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Ensaaf Dispatch

April 2009
Volume 6 Issue 1

New Statistical Analysis Points To Widespread Human Rights Violations in Punjab

On India's Republic Day, January 26, 2009, Ensaaf and the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) released a report presenting verifiable quantitative findings on mass disappearances and extrajudicial executions in Punjab... Continue »

United Nations Group's Latest Report Discusses Abuses in Punjab

In its latest report, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances incorporated many of the allegations presented by Ensaaf... Continue »

Ensaaf Welcomes Navneet Miller to its Board of Directors

Navneet Miller is an account supervisor with Weber Shandwick, a leading global public relations agency. She helps develop and execute strategic communications campaigns for corporate, environmental, and healthcare clients... Continue »

Continuing Injustice: Punjab Mass Cremations Case

India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) continued its over decade-long practice of using arbitrary procedure to deny survivors their rights to truth, justice, and reparations. In March 2008, the NHRC established a subcommittee... Continue »

Amidst Mass Protests, Senior Perpetrators of 1984 Delhi Pogroms Withdraw from Parliamentary Elections

On April 9, 2009, the Congress Party asked Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, Congress Party leaders accused of orchestrating killings during the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms in New Delhi, to withdraw their bids in the upcoming parliamentary election... Continue »

Ensaaf presents at Inaugural Conference of India-wide Understanding Impunity Project

In October 2008, Ensaaf presented at the first symposium of the Understanding Impunity Project. The project is being housed by the South Asia Forum for Human Rights... Continue »

Ensaaf Receives Two Grants

Ensaaf would like to thank Echoing Green and the Sikh Spirit Foundation for generously supporting our project with the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group... Continue »

Different ways to Donate to Ensaaf

In addition to mailing a check or donating online, you can support Ensaaf by using GoodSearch.com and GoodShop.com, as well as through matching corporate contributions... Continue »

Check out Ensaaf's Multimedia Platform

Since Ensaaf released its multimedia platform in November 2008, we have added a photo essay and podcast focusing on Ensaaf's recent report... Continue »

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New Statistical Analysis Points To Widespread Human Rights Violations by Indian Government Authorities in Punjab

On India's Republic Day, January 26, 2009, Ensaaf and the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) released a report, Violent Deaths and Disappearances During the Counterinsurgency in Punjab, India, presenting verifiable quantitative findings on mass disappearances and extrajudicial executions in Punjab.

With the methodological reliability of the compilation and analysis of events data, it becomes easier for all involved, irrespective of political dispositions, to see how they become socially responsible when the rule of law is suspended.
For being a step in this direction, this study is seminal.
Ram Narayan Kumar, Preface

Indian security officials have dismissed claims of human rights violations as unavoidable "aberrations" during the counterinsurgency in Punjab from 1984 to 1995. However, Romesh Silva, a demographer at HRDAG and co-author of the report, counters: "This scientific analysis reveals that answers given by the government regarding the nature and extent of these violations are implausible given the available evidence. The victims and their families have a right to the truth."

The preliminary analysis of over 21,000 records breaks new ground by clearly showing that as the media reported more militant deaths from alleged "encounters" with security forces in Punjab, survivors reported enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions on a larger and more widespread scale. The strong empirical correlation supports the conclusion that state violence shifted from targeted lethal human rights violations to systematic enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions, accompanied by mass "illegal cremations." Additional analysis further supports assertions by human rights groups that these encounters were fabricated by security forces to conceal extrajudicial executions.

The Ensaaf/HRDAG report is the most comprehensive, quantitative analysis to date of available data on human rights violations during the Punjab counterinsurgency. This report lays the groundwork for additional analyses that will clarify the magnitude and pattern of all lethal violations during the counterinsurgency period. In order to make scientifically defensible estimates of the number of people killed, Ensaaf and HRDAG will apply the demographic technique of multiple systems estimation to all the available information in the coming year.

More information on the report's preliminary analysis is available on the report homepage, with access to an FAQ section, a photo essay, and a podcast describing the report.

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United Nations Group's Latest Report Discusses Allegations of Disappearances and Mass Cremations in Punjab

In November 2007, Ensaaf presented 32 specific cases of enforced disappearance as well as general information on disappearances, unlawful killings, and mass cremations in Punjab to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), based in Geneva, Switzerland. This included a joint written submission (pdf) with international human rights groups, as well as a presentation before the WGEID.

