a spate of “fake encounters”, custodial deaths and mass cremations.

“They virtually converted this into an ideological argument: Since things are bad, anything the police does should be accepted,” says Human Rights lawyer and senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, who formed the Committee for Information and Initiative on Punjab in the 1980s along with four others. “The human rights violations in Punjab were horrible. If you reach a place where there is no difference between you and the extremists in your violence, then what is it that we are preserving the state from?”

In the 1990s, Khalra was the director of a cooperative bank in Amritsar when two of his colleagues disappeared. “It all began when he committed himself to helping these families find out what had happened. Sure enough they found the two had been picked up by the police, killed and cremated. The families were not even handed over their remains,” says his wife Paramjit Kaur Khalra.

What started as a quest to find his friends led to the discovery of a number of “unidentified” pyres. The first registers documenting these listed over 300 cremations from the Durgiana Mandir ground in 1992. He obtained similar records of two other crematoria in Amritsar district, and in 1993, filed a PIL (public interest litigation) in the Chandigarh high court with his findings. “He would receive threats from the police like, ‘we have disappeared 25,000 people, we have no problem if that’s 25,001’,” says Paramjit.

Early on 6 September 1995, Jaswant asked a bewildered Paramjit to promise that she would be able to raise the children alone. “I didn’t understand it, but he obviously knew something was about to happen,” she recalls. Later that morning, after their two children left for school and Paramjit set out for work at the University library in Amritsar, the Punjab police surrounded the colony. Before she could even begin the day’s tasks and just after she had marked attendance, Paramjit got a frantic call from one of her neighbours: The police had taken her husband.

“At this point I had two options, to keep quiet and continue like nothing had happened, or to actually do something about it,” says Paramjit. She filed a habeas corpus petition in the High Court and spent the next 16 years of her life getting justice for her husband, whom she never saw again.

It was only 3 years after the case began that they found a witness.“The gunman of the officer who took Jaswant confessed to the CBI that Jaswant had been eliminated and burnt,” she says.

“It is horrifying to visualise that dead bodies of large number of persons allegedly thousands could be cremated by the police unceremoniously with a label “unidentified,” the Court said in its order in 1996. It also directed the Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to appoint a high powered team to investigate the matter, limited to the cremation grounds in Amritsar. Simultaneously, the NHRC awarded monetary relief of upto Rs. 2.5 lakhs to the next of kin of the deceased, however it did not investigate which officers were responsible for these killings.

In 2007, the Punjab and Haryana High Court gave life terms to five police officers, and acquitted a sixth in the case. In November 2011, the Supreme Court upheld the convictions and sentences.

Paramjit’s children were 12 or 13 at the time and found out about their father’s death as teachers and children talked about it in school. She has spent nearly two decades doggedly pursuing justice and has since committed herself to find ways to compensate victim families, to ensure justice, no matter how delayed. In 2019, she contested the Lok Sabha elections from the Khadoor Sahib constituency and came in second. “Neither can we forget this pain, neither can we bare this pain, neither can we forgive this pain,” she says.

Over the years, the position of the Punjab police has been consistent: Its officers were not trained to fight “internationally sponsored terror” and “tactics had to be deployed” to eliminate militancy and “bring Punjab back from the brink”. A CBI court has convicted a number of officers for illegal cremations, judgements that have upset Punjab police, which has argued that policemen “who worked under a reign of fear and terror” should be treated with leniency. The Punjab police DGP and state chief secretary did not respond to Lounge’s requests for interviews over phone, text and email.

“Human rights are for the benefit of the system too, and the collective. To ensure that you don’t go after wrong people,” says Ramakrishnan. “If you summarily kill off a bunch of people and call them militants, then are you really freeing the state of terror? It’s no one’s case that lethal force cannot be used in private defence, but the law is the law—there has to be some accountability.”

For 25 years, Jaspal Singh has been waiting for just that—accountability. The police, he says, picked up the fourth of 6 brothers on 4 June 1992. Rashpal Singh was in his 20s; a singer and composer, “much beloved in their village”. “Bohot yaad aati hai, tamboora le ke raat ko gaana gata tha, toh gaon ke log bolte the raunak laga ditti (we think about him constantly, when he would sing at night everyone would say he added life to the village).”

Once they received word from someone Jaspal says was a “god-fearing police officer”, the bothers co-ordinated efforts along with local leaders to bring him home. They found their way to Chandan di Madi, a cremation ground in Gurdaspur. “Two men were killed and cremated that day, one was our brother and the other man remained unclaimed. We brought home the remains of two brothers that day,” he says.

