Punjab needs a Truth Commission: Satnam Singh Bains on new evidence of enforced disappearances

26 April 2019

Satnam Singh Bains is a barrister in the United Kingdom and a human-rights activist working as part of the Punjab Documentation and Advocacy Project. The PDAP is a civil society group that was formed in 2008 to uncover and document human-rights abuses committed by the police and security forces in Punjab, during the 1980s and 1990s. As the Khalistani movement for a separate homeland for Sikhs gained traction, these decades witnessed the rise of insurgency and violence. In response, the state carried out several counter-insurgency operations leading to massive human-rights violations. The true extent of this violence is slowly surfacing in the public domain.

A new documentary film, Punjab Disappeared, throws light on the groundbreaking work of the PDAP in investigating the enforced disappearances of thousands of Punjabis during counter-insurgency operations between 1983 and 1995. The film also looks at extra-judicial killings and mass cremations in the state during the conflict. It presents new evidence of previously unknown killings, cremations and disappearances. The 70-minute film premieres on 26 April at 5:30 pm at the Jawahar Bhawan in New Delhi.

In an interview over email, Praveen Donthi, a staff writer at The Caravan, spoke to Bains about the PDAP’s work, the significance of the new evidence discovered and the possible avenues for justice. “The evidence and documentation give renewed hope to victims and their families,”Bains said. “It allows hundreds of victims to be properly identified, and paves the way for rehabilitation, and criminal prosecution of the guilty.”

Praveen Donthi is a former deputy political editor at The Caravan.

Keywords: Punjab counterinsurgency insurgency enforced disappearances Extra judicial killings