Mass cremations of Sikhs in Punjab – NHRC awards a relief of 27.94 crore
New Delhi, April 03 (YP Bureau)
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), after going through 2,097 cases of killing of youth and mass cremation of their bodies by the Punjab police during the height of militancy in the State, has ordered relief of Rs. 27.94 crore to the families of 1,513 victims of such extra-judicial killings. The remaining bodies were not identified.
The matter was referred to the NHRC on December 12, 1996 saying any compensation awarded by the Commission shall be binding and payable.
The cases related to such mass cremations in Amritsar, Majitha and Tarn Taran districts alone between 1984-1994.
These include 195 cases where the deceased 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 NHRC from the date of remittance in December 1996.
The Commission held that for the violation of human rights of a total of 194 deceased admittedly in police custody immediately prior to their death and their cremation, their kin were entitled to monetary compensation of Rs. 2.50 lakh each. In the remaining cases, the families were paid Rs.1.75 lakh each.
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When the terrorism was at its peak during 1984-1996 in the State, the police personnel, whether they were officers or constables, were law unto themselves and many of them involved in merciless killing of youths by branding them as terrorists for rewards and promotions, and the bodies were silently cremated with no questions asked.
Many human 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 had been killed by the Punjab police.
This includes persons “missing” from their homes, killed in “encounters”, cremated as “unidentified” and “escaped from police custody”. The HR groups added that Young 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”.
Human rights activists the world over had alleged that the inhuman killings were the result of excessive powers given to the police by the government thus making the cops a law unto themselves.