New report damns Indian ‘counter-insurgency’ in Punjab


by Sunny
28th January, 2009 at 2:52 am    

A new report reveals the human cost of suspending constitutional rights in Punjab, India from 1984 – 1995.

Ensaaf and the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) released a report this week presenting verifiable quantitative findings on mass disappearances and extrajudicial executions in the Indian state of Punjab, contradicting the Indian government’s portrayal of the Punjab counterinsurgency as a successful and “humane” campaign.

It presents empirical findings suggesting that the intensification of counter-insurgency operations in Punjab in the early 1990s was accompanied by a shift in state violence from targeted lethal human rights violations to systematic enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions, accompanied by mass “illegal cremations.”

Indian security officials have dismissed claims of human rights violations as unavoidable “aberrations” during the counterinsurgency against alleged terrorists in Punjab from 1984 to 1995.

“This report challenges explanations by Indian security forces for enforced disappearances and extra-judicial executions using more than 20,000 records from independent sources which have been analyzed using statistical methods,” said Romesh Silva, a demographer at HRDAG and co-author of the report.

Human rights groups have collected extensive qualitative evidence about the types of abuses committed by Indian security forces and the impunity that persists in Punjab. Until now, human rights groups have lacked the capacity to conduct quantitative research to analyze these violations and definitively challenge explanations put forward by the Indian government. This report uses quantitative methods to scientifically demonstrate the implausibility that these lethal human rights violations are random or minor aberrations as suggested by Indian officials.

The strong correlation found between lethal human rights violations and overall lethal violence across time and space supports the conclusion that enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions were part of a specific plan or widespread practice used by security forces during the counterinsurgency.

The report further demonstrates that when human rights violations increased dramatically after 1991 and fewer families were able to recover the bodies of their loved ones, “illegal cremations” acknowledged by the Indian National Human Rights Commission also increased.

“Given the empirical findings suggesting systematic abuses in Punjab, the government can no longer deny the facts while using the rhetoric of national security. The public is now equipped to challenge the government’s false narrative, and demand the vindication of survivors’ rights to truth, justice, and reparations.”

The Ensaaf and Benetech report, “Violent Deaths and Enforced Disappearances During the Counterinsurgency in Punjab, India” is available online.
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Filed in: Civil liberties,India,South Asia,Terrorism






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  1. Golam Murtaza — on 28th January, 2009 at 6:27 am  

    I wonder what KPS Gill would have to say?

  2. Mangles — on 28th January, 2009 at 9:47 am  

    I am glad you haven’t dismissed these facts as Khalistani propaganda. Whilst some excesses were clearly committed by this group, much of the violence attributed to this group was actually committed by state agents. Many of the so called ‘Khalistanis’ who did so coomit the violence and were ‘killed’ by the states instruments in ‘encounters’ have today been identified as still alive having given new identities by the state.

    Scary stuff, and totally true- just do some reserach about how many senior officers from the 1990′s are facing inquiries. Alas these will go on for decades and as we all know justice in India is only enforced for those who can afford it. And as for the poor rural families who lost their sole breadwinners or entire menfolk, endured rape and torture, will continue to be denied a voice.

    Well done Ensaaf.

    Sunny, I am so glad you have highlighted the report and not once again dismissed the facts as Khalistani rhetoric.

  3. Parvinder Singh — on 28th January, 2009 at 10:55 am  

    Excellent report. Ensaaf does commendable work we should all support.

    When these abuses were being carried out, Sikhs in India or in the diaspora who raised the issues were continually shouted down, ignored and worst, labelled as separatists. Now the truths out, but unfortunately it’s too late for the victims.

    Human rights abuses, whether it happens in Gaza, Punjab, Saudi Arabia or wherever should be highlighted and those responsible brought to justice. In this case, India has a lot to answer to.

