"There is a fable that when the Sun was setting for the first time, … light was decreasing … and the signs of Darkness were appearing … Darkness set its foot on the earth, but it is said — far away, in some hut, one little Lamp lifted his head. It proclaimed, 'I challenge the Darkness. If nothing else, then at least around myself, I will not let it settle. Around myself I will establish Light.' And … watching that one Lamp, in other huts, other Lamps arose. And the world was amazed that these Lamps stopped Darkness from expanding, so that people could see."
— Jaswant Singh Khalra, April 1995
Challenge the Darkness: Commemorating Jaswant Singh Khalra
(Pleasanton, CA) Today we remember human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra for his inspiring legacy of defending human rights, in the face of torture, illegal detention, and extrajudicial killing. Seventeen years ago on September 6, 1995, the Punjab police abducted Mr. Khalra while he washed his car at his house. The Punjab police illegally detained and tortured him for almost two months. In late October 1995, after Khalra refused to stop his human rights work during an interrogation by the Director General of Police (DGP) KPS Gill, the Punjab police killed Mr. Khalra and threw his body in a canal.
Mr. Khalra had used government crematoria records to expose over 6,000 secret cremations by the police from 1984 to 1995, in just one of then 13 districts in Punjab. He proved that the Punjab police were abducting, killing, and then secretly cremating many of their victims during counterinsurgency operations.
His wife, Paramjit Kaur, surmounted police intimidation, false cases, and other obstacles to bring police officers to justice for her husband’s murder. In November 2011, the Indian Supreme Court upheld the convictions and life imprisonment of five Punjab police officers for abducting and murdering Jaswant Singh Khalra. However, despite powerful evidence and a strong basis in law, the Indian government has, thus far, refused to investigate or charge DGP KPS Gill for his role in murdering Mr. Khalra.
Please take time today to watch Mr. Khalra describe his investigations and fight for justice in his last speech before an international audience. Please also visit our Multimedia page on Mr. Khalra for interviews with his family members. As we commemorate Jaswant Singh Khalra’s defense of human rights, we remember that his call for justice for the families of those killed and extrajudicially executed by the Punjab police remains unfulfilled. Join us as we work to end impunity and achieve justice for the survivors of mass state crimes in Punjab.