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Human Rights bodies organized One day consultation on Human Rights and Law at Amritsar

November 26, 2012 | By

Amritsar, Punjab (November 26, 2012): Human rights bodies namely Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), Khalsa Mission Organization (KMO) and Punjab Human Rights Organization (PHRO) organized “One day consultation on Human Rights and Law” at Om International, Putlighar at Amritsar (Punjab) on November 25, 2012.

This human rights workshop was largely attended by Human Rights activists, lawyers, victims of state repression and family members of persons who were subjected to enforced disappearances, fake encounters, secret killings and cremations.

From Left to Right: Bibi Paramjeet Kaur Khalra, Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur, Advocate Navkiran Singh, Bibi Parveena Ahangar, Dr. Binayak Sen and Colon Gonsalves.

The agenda for the workshop was taken up in seven short sessions. During first session Bibi Parmjeet Kaur Khalra (Khalra Mission Organization), Advocate Rajwinder Singh Bains (Punjab Human Rights Organization) and Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur (Sikhs for Human Rights) presented their views on “Arrest, Fake Encounters and Torture”.

The issue of “Death Penalty” was discussed by Advocate Navkiran Singh (Layers for Human Rights International) and Advocate Colin Gonsalves (Human Rights Law Network) in Second session.

Advocate Harpal Singh Cheema (Sikhs for Human Rights) discussed the current situation in Punjab in the third brief session.

Parveena Ahangar (Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons) discussed the current situation in Kashmir in the fourth session.

Dr. Binayak Sen (People’s Union for Civil Liberties) critically discussed the issue of law of “Sedition” in India during the fifth session.

In the Sixth session, that was held after lunch, Dr. Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, author of “India Commit Suicide” and retired Professor of History; Advocate Parmjeet Singh Gazi (Sikhs for Human Rights) and Mr. Satnam Singh Bains, Barrister (UK), presented their views and papers on “Genocide in India”.

In the last session, future strategy and vote of Thanks was presented by Advocate Veena Kumari (Human Rights Law Network).

Bibi Paramjeet Kaur Khalra on Enforced Disappearances: 

Bibi Paramjeet Kaur Khalra addressing the gathering

During her address in the first session, Bibi Parmjeet Kaur Khalra, wife of legendary human rights activist Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra, discussed at length the practise of enforced disappearances in India, particularly in Punjab and Kashmir. She shared her personal experiences in this regard and narrated the circumstances surrounding the enforced disappearance, murder and secret cremation of her husband.

Jaswant Singh Khalra had unearthed the wide-spread and systematic enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and secret cremations of Sikhs by Indian security forces during 1980s-90s in Punjab.

Bibi Khalra said that even Indian Supreme court has accepted the fact that at-least 2097 Sikhs were subjected to enforced disappearance, secret killings and cremations in three subdivision of Amritsar district.

She said that the fact is recognized for three sub-divisions of Punjab but no data is available for rest for Punjab.

She informed that CBI had taken the relevant records for rest of Punjab in it’s custody after the disappearance of S. Jaswant Singh Khalra. Now that record is not accessible. She added that Indian judiciary, National Human Rights Commission and CBI have failed to proceed against the culprit police officers during last two decades.

Advocate Rajwinder Singh Bains:

Advocate Rajwinder Singh Bains

Advocate Rajwinder Singh Bains said that people of Punjab and Kashmir have shared the plight so far as enforced disappearances of civilians in the hands of Security forces are concerned.

He said that enforced disappearance undermines the value of basic rights and threatens the life and liberty of individuals subjected to this inhuman practise.

Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur:

Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur

Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur said that Indian state has failed to meet the international legal standard to prevent enforced disappearances and torture. Custodial torture is a daily affair of policing in India and enforced disappearance are common in areas where people are politically in conflict with the Indian state.

Advocate Navkiran Singh on Death Penalty:

Advocate Navkiran Singh, during his address in second session, said that there is a global trend in favour of abolition of death penalty. He pointed that death penalty is considered to be a wrongful form of punishment due to a number of reasons.

He said that hanging of Ajmal Kasab has revealed that Indian state, media and many sections of the society are in favour of retention of death penalty. After the hanging of Kasab media is waving for the early execution of Afzal Guru.