In its latest report (pdf), the WGEID incorporated many of the allegations presented by Ensaaf. The WGEID's report notes the alleged absence of domestic remedies to redress disappearances that occurred in Punjab from 1984-1995, and the Government of India's refusal to take effective legislative, judicial, and administrative measures to end disappearances. The report further discusses the failure of India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to redress secret mass cremations in Punjab, despite receiving a mandate from the Supreme Court. The report notes the NHRC limited the scope of its inquiry to secret cremations, rather than violations of the right to life, territorially restricted its mandate to only three crematoria, and refused to investigate disappearances, relying instead on police admissions and ignoring evidence from victim families.

A detailed history and analysis of the case concerning over 2,000 secret cremations and impunity for disappearances and extrajudicial executions in Punjab is contained in the Ensaaf-HRW report, Protecting the Killers: A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India.

The WGEID report also discusses separate allegations of unidentified graves of at least 940 persons in Jammu and Kashmir, which are "believed to contain the remains of victims of unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, [and] torture..." perpetrated by the Indian Army.

The WGEID communicated both these allegations to the Government of India, which failed to respond. In its report, the WGEID reminded the Government that it has an ongoing duty to "conduct thorough and impartial investigations for as long as the fate of the victim of enforced disappearance remains unclarified," and reiterated its request for the Government to "comment on the information contained in the general allegations, which may lead to the clarification of outstanding cases."

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Ensaaf Welcomes Navneet Miller to its Board of Directors

Ensaaf is pleased to announce the addition of Navneet Miller to its Board of Directors. Ms. Miller is an account supervisor with Weber Shandwick, a leading global public relations agency. She helps develop and execute strategic communications campaigns for corporate, environmental, and healthcare clients. Ms. Miller transitioned to public relations after working for ABC News in New York. She graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor's degree in communication and received a joint master's degree in global media and communication from the London School of Economics and University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communication.

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Continuing Injustice: Punjab Mass Cremations Case

Please read Ensaaf's background to the mass cremations case, as well as the extensive analysis of the case in the Ensaaf-HRW report.

India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) continued its over decade-long practice of using arbitrary procedure to deny survivors their rights to truth, justice, and reparations. In March 2008, the NHRC established a subcommittee to identify the remaining 657 cremation victims in Amritsar district to which it had limited its inquiry. The four-person subcommittee began operating in August 2008, and Ensaaf attended the first hearing.

According to the NHRC's order and public notice outlining the terms of the subcommittee, claim forms would be made available in every district of Punjab at the District Commissioner's (DC) office.

Victim families throughout Punjab reported to Ensaaf harassment and defects in the claim form process.

Prior to setting up the subcommittee, the NHRC relied on mere admissions and investigations of the Punjab Police, the perpetrators of the mass cremations, and rejected evidence from victim families to determine the identities of the cremations victims. Now, in a further rebuke to even appearances of independence and impartiality, the NHRC has placed a senior Punjab Police officer on the subcommittee adjudicating the claims.

Further, victim families throughout Punjab reported to Ensaaf harassment and defects in the claim form process, making it very difficult for them to obtain, complete, and submit their claims. The following defects were documented by Ensaaf in several districts of Punjab:

  • The claim forms were not available anywhere until at least two weeks after the date established by the NHRC's public notice. Despite the late availability of the forms, the NHRC or subcommittee did not extend the deadline. Families also specifically reported that claims forms were no longer available at DC offices after the deadline, and officials rejected families who attempted to submit forms after the deadline.
  • The claim forms were not available in many DC offices in Punjab, as admitted by DC officials.
  • Where the claim forms were available, many DC officials refused to provide the claim forms if the families were not from Amritsar, ignoring the language of the order and the reality that many of the bodies secretly cremated in Amritsar originated from other districts.
  • Many DC officials also simply refused to accept the claim forms or issue a receipt to the victim families acknowledging receipt of the claims.
  • Many DC officials initially denied having the claim forms, but after persistent visits by victim families, admitted to having the forms and provided them to families.
  • In at least one district, claim forms were only available in English, making it difficult or impossible for families who were not proficient in English to fill out the forms.
  • The subcommittee has also rejected a large number of claims. According to one DC official working for the chairman of the subcommittee, a total of around 850 claims were received, of which around 100 were outright rejected. Civil society sources told Ensaaf, however, that at least 2,000 claims were submitted to DC offices throughout Punjab.
  • Families also reported that Punjab Police were verifying the claims information in person. By relying on the police to verify the information, the NHRC is deliberately ignoring the fact that police have an incentive to suppress the identities of police personnel involved in custodial deaths and secret cremations, or cover-up the custodial deaths altogether. Determinations of custodial death greatly impact the victims' entitlements to compensation, as well as issues of institutional and individual police responsibility. The NHRC also ignored the possibility of police harassment of victims and police fraud; earlier, the NHRC had to reject a secret cremation identification put forward by the police because the police had fabricated the identification and colluded with a non-victim family to collect the compensation.

