The Murder of Human Rights Defender Jaswant Singh Khalra
A Light of Justice: Commemorating Jaswant Singh Khalra
A Film by Ensaaf
In 1995, the Punjab police abducted, tortured, and murdered human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalra for his work in uncovering thousands of disappearances, extrajudicial deaths, and secret cremations of Sikhs perpetrated by the Punjab police. It took ten years to bring Khalra’s murder to trial, but in 2005, Ensaaf worked alongside private attorneys to bring some of the perpetrators to justice. Six police officers were convicted. In 2007, the Punjab & Haryana High Court upheld five convictions, enhancing all sentences to life imprisonment. The sixth officer was acquitted. In November 2011, India’s Supreme Court upheld the convictions and sentences.
KPS Gill Remains Free
In May 2006, Ensaaf partnered with Human Rights Watch (HRW), REDRESS, and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice to issue a call to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for the investigation and prosecution of former police chief KPS Gill for his role in Khalra's torture and murder. In addition, Ensaaf assisted Paramjit Kaur, Khalra's widow, in drafting the international law arguments on superior responsibility in a petition that calls on the High Court to investigate and prosecute Gill for his role in the crimes committed against Khalra. The petition was filed on September 6, 2006.
In Fall 2007, Ensaaf and HRW released a video-enhanced joint report, Protecting the Killers: A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India. Among other abuses, the report discusses Khalra's murder trial and how it illustrates the many roadblocks that families of victims continue to face in pursuing legal remedies against perpetrators.
Twenty years after Khalra's death, the Indian government is no closer to bringing Gill to justice for organizing his – and thousands of other innocent Sikhs' – death.