Dead Silence: The Legacy of Abuses in Punjab

The bloody conflict in the Indian state of Punjab drew to a close in 1993, but the restoration of an elected government has not meant the restoration of the rule of law. To the contrary, the Punjab police continue to torture, kill or cause their victims to disappear with impunity. The price of the government’s apparent success against the separatists is the legacy of these abuses: a corrupt and brutal police force whose recourse to murder and torture has been sanctioned by the state as an acceptable means of combatting political violence. Dead Silence documents incidents of torture, extrajudicial executions and disappearances by the police, which took place between 1991 and 1993. There is no indication that the government at the state or federal level has made any effort to investigate these abuses or prosecute the perpetrators, even though the identity of the latter is well-documented. In the course of the conflict, many civilians were also murdered in militant attacks. The report also documents abuses by militant Sikh organizations. In late 1993, India established a national human rights commission empowered to investigate reports of abuses and recommend prosecution or other punitive measures. Human Rights Watch/Asia and Physicians for Human Rights urge the commission to conduct a thorough investigation into the cases documented in these pages and call for the criminal prosecution and punishment of police responsible.

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