  4. kELvi — on 28th January, 2009 at 3:25 pm  

    The entire report is dubious. Never once anywhere is there a hint of what the Khalistani movement wreaked on the people of Punjab and India. To ignore the horrific violence that those thugs perpetrated and talk about disappearances betrays a deeply biased attitude. Unfortunately these misnamed HR groups, consider violence committed by terrorists to be simply an aberrant response of citizens to the state, when the victims are innocent and in no way responsible for the shortcomings of the state. This is rubbish. In fact these apologists go further and demand that worse the violence inflicted on the people, the less the state should enforce the law through the use of force, in effect demanding that the state lie back and play dead. Thankfully in India that did not happen, and I hope it never will. The Punjab Police and their leader KPS Gill deserve all praise for having stamped out a vicious and ruthless band of terrorists and restoring the rule of law. The Indian state has no one to answer to but its own people, to whom it owes above all else their lives, property, and liberty. Terrorists seek to snatch these rights away from the people, and earn their just desert.

  5. Mangles — on 28th January, 2009 at 5:34 pm  

    kELvi your praise for KPS Gill says it all really doesn’t it. Who’s your other hero Hitler?

    I suppose to you and KPS Gill anyone who seeks to assert their rights is a terrorist and should be taught a lesson, along with his/her family and village so that they never ever seek redress ever again.

    And you call that democracy do you? I suppose you can in India.

  6. kELvi — on 28th January, 2009 at 6:59 pm  

    Mangles,
    Godwin’s Law? Not so soon. Keep the kitchen sink for last, when you really have no means of rationalization left.

    The guys who blew up Air India 182 and gunned down Tara Singh Hayer were seeking to “assert their rights,” they weren’t terrorists, Yeah right!

    Funny to watch apologists get all worked up when the name of KPS comes up, just as the Taliban doesn’t like to be reminded of daisy cutters or the Chechens of Vladimir Putin. How do you know that terrorists are going through a flush season – when apologists demand that governments negotiate with the terrorists, and start talking of the courage, efficiency, and “idealism” of terrorists. How do you know when terrorists are going through a lean patch and are facing extinction – apologists cry human rights, call for a “political solution” and even ask for a ceasefire (like Hitler did with the Allies in the last few weeks before Berlin was overrun. How do you know that terrorists were well and truly beaten? When apologists publish glossy volumes that talk of “state terror” “disappearances” fascism etc. Check out the thugs of Sri Lanka, the LTTE, that is now on its last legs. And you will understand the apologists’ line.

  7. comrade — on 28th January, 2009 at 9:09 pm  

    Both sides in the Punjab were guilty of the murder of innocents.

  8. Mangles — on 28th January, 2009 at 9:57 pm  

    And you kELvi are an apologist for whom? – the real terrorists, the states that don’t want any opposition, and think corporal punishment is a humane form of penal reform.

    The case of Air India 182 is unproven, and there is substantial evidence and circumstance that though some Sikh separatists may have foolishly been duped into involvement, the Indian state is more than likely to have planned and financed that horrendous crime.

    With regard to Tara Singh Hayre read the memoirs of Indian intelligence officers and you’ll realise how many Sikh separatist groups were infiltrated by spies and saboteurs to denegrate and malign the until then successful campaign in the west, particularly in Canada and later in UK.

    If India can kill hundreds and thousands of its own citizens in Punjab, the killing of Tara Singh Hayre in Canada or Tarsem Singh Purewal in England is not a difficult decision.

    Rab rakha!

  9. Sunny — on 29th January, 2009 at 12:28 am  

    Sunny, I am so glad you have highlighted the report and not once again dismissed the facts as Khalistani rhetoric.

    I have KPS Gill’s book too, I want to read it and see what he says. Though I’m not going to dismiss him as a Hitler equivalent to be honest.

    I’ve always said I understand India has committed gross human rights abuses in Punjab. That doesn’t mean I buy Khalistani rhetoric, the two issues are quite separate in my mind.

    We need more research like this out there.

