Asian Centre for Human Rights

Dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia



I. Overview

Ruled by the Indian National Congress, Punjab continued to suffer from impunity for human rights violations institutionalised during the counter insurgency operations in 1980s and early 1990s. Although on 11 November 2004, National Human Rights Commission ordered the Punjab Government to pay compensation of Rs 2.72 crores to the kin of 109 persons who had died in custody of the police during the insurgency, the NHRC declined to bring in its ambit all the “police killings” for inquiry and making public various reports of inquiries by Central Bureau of Investigation regarding 2,097 cases referred to it by the Supreme Court for deciding the compensation aspect. [1] The perpetrators responsible for disappearance of human rights activist, Jaswant Singh Kalra remained at large.

Although, Punjab has not been facing an internal armed conflict at present, Punjab Police personnel were responsible for gross and widespread human rights violations including arbitrary deprivation of the right to life, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture etc.

Punjab continued to witness large number of custodial deaths - both in judicial and police custody as a result of torture. The Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) registered 87 cases of custodial deaths from 1 January to 30 November 2004. [2] On 10 June 2004, Jaspal Singh, a farmer of border village Dhunna in Amritsar district was killed at Kalra Police station of Tarn Taran district. [3]

Torture is endemic and a part of the administration of justice. The Punjab Police and the Punjab Vigilance Bureau personnel allegedly harassed the family members of Jaskaran Singh, whose petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court led to the quashing of illegal selection of seven Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), including sons of the Chief Minister’s media advisor B I S Chahal and Ferozepur Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Harinder Singh Chahal, on 15 October 2004. [4] Earlier on 8 October 2004, the Vigilance Department registered a false case at Ferozepur, accusing Kheta Singh, the 68-year-old father and a brother of Jaskaran Singh of helping a woman get old-age pension of Rs 200 a month though her husband allegedly owned eight acres land. Vigilance department arrested both and detained them illegally for 10 days. [5] The only action taken by the state government was the transfer of Ferozepur Vigilance SP, Inderjit Singh Randhawa on 25 October 2004. This is despite the fact that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh himself regretted the arrest of Kheta Singh. [6]

Prisons in Punjab have virtually turned into chambers of torture. Undertrial Rocky of Amritsar Central Security Jail was tattooed “Yeh Chor Hai” (this one is a thief) on the night of 30 June 2004 for demanding food according to the jail manual. A deputy Superintendent and a jail doctor of Jalandar Central Jail inscribed “choorraa” [7] (lower caste) on the back of another under-trial and a Dalit, Malkiat Singh on the night of 2 July 2004 for demanding medical treatment. Relatives of ailing inmates needed to bribe the medical staff of the jails to get their kin referred to civil hospital for proper medical treatment. [8]

Women continued to face violence. Rano of Bhattian village in Patiala district allegedly became a victim of “honour killings” for eloping with a boy from another community. [9] The family members, especially women of the migrant workers, faced sexual assault and harassment.

The Dalits faced all forms of discrimination from the denial of minimum wages to the denial of entry into temples, land grabbing and killings at the hands of the upper castes. Often police personnel are involved in the atrocities. On 3 August 2004, two Dalits identified as Gurjant Singh and Harminder Singh were killed and 15 others were injured when a group of landlords opened indiscriminate firing on a basti (settlement) of the Dalits at Kamalpur village near Dirba in Sangrur district following a quarrel among the children of the Dalits and the landlords. [10]

Children also faced illegal detention and torture both at the hands of the police and the school teachers who routinely award corporal punishment. Three minor children - Sonia (13), Suman (12) and Gagandeep (10), grandchildren of Atam Prakash of Raikot in Ludhiana district were allegedly detained illegally and treated inhumanly at Chheharta police station in Amritsar on 5 and 6 July 2004. [11]   Subsequent inquiries by the police found the allegations to be true.

[1] . NHRC declines to expand probe on ‘police killings’, The Tribune, 14 November 2004

[2] . Custodial deaths on the rise in Punjab, says rights panel, The Tribune, 10 December 2004

[3] . Custodial death in Tarn Taran, The Tribune, 11 June 2004

[4] . He dragged Punjab govt to court over DSP selections, they jailed his family, The Indian Express, 25    October 2004

[5] . He dragged Punjab govt to court over DSP selections, they jailed his family, The Indian Express, 25 October 2004

[6] .

6. Captain admits to his cops’ mistake, shifts SP, seeks explanation, The Indian Express, 26 October 2004

[7] . Day after, another prisoner gets caste tattoo, The Indian Express, 4 July 2004

[8] . Probe undertrials’ death: PHRO, The Tribune, 17 January 2004

[9] . Caste divide claims girl’s life, The Tribune, 5 March 2004

[10] . Killing of two Dalits: 6 more arrested, The Tribune, 8 August 2004

[11] . 3 children detained illegally by police, The Tribune, 9 July 2004