• Punjab

    1. Overview.. 1
    2. Human rights violations by the security forces. 2
    a. Violations of the right to life. 2
    b. Arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture. 3
    3. Violence against women. 4
    a. Violence by the security forces. 4
    b. Female foeticide and trafficking. 4
    4. Violations of the rights of the Dalits. 5
    a. Physical abuse. 5
    b. Violence against Dalit women. 6
    5. Violations of the prisoners' rights. 6

    1. Overview

    Ruled by Indian National Congress party, Punjab continued to be engulfed in serious human rights violations. Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) documented several cases of extrajudicial and custodial killing of civilians during 2006. Police investigation was synonymous with torture. On 25 October 2006, The Hindustan Times stated that 75 persons died in police custody each year on an average in Punjab. Sixty-six (66) per cent of such deaths were attributed to natural causes. Although majority of the victims were in the age bracket of 20 and 30 years, the police often stated the causes of custodial deaths to be heart attack and other medical problems.[1]

    On 8 March 2006, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) ordered monetary relief of Rs. 2.5 lakh each for the next of kin of 38 persons whom the Punjab Government admitted were in police custody prior to their deaths and illegally cremated. The Central Bureau of Investigation had listed 2,097 illegal cremations carried out by security agencies in three crematoria of Tarn Taran, Amritsar and Majitha district during the period of insurgency in Punjab.[2] The Punjab Government reportedly identified 1,273 victims while the rest 824 bodies remained unidentified.[3] Though compensation was awarded, accountability was seldom established.

    The Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) received 17,144 complaints relating to violations of human rights in 2005. The PSHRC disposed of 14,329 complaints, while 2815 remained pending by the end of 2005.[4]

    Women rights were often violated. In early July 2006, a pregnant woman identified as Simranjeet Kaur, wife of Kamaljeet Singh, was allegedly hit in the stomach by constable Sukhdev Singh leading to the death of her unborn baby at Dullowana village under Dhariwal police station in Gurdaspur.[5] The condition of women prisoners was deplorable. Their problems did not receive any priority.

    Incidence of atrocities against Dalits especially women was glaring. On 26 June 2006, nine-month pregnant Dalit woman identified as Raj, resident of Kuttiwal village in Ajnala tehsil, was allegedly beaten up by a woman constable who entered the ‘labour room' leading to the death of her male child after delivery.[6]

    Punjab continued to be plagued by judicial delay. By the end of December 2006, there were 15 vacancies of judges in the Punjab and Haryana High Court while there were 80 vacancies in the District and Subordinate Courts as on 30 September 2006. There were huge backlog cases. The Punjab and Haryana High Court had 2,41,579 pending cases and the District and Subordinate Courts had 5,61,919 pending cases as on 30 September 2006.[7]

    2. Human rights violations by the security forces

    a. Violations of the right to life

    The law enforcement personnel were responsible for gross human rights violations including extrajudicial executions. On 11 October 2006, Ruban Masih was beaten to death by the police at Bhadaurh in Sangrur district.[8] ACHR documented several custodial deaths during 2006. The victims of custodial deaths included Salwinder Singh, a Dalit of Margindpura village under Bhikhiwind police station, who was allegedly beaten to death on the night of 4 January 2006;[9] Gurmail Singh, a resident  of Kakrali village at Rajpura, who was tortured to death on 4 January 2006;[10] Balbir Ram, a gunman with a bank, who died at Goraya police station on 8 February 2006;[11] Harjeet Singh, a Dalit of Dera Baba Nanak area, who died in Civil Lines police station of Batala on 20 February 2006;[12] 20-year-old Dalit identified as Madan Lal alias Tinku, a resident of Basti Shekhan, who died in June 2006[13] and another Dalit identified as Balwinder Singh alias Ballu Singh of Chathe Sekhwan village in Sangrur who died at Sangrur Sadar police station on 16 September 2006.[14]

