Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Kesri Lehar Campaign (Wave of Justice) Debate in Parliament



KESRI LEHAR CAMPAIGN for the abolition of the death penalty in India.

On Thursday, 28th February 2013, the Kesri Lehar Campaign (Wave of Justice) Parliamentary debate took place in the main chamber of the House of Commons at 11:30am.

The debate encapsulated a range of issues which also included, human rights violations committed against minorities (inc Prof Bhullar & Rajoana) within India and Dalit rights. 

The day itself was a huge success and the issues in question were debated by a large number of MP’s.  There was also a large public presence on the day, which required 3 Parliamentary committee rooms along with a packed public gallery.  A coach full of people arranged by the LSA were also taken from Leicester, the costs of transport were covered by Guru Tegh Bahadur Gurdwara, East Park Road.


Coverage in the Independent Newspaper: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/labour-mp-john-mcdonnell-urges-india-to-end-the-death-penalty-8515066.html

Kirsty Brimelow QC (Chairwoman, Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC)) recently wrote to the Prime Minister of India and other key representatives:-






MP John McDonnell's Statement in British Parliament On Bhai Rajoana ji & Prof. Bhullar Ji
''I want to refer to the two cases, as they have been prominently mentioned in the media and carry immense significance around th...e world, the Rajoana case for its historical context and the Bhullar case because it is almost now a symbol of the injustice meted out to so many Sikhs in recent decades.

Let me deal first with Balwant Singh Rajoana, a former member of the Punjabi police. He has publicly acknowledged his role in the killing of the chief Minister of the Punjab, Beant Singh, in 1995. He has refused to defend himself and refused legal representation, and he has not asked for mercy. However, Sikhs and Sikh organisations in gurdwaras have appealed for mercy on his behalf, and urged the Indian Government to appreciate the context of Balwant Singh’s actions and the feelings of the Sikhs at that time and now.

Balwant Singh was party to killing Beant Singh, the chief Minister of the Punjab. We now know that Beant Singh personally commanded the police and security forces in the killing and disappearance of possibly more than 20,000 Sikhs—men, women and children. Faced with the failure of the Indian authorities to take action against the former chief Minister for his crimes against humanity, Balwant Singh and a co-conspirator took the law into their own hands. Nobody, including Balwant Singh, claims that he is innocent of the killing, but Sikh organisations, human rights lawyers and human rights groups are urging the Indian Government to take into account the context of his actions, the scale of the human suffering that the Sikhs were enduring at the time, and the anger that young men such as Balwant Singh felt at the failure of the Indian state to bring to justice the chief Minister responsible for the atrocities against the Sikhs in the Punjab. On that basis, they plead for understanding and mercy on Balwant Singh’s behalf and that the death penalty is avoided at all costs. If Balwant Singh Rajoana symbolises the suffering of the Sikhs in that period, Professor Bhullar symbolises the injustice meted out to Sikhs, to be frank''
PLEASE OPEN HE LINK BELOW TO WATCH THE FULL DEBATE! The Backbench Business motion, signed by a cross-party group of MPs, states: "That this House welcomes the national petition launched by the Kesri Lehar campaign urging the UK Government to press the Indian government to sign and ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which encompasses the death penalty, with the result that India would abolish the death penalty and lift this threat from Balwant Singh Rajoana and others."


THE PRAYER as it stands on THE KESRI LEHAR PETITION:

EDM 296 – The Kesri Lehar Petition (currently supported by 68 MPs)

The notes below have been collated to support you when making representations
and/or interventions. Hope you find these useful.

The petitioner(s) request(s) that the House of Commons hold a debate in parliament on the issues raised above and subsequently bring them to light in the European Union and United Nations. Further, we request that the United Kingdom urge Indian Union to take immediate action to stop the Human Rights abuses facing all minorities.

Additionally, we appeal to the UK Government, together with the UN and EU to request India  to sign and ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the UN Charter against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which encompasses the ‘death penalty’ and thus have the death penalty abolished in India as it is a cruel, inhumane and degrading form of punishment.

Moreover, we urge you to appeal to India to stop Balwant Singh Rajoana’s death sentence and that he be released from jail as he has served 17 years in custody. We further urge you to appeal to Indian Union to release all political
prisoners, prisoners of conscious and prisoners who have been imprisoned without a trial.

"That this House welcomes the national petition launched by the Kesri Lehar
campaign urging the UK Government to press the Indian government to sign and
ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the UN
Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment
or Punishment, which encompasses the death penalty, with the result that India
would abolish the death penalty and lift this threat from Balwant Singh Rajoana
and others."

