Families of Punjab’s disappeared pin hopes on Supreme Court bid – AlJazeera


Gurmej Kaur holds an image of her husband and sons who died in the 1980s, at the height of tensions in Punjab as calls for a separate Sikh state led to a bloody crackdown [Bilal Kuchay/Al Jazeera]
Rights group which documented 8,000 cases of enforced disappearances files case at top court, stirring hope for justice, reports Aljazeera

Punjab, India – A collage of four men wearing turbans hangs on a wall in Gurmej Kaur’s village home, in the Punjabi district of Gurdaspur.

At 80, she carefully stepped up on a bed, brought the frame down, and cleaned her glasses with her white headscarf.

“The man with the white beard is my husband. The three young men are my children,” she said.

“They were all killed by the police and security forces in fake encounters and labelled as Khalistan militants.”

In 1980s Punjab, the heartland of India’s Sikh minority, there were heightened calls for a separate Sikh homeland in the northern Indian state.

In 1986, Gurmej Kaur’s youngest son, 12-year-old Sukhdev, was arrested by police, accused of possessing weapons and ammunition.

“It was a common phenomenon in Punjab then. Civilians were abducted, taken into illegal custody and tortured,” said Gurmeet Kaur, Gurmej’s daughter.

From 1983 until 1995, during “counter-insurgency” efforts in Punjab, thousands of Sikhs were killed or allegedly went missing.

More than 10 years after the anti-Sikh riots, in 1995, Punjab-based activist Jaswant Singh Khalra filed a petition with the Supreme Court of India claiming police had cremated 25,000 bodies, which they labelled “unidentified” and “unclaimed”.

Later that year, Khalra was abducted and killed by the police.

Read the full story, Families of Punjab’s disappeared pin hopes on Supreme Court bid (AlJazeera, 22 Aug 2019), here.