UPDATE: Kulwant Singh died of his injuries on February 14th.
On Sunday February 12, 2012 Indian media reported that 35 year old ‘dreaded terrorist’ Kulwant Singh was in critical condition after having been admitted to hospital with over 50 per cent burns to his body. Jail officials claim that Kulwant Singh attempted suicide while cooking. According to the news stories, fellow inmates and jail officials refuse to comment any further on what happened.
Shockingly, this isn’t the first time Kulwant Singh has been admitted to hospital by the police, fighting for his life. Those who have been following Kulwant Singh’s story know that this alleged suicide attempt is likely just another fabrication in a long list of lies that have been told by the Punjab Police to cover up ongoing illegal detentions and torture.
The tragic story of how Kulwant Singh has suffered repeated and severe abuses of his human rights at the hands of the Punjab Police isn’t widely known.
On July 29, 2010 the Punjab Police announced the arrest of five ‘terrorists’. Amongst the five arrested were Pal Singh, a French citizen and Kulwant Singh who was Pal Singh’s driver and domestic help. According the Punjab Police’s official story, Kulwant Singh and Gurmukh Singh were arrested from the Amritsar bypass and after interrogation they revealed the names of Pal Singh and others. Pal Singh was allegedly picked up from the Jalandhar bus stand on July 27th.
The only problem with the official story was that a Facebook page titled “Free Pal Singh” had been created on July 26 telling of how Pal Singh had been picked up on July 22nd and items such as his car, laptop and other belongings had also been seized. Pal Singh’s daughter had also sent emails to the French Embassy on July 23rd and 24threporting his abduction. The Police story was clearly a fabrication.
Kulwant Singh’s Torture
News about this case next emerged on August 6, 2010 in a small story in the Times of India (TOI). TOI reported that Kulwant Singh had been admitted to hospital, close to death, with kidney failure. Doctors observed that he had been subjected to electrical shocks on his ears and genitals and had also been beaten in his abdomen with batons. Pal Singh and the others who were arrested also report being tortured in custody.
Kulwant Singh survived. He slowly recovered from his torture injuries and was returned to jail. A case was registered against the officer responsible for his torture and that case was now moving forward.
Inconsistencies in the Punjab Police’s story about Kulwant Singh’s arrest in addition to his well documented injuries from torture are an embarrassment to the Punjab Police. If Kulwant Singh’s case were to proceed it would expose the human rights abuses taking place in Punjab.
The reasons behind the arrest of Pal Singh, Kulwant Singh and others can only be speculated upon. Pal Singh has suggested that he was targeted because of his opposition to the Badal government in Punjab and his efforts to bring change in the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee which manages Sikh Gurdwaras. Regardless, whatever evidence the Punjab Police has against these accused must be brought before a court of law in a timely manner and India, which prides itself as the world’s largest democracy, must ensure its security forces respect the rule of law and basic human rights norms.
Suicide Attempt or Attempted Murder?
We have learned that when Kulwant Singh was alone in his cell and asleep, an already burning flame accelerant was thrown on him and he was scorched from the knees upward.
The story of Kulwant Singh’s alleged suicide attempt while cooking is factually impossible as there is no cooking area within Kulwant Singh’s cell.
Furthermore, after recovering from his previous injuries and with his torture case now proceeding, there would be no reason for Kulwant Singh to attempt suicide at this time, and that too in such a painful manner. It appears this was an attempt to forever silence Kulwant Singh and make his story of illegal detention and torture go away.
This isn’t the first time the Punjab Police has tried to eliminate individuals who may expose the stories of torture. In January 2011, Shaminder Singh Shera was beaten to death after he threatened to expose the story of his illegal detention and torture at the hands of the Punjab Police. In March, Sohan Singh was reported to have committed suicide in his cell by hanging, when his family repeatedly stated that he had been badly tortured and could barely stand.
What Can You Do?
Let those in power know that Kulwant Singh matters and his abuse won’t be ignored. Shaminder Singh Shera, Sohan Singh and countless others have died because it is felt the public will not react to their murders. It is felt that the lives of these individuals don't matter. That needs to change.
You can contact the head of Amritsar Jail, Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh and the Superintendent of Amritsar Jail, Roop Kumar and let them know that you are concerned about the treatment Kulwant Singh and his fellow accused have received and that their human rights must be respected. The contact information for these individuals is below:
Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, IPS
DIG (Prisons), Central Jail, Amritsar
Phone & Fax: +91-183-2591110
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Roop Kumar, Superintendent Jail, Amritsar