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  • Punjab

    I. Overview. 1
    2. Human rights violations by the security forces 2
    a. Violations of the right to life. 2
    b. Arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture. 3
    3. Violations of the rights of the Dalits 3
    4. Violations of the rights of the child. 4
    5. Violations of the prisoners' rights 4


     

    I. Overview

    Ruled by the Indian National Congress, Punjab continued to be plagued with human rights violations. Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) received a total of 17,144 complaints of human rights violations, including 9,835 cases against the police, 6 cases against the defence forces and 1 against the para military forces during 2005.[1] This means, 57.4% of the total cases registered by the PSHRC were against the security forces, particularly the police.

    Arbitrary arrest, detention and torture were common. Asian Centre for Human Rights documented deaths of two persons, both of them Dalits, in police custody during 2005 due to alleged torture. In February 2005, Assistant Sub Inspector Sanjeev Kumar was booked for torturing and forcing three persons identified as Subhash Chander, Raj Kumar and Gurmail Singh to dance in nude in police lock-up in Division No. 2 police station of Pathankot in Gurdaspur.[2]

    The incidents of caste discrimination against the Dalits in Punjab was exemplified by the inhuman way in which the officials at Jalandhar jail tattooed “Neevi Jaat” (lower caste) with hot iron rod on the back of a Dalit under-trial prisoner, Mohan Lal on 24 April 2005.[3] The Dalits continued to be denied access to public places and services including water wells in villages.

    Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) documented deaths of at least four persons in prisons. Of them, inquiries were ordered only in two cases – a judicial inquiry into the death of Subhash Basra of Jalandhar Cental Jail[4] and a magisterial inquiry into the death of Gurpreet Singh of Barnala sub-jail.[5]

    As per official figures, 2,116 cases of farmer suicides were reported from Punjab from 1998 to 2005.[6] Farmers in Punjab have to depend upon the unorganized sector for meeting their credit needs. The interest rate varies from 36 to 60 per cent a year. No proper institutional support from government, banks and marketing agencies come their way. Most of those who had committed suicides were marginal, small or medium farmers and owned less than 10 acres of land. According to Statistical Abstract of Punjab-2004, about 50 per cent of farmers were having less than 2 hectares of land in the state. A Punjab Agricultural University study-2000 reveals that the annual income of a family owning two hectares of land comes to Rs 42,180 only.[7] 

    About 51 persons remained incarcerated under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act. In April 2005, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced review of 17 cases of those detained on terrorism charges.[8] He also announced review of 13 of the 61 cases against police officials involved in human rights violations.[9]

    2. Human rights violations by the security forces

     a. Violations of the right to life

    The security forces were responsible for killings in “fake encounters” In October 2005, two persons identified as Gajinder Singh and Arun Meesih, were shot dead in an alleged fake encounter by the Punjab police in Gurdaspur district. According to the parents of one of the deceased, the body of Gajinder Singh had four injury marks.[10]

    According to the 2005 Annual Report of National Crime Records Bureau of the Government of India, one person died in police custody in Punjab during 2005. In its 2004-2005 Annual Report, the NHRC stated that 6 persons had died in police custody in the State during 2004-2005. 

    Asian Centre for Human Rights documented deaths of two persons in police custody during 2005. On 6 February 2005, Satnam alias Satta, a Dalit, reportedly died immediately after his release due to alleged police torture at Lohian police station in Jalandhar district. The deceased was picked up on 5 January 2005 in connection with a theft case but was later released as he was found innocent. However, he was again picked up on the morning of 6 February 2005 and subjected to torture. He died soon after he was released on the evening of 6 February 2005.[11] A criminal case was registered against three police personnel – ASI Vijay Kumar, Head Constable Surjit Mali and Home Guard Balkar Singh under Sections 302, 323, 342 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code, and SHO Kewal Krishan was suspended.[12]

    On 21 April 2005, Balbir Singh, a Dalit, died at Sadar police station in Kapurthala within six hours of his arrest on the charge of fleeing with a tractor-trailer loaded with 300 bags of wheat. The inquiry officer Sub-Inspector Satnam Singh stated in his report submitted before the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Mr Dilraj Singh Sandhawalia that the deceased had strangulated himself to death in the lock-up.[13] Following a complaint filed by Asian Centre for Human Rights, the NHRC in May 2005 issued notice to the Director General of Police and Superintendent of Police, Kapurthala of Punjab seeking explanation as tp why intimation regarding the death of Balbir Singh in police custody was not sent to the Commission within 24 hours as per the Commission's guidelines issued on 14 December 1993.[14]

    b. Arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture

    Arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture by the Punjab Police were common. On 25 July 2005, a farmer identified as Tejinder Pal Singh was allegedly subjected to third degree torture after tying his hands and feet by the Station House Officer of Lambran police station. The victim had been summoned to the police station for interrogation in connection with a theft of a trolley in June 2005.[15]

    Even women were not spared. On 5 April 2005, Ms Sarabjit Kaur and Ms Jagdish Kaur were allegedly thrashed by three police personnel after barging into their house in the absence of their husbands at Nangal Khera village near Phagwara. The victims had to be hospitalized due to the beating.[16]

    A few cases were taken up before the courts. In February 2005, Assistant Sub Inspector Sanjeev Kumar was booked for allegedly torturing and forcing three persons identified as Subhash Chander, Raj Kumar and Gurmail Singh to dance in nude in police lock-up in Division No. 2 police station of Pathankot in Gurdaspur.[17]

