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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

"Turban in White House makes Sikhs proud"

The Hindustan Times reports, "The Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's visit to the White House has made the Sikhs in America very proud."

One Sikh attending the White House festivities stated, "It is a cause for pride among the Sikh nation to see the Prime Minister with President Bush. This meeting is good for the prosperity of India, and good for US-Indo relations. We were so happy to see the respect given to the Prime Minister by President Bush."

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Blogger ENSAAF [At 7:05 PM]:

Legacy of India's Counter-terrorism


The legacy of India's counter-terrorism

By Jaskaran Kaur | July 17, 2005

WHEN INDIAN Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets with President Bush in
Washington this week on his first official visit, and the first of an Indian
head of state since 9/11, he will be reaffirming a strategic partnership.
Prime Minister Singh will address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday,
and terrorism is high on the agenda. An item not likely on the agenda is
India's systematic abuse of human rights in the name of counter-terrorism.
Despite receiving praise as the world's largest democracy, India's human
rights record falls dismally behind countries that have only recently shed
their legacy of dictatorships.

From 1984-95, Indian security forces tortured, ''disappeared," killed, and
illegally cremated more than 10,000 Punjabi Sikhs in counter-insurgency
operations. Many perpetrators of these abuses are now championed as
counter-terrorism experts. Most prominent among them is former Punjab
director general of police and campaign architect K.P.S. Gill, whose
policies, according to Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights,
''appeared to justify any and all means, including torture and murder."
Hailed as a super cop, Gill now heads an Indian counter-terrorism institute.

Four years ago, I criss-crossed Punjab and documented the impact of impunity
for abuses committed by security forces. I sat on jute cots in poor farming
houses talking with survivors struggling to rebuild their lives and sipped
tea in the guarded mansions of judges. A senior high court judge, who
addressed me as a naïve daughter, pointedly told me that fundamental rights
did not exist during an insurgency.

One afternoon, I spoke with Jaswinder Singh. He was in his 20s. In 1992,
Punjab police officers repeatedly subjected Jaswinder to electric shocks,
stretched his legs apart at the waist until his thigh muscles ruptured, and
suspended him upside down from the ceiling, while beating him with rods.
Subsequently, the police ''disappeared" his brother, father, and
grandfather. Jaswinder unsuccessfully pursued his family's disappearance to
the Supreme Court. But he had no time for grief; the loss of his family's
breadwinners meant he had to support the survivors, despite continued police

A flickering hope of justice remains for survivors of the counter-insurgency
abuses. Since December 1996, the Committee for Information and Initiative in
Punjab has struggled before the Indian National Human Rights Commission in a
landmark lawsuit addressing police abductions that led to mass cremations,
including those of Jaswinder's family. The commission, acting as a body of
the Indian Supreme Court, has the authority to remedy violations of
fundamental rights in this historic case of mass crimes. Its decisions will
serve as precedent for victims of state-sponsored abuses throughout India.
The commission has received over 3,500 claims from Amritsar alone, one of 17
districts in Punjab.

During the past eight years, however, the commission has not heard testimony
from a single survivor. Guatemala's Historical Clarification Commission
registered 42,275 victims in 18 months. El Salvador's Commission on the
Truth collected information on 22,000 victims in eight months. The Indian
Commission, however, has kept survivors running in circles, limiting its
inquiry to one of 17 districts in Punjab.

A few weeks ago, the commission drastically narrowed its mandate, stating
its plan to resolve the case by determining only whether police had properly
cremated victims -- not whether the police had wrongfully killed them in the
first place. With this move, the commission rejected the victims' right to
life and endorsed the Indian government's position that life is expendable
during times of insurgency.

India's counter-terrorism practices have left a legacy of broken families,
rampant police abuse, and a judicial system unwilling to enforce fundamental
rights. As India ignores its past, it continues to employ the same Draconian
measures in places such as Kashmir. While Prime Minister Singh extols India
as a leading democracy, the international community must weigh the
devastation and insecurity wrought by a national security policy based on
systematic human rights abuses and impunity.

In 1997, Ajaib Singh committed suicide after the Punjab police tortured and
disappeared his son and justice failed him. His suicide note read:
''Self-annihilation is the only way out of a tyranny that leaves no chance
for justice." If India fails to address its own mass atrocities, this should
raise serious questions about its role as a partner in the ''war on terror."

Jaskaran Kaur is co-founder and executive director of ENSAAF, a nonprofit
organization fighting impunity in India.

Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company

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