Missing stories of women

If “accountability” has been missing from the Punjab story of the 1990s, also absent is the story of women during the conflict. As Mallika Kaur, a lawyer and writer who focuses on gender and minority issues in the US and south Asia points out, “Within the marginalised Punjab conflict, as is most often the case, gender dynamics have been further marginalized. Or at best described in a very unidimensional and politically expedient way: the turbaned Sikh man as angry and prone to violence, the Sikh woman as the hapless victim.” She adds, “These descriptions caricature human lives and aspirations. And about women’s stories, there are embarrassingly few accounts, especially in English. For Punjab’s conflict narrative, where the aftermath of 1984 ravaged the countryside, women’s bodies are accepted as hidden, silent, receptacles.”

Amreek Kaur, 55, and her husband, Jasbir Singh, were arrested from the same gathering Gurmeet’s father had attended. As we speak, her voice is steady, as if the memory has almost hardened her over the years. “They took me to a separate place and beat me so hard, the SHO ripped my hair so brutally, it still doesn’t grow in that particular spot, to this day.” She then describes what broke her even more than the physical abuse. “They were celebrating and distributing sweets to us in jail, they even handed me some. I was only told later that it was because they had killed those men—one of them being my husband.”

Amreek was finally released and asked to go home with her father and local leaders through the village, instructed not to use the main road by the police. In between, she slips in something, almost in passing. “It was horrible, unhone itni gaaliyan di, andar humein kapde bhi nahi pehnne diye (they hurled such abuse, they didn’t even let us wear our clothes inside).” Was there a lady constable, I ask. Amreek says there was not.

“There are countless stories of rape and sexual and physical violence against women during the violence, “says Mallika. “But these stories have not necessarily been heard with the nuance and sensitivity they deserve. Through the conflict, women persevered as breadwinners after men were taken or killed: they tilled lands, ran businesses; they have been fearless litigants and organisers for justice…they have been the grandmotherly and motherly embrace that added a semblance of normalcy for kids growing up with unspeakable trauma; they have been the storytellers and the repository of our recent history.” Many families of those who “disappeared”, where bodies were cremated as “unclaimed or unidentified”, have not been given death certificates.

The PDAP has documented some of these struggles too. Even as mothers take on full-time jobs to raise their children—some at beauty parlours, others in the fields or as dailywage labourers and teachers, they have had trouble accessing succession and inheritance rights. This is because as families of the ‘disappeared’, where bodies are burned as “unclaimed or unidentified”—many have not been given death certificates.

Amreek raised all 3 of her children with some help from her family. Still, like Gurmeet, her son Vikramjit was young at the time, and the death of his father had long term implications for his professional life. “I tried to join the army in 2003. I cleared all the stages, but when it was time for the inquiry, they wrote that I am a terrorist’s son. That was the end of my dreams.” Only 4 years old at the time, Vikramjit had to cut short his education and help support the family along with his older brother. He started as a dailywage labourer at the age of 8 and would earn between Rs.50-100 per day.

“If we had our parents, we would have at least had some guidance,” says Gurmeet. “But what kind of future do you expect children like us to have? We have had to give up our education, we can’t get good jobs but we have to fend for ourselves, and constantly live in fear. This is all we are.” His voice trails.

Too long a wait

Even as the PDAP’s new petition ignites a fresh hope for justice beyond Amritsar, for some who chose the legal system to hold the state to account have not lived long enough to see it through. For nearly 18 years, the question of sanction to prosecute police officers lay gathering dust with the courts. Eventually, a few months after the Supreme Court dismissed it in 2016, 100 year-old Chaman Lal, who had been fighting a case for his son Gulshan Kumar’s disappearance, died. He was the sole eyewitness in the case.

“There was also the case of a woman who was travelling with her son Balwinder, who was taken by the police and killed—they were looking of a different Balwinder and admitted as much to his mother at her home, where she was asked to make them tea while they told her,” says Bains of the PDAP. “She was pursuing his case, and had been for decades. She died earlier this year.”

Still, after all these years, families young and old are hopeful. For years, Bakshish Singh could not hang the photo of his disappeared son at home—it had the date of his death written neatly on the side—out of fear that he may be picked up or threatened. Eventually, over time, he put it up. His grand daughter was 10 when she first asked him who this man was and what happened to him. The 84 year old has lived out his days now, he says. “But we all have rights don’t we? No court of law says he was a militant. I have lived an honest life. Do I not deserve some dignity?”

While the opinion among the state authorities is that the diaspora has long tried to revive a conversation long dead after all these years, the question that Bakshish Singh asks continues to loom heavy on the forgotten families of Punjab’s ‘disappeared’.

Read the original story here.

ਲੋਕਮਾਰਗ ਵਿਚ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਸ਼ਤ ਤੇਜਬੀਰ ਕੌਰ ਦੀ ਕਹਾਣੀ – ਇੱਕ ਗੁਆਚਾ ਬਚਪਨ – “ਮੇਰੇ ਮਾਤਾ-ਪਿਤਾ ਨੂੰ ਕਿਉਂ ਮਾਰਿਆ ਗਿਆ?”