1. Background:
Disturbing atrocities are being committed by the Union Government of India, that infringe
the basic human rights of the minority communities, this includes but is not limited to the
Christians, Sikhs, Muslims and Dalits (India refers to them as their ‘untouchables’).
Although some of the issues have been addressed by the UK Parliament in the recent past,
and raised with the Indian government, especially on the issue of the death sentence,
little or no action has been taken by India.

This is evident from the recent revival of the Indian government agencies’ acts of applying
to the Indian judiciary, to upgrade the already sentenced Sikh prisoners, be sentenced to
death by hanging. In contrast, non Sikh prisoners who have been sentenced to similar
terms of imprisonment have been pardoned and released prematurely.

The contrast in the Indian government and how its agencies’ act, clearly shows the
discrimination towards different classes and races in India. This has enraged not only the diaspora that live here in the United Kingdom but also the wider community as a whole.
Only recently, Sikhs in Punjab have been brutally beaten (“lathi charged”) and tortured
when they stood out to be heard at street protests, where there have been at least 3
recorded shootings by the police, of unarmed Sikh teenagers who have been peacefully
protesting against the government. In contrast, the “Shiv Sena Group”, which is an antiminority,fascist, pro-Hindu group, has been allowed, and in many situations, provided security protection by the paramilitary and police forces, while making anti minority speeches and threats against the minority community. These again, clearly depict the discrimination against the minorities by the government of India.

The most disturbing issue is the wide spread increase in custodial rapes in India, and the
gang rapes of girls and women, throughout India by the police, paramilitary and military
forces. The recent rape of Christian girls and women in North East India by the police and
its paramilitary forces, with no action against the rapists, has again confirmed the
government’s discriminatory action against minority races.

2. Persecution of Religious Minorities in India
Since 2009, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF's) has put India on its Watch List due to a disturbing increase in gross violence against
religious minorities. Prior to that, until 2004, India was placed under "countries
of particular concern”. There has been a failure to provide justice to what appear
to be state orchestrated attacks against minorities.

USCIRF's reporting about religious freedom conditions in India began in 2002, based
on a disturbing increase in communal violence against religious minorities, which
appeared to be associated with the rise of organisations with Hindu nationalist
agendas, including the BJP, one of the country's major political parties. Many of
these organisations exist under the banner of the Sangh Parivar, a "family" of over
30 organizations that includes the VHP, Bajrang Dal, RSS, and the BJP. Sangh
Parivar bodies aggressively press for governmental policies to promote a Hindu
nationalist agenda, Hindu assimilation of Sikh identity and adhere in varying
degrees to an ideology of Hindutva, which holds non-Hindus as foreign to India as
well as promoting anti-minority ‘Hindu’ nation.

Under the national leadership of the BJP (in power from 1998 to 2004), USCIRF
found the Indian government's response to violent attacks against religious
minorities to be inadequate. Furthermore the immunity of the RSS from public
prosecution has raised concerns throughout India:

The extremist RSS (Hindu terrorist organization) has been directly responsible for
or implicated in serious, large scale sectarian violence, hatred or violation of
human rights against minority groups in India’(www.countercurrents.org.) A
guiding principle of the organisation is to turning India from a secular democratic
multi-religious society into an authoritarian anti-minority ‘Hindu nation’.
Source: USCIRF Annual Report 2011 - The Commission's Watch List: India
http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,USCIRF,,IND,,4dbe90bac,0.html

Further examples of violent attacks against minorities in India, orchestrated in
collusion with the police:
The murder of an influential Hindu leader in August 2008 sparked a
prolonged and violent campaign targeting Christians in the state of
Orissa. Over several weeks, at least 40 individuals were indiscriminately
killed and church properties and thousands of homes were destroyed. Tens
of thousands, the vast majority of whom were Christians, fled their homes,
seeking refuge in the jungle. An inadequate police response failed to quell
the violence, and central government intervention had little initial
impact.

On 6 December 1992, a mob of Hindu militants tore down a mosque the
16th Century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, north India, sparking nationwide
communal riots in which nearly 2,000 people were killed. The majority of
these were Muslims. Ten days later, on 16 December 1992, the government
set up a commission of inquiry headed by the retired judge of the Supreme
Court, M S Liberhan, to probe the events. Seventeen years later, after 48
extensions and some 4,000 sittings, the Liberhan Commission submitted its
report to the Prime Minister on June 30, 2009. The report indicts the rightwing
BJP and its leaders, including LK Advani, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti,
Murli Manohar amongst others. The Commission also questioned the
inaction of then Indian Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao.

The demolition of the Babri Mosque meant that the two biggest parties in
the Indian parliament could get away with any hate crime or religious
intolerance. The communal violence of 1992-93 marked the
institutionalisation of this criminal method of governance in India.