    Many civilians were shot dead by the police. The victims included Satnam Singh Satti of Jandiala village who was allegedly shot dead by inebriated Head Constable Loveleen Singh near Cheema Kalan village  near the Indo-Pak border on 29 April 2006;[15] Kashmir Messih, a labourer, who was killed by Special Police Officer (SPO) Surinder Singh of the Punjab Police at Gaini village in Batala on 15 June 2006;[16] and a Muslim youth, Nameem Khan who was allegedly killed by members of the Special Task Force near Giana village on the intervening night of 20-21 September 2006.[17]

    On 2 June 2006, Additional Sessions Judge D.S. Malwai sentenced six personnel of Sherpur police station including Deputy Superintendent of Police Gurjit Singh, Station House Officer (SHO) Kulwinder Singh, Additional SHO  Yudhishter Singh, Head Constable Chamkaur Singh and constables Sohan Singh and Mukhtiar Singh to rigorous imprisonment for life for the custodial killing of Ravinder Singh in Sherpur police station on 18 January 2004.[18]

    During 2006, some policemen faced suspension or dismissal from service in connection with custodial death cases. These policemen included three Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel identified as Jarnail Singh, SHO of the Patiala GRP police station, Gurdeep Singh and Baldev Singh of the Rajpura police post in the custodial killing of Gurmail Singh;[19] Mandeep Singh, SHO of Goraya police station, who was suspended after public protest in the custodial death of Balbir Ram;[20] Inspector and SHO (City) of Batala, Kirpal Singh, Assistant Sub Inspector and in-charge of Simbal Chowki Paramjit Singh, Head Constable Satnam Singh and constable Naresh Kumar who were dismissed from service in the custodial killing of Harjeet Singh.[21]

    b. Arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture

    The police routinely used torture. In early June 2006, two persons identified as Tarsem Singh and Sukhvinder Singh were seriously injured after being allegedly tortured in police custody in Gurdaspur after their arrest on the charge of preparing forged document. However, the police maintained that the two rammed their heads with iron bars and tried to commit suicide with broken glass pieces.[22]

    In October 2006, the Punjab and Haryana High Court imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 each on two Assistant Sub-Inspectors Surinder Singh and Manjeet Singh for wrongfully detaining a man, son of Ashok Kumar, and subjecting him to torture. The victim was arrested by the police after being implicated him in a false case under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act on 22 August 2004.[23]

    3. Violence against women

    Women suffered from extreme form of violence at the hands of the law enforcement personnel and society. In June 2006, 70-year-old Harvinder Kaur (name changed), resident of Chakk Sadia, Ferozpur, was allegedly stripped, her hair cut, face blackened and paraded around the village on a handcart by the village panchayat as her son was in love with a girl belonging to an influential family.[24]

    a. Violence by the security forces

    The security forces were responsible for violence against women including sexual abuse, beating and torture. On 16 February 2006, constable Kewal Krishan was arrested on charges of allegedly raping and murdering a middle-aged woman, wife of Jaimal Singh, in an abandoned room at Grain Market in Amritsar.[25]

    Often, women and girls were molested during protest demonstrations. In September 2006, the police allegedly molested and assaulted 20 female students of the Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Ludhiana. The National Human Rights Commission asked the State Director General of Police to submit report within two weeks.[26]

    Even the pregnant women were not spared. In early July 2006, a pregnant woman identified as Simranjeet Kaur, wife of Kamaljeet Singh, was allegedly hit in the stomach by Constable Sukhdev Singh  leading to the death of her unborn baby at Dullowana village under Dhariwal police station in Gurdaspur.[27] Similarly, on 13 October 2006, a pregnant woman identified as Puja was allegedly kicked by Head Constable Ranjeet Singh in the stomach following an altercation between the families over the construction of a temple in Golden Avenue colony in Pathankot.[28]

    b. Female foeticide and trafficking

    Punjab had become a trafficking destination because of skewed sex ratio as a direct consequence of rampant female foeticide. Punjab had one of the most disproportionate sex ratios in the country. According to the 2001 census, an alarming 10 of the 17 districts of the State showed fewer than 800 girls per 1,000 boys.[29] In August 2006, about 35 decomposed foetuses were recovered from a well near a hospital in Patran, 70 miles south of state capital Chandigarh.[30]