ਮੈਨੂਂ ਬਚਪਨ ਆਪਣੇ ਮਾਤਾ-ਪਿਤਾ ਨੂੰ ਤਰਸਦੀ ਹੋਈ ਕਿਉਂ ਬਤੀਤ ਕਰਨਾ ਪਿਆ? ਪੁੱਛਦੇ ਹਨ ਤੇਜਬੀਰ ਕੌਰ ©PDAP

[ਨੋਟ: ਇਸ ਲੇਖ ਦਾ ਅਨੁਵਾਦ ਲੌਕਮਾਰ ਵਿੱਚ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਸ਼ਿਤ ਮੂਲ ਲੇਖ ਤੋਂ ਕੀਤਾ ਗਿਆ ਹੈ। ਲੌਕਮਾਰ ਲੇਖ ਦਾ ਲਿੰਕ/ Note: This article has been translated from the original article published on news website Read the original article]


ਤੇਜਬੀਰ ਕੌਰ ਅਜੇ ਕੁਝ ਹੀ ਮਹੀਨੇਆ ਦੀ ਸੀ ਜਦੋਂ ਉਨਾ ਦੇ ਮਾਤਾ-ਪਿਤਾ ਨੂੰ ਪੁਲੀਸ ਨੇ “ਚਕ ਲੇਆ”। ਕੁਝ ਲੋਕ ਉਨਾ ਨੂੰ ਅੱਤਵਾਦੀ ਕੈਹਣ ਲਗ ਪਏ ਅਤੇ ਕੁਝ ਸ਼ਹੀਦ| ਕੁਝ ਆਖਦੇ ਸਨ ਕੇ ਓਹੁ 1990 ਦੇ ਦੌਰਾਨ ਪੁਲਿਸ ਦੇ ਜੋਰ ਅਤੇ ਜਬਰਦਸਤੀ ਦਾ ਸ਼ਿਕਾਰ ਹੋ ਗਇ।

ਏ ਹੈ ਉਨਾ ਦੀ ਕਹਾਣੀ:

ਕੋਈ ਵੀ ਮੈਨੂੰ ਇਹ ਨਹੀਂ ਦੱਸ ਸਕਦਾ ਕਿ ਮੇਰੀ ਜਨਮ ਤਾਰੀਖ ਕੀ ਹੈ। ਹਾਲਾਂਕਿ, ਲੋਕਾ ਨੂੰ ਉਸ ਦਿਨ ਦਾ ਪਤਾ ਹੈ ਜਦੋਂ ਮੇਰੀ ਜਾਨ ਬਖਸ਼ੀ ਗਈ ਸੀ – 2 ਅਕਤੂਬਰ 1992। ਇਹ ਉਹ ਦਿਨ ਸੀ ਜਦੋਂ ਮੇਰੇ ਮਾਪੇ ‘ਪੁਲਿਸ ਮੁਕਾਬਲੇ’ ਵਿੱਚ ਮਾਰ ਦਿੱਤੇ ਗਏ ਸਨ। ਮੇਰੇ ਮਾਤਾ-ਪਿਤਾ ਦੇ ਕਾਤਲ ਇੰਨੇ “ਦਇਆਲੂ” ਸਨ ਕਿ ਉਨਾ ਮੇਰੀ ਜਾਨ ਬਖਸ਼ ਦਿੱਤੀ। ਆਖ਼ਰਕਾਰ, ਇਕ ਬੱਚੀ ਓਨਾ ਦਾ ਕੀ ਵਿਗਾੜ ਸਕਦੀ ਸੀ?

ਮੇਰੀ ਪਰਵਰਸ਼ ਖਡੂਰ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਤਹਿਸੀਲ, ਜ਼ਿਲ੍ਹਾ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਸਰ ਦੇ ਨਾਗੋਕੇ ਪਿੰਡ ਵਿਚ ਹੋਈ। 12 ਸਾਲ ਤੱਕ ਮੈਨੂੰ ਏ ਦਸਿਆ ਜਾੰਦਾ ਸੀ ਕੇ ਮੇਰੇ ਚਾਚਾ ਅਤੇ ਚਾਚੀ ਹੀ ਮੇਰੇ ਅਸਲੀ ਮਾਤਾ-ਪਿਤਾ ਹੰਨ। ਮੇਰੇ ਅਸਲੀ ਪਿਤਾਜੀ ਦੀ ਇਕ ਤਸਵੀਰ ਘਰ ਦੀ ਕੰਧ ਤੇ ਟੰਗੀ ਹੋਈ ਸੀ। ਮੈਂਨੂੰ ਕਹਿਆ ਜਾੰਦਾ ਸੀ ਕੇ ਓਹੁ ਮੇਰੇ ਤਾਇਆ ਜੀ ਹਨ। ਮੇਰੇ ਕੋਲ ਉਨਾ ਤੇ ਸ਼ੱਕ ਕਰਨ ਦਾ ਕੋਈ ਕਾਰਨ ਨਹੀਂ ਸੀ|

