Jaswant Singh Khalra

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Jaswant Singh Khalra
JaswantSinghKhalra.jpg
Jaswant Singh Khalra speaking at Gurudwara Sahib in Canada.
Born(1952-11-02)2 November 1952
Died(1995-09-06)6 September 1995[1]
OccupationHuman Right Activist
Spouse(s)Paramjit Kaur Khalra

Jaswant Singh Khalra (1952–1995) was a Sikh and human rights activist from Punjab, India. He garnered global attention for his research concerning 25,000 illegal killings and cremations involving the Punjab police, and that the police had even killed about 2,000 policemen who refused to cooperate.[2]

Khalra was last seen in September 1995, washing his car in front of his house in Amritsar. Six Punjab police officials were later convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for Khalra's abduction and murder

Activism[edit]

Jaswant Singh Khalra was the director of a bank in the city of Amritsar in Punjab during the militancy. Following Operation Blue Star, the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots, the police were empowered to detain suspects for any reason, ostensibly as suspected terrorists. The police were accused of killing unarmed suspects in staged shootouts and burning thousands of dead bodies to cover up the murders.[3][4]

Khalra was investigating four major cases at one time and continued to collect evidence and witnesses. These cases included the custodial killing of Behla, human-shield case concerning the death of seven civilians, cremation of 25,000 unidentified bodies in Punjab and that police had killed about 2,000 policemen not collaborating in counter-terror operations.[5] CBI concluded that police had unlawfully cremated 2,097 people in Tarn Taran district alone.[2]

As per the CBI investigation records quoted by SC division bench in their judgement on the Khalra custodial death case, he was a human rights activist working on the abduction, elimination, and cremation of unclaimed human bodies during the disturbed period. The court observed that the police had been eliminating young persons under the pretext of being militants and disposing of their bodies without record.[6]

While searching for some colleagues who went missing, Jaswant Singh Khalra discovered files from the municipal corporation of the city of Amritsar which contained the names, ages, and addresses of those who had been killed and later burnt by the police.[7] Further research revealed cases in 3 other districts in Punjab, increasing the list by thousands.[8]

The National Human Rights Commission released a list of some of the identified bodies that were cremated in the police districts of Amritsar, Majitha and Tarn Taran between June 1984 to December 1994. The Supreme Court of India and the National Human Rights Commission of India has certified the validity of this data.

Jaswant Singh Khalra asserted there could have been over 25,000 Sikhs illegally killed and cremated by the state. There are still many Sikh families waiting to hear news of what happened to their missing loved ones, many wondering if they might still be alive. A list of names has been published by Tribune India.[9]

Murder and cover up[edit]

On 6 September 1995, while washing his car in front of his house, Khalra was allegedly abducted by personnel of Punjab Police and taken to Jhabal Police Station.[10] Although witnesses gave statements implicating the police[10] and have named former police chief Kanwar Pal Singh Gill as a conspirator,[11] police have denied ever arresting or detaining him and have claimed to have no knowledge of his whereabouts.

In 1996, the Central Bureau of Investigation found evidence that he was held at a police station in Tarn Taran and recommended the prosecution of nine Punjab police officials for murder and kidnapping.[10] Those accused of his murder were not charged for ten years,[12] though one of the suspects senior superintendent of police Ajit Singh Sandhu was murdered in 1997, but his murder was staged as a suicide.[10] On 18 November 2005, six Punjab police officials were convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment for Khalra's abduction and murder.[13] On 16 October 2007, a division bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court, chaired by Justices Mehtab Singh Gill and A N Jindal, extended the sentence to life imprisonment for four accused: Satnam Singh, Surinder Pal Singh, Jasbir Singh (all former sub inspectors) and Prithipal Singh (former head constable).[14][15]

On 11 April 2011, the Supreme Court of India dismissed the appeal filed against the sentence to life imprisonment for the four accused, scathingly criticizing the atrocities committed by Punjab Police during the disturbance period.[16][1]

Memorial[edit]

The City Council of Fresno approved the proposal to rename Victoria Park after Jaswant Singh Khalra on 26 August 2017.[17] After bringing the motion before the City Council, the council member Oliver Baines said, "Jaswant Singh Khalra for Punjabi/Sikh Community is like Martin Luther King Jr. for my community."[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Activist Khalra custodial death: SC upholds life in jail for Punjab cops". Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  2. ^ a b The Politics of Religion in South and Southeast Asia, p.74, Taylor & Francis, by Ishtiaq Ahmed
  3. ^ "Who Killed the Sikhs". Journeyman Pictures. 4 June 2002. "a portion of this documentary can be viewed here"
  4. ^ "Protecting the Killers: A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India,", Human Rights Watch & Ensaaf Joint Report, 18 October 2007. pp. 29-30.
  5. ^ Politics of genocide: Punjab, 1984-1998, Inderjit Singh Jaijee, p.101, Inderjit Singh Jaijee, 1999
  6. ^ "khalra custodial death-sc upholds life in jail for punjab cops". Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  7. ^ SBS Dateline. April 2002. "a portion of this episode on Punjab can be viewed here"
  8. ^ Kumar, Ram; Singh,Amrik; Agrwaal, Ashok & Kaur, Jaskaran (2003). Reduced To Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab. Kathamandu (Nepal): South Asia Forum for Human Rights. ISBN 99933-53-57-4 "Biography of Khalra, Chapter 1, Reduced to Ashes (pdf, 5 MB)" p.54.
  9. ^ "NHRCList". www.tribuneindia.com. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d "A mockery of justice: The case concerning the "disappearance" of human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalra severely undermined". Amnesty International.
  11. ^ "K.P.S. Gill visited Khalra in jail, says witness". The Tribune, Chandigarh, India. 17 February 2005.
  12. ^ Meenakshi Ganguly. "Other Screams of Terror". Human Rights Watch.
  13. ^ "Punjab Cops Convicted of 1995 Murder of Activist Khalra". Ensaaf. Archived from the original on 23 November 2006. Retrieved 25 January 2007.
  14. ^ "Khalra murder case: HC grants life imprisonment to 4 cops - Chandigarh - City - NEWS". The Times of India. 16 October 2007. Archived from the original on 18 October 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ "The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Main News". Tribuneindia.com. 6 September 1995. Retrieved 10 August 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ PDF Copy of the Decision “Judgement of the Supreme Court of India in C.A Nos. 523 of 2009”[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "California city names park after Sikh human rights advocate". NBC News. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  18. ^ "Fresno (CA) City Council To Rename Park After Jaswant Singh Khalra". SikhNet. Retrieved 13 November 2019.

External links[edit]