    In order to meet the demands, poor girls from all over the country were trafficked to Punjab. Tribal girls were trafficked into the State from Jharkhand, Tripura, Assam, West Bengal, Manipur, Mizoram, etc. In October 2006, as many as 15 girls were rescued from the clutches of a person, Amarjit Singh of Dehrke village in Ludhiana district.[31]

    4. Violations of the rights of the Dalits

    The National Crime Records Bureau recorded 140 cases of atrocities against the Dalits in Punjab in 2005. These included 3 murders, 9 rapes, and 72 cases under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, among others.

    a. Physical abuse

    The Dalits continued to be subjected to abuse by the upper caste people and the police. On 3 October 2006, eight Dalits were reportedly injured seriously after being attacked with sharp-edged weapons and sticks by four Jat youths identified as Charanjit Singh, Pindi, Jarnail Singh and Jatinder while holding a religious congregation in Guru Ravidas Gurdwara in Chak Saboo village. All the accused were arrested on the charges of attempt on life and hurting Dalit's religious sentiment.[32]

    Whenever the Dalits sought justice, they were meted out further cruel treatment. In January 2006, a Dalit identified as Bant Singh of village Jhabbar in Mansa district was abducted and mercilessly beaten up by seven upper caste men belonging to Jat community for daring to file criminal charges against some Jat villagers who had raped his 17-year-old daughter four years ago. The injuries  necessitated him to amputed both his arms and one leg.[33]

    The security forces also targeted the Dalits. On 20 February 2006, Narinder Singh, a Dalit undertrial and resident of Balakalna village near Morinda town, was beaten up and the word “choora” (lower caste) was inscribed on his back with hot metal by jail officials including the Assistant Superintendent of the jail and was paraded naked in the Nabha jail.[34]

    b. Violence against Dalit women

    The Dalit women were specifically targeted. In May 2006, a teenaged Dalit girl of Kot Todar Mal village was allegedly gang raped for four days by three youths Daljeet Singh, son of Joginder Singh of Tugalwal village, Gurinder Singh alias Happy, son of Balkar Singh of Kot Todar Mal village and Balwinder Singh, son of Kartar Singh of Varaich village.[35]

    On 26 June 2007, a nine-month pregnant Dalit woman Raj, a resident of Kuttiwal village in Ajnala tehsil, was allegedly beaten up by a woman constable who entered the ‘labour room' leading to the death of her male child after delivery.[36]

    On 17 February 2006, three backward-caste women - Amarjit, Virpal and Rani alleged that they were stripped, beaten and given electric shocks by police for refusing to gratify two upper-caste men at Johar village in Muktsar district in December 2005.[37]

    5. Violations of the prisoners' rights

    There were 26 jails in the State - 7 Central Jails, 5 District Jails, two Open Jails, 1 Women's Jail, 1 Borstal Jail and 10 Sub Jails. According to Punjab Jail Department, the authorized accommodation in these jails was for 10,854 prisoners but the average population of the jails was around 14,000 inmates including about 25 suspected members of armed opposition groups during 2006.[38]

    Prison conditions remained deplorable and women prisoners suffered the worst. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 73 children living with their mothers in nine women jails of Punjab. The women's jails were overcrowded with 809 inmates against the sanctioned strength of 336.[39]

    On 8 November 2006, an undertrial prisoner identified as Kulwant Singh alias Kanta, resident of Kaleke village in Amritsar district, reportedly died under mysterious circumstances at Jalandhar Central jail.[40]

    In July 2006, the State Government provided an interim compensation of Rs 1 lakh to the kin of Jaswant Singh of Jodhewal in Ludhiana district, an undertrial prisoner who died on 20 February 2004. On 23 March 2006, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission had directed the State Government to pay the compensation to the kin of the victim.[41]         