ਜਦੋਂ ਮੇਰੀ ਊਮਰ 12 ਸਾਲ ਦੀ ਹੋਈ, ਮੈਂਨੂੰ  ਮੋਹਾਲੀ ਦੇ ਗੁਰਆਸਰਾ ਹੋਸਟਲ ਵਿਚ ਭੇਜ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਗਿਆ। “ਓਥੇ ਪੜਾਈ  ਚੰਗੀ ਹੋਵੇ ਗੀ,” ਓਨਾਨੇ ਕੇਹਾ। ਮੈਂਨੂੰ  ਬਾਅਦ ਵਿਚ ਪਤਾ ਲੱਗਾ ਕੇ ਇਹ ਉਹਨਾਂ ਬੱਚਿਆਂ ਲਈ ਇੱਕ ਯਤੀਮਖਾਨਾ ਸੀ, ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੇ ਮਾਤਾ ਪਿੱਤਾ ਨੂੰ ਪੁਲਿਸ ਨੇ ਖਾਲਿਸਤਾਨ ਅੰਦੋਲਨ ਦੌਰਾਨ ਗੈਰ ਕਾਨੂੰਨੀ ਤੌਰ ਤੇ ਮਾਰ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਸੀ। ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੇ ਮਾਪਿਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਅਕਸਰ ‘ਸ਼ਹੀਦ’ ਕਿਹਾ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਸੀ। ਉੱਥੇ ਮੈਨੂੰ ਦੱਸਿਆ ਗਿਆ ਕਿ ਮੈਂ ਵੀ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਬਚਿਆਂ ਵਿਚੋਂ ਇਕ ਸੀ। ਏ ਗੱਲ ਨੂੰ ਮੈ ਸਮਝ ਨਾ ਸਕੀ ਤੇ ਰੋਣ ਲਗ ਪਈ। 

ਮੇਰੇ ਮਾਤਾ-ਪਿਤਾ ਕੌਣ ਸਨ?  ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਕਿਉਂ ਮਾਰਿਆ ਗਿਆ? ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਸ਼ਹੀਦ ਕਿਉਂ ਕਿਹਾ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਸੀ? ਇਸ ਤਰਾਂ ਦੇ ਸਵਾਲ ਮੈਨੂੰ ਰਾਤ ਨੂੰ ਸੋਣ ਨਹੀ ਸੀ ਦਿੰਦੇ । ਮੈ ਅਕਸਰ ਰਾਤ ਨੂੰ ਪਸੀਨੇ ਵਿਚ ਭਿੱਜੀ ਹੋਈ ਜਾਗਦੀ ਸੀ। ਮੈਨੂੰ ਜਵਾਬ ਚਹੀਦੇ ਸੀ, ਮੈਨੂੰ ਸਚ ਚਾਹੀਦਾ ਸੀ|

ਮੇਰੇ ਮਾਤਾ-ਪਿਤਾ ਦੀ ਮੌਤ ਦੇ ਨਾਲ ਵੱਖ-ਵੱਖ ਕਹਾਣੀਆਂ ਜੋੜੀਆਂ ਜਾਂਦੀਆਂ ਸਨ। ਸਾਡੇ ਕੁਝ ਰਿਸ਼ਤੇਦਾਰਾਂ ਨੇ ਕਿਹਾ ਕਿ ਮੇਰੇ ਮਾਤਾ-ਪਿਤਾ ਨੂੰ ਉਦੋਂ ਗ੍ਰਿਫਤਾਰ ਕੀਤਾ ਗਿਆ ਜਦੋਂ ਉਹ ਆਪਣੇ ਸਕੂਟਰ ਤੇ ਸਫਰ ਕਰਦੇ ਸਨ, ਜਦਕਿ ਕਈਆਂ ਨੇ ਕਿਹਾ ਕਿ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਬੱਸ ਤੋਂ ਚੁੱਕਿਆ ਗਿਆ ਸੀ। ਕੁਝ ਪਿੰਡ ਵਾਲੇਆ ਨੇ ਮੈਨੂੰ ਦਸਿਆ ਕਿ ਪੁਲਿਸ ਨੇ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਗੋਲੀ ਮਾਰ ਕੇ ਮਾਰ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਅਤੇ ਇਸ ਨੂੰ ਇਕ ਮੁਕਾਬਲੇ ਦੇ ਰੂਪ ਵਿਚ ਦਿਖਾਇਆ, ਅਤੇ ਕਿਸੇ ਹੋਰ ਨੇ ਕਿਹਾ ਕਿ ਮੇਰੇ ਮਾਪਿਆਂ ਨੇ ਖੁਦਕੁਸ਼ੀ ਕਰ ਲਈ ਸੀ। ਲ਼ੇਕਿਨ ਮੇਰੇ ਆਪਣੇ ਪਰਿਵਾਰ ਨੇ ਚੁੱਪ ਹੀ  ਬਣਾਈ ਰਖੀ। ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਲਈ ਮੇਰੇ ਮਾਤਾ-ਪਿੱਤਾ ਸਿਰਫ “ਗਾਇਬ” ਹੋ ਗਏ ਸਨ।

