Anniversary of the Abduction of Jaswant Singh Khalra
Twelve Years On, KPS Gill Still Free
(California) Twelve years ago, on September 6, 1995, the Punjab Police abducted human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra. The police held Khalra in illegal detention for almost two months, tortured him, and murdered him in late October 1995. A year ago today, Jaswant Singh Khalra's widow, Paramjit Kaur, filed a petition in the High Court calling on the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate and prosecute former police chief KPS Gill for his direct role in Khalra's murder. During the trial of Gill's subordinates, and as found in the judge's decision, direct evidence established that Gill interrogated Khalra in illegal detention after he had been brutally tortured. The Indian government has refused to prosecute Gill for his direct and command role in this gross crime, and continues to thwart any investigation into the disappearances and killings that Khalra brought to light.
Before he was killed by Punjab Police in 1995, human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra used municipal records to expose over 6000 extrajudicial executions and secret cremations by Indian security forces in Amritsar district, then one of 13 districts in Punjab. His investigations led India's Supreme Court to find "a flagrant violation of human rights on a mass scale."
In early 1995, Jaswant Singh Khalra warned at a press conference that the Punjab government "was highly mistaken in thinking that by eliminating him" the issue of mass secret cremations would "be put to an end." He further stated that he was prepared to die for the cause of justice, and appealed to the people to hold the police chief KPS Gill accountable for his murder and the mass cremations in Punjab. Khalra's murder in October 1995 made the reality of thousands of extrajudicial executions and secret cremations by the Punjab Police impossible to deny.
After Khalra's abduction, the Supreme Court referred the issue of extrajudicial executions and secret cremations in Punjab to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). In ten years, the NHRC has limited its task to merely establishing the identity of the individuals who were secretly cremated in just three crematoria in Amritsar district—one district of Punjab. It has rejected cases from other districts and has ignored the intentional violation of the right to life perpetrated by the security forces. In ten years, it has failed to investigate a single case and explicitly refuses to identify any responsible officials. "Jaswant Singh Khalra's mission was to get justice for all families in Punjab, not just the families from Amritsar," said Paramjit Kaur to Ensaaf. "The NHRC's failure to provide justice is not acceptable. We will continue the struggle until all families throughout Punjab receive justice."
Please watch the video of Jaswant Singh Khalra's speech in Canada, in which he discusses his findings. For other video footage, including an interview with Paramjit Kaur Khalra, visit Ensaaf's Multimedia page.
On Friday, November 18, 2005, Additional District Judge Bhupinder Singh in Patiala convicted six Punjab Police officials for the abduction and murder of Jaswant Singh Khalra. Throughout the trial, police attempted to derail the trial by destroying evidence, and violently intimidating and abusing witnesses, including the filing of false cases, illegal detention, and threats of death. Even the CBI prosecutor worked to suppress evidence by refusing to call an eyewitness to Khalra's illegal detention, torture, and murder.
Two police officers—Senior Superintendent of Police Ajit S. Sandhu and Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Ashok Kumar—died during the trial, and one police officer was discharged. The convicted police officers have appealed the convictions, which have been placed before the bench of Justices M.S. Gill and A.N. Jindal. Credible reports have emerged that key convicted officials, such as DSP Jaspal Singh, have broken out of jail for select periods of time, to stay with their families.
On September 6, 2006, Mrs. Khalra, represented by High Court attorney Rajvinder Bains, filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court after the CBI refused to investigate and prosecute Gill. Ensaaf worked with attorney Bains to draft the petition and apply the international law doctrine of superior responsibility. This petition has yet to have a substantive hearing. In addition to Gill, other officers and individuals have not been charged for their role in these gross crimes. The judgment by Justice Bhupinder Singh cites testimony directly implicating DSP Jaspal Singh's bodyguard Arvinder Singh and Balwinder Singh Ghora. According to an eyewitness, both individuals beat Khalra and witnessed others shoot or themselves shot Khalra, and then dumped Khalra's body in Harike Canal.
Visit Ensaaf's page on advocacy pursued regarding the murder of Jaswant Singh Khalra. This page includes links to judgments and legal papers, as well as information on joint initiatives by international human rights organizations, including Ensaaf, Human Rights Watch, REDRESS, and the Center for Human Rights & Global Justice.