The obstacles faced by victim families in simply submitting claims are consistent with the arbitrary history of these proceedings. The NHRC has refused, despite repeated objections and recommendations by victims and petitioners, to "conduct thorough and impartial investigations for as long as the fate of the victim of enforced disappearance remains unclarified," as required by international law. Further, the NHRC has consistently relied on the police as its investigative arm in this case. Ensaaf provides a detailed remedial framework in its joint report with Human Rights Watch, Protecting the Killers: A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India. This framework aims to provide redress for the gross violations of human rights that occurred and address the institutionalized impunity that has prevented accountability.

As the report states, "The Indian government should not believe that these crimes will fade into history....The reputation of the Indian state as a gross human rights violator will persist until it fulfills these obligations."

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Amidst Mass Protests, Senior Perpetrators of 1984 Delhi Pogroms Withdraw from Parliamentary Elections

On April 9, 2009, the Congress Party asked Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, Congress Party leaders accused of orchestrating killings during the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms in New Delhi, to withdraw their bids in the upcoming parliamentary election. The withdrawals came after mass protests in New Delhi and Punjab against a report filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on March 28, concluding Tytler's innocence based on "inconsistent" and "unreliable" witness testimonies.

The Case Against Tytler

Tytler was among many Congress (I) party leaders implicated in organizing the November 1984 pogroms, which occurred in the wake of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination by her two Sikh bodyguards. More than 3,000 Sikhs were killed in just four days. Ensaaf's report, Twenty Years of Impunity, contains detailed analysis of the role that state institutions and Congress Party officials, including Tytler, played in perpetrating mass murder during the pogroms.

The CBI probe centered on the testimonies of Jasbir Singh and Surinder Singh, who had previously provided affidavits to the Nanavati Commission. In Jasbir Singh's affidavit, he states that on the night of November 3, near TB Hospital, he saw a group of people gathered. He continues:

As I went closer, a car arrived and minister Jagdish Tytler got out. I recognized him as he used to visit trans-Yamuna area along with Sanjay Gandhi. He immediately started rebuking the people assembled here, saying his instructions were not carried out faithfully; that his position had been greatly compromised and lowered in the eyes of Central leader as "there have been only nominal killings in the constituency as compared to those in East Delhi, outer Delhi and Cantt." He said "I had promised large scale killings of Sikhs and sought full protection, but you have betrayed and let me down." (Times of India, December 26, 2008).

In Surinder Singh's affidavit to the Nanvati Commission, he describes witnessing a large mob approaching Gurdwara Pulbangash on the morning of November 1, 1984:

The mob was being led by Jagdish Tytler, the Congress (I) M.P. of our area. He incited the mob to burn the Gurdwara and kill the Sikhs. Some people in the mob were carrying flags of Congress....Thakur Singh, who was a retired Delhi Police Inspector and an employee of the Gurdwara Management Committee was killed by the mob. Badal Singh, a Sewadar of the Gurdwara was also killed and burnt alive by putting burning tyre around his neck. I was watching the entire incident helplessly from the top floor of the Gurdwara. The Gurdwara was also set on fire but the fire did not reach the top floor of the Gurdwara.
Justice Delayed

In 2005, the Nanvati Commission concluded that there was "credible evidence against Shri Jagdish Tytler to the effect that very probably he had a hand in organizing attacks on Sikhs." After mass protests over the government's failure to investigate or prosecute responsible individuals, the Indian Home Ministry ordered the CBI to reopen its case against Tytler, as well as against Sajjan Kumar and Dharam Dass Shastri.

In November 2007, the CBI filed an affidavit in a Delhi court claiming a lack of evidence against Jagdish Tytler. They specifically declared Jasbir Singh as "untraceable." However, hours after the CBI made these statements, the Indian news channel CNN-IBN located Jasbir Singh in California. The Delhi court ordered the CBI to record Jasbir Singh's testimony.

Surinder Singh subsequently petitioned to have his testimony against Tytler recorded. In 2002, Surinder Singh had recanted his affidavit accusing Tytler of leading the mob that attacked Gurdwara Pulbangash. However, Surinder Singh describes recanting the affidavit under pressure from Tytler's supporters. In February 2008, the CBI recorded Surinder Singh's statements. Soon after, Surinder Singh moved to the United States out of fear for his safety.

In December 2008, a CBI team flew to the US to record Jasbir Singh's statements, and to further question Surinder Singh.