Advocate Navkiran Singh

He pointed out that Indian state and society has double standards on the issue of death penalty. On the one hand our government, media, political parties and certain sections of the civil society want execution of Afzal Guru and others; but on the other hand same sections are opposed to the hanging of Sarabjit Singh who is facing execution threat in Pakistan  for allegedly triggering blasts and killing civilians.

While referring to the cases of Dara Singh (Orisa) and Kishori Lal (Delhi) he wanted to point out that even judiciary has double standards while applying the death sentence.

He clarified that he was against the execution of any person in the name of justice. He called upon human rights bodies to continue with their efforts to secure abolition of death penalty in India.

Advocate Colin Gonsalves on Death Penalty:

Senior Lawyer, Advocate Colin Gonsalves too discussed the issue of death penalty. He said death penalty undermines the fact that human beings could be reformed. Discussing the execution of Ajmal Kasab, he said that certain specific circumstances surrounding Kasab and his family were responsible for his involvement in the heinous crime resulting in death of 164 persons. But Kasab’s conversations with his lawyer revealed that he was very regretful for what he did, and he had the potential for reformation but his hanging has ended it all.

While referring to the case of Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana, Advocate Colin Gonsalves said that Rajoana had admitted that he was involved in the assassination of Punjab CM Beant Singh. Rajoana clarified that CM Beant Singh was responsible for mass level human rights abuses in Punjab including enforced disappearances and fake encounters of Sikh youth. Advocate Gonsalves said Rajoana’s case was exceptional one. It’s a political case. He said that Rajoana was a political activist like Bhagat Singh.

While discussing the case of Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar he said even presiding judge of the three judges bench of Supreme court had acquitted Professor Bhullar but he is still facing execution threat.

Advocate Colin Gonsalves was hopeful that one day death penalty shall be abolished in India.

Advocate Harpal Singh Cheema on Current Situation in Punjab:

Advocate Harpal Singh Cheema

In the third session, Advocate Harpal Singh Cheema discussed the current situation in Punjab. While referring to recent arrests of Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu and Bhai Kulvir Singh Barapind, he said that “Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act” was being widely misused in Punjab to suppress the political dissent. He said that UAPA was a replacement of TADA, a law that was widely misused by the State against the Sikhs during 1980s-90s.

He called upon India’s human rights lobby to take notice of the arrests of Sikh leaders and misuse of sedition and UAPA in Punjab against political activists.

Parveena Ahangar on Current Situation in Kashmir:

In the fourth session, Parveena Ahangar discussed the current situation Kashmir. She told that her son, a young student, was arrested by Indian security forces in August 1990. There are no whereabouts of her son till date. She said more than three thousand families in Kashmir are victims of such disappearance at the hands of Indian security forces.

She said that she want answers to a simple questions from India: “Where is her son?”, “What was done to my son by Indian security forces?”. I do not want compensation, even worth billions, as I want my son back.

She said all the laws are formed for civilians in India but there is no law to punish personnel of security forces if they kill innocent civilians.

She said that “Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons” want justice for the  affected families of Kashmir.

Dr. Binayak Sen on Sedition:

Dr. Binayak Sen

Dr. Binayak Sen, who was sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court on charges of “sedition”, said that his case was under consideration of High Court. He was granted bail by the Supreme Court of India. He said law of sedition undermines the fundamental freedom of speech and expression and is being widely misused in India.

He informed that he was a doctor and worked for the welfare of tribals in Chhatisgarh state. Dr Sen is also associated with People’s Union for Civil Liberties, an association that recently held a conference on use of “sedition” law in India.

He informed that PUCL is co-ordinating a move against the use of Sedition law. He said this law should be abolished from statute books.

Dr. Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon on History of Human Rights Violations in India:

Sixth session started after lunch with the address of Dr. Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon. He traced the history of human rights abuses in India since 1947. He said that 1947 events were events of partition and not independence. Nothing like freedom arrived for cultural, religious or linguistic minorities in 1947. The concept of building a nation-state in India laid the foundation of genocide of Sikhs.

Dr. Dhillon said India did not spare Sikh children in 1984 and they were termed as terrorists. He said 39 Sikh children aged between 2 to 12 years were arrested by Indian security forces from Darbar Sahib complex, when Indian army invaded the sacred complex in June 1984. There are historical evidences to the fact that these children were categorized as “dangerous”, “most dangerous” and “potentially dangerous”. A CBI officer replied to a query by a journalist regarding detention and categorization of these children that the issue might be an interesting subject for newspaper stories but they (CBI) had terrorists and would be terrorists at their hands.