ਹੌਲੀ ਹੌਲੀ ਮੈਂਨੂੰ ਮੇਰੇ ਸਵਾਲਾਂ ਦੇ ਜਵਾਬ ਮਿਲਨ ਲੱਗ ਪਏ । ਮੈਨੂੰ ਪਤਾ ਲੱਗਿਆ ਕੇ  ਮੇਰੇ ਪਿਤਾ ਦਾ ਨਾਮ ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਸਿੰਘ ਨਾਗੋਕੇ ਸੀ, ਓਹੁ ਬਿਜਲੀ ਦਾ ਕਮ ਕਰਦੇ ਸਨ ਅਤੇ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੀ ਪਿੰਡ ਵਿਚ ਛੋਟੀ ਜਹੀ ਦੁਕਾਨ ਸੀ । ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੇ ਕਈ ਗਾਹਕ ਅਤੇ ਕਾਰੋਬਾਰੀ ਭਾਈਵਾਲ ਸਨ। ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦਿਨਾਂ ਵਿਚ ਲੋਕ ਕਿਸੇ ਨੂੰ ਵੀ “ਖਾਲਿਸਤਾਨੀ” ਕੈਹ ਕੇ ਆਪਣੀ ਦੁਸ਼ਮਨੀ ਕੱਢ ਲੈਂਦੇ ਸੀ। ਪੁਲਿਸ ਨੂੰ ਖੁੱਲੀ ਛੁਟੀ ਸੀ, ਅਤੇ ਓਹ ਏਸ ਤਾਕਤ ਦਾ ਪੂਰਾ ਫੈਦਾ ਉਠਾਉਂਦੇ ਸਨ|

ਮੈਨੂੰ ਪਤਾ ਲੱਗਿਆ ਕੇ ਕਿਸੇ ਨੇ ਜਾਣ ਬੁਝ ਕੇ ਪੁਲਿਸ ਨੂੰ ਮੇਰੇ ਮਾਤਾ-ਪਿਤਾ ਦੇ ਖਾਲਸਤਾਨੀ ਅੰਦੋਲਨ ਨਾਲ ਸਬੰਧ ਰੱਖਣ ਦੀ ਝੂਠੀ ਖਬਰ ਦੇ ਦਿੱਤੀ ਸੀ। ਉਸ ਤੋਂ ਬਾਅਦ  ਪੁਲਿਸ ਨੇ ਮੇਰੇ ਪਰਿਵਾਰ ਨੂੰ ਪਰੇਸ਼ਾਨ ਕਰਨਾ ਅਤੇ ਸਰੀਰਕ ਤੌਰ ਤੇ ਤੰਗ ਕਰਨਾ ਸ਼ੁਰੂ ਕਰ ਦਿੱਤਾ। ਇਹ ਇਸ ਹੱਦ ਤਕ ਵਧ ਗਿਆ ਕਿ ਮੇਰੇ ਪਿਤਾ ਜੀ ਨੇ ਘਰ ਛੱਡਣ ਦਾ ਅਤੇ  ਖਾਲਿਸਤਾਨ ਲਹਿਰ ਵਿਚ ਹਿੱਸਾ ਲੈਣ ਦਾ ਫੈਸਲਾ ਕਰ ਲੇਆ। ਪੂਰੇ 80 ਦੇ ਦਹਾਕੇ ਦੌਰਾਨ ਮੇਰੇ ਪਿਤਾਜੀ ਪੁਲਿਸ ਤੋਂ ਲੁਕਦੇ ਰਹੇ। ਪੁਲਿਸ ਨੇ ਓਨਾ ਨੂੰ ਅੱਤਵਾਦੀ ਕਰਾਰ ਦਿੱਤਾ।   

ਉਸਤੋਂ ਬਾਅਦ ਪੁਲਿਸ ਸਾਡੇ ਘਰ ਅਕਸਰ ਛਾਪਾ ਮਾਰਨ ਆਉਂਦੀ ਸੀ ਅਤੇ ਮੇਰੇ ਪਰਿਵਾਰ ਵਾਲੇਆ ਨੂੰ ਤਸੀਹੇ ਦਿੰਦੀ ਸੀ। ਓਹ ਕਦੀ ਓਨਾ ਨੂੰ ਮਾਰਦੇ, ਅਤੇ ਕਦੀ ਗੱਡੀ ਦੇ ਪਿੱਛੇ ਬੰਨ ਕੇ ਘਸੀਟਦੇ , ਯਾ ਫਿਰ ਲਾਕ-ਅੱਪ ਲਜਾ ਕੇ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੂੰ  ਕੁਟਦੇ ਸੀ। 