The failure to provide justice to religious minorities has continued through
the decades, especially during 1984-1995 when police and army attacked
Sikhs (the ‘Sikh Genocide’). In the late 1990s, there was a marked increase
of violent attacks throughout India against members of religious minority
communities, particularly Muslims and Christians, including incidents of
killings, torture, rape, and property destruction.

In 2002, the Muslim genocide in Gujarat left an official death toll of
1,272. In all of these cases, justice has been slow and inadequate.
Numerous NGOs, including the Indian American Muslim Council and the All
India Christian Council and religious communities believe that the
masterminds of violence are often vindicated and set free, or if
convicted, released with minor monetary fines, and that police are
influenced by religious bias and state politics.
SIKH GENOCIDE 1947 – 1984
Since 1947, India has tried to silence the Sikh and Panjabi political voice unless
they adhere to the pro-right wing Hindu policy of assimilation, this is endorsed
silently by the Indian State system which is akin to the views of the
overwhelmingly large Hindu population. The civil and political rights promised
during the British Raj have systematically been denied, obscured and now finally
buried. In the 1970’s, 40000 Sikhs of Panjab peacefully protested against Indira
Gandhi’s notorious emergency rule through civil disobedience to save the integrity
of the Union States of India.

The State’s oppression of Sikhs has escalated through the decades and the period
from 1984-1995 has been sufficiently documented by various human rights agencies
word-wide, despite reporting and investigative restrictions that were prevalent at
the time. Extra-judicial murders, abductions and torture were not just confined to
ordinary people of Panjab. The Chief Representative of the Sikhs – Gurdev Singh
Kaunke (similar status to the Head of the Vatican in Rome) the most high profile
Sikh religious leader was also brutally tortured to death in January 1993, because
he openly condemned the abuse of Human Rights by the State and it’s agencies.
The Committee for Coordination on Disappearances in Punjab (CCDP), found that
Kaunke was inhumanely tortured at Sadar Police Station, Jagroan and then at the
Criminal Investigation Agency’s interrogation centre from 25th Dec 1992 till 1st Jan
1993. The CCDP concluded that Kaunke was killed under torture.

The invasion of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest place of the Sikhs, in
June 1984, caused worldwide outrage amongst Sikhs. Many Sikh Indian soldiers
deserted the army and were given lengthy prison sentences. Dignitaries who were
once decorated by India returned their awards as a condemnation/protest.
In response to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards on 31st October
1984, a coordinated program was directed against Sikhs in Delhi. The carnage that
followed lasted four days. This was purely a revengeful anti-Sikh act of extreme
criminal intent, unleashed by the then ruling Congress Party and the mobs that
they had employed, to kill totally innocent Sikhs. Male members of Sikh families
were mercilessly dragged into the streets, forced to wear rubber tyre garlands
doused in kerosene before being set alight in broad daylight. The female members
were not spared, as they were forced to watch the executions, before being gang
raped by the mobs.

The mobs were specially organised and led by senior Congress leaders, those that
have been identified by various eye witnesses are: Jagdish Tytler; Sajjan Kumar;
Kamal Nath; Vasant Sathe; Bhajan Lal; Dharam Das Shastri; HKL Bhagat. The police either assisted the mobs, or at best, merely stood by as heinous crimes were beingcommitted. The mobs, murdered, looted, raped and committed arson with total
impunity. The named leaders, instead of being punished for crimes against humanity have been promoted to Cabinet Minister posts. To date the victims have been denied justice by India. The number killed and injured will never be known for certain (Indian Government sources lack any credibility) but official published figures of murdered, injured and displaced victims run into tens of thousands.

It’s been nearly three decades since the mass killings of Sikhs, but not a single
person has been convicted for any of the crimes that were committed against
the Sikhs, and the Human Rights abuses perpetrated by Indian Authorities
continue to this day.

3. Threat to Activists
Many known recording information or trying to document suffering in Panjab have
been harassed and arrested by the police. Former Justice Ajit Singh Bains who
headed the Punjab Human Rights Organisation was put in jail several times.
Representative of Movement Against State Repression, Inderjit Singh Jaijee, Baljit
Kaur, Amrik Singh Muktsar, Retired General Nagra, Dr. Sukhjeet Kaur and
Harshinder Singh are just some of the respected individuals trying to work in the
field of Human Rights and have witnessed some form of State oppression.
Gurtej Singh, a former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, used his house to
help researchers who had worked with Jaswant Singh Khalra, to investigate extra
judicial killings from the 1990’s. Gurtej Singh’s house still bares the police’s bullet
hole left in the wall of his house. His findings are expected to be released within
the next two years.