    [1]. Custodial death figures alarming in state, The Hindustan Times, 25 October 2006 

    [2]. NHRC orders relief in mass cremations case, The Hindu, 9 March 2006

    [3]. 570 more victims identified  - Mass cremations in Punjab, The Tribune, 4 April 2006 

    [4]. Human rights situation in Punjab not alarming: Justice Jain, The Tribune, 28 February 2006 

    [5]. Cops beat up pregnant woman, killing baby, The Tribune, 4 July 2006

    [6]. Cops thrash woman in labour, killing baby, The Tribune, 28 June 2006

    [7]. Court News, October - December 2006, Supreme Court of India

    [8]. Tension in Bhadaurh over burial of lathi-charge victim, The Pioneer, 14 October 2006 

    [9]. Death of Dalit youth in police custody alleged, The Tribune, 6 January 2006

    [10]. Custodial death: 3 cops suspended, The Tribune, 6 January 2006 

    [11]. SHO suspended for death of Goraya youth, The Tribune, 10 February 2006 

    [12]. Custodial death: 4 cops dismissed, The Tribune, 23 February 2006 

    [13]. Mob goes on rampage after custodial death, The Tribune, 29 June 2006

    [14]. Death of Dalit boy in Police custody alleged, The Sunday Tribune, 17 September 2006

    [15]. Drunk cops kill poppy smuggler, The Tribune, 1 May 2006

    [16]. Inebriated SPO kills labourer, The Tribune, 16 June 2006 

    [17]. PSHRC seeks report on Muslim youth's killing, The Tribune, 27 November 2006 

    [18]. Life-term for custodial death, The Hindu, 4 June 2006 

    [19]. Custodial death: 3 cops suspended, The Tribune, 6 January 2006

    [20]. SHO suspended for death of Goraya youth, The Tribune, 10 February 2006 

    [21]. Custodial death: 4 cops dismissed, The Tribune, 23 February 2006 

    [22]. Traffic blocked against 'torture in police custody', The Tribune, 5 June 2006 Traffic blocked against 'torture in police custody', The Tribune, 5 June 2006 

    [23]. Punjab police officials fined for torture, The Kashmir Times, 11 October 2006

    [24]. 70-yr-old woman stripped, paraded naked in Punjab, The Pioneer, 9 June 2006

    [25]. Cop held for rape, murder - Amritsar mob gheraos police station, The Tribune, 17 February 2006 

    [26]. Molestation case: NHRC seeks report from Punjab DGP, The Tribune, 20 October 2006 

    [27]. Cops beat up pregnant woman, killing baby, The Tribune, 4 July 2006 

    [28]. Cop kicks pregnant woman in stomach, The Tribune, 15 October 2006 

    [29]. Killing fields, The Times of India, 18 April 2006

    [30]. 35 female foetuses found in a well, Reuters, 10 August 2006, available at: http://www.ibnlive.com/news/35-female-foetuses-found-in-a-well/18160-3.html

    [31]. 23 girls taken to Goa for 'flesh trade', 15 rescued - Girls promised jobs in defence by 'Army officer', The Tribune, 24 October 2006

    [32]. 8 Dalits injured in attack; 4 booked, The Tribune, 5 October 2006

    [33]. Dalit beaten, loses limbs, The Deccan Chronicle, 3 March 2006 

    [34]. Dalit branded, Tribune, 22 February 2006 

    [35]. Teenaged Dalit girl gang-raped, The Tribune, 25 May 2006 

    [36]. Cops thrash woman in labour, killing baby, The Tribune, 28 June 2006 

    [37]. Tortured trio tells on cops, The Telegraph, 18 February 2006 

    [38]. http://punjabgovt.nic.in/GOVERNMENT/GOVT75G.HTM

    [39]. Innocence in jail - Inmates' children face impaired growth, The Tribune, 5 April 2006 

    [40]. Undertrial in Prabir kidnap case dies, The Tribune, 9 November 2006 

    [41]. Rs one lakh paid as compensation for custodial death, The Kashmir Times, 6 July 2006

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