  10. kELvi — on 29th January, 2009 at 4:00 am  

    Mangles, The case of Air India 182 is unproven, and there is substantial evidence and circumstance that…the Indian state is more than likely to have…

    With regard to Tara Singh Hayre read the memoirs of Indian intelligence officers and you’ll realise…

    Buddy you may also want to investigate why 100s of Jews who used to work at the World Trade Center did not turn up for work on Sep.11.01. Also did you know that it is the Israelis who hijacked the Air France 139 to Entebbe and then flew in and staged a rescue? I am sure you have more “explanations”

  11. Mangles — on 29th January, 2009 at 9:45 am  

    Sunny: I’ve always said I understand India has committed gross human rights abuses in Punjab. That doesn’t mean I buy Khalistani rhetoric, the two issues are quite separate in my mind.

    I agree the issues are separate, and as Parvinder Singh said earlier the truth is slowly emerging.

    kELvi: you call that an argument. FYI GOI tried to ban the memoirs of the former intelligence officers. Nothing to hide hey?

  12. Vikrant — on 29th January, 2009 at 4:08 pm  

    The case of Air India 182 is unproven, and there is substantial evidence and circumstance that though some Sikh separatists may have foolishly been duped into involvement, the Indian state is more than likely to have planned and financed that horrendous crime.

    Do you actually expect anyone to take you seriously after regurigitating that Khali bullshit? While i’m no fan on KPS Gill… Khalistanis have a lot of blood on their hands as well, especially targetted ethnic cleansing campaigns against Punjabi Hindus.

    you call that an argument. FYI GOI tried to ban the memoirs of the former intelligence officers. Nothing to hide hey?

    That is a kinda standard of all the governments around the world. Read about a poor fella called Peter Wright and his struggles with MoD to get his MI5 memoirs published!

    If India can kill hundreds and thousands of its own citizens in Punjab, the killing of Tara Singh Hayre in Canada or Tarsem Singh Purewal in England is not a difficult decision.

    If Indian security agencies were as ‘competent’ as you suggest then Lashkar, Dawood et al. would have been dead meat by now!

  13. Sunny — on 29th January, 2009 at 4:43 pm  

    If Indian security agencies were as ‘competent’ as you suggest then Lashkar, Dawood et al. would have been dead meat by now!

    I agree. Which is why I don’t buy the conspiracy around that flight either. The Indian govt and intelligence are the best… at being incompetent.

  14. kenni — on 29th January, 2009 at 4:53 pm  

    While I’m no conspiracy nut and I have little love for Khalistani types, I’ve followed the Air India Investigation here in Canada where the coverage has been heavy. There is definitely something very, very fishy about the whole investigation. How badly it was ‘bungled’ when it seemed that CSIS were supposed to be onto these guys from the start. How so much of he evidence disappeared, misplaced, lost…whatever.

    I don’t know if I would subscribe wholly to
    ‘some Sikh separatists may have foolishly been duped into involvement, the Indian state is more than likely to have planned and financed that horrendous crime..

    …but the whole affair reeks of some type of cover up which we may never know the full truth of.

  15. Dalbir — on 29th January, 2009 at 6:46 pm  

    Kelvi

    Your one sided understanding of the situation is flawed to the core. How far do you think you will get by justifying the excesses of the then Indian government?

    The fact is that the government bolstered and most likely actually set up many of the so called Sikh terrorist groups. In between creating “Khalistani” terrorists and frankly murdering and provoking Sikhs who would have otherwise have remained patriotic Indians, the establishment has a lot to answer for.

    If some nutjobs were murdering innocents in the name of Khalistan, it doesn’t justify the government doing the same. Maybe you’ll understand the problem if I put it simply – two wrongs don’t make a……..duh.

  16. comrade — on 29th January, 2009 at 8:41 pm  

    If Indian security agencies were as ‘competent’ as you suggest then Lashkar, Dawood et al. would have been dead meat by now!

    Right under the noses of the Indian security force, the Golden Temple was turned into a fortress. That mad man Binderwala made into defender of the Sikh faith by the Congress Government. The killing of opponents were planed in the Sikh holy place of worship. The question I always ask the Sikhs is, why didn’t they challege those that were occuping the Golden Temple at that time.