JASWANT SINGH KHALRA
On finding out the fate of Jaswant Singh Khalra, Human Rights Watch commented
“Human Rights Campaigner kidnapped, tortured and disappeared by the Indian
state. Killing the voices for justice”.
Khalra was a threat to the State as he was actively engaged in exposing illegal
mass cremations carried out secretly by the authorities in Panjab. Khalra had
been successful in beginning to identify 1000s of corpses of young men that were
reported missing by their families but had been killed in “fake police encounters”,
a strategy used to intimidate and oppress the masses from causing any form of
political dissent.

International NGOs had reported his initial disappearance but even that did not
deter the authorities from finally eliminating him. “What Jaswant Singh Khalra
learned cost him his life. In September 1995 he was abducted in broad
daylight in front of his house and later killed. His killers have been identified
but have not been prosecuted...” Human Rights Watch.
Khalra was only part way through unearthing mass graves, he had been successful
in parts of Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur. Despite exposing the corpses of
thousands, who were victims of fake encounters by the police, the Chief of Police,
KPS Gill asked for further immunity from the Indian state for all police involved in
mass murder of Sikh youths.

Recent data disclosed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on people killed in clashes with the police between 1993 and 2008, showed 2560 deaths reported and 1224 had occurred in “fake encounters” implying they were
extrajudicial executions. By the end of the year, the NHRC had awarded
compensation to the relatives of 16 victims. Convictions of those responsible for
extrajudicial executions were exceptionally rare and proceedings in such cases
remained slow.

OTHERS
The charge of sedition is being inappropriately used to incriminate human rights
activists for the flimsiest of reasons (e.g. holding a history book on the subject of
the Sikh massacre in 1984).

1. One such case is of Pal Singh, a French national, in his fifties who had
spoken widely on human rights across Europe and America and spent recent
years in tackling social issues among the youth, such as drug and alcohol
abuse in the Panjab. He is currently a political prisoner of conscience and
subjected to torture by the Panjab police. He remains in prison on false
anti-terrorism charges, and is currently in ill health. Individuals working
abroad on human rights in India, are prone to also be picked up by police
and harassed, when they travel back to India for a holiday to meet up with
friends and family just as has happened to Pal Singh from France.

2. On 10th December 2012, Baljit Singh Daduwal, a Sikh priest and Human
Rights activist from Panjab visited the UK, when he participated to show
support for the Kesri Lehar petition which was submitted to our Prime
Minster, David Cameron. Daduwal also addressed the subsequent meeting in
Committee Room 14 , of the House of Commons. A week later he was
arrested at the airport, when he returned to Amritsar. It is suspected that
this is to intimidate him from engaging in exposing gross violations of human
rights within India. Interestingly the Government had suddenly remembered
to question him about an incident dating back over 4 years ago – the only
way they could possibly detain him. Over the last few years, Daduwal has
been continually harassed by the authorities, arrested a number of times
without ever being found guilty. This exemplifies how genuine campaigners
are harassed and intimidated by India as a useful strategy to curb activities
of human rights activists.

3. Narayan Singh Chaura- a grass root human rights activist from Gurdaspur
region, one of the worst affected areas, for the past thirty years has helped
many Panjab human rights groups with their research due to his knowledge
of local victims. He has many published articles, books and poetry and is a
political activist. Narayan was key in supporting philanthropist Sikhs from
abroad who offered support to victim families especially widows. Narayan
and Justice Bains worked closely in the field of Human Rights. Due to these
activities he was falsely accused of supporting terrorists and, was picked up
and subjected to third degree torture, this has been reported by many
human rights groups over the past ten years.

4. Only last year in March, Jaspal Singh an 18 year old Sikh college student was
out peacefully protesting against capital punishment, when it was announced that Balwant Singh Rajoana would be sent to the gallows on the 31st March 2012. He was in a crowd of a few hundred when the police opened fire to disperse the gathering and tragically this boy caught the bullet and died, while another young boy was critically injured. There was no retaliation from the crowd and the video footage was captured and shown here in the UK by Sangat TV. Such heavy handed approach is common by police in Panjab and other states. Interestingly no enquiry was seriously taken up, therefore no police officer was incriminated, on the contrary police appear to fire with impunity with no regards to the rights of civilian
protestors.
5. In August 2011, environmental activist, Shehla Masood was shot dead in
Bhopal city. She had sought to expose environmental violations by urban
infrastructure projects and had challenged mining plans in Madhya Pradesh.

6. In November 2011, Nadeem Sayed, a witness in the Naroda Patiya massacre
case, was stabbed to death after he testified at the hearing. Ninety-five
people had been killed in the massacre during the Gujarat anti-Muslim riots
of 2002.

