Punjab extra-judicial killings: NHRC orders relief
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which went through 2,097 cases of killing of youth and mass cremation of their bodies by the Punjab police during the peak of militancy in the State, has ordered a relief of Rs.27.94 crore to the families of 1,513 victims of such extra-judicial killings. The remaining bodies were not identified.
When the terrorism was at its peak during 1984-1996 in the State, police personnel, whether officers or constables, were a law unto themselves and many of them were involved in merciless killing of youth by branding them as terrorists for rewards and promotions. The bodies were silently cremated with no questions asked.
The NHRC took up the cases after the Supreme Court referred the matter to it on December 12, 1996. The court said any compensation awarded by the Commission shall be binding and payable.
The cases related to mass cremations in Amritsar, Majitha and Tarn Taran districts alone between 1984 and 1994.
These include 195 cases where the victims were in deemed police custody and 1,318 others whose bodies were cremated by the police. A total of 532 bodies remained unidentified despite efforts by the NHRC from the date of remittance in December 1996.
The Commission held that for the violation of human rights of a total of 194 victims admittedly in police custody immediately prior to their death and their cremation, their kin were entitled to monetary compensation of Rs 2.5 lakh each. For the remaining cases, the families were paid Rs.1.75 lakh each.
Human rights activists world over had alleged that the inhuman killings was the result of excessive powers given to the police by the government.
Many rights lawyers and activists paid with their lives for treading the path of political justice. While the official figures put the total number of people killed in Punjab during the period from 1984 to 1996 at 15,000, according to various investigating agencies and human rights groups, more than 25,000 people were killed by the Punjab police. This includes persons “missing” from their homes, killed in “encounters,” cremated as “unidentified” and “escaped from police custody.”
Rights groups added that boys were picked up from their houses or fields and taken blindfolded to isolated places and told to run. A burst of AK-47 rifle-fire ended their lives. Such was the terror that nobody dared ask why not even a single member of the police force was hit in crossfire. Many members of the police force in Punjab got out-of-turn promotions, gallantry awards and monetary rewards for killing “militants.”