From early 1988, when reports of police atrocities
amid the escalation of the Sikh separatist violence became regular part
of the news from Punjab, members of the Committee travelled in the State
During these travels, we came in close contact with many who had
suffered illegal detention, interrogation under torture and other
atrocities. We also met relatives of those who had been eliminated in
police custody. In many cases we found that detainees had been done to
death after prolonged interrogation under severe torture.
One case from Muktsar subdivision of Faridkot district involved
Bhipinder Singh Sarang, a fifteen year old lad, a student of class X,
and a local football star. He had been picked up from the house, taken
to Sadar police station in Muktsar and was tortured under interrogation.
We met eyewitnesses to his torture, and also a local youth leader who
had seen Bhupinder Singh in police custody. Bhupinder Singh was shown to
have been killed in an armed encounter.
We also documented the case of a sixteen year old Gurbaksh Singh from
Guru Harsahay subdivision of Ferozepur who had been produced before the
police by a group of prominent citizens. The police then picked up
Gurbaksh Singh's sister Balbir Kaur and her husband Mahal Singh.
Gurbaksh Singh was later shown to have been killed in an armed
encounter, along with another young Sikh, Balwant Singh. Mahal Singh was
arrested under TADA. Balbir Kaur was released after eight days of
illegal detention in the course of which she suffered severe torture and
sexual abuse. She took to bed, and died three months later. We
documented dozens of such cases which exposed a clear pattern of illegal
abductions, custodial torture under interrogation culminating in
executions, explained away as deaths in armed-encounters.
More common were the cases in which persons had been whisked away by
unidentified men, appearing out of the blue, in vehicles without number
plates, to be taken to undisclosed places for interrogation, and made to
disappear for ever. We documented dozens of such cases. Rarely in some
instances, did the disappeared return from the Dragon's Belly. This
happened only when the High Court of Punjab and Haryana or the Supreme
Court of India issued directions for their production. We became
directly involved in some such matters. We also came across several
examples of purely bestial abuse of police powers, against the
absolutely innocent and the meek.
In one case, the police officer in-charge of a post at village Bham in
Batala subdivision of Gurdaspur district, kidnapped two teenage girls
Salvinder Kaur and Sarabjit Kaur in front of eyewitnesses in his
official jeep. The officer in-charge of police station in Hargovindpur
denied their custody. Four days later, their naked distended bodies were
recovered from a nearby canal. Officers of Hargovindpur police station
tried to pressurize the parents to sign a declaration that the bodies
were unidentified and unclaimed, and were threatened that they would be
eliminated in an "encounter" if they disobeyed. But the Sub-divisional
Magistrate of Batala interfered and had the bodies handed over to the
parents for cremation. One month later, the district's Senior
Superintendent of Police told a newspaper that the policeman alleged to
have kidnapped the girls was actually having an affair with one of them.
The policeman was later arrested on charges of kidnapping, rape and
murder to be soon released on bail as the prosecution failed to submit
the charge sheet against him within the stipulated period of three
We also came across examples of the police terrorizing the whole
villages in the border districts known to be the strongholds of
separatist militants. Unable to distinguish silent sympathizers from
active separatists, the security forces were using collective
humiliation and intimidation to wean them away from their political