7. Also in November 2011, Valsa John, an activist nun who had worked to
protect the rights of Adivasis, was murdered after she received death
threats allegedly from illegal mining outfits in Jharkhand.

4. Torture
Torture is not criminalised in law as a separate or special offence. Provisions in the
Indian Penal Code, 1860 (sections 330 & 348) penalize acts that can also be considered
as torture, with seven and three years of imprisonment respectively, if proven guilty.
But the offence attracts no particular relevance if the crime is committed by a police
officer.

The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 also does not have any provisions in dealing with
torture. The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) report, "Torture in India 2010,'
noted a 70.72 percent increase in deaths in prison custody and 12.6 percent increase
in deaths in police custody. Torture is rife in India according to a number of Human
Rights Watch and Amnesty International. However, there are no official numbers for
those that are tortured each year by State departments – but reasonable estimates run
into tens of thousands in the state of Panjab alone since 1984.
‘Sikhs were beaten unconscious, given electric shocks, burned, their muscles were
crushed by several policemen standing on their legs. Women have been gang raped,
beaten and had their legs crushed.’ (Excerpt from the Medical Foundation for Care of
Victims of Torture, London, 1999)

Simranjeet Singh Mann a former Member of Parliament is just one of many high profile
cases in Panjab who was made to suffer State inflicted torture. No official
rehabilitation group has been allowed to help survivors and many torture survivors
suffer multiple disabilities, ill health and poverty now. The torture of Sikh political
dissidents carries on to this day.

Towards the end of 2012, Kulbir Singh Barapind and Daljit Singh Bittu, both Panjabi
political activists became the latest victims and were subjected to torture and third
degree torture by Indian intelligence agencies. This is despite the fact that Barapind
was extradited from the USA to India with the agreement that he would not be
subjected to torture. Human Right’s Watch South Asia Director, Ganguly states,
“Barapind’s case gives the Indian government a high-profile reminder to take
action against the chronic problem of torture in custody.”

5. Extrajudicial Abductions & Executions
Perpetrators of human rights violations which include, enforced disappearances
and extrajudicial executions in Punjab between 1984 and 1995, and Assam
between 1998 and 2001, continue to evade justice. Impunity has persisted for past
offences, including enforced disappearances of thousands of people during the
armed conflict in Kashmir since 1989. The International People’s Tribunal on
Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir published a report
documenting unmarked graves of more than 2,900 people who allegedly
disappeared during the Kashmir conflict.

HARJIT SINGH - IN CONTINUING PURSUIT OF JUSTICE
Amnesty International internationally highlighted the case of Harjit Singh, who was
an employee of the Punjab State Electricity Board, who was arrested in 1992 and
subsequently “disappeared”. Police officials have since claimed that he was
killed in an “encounter” on 12 May 1992.

A habeas corpus petition was filed by Harjit’s father Kashmir Singh, (criminal writ
petition no. 651 of 1992) in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. The petitioner
asked the court to search for his son at a known Interrogation Centre in Amritsar,
where he believed Harjit was being held. In a hearing on 15 October 1992, Justice
H.K. Sandhu stated that there was prima facie case that Harjit Singh was in illegal
custody, and appointed a warrant officer to search for him.

On the orders of the High Court, Kashmir Singh, a relative Anoop Singh and a
friend Shingara Singh, visited the Mal Mandi Interrogation Centre together with
warrant officer, R.L. Bhatia. They were refused entry by Roop Singh, a police
officer. However, Kashmir Singh reportedly caught sight of Harjit Singh behind
the bars of a window on the first floor of the interrogation centre. When they
were finally granted access and went to the room, they found that Harjit Singh was
no longer there. As a result of this visit, the High Court, in an order on 16
December 1992, directed the session judge to conduct an enquiry. It was to

investigate whether Harjit Singh was held in the interrogation centre or whether
he was killed in cross-fire on 12 May 1992, as claimed by the police. The enquiry
was “to conclude within three months”. The enquiry was delayed a number of
times with final enquiry report being released 4 years later on 11 September 1996.
The lack of state evidence to support the claim that Harjit Singh was arrested and
subsequently killed in an “encounter” can be identified in two key areas. The first
is the paucity of records of arrest and detention and the second concerns the
identification of the victim. Legal requirements to record arrest, detention, death
and inquest were not followed. No post mortem report has been produced. To
date, Kashmir Singh remains uncertain as to what the authorities have done to his
son. His case remains unsolved (Amnesty International, led a global campaign and
holds all relevant materials regarding this case-their file remains open).
This case is characteristic of the countless disappearances in Panjab over the last
three decades.

