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Enforced Disappearances in Punjab: Elderly Sikh parents still waiting for son abducted by the police in 1990

April 25, 2014 | By

Ropar, Punjab (April 25, 2014): According to news reported in The Tribune (TT) by Arun Sharma (on April 23, 2014): “[a] day after a Ropar court ordered framing of charges against Punjab DGP SK Sharma and others in the kidnapping of Kuldip Singh 24 years ago, his father Ajaib Singh hopes against hope for his son’s return”.

It is notable that in post-1984 period in Punjab, abductions by cops, illegal custody, custodial torture, fake encounters and enforced disappearances had become common policing practices.

Kuldip Singh's mother holds his picture as father Ajaib Singh looks on at Amrali village in Ropar.

Kuldip Singh’s mother holds his picture as father Ajaib Singh looks on at Amrali village in Ropar.

“The only child of Ajaib Singh and Gurmeet Kaur, 21-year-old Kuldip was kidnapped by the Punjab Police on October 24, 1990, during militancy days. “Media reports said Kuldip was killed in an encounter on May 1, 1991 in Patiala district, but I was not shown his body. The police have no record of my son’s post-mortem or belongings found on him. How can I believe my son is dead?” says Ajaib Singh, now in his 70s” reads the news published by The Tribune.

Ajaib Singh, a postgraduate in political science from Panjab University, reportedly told The Tribune: “I know people think I am crazy, but many people who went missing during militancy have resurfaced”.

Ajaib Singh and his wife Gurmeet Kaur live on the outskirts of Amrali village near Chamkaur Sahib with his younger brother and his family. “I ran from pillar to post to get an FIR registered in the case. My family faced threats, torture and even lucrative offers from the accused to not pursue the case,” alleges Ajaib Singh.

Narrating what happened that fateful day, Ajaib Singh says Kuldip – who was pursuing graduation from Punjabi University, Patiala, at that time — had taken his unwell cousin to Morinda to get medicine for her. There, he was bundled into a van by people with their faces covered in front of his cousin Jasbir Kaur and taken away.

“We first thought militants had kidnapped Kuldip Singh. I pleaded with the police to trace him, but no one listened to me. I submitted applications to the local in-charge ASI Jagir Singh and even to the Director General of Police, but no FIR was registered. I was told Kuldip would return soon and I need not insist on registering a complaint,” says Ajaib Singh.

The turning point in the father’s search for his son came when he came in contact with two youths of Bhambri village near Khanna, who had been detained by the police and released. They told Ajaib Singh they were detained with Kuldip at the CIA office.

“Jassa and Keepa gave me the name of the tout in Khanna who had facilitated their release against a hefty amount. I could not contact that person,” Ajaib Singh recalls. The distraught father approached police officials for his son’s to release, but they maintained he was not in custody. Ajaib Singh’s worst fears came true on May 15, 1991.

“I read a report in The Tribune regarding a press conference held by then Patiala SSP SK Sharma in which he claimed that one Kuldip Singh of ‘Asrali’ village under Morinda police station was killed in an encounter on May 1. There was no village by the name of Asrali in the area… I feared Sharma may have said Amrali, which was mis-printed as Asrali,” says Ajaib Singh.

In 1998, Ajaib Singh met then Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal. On his directions, an FIR was finally lodged under Section 364 and 34 of the IPC in 1998. Though the law started hounding the accused, but the family’s miseries were far from over.

“My nephew Satwinder Singh, a student of law at Sri Ganganagar, was kidnapped by policemen in civvies in 2008. He was blindfolded and taken to an unknown place, tortured and dumped at the Muktsar bus stand with a warning: withdraw the case against the accused or you will be eliminated. Last year, I was taken to the residence of a police officer at Kansal near Chandigarh and offered Rs 45 lakh and government jobs for two members of my family in return to withdrawing the case?” he says.

Kuldip Singh wanted to join the police or the CRPF and had appeared in a recruitment test for the Chandigarh Police, but could not clear it. “He had big dreams and was preparing for the CRPF recruitment test scheduled to be held in November that year. How can I put a price on my son’s life?” says Ajaib Singh, with a faraway look in his eyes.

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