ਮੇਰੇ ਪਿਤਾਜੀ ਨੇ ਮੇਰੀ ਮਾਤਾਜੀ ਨਾਲ 1990 ਵਿਚ ਵਿਆਹ ਕਰ ਲਿਆ। ਹਾਲਾਕਿ, ਮੇਰੀ ਮਾਤਾਜੀ ਨੇ ਬਿਜਲੀ ਬੋਰਡ ਨਾਲ ਨੌਕਰੀ ਕਰਨ ਲਈ ਆਪਣੀ ਪ੍ਰੀਖਿਆ ਪਾਸ ਕਰ ਲਈ ਸੀ, ਓਨਾ ਨੂੰ ਫੇਰ ਵੀ ਮੇਰੇ ਪਿਤਾਜੀ ਨਾਲ ਭਗੌੜੇ ਦੀ ਜ਼ਿੰਦਗੀ ਬਤੀਤ ਕਰਣੀ ਪਈ। ਮੇਰੇ ਜਨਮ ਤੋਂ ਕੁਝ ਹੀ ਮਹੀਨੇ ਬਾਅਦ ਪੁਲਿਸ ਨੇ ਓਨਾ ਨੂੰ ਚੱਕਮਾਫੀ ਪਿੰਡ, ਲੁਧਿਆਣਾ ਤੋ ਚੁਕ ਲਿਆ ਅਤੇ, ਥਾਣੇ ਦੇ ਐਸ ਐਸ ਪੀ, ਰਾਜ ਕਿਸ਼ਨ ਬੇਦੀ ਦੇ ਘਰ ਲੈ ਗਏ| ਓਨਾ ਦੇ ਚਕਮਾਫੀ ਪਿੰਡ ਵਿਚ ਹੋਣ ਦੀ ਖਬਰ ਗੁਰਮੀਤ ਸਿੰਘ ਉਰਫ “ਪਿੰਕੀ ਕੈਟ” ਨੇ ਪੁਲਿਸ ਨੂੰ ਦਿੱਤੀ ਸੀ।

ਉਸ ਤੋਂ ਬਾਅਦ ਕੀ ਹੋਇਆ, ਓਹੁ ਕਿਸੇ ਨੂੰ ਨਹੀ ਪਤਾ, ਲੇਕਿਨ ਕੁਝ ਦਿਨਾ ਬਾਅਦ ਅਖਬਾਰਾਂ ਵਿਚ ਇਕ ਇਸ਼ਤਿਹਾਰ ਛਾਪਿਆ ਜਿਸ ਵਿਚ ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਸਿੰਘ ਨਾਗੋਕੇ ਦੀ ਧੀ ਨੂੰ ਖੰਨਾ ਜਿਲੇ ਤੋਂ ਆ ਕੇ ਲੈ ਜਾਣ ਦਾ ਐਲਾਨ ਕੀਤਾ ਗਿਆ ਇਸ਼ਤਿਹਾਰ ਪੜਨ ਤੋਂ ਬਾਅਦ ਮੇਰੇ ਚਾਚਾਜੀ ਅਤੇ ਪਿੰਡ ਦੇ ਸਰਪੰਚ ਮੈਨੂੰ ਥਾਣੇ ਤੋਂ ਵਾਪਸ ਲੈ ਆਏ।