ALLEGED INTIMIDATION OF WITNESSES
On 6 November 1992 police attempted to kidnap Anoop Singh (from outside the
Punjab and Haryana High Court), one of the villagers who had seen and identified
Harjit Singh in Mal Mandi Interrogation Centre. Anoop Singh was allegedly beaten
with rifle butts by the police and his clothing ripped, after which he ran into the
court room where he told the judge what had happened to him. Police had also
attempted to abduct Harjit Singh’s four-year-old son in May 1994. Kashmir Singh,
Harjit Singh's father, has claimed that a lawyer acting for the police threatened
that he would never again see his son, if he continued to pursue the case. In many
cases threats alone by police authorities deter further cases from coming to court.

6. The Death Penalty
Under international law: the execution of a person convicted and sentenced to
death in an unfair trial, is a violation to the right of life and, to ones dignity.
The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) have reported that during the period
2001-2011, Courts in India have sentenced 1,455 convicts to death, an average of
132.27 convicts per year. Although no hangings had taken place since 2004, India
reversed this 8 year trend, with 2 hangings within the last three months, that of:
Ajmal Kasab and Mohammad Afzal Guru.

Many Indian activists and lawyers have claimed that Azfal Guru did not receive
proper legal representation. Several Indian activists and senior lawyers have said
that he did not have effective assistance of counsel. Azfal Guru had claimed that
he had been tortured into making his confession.
The secrecy and haste with which the two hanging’s were carried out, with no
prior notice given to the prisoner’s, their families or their legal teams, suggests
that India may well continue to use this approach to hang the remainder of the
prisoners on death row, thus causing anxiety over the plight of Prof Bhullar and
Balwant Singh Rajoana.

Statements have been made by the Indian authorities in the past week, that
decisions are being made on the hangings of several prisoners on death row,
including that of Prof Bhullar and Balwant Singh Rajoana.

THE CASE OF PROFESSOR DAVINDERPAL SINGH BHULLAR
Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar is facing execution on death row in India even
after a split bench decision. The presiding judge in this case, Justice Shah, remains
adamant that Bhullar should not receive the death penalty. This is the first time
since 1947 that capital punishment has been awarded without a unanimous
decision by the bench.

Graham Watson, a Member of the European Parliament, and, head of the ‘Indian
Delegation for the European Parliament’ had referred to this case as “potential
judicial murder.”

Prof Bhullar’s dilemma began in the 1990’s when out of concern, when he chose to
investigate the disappearances of forty-two of his university students. The
students were suspected to have been abducted by the Panjab police and extrajudicially killed. Bhullar’s investigations led to harassments from the police, and
Sumedh Saini, then SSP of Panjab Police abducted and killed his father, uncle and
an engineer friend in 1991. Due to this, Prof Bhullar fled India soon after.
He was stopped at Frankfurt airport and found to be travelling without proper
papers. At the behest of the Indian Government, and on assurance that he will
not be tortured, he was extradited to India in 1995. On arrival in India, he was
held in solitary confinement and physically tortured.

All 133 witnesses called by prosecution failed to support the police’s version of
events and all failed to confirm that Bhullar was involved in the 1993 Delhi blast
for which he was being framed. One prosecution witness, a rickshaw worker in
Delhi, informed the court that he had no knowledge of the case but he was forced
and threatened to provide a false statement by the police.

The only evidence used in the court case by the prosecution was a ‘thumbprinted’
confessional statement. The investigating officer, who is alleged to have obtained
Bhullar’s statement, had denied in court that the said statement was not the one
he had actually taken from the accused. The officer went as far as saying that
even his signature on the said statement had been forged. Bhullar has continually
maintained that he has never made any ‘said’ statement. Justice M. B. Shah, had
also rejected the "teller made confession" upon which Bhullar has been indicted.

THE CASE OF BALWANT SINGH RAJOANA
In 1995, Balwant Singh Rajoana was serving as a member of the Punjab Police,
when he witnessed the former Chief Minister of Punjab, Beant Singh, order the
mass killing of innocent Sikhs. Rajoana watched helplessly as thousands of Sikh
men, women, and children as young as six years old were killed and women raped
by the State machinery. The officials that carried out the cold blooded murders
were subsequently rewarded with promotions. Various reports suggest that these
human rights violations against Sikhs in Panjab were not random acts of violence,
but rather part of a specific plan used by security forces. During Beant Singh's
tenure, tens of thousands of Sikhs were killed and their bodies cremated by the
police in extrajudicial murders. Rajoana was convicted for the assassination of CM
Beant Singh on August 31st 1995, for his involvement in the planning of Beant
Singh’s assassination.

