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Press Release

December 29, 2010
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The Dark Side of "India Shining"

(Seattle, WA) When Westerners think of India, they most likely conjure up images of Bollywood movies, yoga, and the Taj Mahal. Some might think of call centers, perhaps the most salient symbol of India's economic rise to North Americans. And although India's rich cultural landscape and powerful global status are deserved, the government continues to hide a lesser-known, yet greater, reality: India's addiction to impunity and gross human rights violations.

Chaman Lal's story is emblematic of the consequences of "national security" operations and policies that turn a blind eye to abuses. Although the vast majority of India's counterinsurgency victims in Punjab were Sikh, impunity empowered its security forces to target anyone, including poor Hindu families like Chaman Lal's. Above, watch him describe how the Punjab police abducted and murdered his son in a fake encounter, and how, one by one, the Supreme Court, the High Court, and the National Human Rights Commission, failed to give him any justice. In the words of Chaman Lal, "There's no ability to be heard in [India]."

Will you help us bring a voice to the voiceless by making a donation? Your financial support will help ensure that we can keep fighting for justice in India.

The truth is that the government won't stop perpetrating human rights violations until it's held accountable for its historical crimes. Torture, fake encounters, and disappearances in places like Kashmir, Chattisgarh, and the North Eastern states will continue until we take a stand against impunity and overturn it.

Although the vast majority of India's counterinsurgency victims in Punjab were Sikh, impunity empowered its security forces to target anyone, including poor Hindu families like Chaman Lal's

Your support for our work allowed us to achieve significant milestones this past year alone, including:

  • Documenting well over a thousand cases of disappearance and unlawful killing in Punjab, in addition to capturing photographs and video interviews;
  • Hiring and training more than 20 human rights researchers in Punjab to investigate and document violations;
  • Releasing a lesson plan in collaboration with the Sikh Research Institute aimed at educating middle school students on Operation Bluestar;
  • Releasing compelling multimedia material to educate the public about abuses in Punjab, such as our photo essay; and
  • Co-sponsoring a two-day forum on human rights to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the abduction of human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalra.

Please contribute so that we can continue our innovative advocacy to expose and end human rights violations in India.

Ensaaf focuses on Punjab because it presents a unique and timely opportunity to challenge impunity in India. Victory in Punjab will not only help achieve justice for survivors like Chaman Lal, but will also set precedent for protecting human rights throughout India.

My best,

Jaskaran Kaur, Co-Director
Ensaaf

P.S. This Fall, our friends at the New Media Advocacy Project traveled with us to Punjab to record survivor narratives, including Chaman Lal's, on video. In the coming months, Ensaaf will be releasing several more videos featuring newly-recorded survivor testimonies. Stay tuned!