    In another incident, on 8 October 2005, two constables identified as Harpreet Singh and Gurcharan Singh were suspended on charges of torturing a shopkeeper Jaswinder Singh and his son Maninder Singh (17) in police custody. The accused policemen had allegedly urinated on the face of Jaswinder Singh and forced Maninder Singh to pull the beard of his father during their illegal custody.[18]

    3. Violations of the rights of the Dalits

    The Dalits continued to face discrimination from the upper castes. On 4 January 2005, Punjab State Human Rights Commission ordered a probe[19] into the incident in which three Dalit boys identified as Gurbax Singh, Bittu Singh and Piara Singh were forced to drink urine from the shoes of the upper caste landlords at Patrewal village near Abohar in Ferozepur district on 27 November 2004.[20]

    The Dalit girls were extremely vulnerable. On 23 June 2005, a Dalit girl was gang-raped by six youths inside a house while she was passing by the house of one of the rapists in Dashmesh Nagar locality of Sangrur district. The police had arrested two youths identified as Sonu and Gursewak on 28 June 2005, while their four accomplices, Tikka, Dhaula, Raju and Happy were absconding.[21]

    On 18 June 2005, The Tribune reported that Dalits of Jangala village in Pathankot district continued to be denied access to the water well by the upper caste people despite a court order in 2002 upholding the rights of the Dalits over the water well. The local administration failed to implement the court order, as a result of which the Dalit villagers were forced to drink contaminated water.[22]

    4. Violations of the rights of the child

    Reports of children being subjected to torture were common. On 16 January 2005, 10-year-old Sumit, a student of Class IV, was picked up and allegedly given electric shocks by Salwinder Singh, Sub-Inspector of Central Investigating Agency Staff in Amritsar. The boy was released after his father handed over a cheque for Rs 2.35 lakh – signed under coercion to the accused.[23] Following intervention by a few political leaders, the Amritsar district police chief, Mr R.P.S.Brar, suspended Salwinder Singh on 20 January 2005.[24]

    In early May 2005, an eight-year-old girl was raped by a Special Police Officer of Punjab Police in his house located in a police colony. A case of rape against the accused was registered.[25]

    5. Violations of the prisoners' rights

    Prisoners were routinely subjected to torture. On 24 April 2005, Jalandhar Jail officials allegedly tattooed Neevi Jaat (lower caste) with a hot iron rod on the back of a Dalit under-trial identified as Mohan Lal. Mohan Lal told a local court in Ludhiana that the jail officials denied permission to enter a temple on the jail premises because he belonged to Scheduled Caste and forcibly branded him with hot iron rod when he dared to enter the temple.[26]

    In its 2004-2005 Annual Report, the NHRC stated that 65 persons died in judicial custody in the state during 2004-2005.

    Asian Centre for Human Rights documented several cases of deaths in judicial custody during 2005. The victims included Subhash Basra, an undertrial at Jalandhar Cental Jail who died on 26 May 2005;[27] Gurpreet Singh, an undertrial at Barnala sub-jail who died on 11 July 2005;[28] Rajinder Pal, an undertrial at Kapurthala jail who died on 31 July 2005[29] and Suraj Bhan of Bathinda Central Jail who died on 1 October 2005.[30]



    [1]. Statistics provided by Punjab State Human Rights Commission

    [2]. ASI booked for making inmates dance in nude, The Tribune, 7 February 2005

    [3]. Undertrial alleges branding by jail officials in Punjab, The Indian Express, 26 April 2005

    [4]. Probe ordered into death of undertrial, The Tribune, 28 May 2005

    [5]. Prisoner dies under mysterious circumstances, The Tribune, 12 July 2005

    [6]. Farmers driven to despair, The Tribune, 13 January 2006

    [7]. Farmers driven to despair, The Tribune, 13 January 2006

    [8]. 17 Of 51 Tada Prisoners Set To Walk To Freedom, The Kashmir Times, 25 April 2005

    [9]. Punjab to review cases of those detained on terrorism charges, The Hindu, 20 April 2005

    [10]. Probe sought into ‘fake' encounter, The Tribune, 5 October 2005

    [11]. Dalit beaten to death by police, The Tribune, 7 February 2005

    [12]. Cops' bid to cremate Dalit's body, The Tribune, 8 February 2005

    [13]. Dalit dies in police custody, The Tribune, 22 April 2005

    [14]. Notice to Punjab Police on alleged custodial death in Kapurthala, NHRC press release, 17 May 2005 

    [15]. Probe ordered into ‘torture of farmer', The Tribune, 28 July 2005

    [16]. Women allege thrashing by cops, The Tribune, 7 April 2005

    [17]. ASI booked for making inmates dance in nude, The Tribune, 7 February 2005

    [18]. 2 cops suspended for torturing old man, son, The Tribune, 9 October 2005

    [19]. ADGP to probe Dalits' humiliation, The Tribune, 5 January 2005

    [20]. Dalits made to drink urine, The Indian Express, 4 January 2005

    [21]. Two held for raping Dalit, The Tribune, 29 June 2005

    [22]. Despite court orders, Dalits denied access to well, The Tribune, 18 June 2005

    [23]. Class IV student given electric shocks by SI?, The Tribune, 20 January 2005

    [24]. Child's torture: police Inspector suspended, The Tribune, 21 January 2005

    [25]. 8-year-old raped in police, The Tribune, 6 May 2005

    [26]. Undertrial alleges branding by jail officials in Punjab, The Indian Express, 26 April 2005

    [27]. Probe ordered into death of undertrial, The Tribune, 28 May 2005

    [28]. Prisoner dies under mysterious circumstances, The Tribune, 12 July 2005

    [29]. Residents protest over death of undertrial, The Tribune, 2 August 2005

    [30]. Prisoner dies in jail, The Tribune, 3 October 2005

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