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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Khalra's Last International Speech Highlights Mass Crimesof KPS Gill

Eleven years ago, on September 6, 1995, the Punjab police abducted, tortured, and murdered human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalra because he exposed the disappearances and killings of thousands of Sikhs by the Punjab police. In his last speech made to a Canadian audience, released today with subtitles by Ensaaf (http://www.ensaaf.org/Khalravideo.html), Jaswant Singh Khalra discusses his investigations into the disappearances and his readiness to die to expose the truth about these crimes. This video includes clips from his speech made at Dixie Gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Toronto, Canada in April 1995, at a conference organized by the radio station Ankhila Punjab.

Jaswant Singh Khalra begins his speech with a moving fable about the struggle of truth and light against expanding darkness. He describes the emotions of thousands of mothers whose sons have been disappeared by the Punjab police, and poses the question that motivated his investigations: "A mother's heart is such that even if she sees her son's dead body, she does not accept that her son has left her," says Khalra. "And those mothers who have not even seen their children's dead bodies, they were asking us: at least find out, is our son alive or not?"

In this speech, Khalra describes how he traced the fate of many disappeared Sikhs to Amritsar's municipal cremation grounds. Through government records obtained from these municipalities, Khalra exposed a detailed history of systematic human rights violations in which security forces abducted, murdered, and secretly cremated an estimated 6,017 Sikhs in Amritsar district alone--then one of 13 districts in Punjab--from 1984 to 1995.

In November 2005, six Punjab police officers were held accountable for Khalra's abduction and murder. The architect of this crime, however, remains free. In his speech, Khalra pinpoints KPS Gill, then Director General of Punjab police, as the person in charge of the systematic abuses perpetrated by the Punjab police, and discusses the standard responses made by Gill to cover-up the mass secret cremations. Khalra further describes his struggle before the Punjab and Haryana High Court for accountability for these mass state crimes.

During the Khalra trial in February 2005, Special Police Officer (SPO) Kuldip Singh testified that he witnessed KPS Gill interrogate Khalra in illegal detention several days prior to his murder. SPO Kuldip Singh also testified that Khalra had been tortured. Despite this testimony, the Indian government has not investigated or charged KPS Gill for his role in murdering Khalra. India's obligations under international law require it to fully investigate human rights violations and identify and prosecute all perpetrators. The government cannot fulfill its legal obligations until it ends Gill's impunity for his role in Khalra's abduction, illegal detention, torture, and murder.

Please visit ENSAAF's webpage on Jaswant Singh Khalra at http://www.ensaaf.org/khalra.html

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