The CBI's final report claims the witnesses are "inconsistent" and "unreliable." The report's conclusions were made public during a hearing of the Karkardooma District Court in New Delhi on April 2, 2009. However, the full report has not been made public. Harinder Singh Phoolka, a senior attorney representing victims of the 1984 pogroms, has petitioned the court to inspect the final report. Court proceedings have been adjourned until April 28 or 29, but the widespread protests against the CBIÕs conclusions have prompted the Congress Party to withdraw Jagdish Tytler, as well as another accused perpetrator, Sajjan Kumar, from their field of candidates before the court ruling.

For more information on the pogroms, read Ensaaf's report, Twenty Years of Impunity: The November 1984 Pogroms of Sikhs in India. The report reveals the systematic and organized manner in which state institutions, such as the Delhi Police, and Congress officials perpetrated mass murder in November 1984 and later justified the violence in inquiry proceedings. After a thorough discussion of administrative and judicial impunity, the report applies the international law of genocide and crimes against humanity to the pogroms, relating the massacres with international understandings of gross violations of human rights. The supplement in the second edition articulates the failings of the Nanavati Commission and the Action Taken Report, after a thorough consideration of the evidence at the government's disposal.

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Ensaaf presents at Inaugural Conference of India-wide Understanding Impunity Project

Ensaaf's presentation added significant value to the symposium by demonstrating the instrumentality of quantitative analysis in developing scientifically defensible arguments, as well as in capturing phenomenon undetectable by qualitative documentation and analysis alone.

In October 2008, Ensaaf presented at the first symposium of the Understanding Impunity Project. The project is being housed by the South Asia Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR), and is funded by the International Development Research Center of Canada. The Understanding Impunity Project will concentrate on four regions in India: Gujarat, Kashmir, the Northeast, including Assam, Manipur and Nagaland, and Punjab. The project aims to document and understand impunity on regional levels and identify commonalities across regions in order to form the basis of a coordinated national strategy against impunity in India. Ensaaf is participating in this project as a regional consultant, conducting the research and documentation on Punjab, as well as an international consultant, advising on methodology, training, and advocacy for the project.

The October symposium was jointly hosted by the Indian Center for Social Science Research at Punjab University and SAFHR. The project's fieldworkers based in Gujarat, Kashmir, and the Northeast presented current research, while Ensaaf presented findings for Punjab. Ensaaf discussed its quantitative methodology of documentation, and also presented its vision for reparations in the context of the Punjab Mass Cremations case.

Ensaaf's presentation added significant value to the symposium by demonstrating the instrumentality of quantitative analysis in developing scientifically defensible arguments, as well as in capturing phenomenon undetectable by qualitative documentation and analysis alone. The Punjab press covered (pdf) the symposium and quoted Ensaaf employees on the Punjab issues.

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Ensaaf Receives Two Grants

Ensaaf would like to thank Echoing Green and the Sikh Spirit Foundation for generously supporting our project with the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group. This support will allow Ensaaf to continue the work begun with the joint preliminary report, Violent Deaths and Enforced Disappearances During the Counterinsurgency in Punjab, India. With the Echoing Green Accelerator Grant and Sikh Spirit Foundation funding, Ensaaf will work towards the clarification of the total magnitude and patterns of violence throughout Punjab during the counterinsurgency operations of 1984 to 1995.

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Different Ways to Donate to Ensaaf

In addition to mailing a check or donating online, you can support Ensaaf by using GoodSearch.com and GoodShop.com. GoodSearch.com is a Yahoo-powered search engine that donates half of its revenue to the charities designated by its users. GoodShop.com is an online shopping mall that donates up to 30 percent of each purchase to your favorite cause. Hundreds of stores including Amazon, Target, Gap, Best Buy, ebay, Macy's, and Barnes & Noble have teamed up with GoodShop.

You can also enroll Ensaaf to receive matching contributions from your employer, depending on your employer's eligibility requirements. Ensaaf is currently enrolled at Ebay, Bank of America, CA, International Monetary Fund, Juniper, Genworth Financial, and Microsoft. Please contact Ensaaf to sign up for matching donations with your company.

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Check out Ensaaf's Multimedia Platform

Since Ensaaf released its multimedia platform in November 2008, with video testimony from 1990 of the faked encounter of Kulwant Singh, we have added a photo essay and podcast focusing on Ensaaf's recent report with the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group.

Ensaaf's multimedia platform contains 18 video clips, 2 photo essays, and a podcast.

Watch/Listen also includes footage of human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalra's last international speech, and interviews with survivors, such as Navkiran Kaur Khalra, human rights attorneys, like Rajvinder S. Bains, and perpetrators, such as former police chief KPS Gill.

Learn more about these videos, comment on them, and share them with your friends through Watch/Listen.

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