Violence between separatist Sikh militants and government forces in Punjab has escalated to unprecedented levels, claiming thousands of civilian lives. Since 1984, the security forces have adopted increasingly brutal methods to stem the militant movement, resulting in widespread human rights violations. Countless civilians and suspected militants have been summarily executed in staged “encounter” killings or have “disappeared” while in police custody; thousands have been detained without trial and subjected to torture. The evidence Asia Watch gathered indicates that these abuses are not random but have been carried out as a matter of state policy. At the same time, Sikh militants have pursued their campaign for a separate state through acts of violence against Hindu and Sikh civilians. The killings include assassinations of civil servants, political candidates, and journalists. Militant groups have also engaged in indiscriminate attacks designed to cause extensive civilian casualties and some operate as criminal gangs, profiting by extortion and arms smuggling.
- News Release