    Kelvin,
    your defence of the Indian Securty forces,particulary the police is inconceivable. Any protest is met with Lathi Charge, the recent example being the teachers, doctors and even school children. The shooting down of protesting farmer. The police are known for their infamous encounters, which they perfected during the seventies [The Naxalite Uprising]

  17. Mangles — on 30th January, 2009 at 1:42 pm  

    Comrade:
    ‘The question I always ask the Sikhs is, why didn’t they challege those that were occuping the Golden Temple at that time.’

    In context please. Because they were reacting to and asserting their rights in the only way they knew how to, against an organised state and majority community who owned and/or controlled all the media and spouted the anti-minority agenda of the majority community.
    The same anti-minority vote winning agenda that saw the whole of the Punjab state put under curfew, a news and media-blackout imposed, and the ransacking of scores of other Gurdwaras throughout the land in 1984. Last time I checked there was only one Bhindranwale and he had openly sought refuge at the Golden Temple Complex. The state had previously arrested and released him without charge because apart from the inflamatory anti-Sikh rhetoric at that time, there was no evidence that Sikhs were responsible for the escalation of the violence, much of which spiralled as a result of the mistreatment and abuse of Sikhs in neighbouring states, particularly Haryana.

    Thats why Sikhs in Indian law and constitution are still classified as Hindu. How convenient though that Indian and Hindu apologists seemingly ignore those facts.

    Lets put Sikhs aside for one moment. Why is it that the rest of India still hasn’t ‘challenged’ the near military organisation of the bajrang dal which has thousands of trained and uniformed units akin to the black shirts in every rural and urban locality of India?

    Rab rakha!

  18. comrade — on 30th January, 2009 at 5:02 pm  

    context please. Because they were reacting to and asserting their rights in the only way they knew how to, against an organised state

    Mangal,

    I totally argree with you on the atrocities that the Indian State as committed against the Sikh in Punjab, under the name of terrorism. But we must also, except the truth that the Khalistanis were also responsible for some of the atrocities they had committed on the civilian. I don’t want to go into the rights and wrongs of Khalistani demands or the Sikh greiviences.

  19. Mandeep — on 11th February, 2009 at 11:32 am  

    I really don’t see how human rights bodeis can conveniently just focus on abuses by govt agencies while glossing over, ignoring or even justifying brutal killings of innocents by non-state actors. How is it that killings of innocents never get the same sort of attention that action against suspected terrorists gets ? There are a lot of accusations flying around of ‘black groups’ or ‘third agencies’ of govt vigilantes indulging in killings of innocent people and putting the blame on our dear brave innocent gentle as lambs Khalistani warriors. But are these incidents ever investigated by these human rights bodies ? Why not ?

  20. rimmy — on 1st June, 2009 at 12:57 pm  

    thank god … we have some youngsters who know what they are talking about… you spoke well on the radio mate… respect your report..

  21. Mangles — on 1st June, 2009 at 5:23 pm  

    Mandeep the difference is that the evidence for what the ‘militants’ allegedly did was illegally wiped out or silenced by death squads handing out swift justice without reference to legal safeguards. Nonetheless the allegations against the Khalistani groups have been well documented and reported by the media over the past two and a half decades, that is why no real investigative journalism in India has taken place to analyse the truth behing the police stories which the media has consitently accepted without hesitation (even people on this forum).

    However, some allegedly slain ‘militants’ have unearthed recently, some even presenting themslves to the courts, aksing them to investigae who had actually been killed by the security agencies in their name – the police have failed to even arrest them as it would be an admission of their guilt that they either killed the wrong people (for which they collected enormous rewards of upto 50 lakh rupees), or the case against the alleged ‘militant’ was altogether fabricated in the first instance.

    It is all an issue of the means and persuasion to dig out the truth. Who is willing to take the risk? One of the most prominent people to look into this was Jaswant Singh Kalra. He though was also killed under alleged orders from Indian supercop-hero KPS Gill.

    Rab rakha

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