ਤਿੰਨ ਸਾਲ ਪਹਿਲਾਂ ਮੈਂ ਉਸ ਸ਼ਕਸ ਨੂੰ ਵੇਖੇਆ ਜੋ ਮੇਰੇ ਮਾਤਾ-ਪਿਤਾ ਦੀ ਮੌਤ ਦਾ ਜ਼ਿੰਮੇਵਾਰ ਸੀ। ਟੀਵੀ ਇੰਟਰਵਿਊਆਂ ਵਿਚ ਗੁਰਮੀਤ ਸਿੰਘ ਉਰਫ “ਪਿੰਕੀ ਕੈਟ” – ਪੰਜਾਬ ਪੁਲਿਸ ਦਾ “ਇੰਕਾਉਂਟਰ ਸਪੈਸ਼ਲਿਸਟ” – ਨੇ ਦਸਿਆ ਕੇ ਕਿਸ ਤਰਾ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਵਿਚ ਝੂਠੇ ਮੁਕਾਬਲੇ ਕੀਤੇ ਜਾਂਦੇ ਸਨ। ਉਸਨੇ ਖੁਲਾਸਾ ਕੀਤਾ ਕਿ ‘ਕੈਟ’ ਛੁਪੀ ਹੋਈ ਪੁੱਛਗਿੱਛ ਦਾ ਤਰੀਕਾ ਸੀ ਜਿਸ ਵਿਚ ਪੁਲਿਸ ਕਿਸੇ ਨੂੰ ਵੀ ਗੁਪਤ ਤਰੀਕੇ ਨਾਲ ਗ੍ਰਿਫਤਾਰ ਕਰ ਸਕਦੀ ਸੀ ਅਤੇ ਏਹ ਤਰੀਕਾ ਅੱਤਵਾਦ ਪ੍ਰਭਾਵਿਟ ਸਮੇ ਵਿਚ ਕਾਫੀ ਵਰਤਿਆ ਜਾੰਦਾ ਸੀ। ਪੁਲਿਸ ਕਿਸੇ ਵੀ ਨਿਰਦੋਸ਼ ਸ਼ਕਸ਼ ਨੂੰ ਗ੍ਰਿਫਤਾਰ ਕਰ ਸਕਦੀ ਸੀ ਅਤੇ ਉਨਾ ਨੂੰ ਤਸੀਹੇ ਦੇ ਸਕਦੀ ਸੀ ਜਾਂ ਫੇਰ ਝੂਠਾ ਮੁਕਾਬਲਾ ਬਣਾ ਸਕਦੀ ਸੀ। ਇਸ ਤੋਂ ਇਲਾਵਾ ਕਈ ਵਾਰ ਪੋਟਾਸੀਅਮ ਸਾਈਨਾਡ ਦੀ ਕੈਪਸੁਲ ਵੀ ਜ਼ਬਰਦਸਤੀ ਖੁਆਈ ਜਾਂਦੀ ਸੀ ਤਾਂਕਿ ਮੋਤ ਖੁਦਕੁਸ਼ੀ ਵਰਗੀ ਲਗੇ। 

ਮੇਰੇ ਮਾਤਾ-ਪਿਤਾ ਦੀ ਮੌਤ ਤੋਂ ਦੋ ਸਾਲ ਬਾਅਦ ਤੱਕ ਵੀ ਪੁਲਸ ਸਾਡੇ ਪਰਿਵਾਰ ਨੂੰ ਸਤਾਉਂਦੀ ਰਹੀ| ਮੇਰੇ ਰਿਸ਼ਤੇਦਾਰ, ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦਾ ਖਾਲਿਸਤਾਨ ਅੰਦੋਲਨ ਨਾਲ ਕੋਈ ਲੈਣਾ-ਦੇਣਾ ਨਹੀਂ ਸੀ, ਉਹਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਵੀ ਬਾਰ-ਬਾਰ ਪਰੇਸ਼ਾਨ ਕੀਤਾ ਜਾੰਦਾ ਅਤੇ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਤੇ ਤਸ਼ੱਦਦ ਵੀ ਕੀਤਾ ਗਿਆ। ਸਾਡੇ ਘਰ ਵਿਚ ਲਗਾਤਾਰ ਛਾਪੇ ਮਾਰੇ ਜਾੰਦੇ ਸੀ। ਏਹ ਕੋਈ ਚਮਤਕਾਰ ਹੀ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਮੇਰੇ ਪਰਿਵਾਰ ਨੇ ਏਨਾ ਕੁਝ ਸੈਹਣ ਕੀਤਾ।

ਮੇਰਾ ਹੁਣ ਵੀਆਹ ਹੋ ਚੁੱਕਾ ਹੈ ਅਤੇ ਮੇਰਾ ਇੱਕ ਨਵਾਂ ਘਰ ਅਤੇ ਇੱਕ ਪਿਆਰਾ ਪਰਿਵਾਰ ਹੈ| ਮੈਨੂੰ ਮੁਆਵਜ਼ੇ ਦੀ ਲੋੜ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੈ। ਮੈਨੂੰ ਕਿਸੇ ਸਰਕਾਰੀ ਨੌਕਰੀ ਦੀ ਜ਼ਰੂਰਤ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੈ। ਮੈਂ ਚਾਹੁੰਦੀ ਹਾਂ ਕਿ ਮੇਰੇ ਮਾਤਾ-ਪਿਤਾ ਦੇ ਅਲੋਪ ਹੋਣ ਦੀ ਸੱਚਾਈ ਮੈਂਨੂੰ ਦੱਸੀ ਜਾਵੇ। ਜੇ ਮੇਰੇ ਪਿਤਾ ਦੇ ਖਿਲਾਫ ਅਪਰਾਧਕ ਦੋਸ਼ ਸਨ, ਤਾਂ ਉਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਅਦਾਲਤ ਵਿਚ ਪੇਸ਼ ਕੀਤਾ ਜਾਣਾ ਚਾਹੀਦਾ ਸੀ, ਪੁਲਿਸ ਦੀ ਹਿਰਾਸਤ ਵਿਚ ਮਾਰਿਆ ਨਹੀਂ ਜਾਣਾ ਚਾਹੀਦਾ ਸੀ। ਅਤੇ ਮੇਰੀ ਮਾਂ ਦੀ ਕੀ ਗਲਤੀ ਸੀ? ਮੈਨੂਂ ਬਚਪਨ ਆਪਣੇ ਮਾਤਾ-ਪਿਤਾ ਨੂੰ ਤਰਸਦੀ ਹੋਈ ਕਿਉਂ ਬਤੀਤ ਕਰਨਾ ਪਿਆ? ਇਸ ਲਈ ਮੈਂ ਜੀਉਂਦੀ ਹਾਂ ਅਤੇ ਸਰਕਾਰ ਤੋਂ ਜਵਾਬ ਮੰਗਦੀ ਹਾਂ।



