Rights advocacy group to seek inquiry into ‘fake’ encounters – The Hindu

Rights advocacy group to seek inquiry into ‘fake’ encounters

Family members of some missing persons from Punjab at a press conference in New Delhi on Sunday.Family members of some missing persons from Punjab at a press conference in New Delhi on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

Claims to have details of “systematic killings by Punjab police, security services”

There is new evidence of 8,257 cases of enforced disappearances, mass killings, fake encounters and illegal cremations in Punjab during the height of militancy and counter-insurgency period, a rights advocacy group claimed here on Sunday.

In its report titled ‘Identifying the Unidentified’, the Punjab Documentation and Advocacy Project (PDAP) claimed to have collated details of “systematic killings by the Punjab police and security services” from 1980s to mid-1990s.

“Our preliminary findings have shown that more than 95% of these reported encounter killings were fake…meaning that these were extra-judicial executions,” the PDAP said.

The report claimed that 5,648 mass cremations of unclaimed and unidentified persons took place in Punjab during the period. It gave account of another 2,609 cases where identities of the victims are known.

Senior advocate and rights activist Colin Gonsalves said not a single policeman went to jail or got life imprisonment for “killing in cold blood of people in custody”. “State terror is the deadliest of terror. There is no media coverage, no court cases, no documentation,” Mr. Gonsalves said, adding that the findings will be submitted to the Supreme Court.

The report said “the perpetrators of these mass killings cremated the bodies of the victims as ‘lawaris lasha’ (unclaimed and unidentified) in an organised and systematic attempt to conceal and cover up their crimes”.

“Unlike the process of identification of other mass killings, there were no bodies to exhume, there were no bones, there is no DNA profiling…but compelling evidence of crimes from witness testimonies which match exactingly and corroborate available official records,” the PDAP said.

Extensive probe

The finding is a result of extensive seven years of investigation process by the PDAP in which it went over records of cremation ground and crematoria from over 20 districts of Punjab.

Satnam Singh Bain of the PDAP said in many cases the victims’ families were refused death certificates by the Punjab government. He said the government was under an obligation to disclose the name and identities of all persons missing and those killed by the police.

Tapan Bose, secretary general of South Asia Forum for Human Rights and documentary film-maker, said: “When the State fails to protect the life of its own citizen, it becomes a constitutional failure”.

The PDAP said a petition will be moved before the Supreme Court seeking the setting up of a high-level inquiry into the issue.