After international pressure from Sikhs worldwide, including pressure from British
Sikhs and MPs, Rajoana’s execution had been stayed pending an appeal by the
Panjab State Government to India’s then President Pratibha Patil. In addition to his
previous prison term, a Patiala court had earlier this month, ruled that Rajoana
serve a 10-year rigorous imprisonment term and pay a fine.

Rajoana has never made a plea for clemency but has told the judiciary in no
uncertain terms that he rejects on a strict matter of principle the working of the
Indian judiciary. Rajoana claims the Judiciary and State are themselves guilty of
having failed to apprehend and punish the former Chief Minster of Panjab, Beant
Singh, for crimes against humanity. Beant Singh is alleged to have ordered
thousands of extra-judicial murders of innocent victims during his tenure.
Furthermore, Rajoana just as many other human rights activists, believe attention
must be given to the lack of punishment for the perpetrators of Operation Bluestar
and, the “1984 Sikh Genocide” in New Delhi, even though several subsequent
Government Commissions have identified individuals for various atrocities.

7. Discrimination of the Dalits and Adivasis
The Hindu’s classify people into caste group, where the lowest of the system, the
Dalits (and Adivasis) who currently number about 160 million people ie. 16.2% of
India’s total population are considered ‘as the untouchables’. The caste system
determines their role and place in society from birth, this is India’s ‘Hidden
Apartheid’ system. Dalits are shunned and abused, in all walks of life by Indian
society, treated as slaves, with many held for generations as bonded labourers; and
given the menial dirty jobs shunned by the rest of society. Few receive educational
opportunities as Dalit children are discouraged from attending school. Many of those
who enrol, drop out because of discriminatory attitudes towards them by fellow
students and the school authorities. Attempt to achieve other basic needs are also met
with the same fate. They live in abject poverty and form one third of the Global Poor
(400 million).

On 7th November 2012, as many as 2,000 non-Dalits launched a coordinated attack on
three Dalit settlements in Dharmapuri District, Tamil Nadu. Hundreds of houses were
burnt and looted – ostensibly because of one inter-caste marriage. As a consequence
the Dalits as a whole were targeted. Although 300 police personnel were in the
vicinity, they were unwilling to prevent the mob from attacking the Dalit settlements.
Henri Tiphagne, executive director of the human rights organisation ‘People’s Watch’
said that, “It was the most shocking of caste atrocity incidents that I have seen in my
life so far in terms of the effect of the incident.” The Chairman of the National
Commission for Scheduled Castes, P.L. Punia, who visited the area told reporters that
the riot was a “well-organised and planned attack.”

RAPES AND SEXUAL ABUSES OF DALITS
A report released by the Amnesty International in 2001 found an “extremely high”
number of sexual assaults on Dalit women perpetrated by the powerful combine of
landlords, upper-caste villagers, and police officers. The study estimates that only
about 5% of the attacks are registered, with 30 % of the rape complaints dismissed as
false. The study also found that the police routinely demand bribes, intimidate
witnesses, cover up evidence, and beat up the women’s family members. Even where
rape victims are murdered, the culprits go unpunished.

Thousands of Dalit girls are forced into prostitution every year. The link between caste
and forced prostitution is apparent in the Devadasi and Jogini systems practiced in
India. The Devadasi dedication of girls to temples has turned into a systematic abuse
of young Dalit girls serving as prostitutes for dominant caste community members.
Most girls and women in India’s urban brothels come from Dalit, lower-caste, tribal, or
minority communities. In a 2007, Anti-Slavery International study, it found that 93% of
Devadasi were from Scheduled Castes (Dalits) and 7% from Scheduled Tribes
(indigenous) in India.

Often rape and assault happen as part of caste warfare with militia-like vigilante
groups, assisted by the local police, conducting raids on villages, burning Dalit homes
and raping the women. Legal records, media reportage and personal testimonies
reveal that upper-caste men claim sexual access to Dalit and lower-caste women as a
matter of caste privilege.

In September 2012, a 16-year-old Dalit girl was gang-raped by at least eight drunken
upper-caste men for three hours in a village in the northern state of Haryana. They
videotaped the assault on their cellphones, and distributed the video. The rape has
yet to be prosecuted, consistent with most crimes committed by the upper caste
against the Dalits. Rarely does the police act when the victim is a Dalit.

People defending the rights of Adivasis and other marginalized communities, and those
using recent legislation to obtain information to protect Dalit rights, were targeted by
state and non-state agencies. Activists demanded special legislation to protect them
from such attacks – a fact highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human.
In several instances, police used excessive force to quell protests by marginalized local
communities, including small farmers, Adivasis and Dalits. The authorities also failed
to carry out impartial and timely inquiries into most of these incidents.

