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PUCL May, 2003

Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab
New report documents disappearances, extrajudicial executions and massive illegal cremations by police in Punjab

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Full report at www.punjabjustice.org


New Delhi, May 23, 2003 - The Committee for Coordination on Disappearances in Punjab (CCDP) has released the first volume of its Final Report, titled "Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab." This 634-page volume contains extensive documentation and analysis of hundreds of cases of enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killing by the security forces in Punjab during the political unrest of the 1980s and early 1990s. Included in this first volume -- authored by R.N. Kumar with Amrik Singh, Ashok Agrwaal and Jaskaran Kaur -- are more than 500 testimonies by the families of the victims describing 672 cases of extrajudicial executions by the police in the district of Amritsar alone.

More than a hundred people attended the release event in New Delhi today. The first volume of the Final Report was released by Mr. Patwant Singh. Many human rights activists, community organizers, media correspondents and people from other spheres were present, including the former Law minister of India, Mr. Shanti Bhushan.

The Final Report builds upon the work of the late Mr. Jaswant Singh Khalra, a lawyer and human rights activist who was himself abducted and "disappeared" by Punjab Police in September 1995 for his pursuit of justice and human rights. Mr. Khalra had discovered, from the records of three cremation grounds in Amritsar district, cases of mass illegal cremations by police over many years. As Peter Rosenblum of the Harvard Law School notes in his preface to this volume, the careful analysis by the authors allows the reader to "pierce through the thick veils of ideology, intrigue and 'state security' that obscure our understanding of the campaign to pacify Punjab."

A companion website, www.punjabjustice.org, has also been released. The website contains an electronic version of the report, related essays and articles, and video excerpts from interviews with families of victims, doctors, police officials and human rights activists.

The CCDP has been investigating and documenting the systematic and large-scale abuse of basic human rights by police in Punjab since its formation in November 1997.

The report will be sold throughout the U.S. and Canada during the summer. It will be released in several cities across North America. The first U.S. release will be on June 4 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA. For additional information, please contact info@punjabjustice.org

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Solidarity on Disappearances in Punjab

The Punjab report "Reduced To Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab" by Ram Narayan Kumar with Amrik Singh, Ashok Agrwaal and Jaskaran Kaur, published by South Asia Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR)
was released jointly by SAFHR and CIIP on 23 May 2003 in New Delhi.

We have attached certain portions from the report that includes the introduction (Executive Summary), End Note and Chronology. To quote from the preface by Peter Rosenblum (Clinical Director, Human Rights Program, Harvard Law School):

"This report on disappearances in Punjab is the first published piece in a massive and on-going undertaking by a small group of very committed scholars and activists. For more than two years, I have followed their work. At first, I wondered why they were returning to the seemingly settled events of the last decade when new and pressing conflicts threatened individual liberties and personal security in India and beyond."

"My initial skepticism was appeased by the careful methodology of the researchers. .............I also acquired a better understanding of the many motivations that animated them: they were not taking sides in a conflict; they did not expect to change history or right a history of wrongs with a single report. Rather, they sought to empower the families of disappeared to reclaim their dignity, to press the institutions of the state to perform their
obligations, and to lay the ground work for an honest retelling of a tragic part of recent history."

"When viewed in the light of police, court and crematoria records, the raw material of this report - the hundreds of testimonies - raise serious questions about the state's willingness to honestly address the problem of balancing justice and security."

"If even some of the testimonies are true, then the official story must change: it is impossible to dismiss those who died as simply "terrorists." If the testimonies are substantially true, then the work of the NHRC and the courts has barely begun because there are glaring violations of rights to be addressed and responsibility to be apportioned."

"A good report is a call to action. They will have succeeded if we, the readers, answer this call."

The report although not priced has a suggested contribution of Rs 400 (plus postage) for India and $25 (plus postage) for other countries. After covering
the costs of publication and distribution, the funds raised from the report will go towards the cost of litigation as well as for Solidarity work. The funds
will be administered by SAFHR.

Please write to punjabsolidarityindia@yahoo.co.uk if you are interested in a copy of the report.

Priya Jain
Solidarity on Disappearances in Punjab

 

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