Dr. Dhillon asked if a state could term children of two years as would be terrorists then what sort of human rights we could expect that state to respect.

Advocate Parmjeet Singh Gazi on Genocide:

Advocate Parmjeet Singh Gazi discussed legal as well as other aspects related to genocide. He said genocide is considered as “Crime of Crimes” or most sever crime. He discussed circumstances surrounding development of genocide law at international level.

He said there are certain other aspects related to genocide that are not covered by international law. He said it is a coordinated plan to destroy the basic foundations of life of a national group, including destruction of social and political institutions, economic resources and even national feelings of the targeted group.

He said that it’s  a general conception that large scale massacres are necessary for a genocide but this conception is incorrect. He said that such conceptions may have application so as to prove the case of genocide under international law but so far as academic discourse is concerned the term genocide connotes many acts, other than physical massacres.

Discussing the situation in India he said that “genocide” is not a crime specific in India as there is no law that defines, prohibits or provide punishment for committing or attempting genocide.

Under Indian law a person could only be punished for murder or inflicting sever injury even if the aim of massacre was to eliminate a religious or linguistic minority group or any other identifiable group whose planned annihilation is cover by the definition of genocide under international law.

Barrister Satnam Singh UK

Barrister Satnam Singh (UK) on Genocide in India:

Barrister Satnam Singh (UK) said people of Punjab and Kashmir have shared the plight so far as mass level human rights  violations are concerned. He raised the question that why Indian civil society was unconcerned on the issue of wide-spread impunity.

He emphasized on coordinated efforts to address the issue of human rights violations in India.

Sri Chaman Lal:

Chaman Lal holding photo of his son Gulshan Kumar

On this occasion Sri Chaman Lal of TarnTaran shared information about his son Gulshan Kumar who was subjected to enforced disappearance by Punjab police in June 1994.

He said that he was alive only to depose against the police officers who arrested his son, killed him and cremated him secretly.

Sri Chaman Lal said that there was no terrorism or separatism in Punjab except State terrorism (Punjab vich koe attvaad ni, koe vakhvaad ni, ethe … eh sarkari attvaad je).

He informed that many senior police officers tried to bribe him to induce him to withdraw legal proceedings initiated against the culprit police officers. He said that he would not accept any amount of money as he want justice for his innocent son.

S. Satnam Singh Manak:

S. Satnam Singh Manak, a former Punjab police cop, also addressed the gathering. He said that he witnessed deaths of many innocents at the hands of Punjab police and resigned from the police force. He stood witness in many inquiries regarding fake encounters of Sikh youth by Punjab police. He said that Punjab police subjected him and his family members to torture and they faced life threats.

Resolutions and Vote of Thanks:

At the end of this workshop Advocate Veena Kumari read following the resolutions jointly adopted by named human rights organizations:

We firstly pay our tribute to the people who have disappeared and are victims at the hands of the state and their whereabouts are not known till date.

We oppose the death penalty in principle, as it does not have any deterrent effect on others and eye for an eye breads further violence. We also feel that the people facing death penalty should be given a chance to live and reform themselves.

National Human Rights Commission and various State Human Rights Commissions have failed even to become effective re-commendatory bodies and so we feel there is a need to hold Independent People Tribunal in various States of India to gather information on human rights violations. We resolve to constitute Independent People Tribunal.

It is being experienced in various parts of the country that Peoples’ organizations that are in disagreement with the policies of the State and are agitating in a democratic manner, their voices are being suppressed by booking them under several undemocratic laws such as sedition, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and Armed Forces Act. We resolve to work democratically for abolition of such laws to uphold the human rights of the people and also to coordinate with Human Rights Organizations who are agitating for their fundamental rights so that the brutal forces of the State can be effectively countered.

Joint resolution by:

1. Khalra Mission Org.

2. Punjab Human Rights Org.

3. Human Rights Law Network

4. Lawyers for Human Rights International

5. World Sikh Org.

6. Peoples Union for Civil Liberties

7. Sikhs for Human Rights

8. Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons.

Advocate Veena Kumari also presented the vote of thanks to all the participants and dignitaries.

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