In September, seven Dalits were killed when police opened fire on protesters
demanding the release of Dalit leader John Pandyan, who was arrested on his way to
Paramakkudi town, Tamil Nadu, to commemorate anniversary of the death of another
Dalit leader, Immanuel Sekaran.

8 Abuses Across the States
KASHMIR
Shabir Ahmad Shah, the leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom
Party has been amongst the most vocal and consistent voices demanding an
independent Kashmir. As a result he has spent over 25 years in various prisons.
The number Kashmiri detained under the Public Safety Act over the past two
decades range from 8,000-20,000. Most of these individuals have been detained for
being “anti-nationalist”, because they support the cause for an independent
Kashmir.

Impunity prevails for violations in Kashmir, including unlawful killings, torture and
the disappearance of thousands of people since 1989 during the armed conflict
there. A majority of the killings of more than 100 youths by the security forces
during protests in 2010 have gone unpunished.

In September 2011, the state human rights commission identified over 2,700
unmarked graves in north Kashmir. Despite the local police’s claims that these
contained bodies of “unidentified militants”, the commission identified 574 bodies
as those of disappeared locals and asked the state authorities to use DNA profiling
and other forensic techniques to identify the remaining bodies. The authorities had
yet to act on this recommendation.

Between June and September 2011, the police and security forces fired at
protesters during pro-Independence protests demanding accountability for past
violations in the Kashmir valley. More than 100 people, mostly youths, were killed
and 800 others, including media workers, were injured. An inquiry, instituted by
the state authorities, covered 17 of the 100 deaths, despite demands by Amnesty
International and other organizations for an independent, impartial and thorough
investigation into all the deaths. The inquiry made little progress.

CHHATTISGARH
In Chhattisgarh state, clashes continued between armed Maoists and security
forces supported by the state-sponsored Salwa Judum militia. Both sides routinely
targeted civilians, mainly Adivasis, and engaged in killings, abductions and arson.
In Chhattisgarh alone, more than 3,000 people, including combatants, had been
killed in the clashes since 2005. Around 25,000 people remained displaced; about
5,000 were living in camps and 20,000 were dispersed in neighbouring Andhra
Pradesh and Orissa.
In March, more than 300 police and Salwa Judum personnel involved in anti-Maoist
operations attacked Morpalli, Timmapuram and Tadmetla villages in Chhattisgarh
state, killing three villagers, sexually assaulting three women and burning down
295 houses. Adivasi activist Lingaram, who brought the violations to light, and
another activist, Soni Sori, were arrested in October on several charges, Soni Sori
was tortured in police custody. Both were prisoners of conscience.
Similar clashes between Maoists and state forces took place in Adivasi areas of
Orissa, Jharkhand and West BengalI. In November 2011, Koteshwar “Kishenji” Rao,
the Maoist leader was allegedly extra-judicially killed by the para-military forces.

MAHARASHTRA
In November, 7 Muslim men, accused of a 2006 bomb attack in Malegaon town,
Maharashtra, were freed on bail after five years in jail in Mumbai. The release
came after a Hindu leader, Aseemananda, confessed to the involvement of
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) a Hindu right-wing militant group in the bomb
In April 2011, one person was killed and another injured when police fired at
villagers protesting against the harmful effects of the proposed French Areva
firm’s nuclear project at Jaitapur town in Maharashtra. Subsequently, the police
enforced night-time detentions for peaceful protesters on a four-day march from
Mumbai.

RAJASTAN
In September 2011, eight people, all Muslims, were killed when police and
members of a Gujjar militia opened fire inside a mosque and set fire to it in
Gopalgarh village in Rajasthan.

ANDHRA PRADESH
In February 2011, two people were killed and five wounded when police fired at
those protesting against the takeover of their lands for a thermal power plant run
in Vadditandra village, Andhra Pradesh.

JHARKHAND
In May 2011, two people were shot dead by police during forced evictions at
Jamshedpur town in Jharkhand. At least 100,000 people were forcibly evicted in
Jamshedpur, Ranchi and Bokaro towns.

ORISSA
In 2011, Orissa police and security forces claimed to have shot dead 25 Maoist
suspects in six separate combat operations, but human rights activists uncovered
evidence suggesting that two of the victims were anti-mining campaigners, and the
others were unarmed Maoist sympathizers detained during search operations and
extra-judicially executed.

WEST BENGAL
In October 2011, security forces engaged in anti-Maoist operations sexually
assaulted 29-year-old Shibani Singh of West Midnapore district, West Bengal, while
attempting to re-arrest her husband who was out on bail.

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