Article in LokMarg Website about victim Kulwinder Kaur – “Punjab Disappeared – ‘Dissent Costs Death’”

Kulvinder Kaur Features In Documentary Punjab Disappeared

Kulvinder Kaur was 32 and pregnant when her husband Paramjeet Singh was picked up by Punjab Police from a train compartment, never to be seen again. LokMarg spotted Kaur, now 60, in a documentary Punjab Disappeared and spoke to her about her journey for justice

My daughter, Paramveer, was born two-and-half months after her father “disappeared”. I use the word disappeared because even though our village knows he was picked up by police, and there are several witnesses to it, police records would only show him as “missing”.

In her growing years, Paramveer would often ask: Mere Papa kahan hai? Photo mein toh hain, par humaare bed pe nahin sotay? (Where is my father? He is in the family photograph, but why wouldn’t he sleep on our bed?).

How do you explain to a child that her father was killed by police on suspicions of being a terrorist? And that we could not even get to see his dead body. For us, he just disappeared. We never got a chance to say goodbye.

Paramveer grew up and as the answers to all her questions were revealed to her, slowly. They say time is a great healer but not in our case. Our wounds are beyond repair. I often ask myself, why us? Why my family? Was it because my husband felt disillusioned by the system? Were we punished because we chose dissent?

Paramjeet and I got married in January 1986, this was two years after he had resigned from Bihar Police in protest against desecration of our Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple). This act of dissent cost us dear. After he returned to his native Tugalwal in Gurdaspur, the police found him to be an ideal scapegoat. He would be picked up by the police for “questioning”. Several false allegations were levelled against him. He was labeled ‘communal’ and ‘anti-Hindu’. All of which was untrue.

We never managed to create a home together. The five-and- half years of our marriage were dotted with police harassment. Paramjeet would routinely called to police station for questioning, and many times tortured. If he was not around, they would take my father-in-law for questioning. In the years that we were married, we could not even spend three months together.

In April 1991, my sister-in-law and I went to Amritsar to offer prayers at Golden Temple. I was pregnant and hopeful that life will get better with the arrival of the baby.

Paramjeet was to join me later. Little did I know that the trip would cost him his life. Paramjeet boarded the train for Amritsar from Pathankot. The police were waiting for an opportunity to get him outside the village so that there were no witnesses. They raided the coach he was travelling in and arrested him in Gurdaspur.

A few acquaintances, who used to travel daily on that route, witnessed the arrest and informed our family back in our village. The following day, a few villagers accompanied by the sarpanch visited the police station to enquire about Paramjeet’s arrest, but to no avail. The staff at the station kept making excuses such as the SSP and SHO were busy in meetings.

Some of the villagers, who were having tea at a nearby tea-stall, overheard some policemen talking about Paramjeet’s “encounter”. Shocked by this information they again requested the police to confirm if he was in their custody. Two of the villagers in the group were then shown Paramjeet’s body by a few sympathetic police personnel. But they were asked to keep their mouths shut.

The villagers informed our parents and we rushed to the police station. We pleaded the police to handover Paramjeet’s body, so that we could perform the last rites but they denied his presence.

We hear, police cremated him secretly, like thousands of others. All I am left with of him are a few of his belongings. His photographs and a couple of letters he wrote to me when he was in prison.

I was discouraged to pursue the case with the authorities and took it as my fate. Besides, I had other responsibilities, like raising my daughter and running a household amid all financial constraints. I worked as a school teacher and was the sole bread-earner in the family. I tried my best to fill in as a son for my mother-in-law and as a father for my daughter. I may have been successful to some extent. But the vacuum remains.

There are thousands of other families, who suffer the same vacuum. Innocents were killed and illegally cremated in the name of counter-insurgency operations in Punjab. Paramjeet was just one of them. If there is something called divine justice, his perpetrators will be punished.

(The documentary Punjab Disappeared was screened at Jawahar Bhawan, New Delhi, on April 25, 2019 and was attended by Kulvinder Kaur, who also addressed the audience at the event)

Note: This article has been reproduced from the original article on the news website Lokmarg. The the original article here.