Jaswant Singh Khalra (1952–1995) was a Sikh human rights activist from Punjab, India. He had exposed truth about mysterious disappearance of as many as 25,000 Sikh youths and how they were cremated by Punjab police in different cremation grounds of the state after killing them in Police custody.
Jaswant Singh Khalra's grandfather Harnamm Singh was an activist in the Ghadar movement for the independence of India. Jaswant Singh is survived by his wife, Paramjit Kaur Khalra and two children.
Jaswant Singh Khalra was a bank director in the city of Amritsar in Punjab during the militancy. Following Operation Blue Star, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots, police were empowered to detain suspects for any reason, ostensibly as suspected terrorists. Police were accused of killing unarmed suspects in staged shootouts and burning thousands of dead bodies to cover up the murders.
As per CBI investigation records quoted by SC division bench in their judgement on Khlara custodial death case, he was a human rights activist working on abduction, elimination and cremation of unclaimed human bodies during disturbed period.Court observed that Police has been eliminating young persons under pretext of being militants and disposing their dead bodies without any records .
While searching for some colleagues who went missing, Jaswant Singh Khalra discovered files from the municipal corporation of the city of Amritsar which contained the names, age, address of those who had been killed and later burned by the Police. Further research revealed other cases in 3 other districts in Punjab, increasing the list by thousands.
The National Human Rights Commission released a list of some of the identified bodies that cremated in the police districts of Amritsar, Majitha and Tarn Taran between June 1984 to December 1994. That list can be viewed here.
Murder and Coverup
On 6 September 1995, while washing his car in front of his house, Khalra was allegedly abducted by Personnel of Punjab Police and taken to Jhabal police station. Although witnesses gave statements implicating the police and have named former police chief Kanwar Pal Singh Gill as a conspirator, police denied having ever arrested or detained him, and claimed to have no knowledge of his whereabouts.
In 1996, the Central Bureau of Investigation found evidence that he was held at a police station in Tarn Taran and recommended the prosecution of nine Punjab police officials for murder and kidnapping. Those accused of his murder were not charged for ten years, though one of the suspects committed suicide in 1997. On 18 November 2005, six Punjab police officials were convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment for Khalra’s abduction and murder. On 16 October 2007 a division bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court, chaired by Justices Mehtab Singh Gill and A N Jindal, extended the sentence to Life imprisonment for four accused Satnam Singh, Surinder Pal Singh, Jasbir Singh (all former Sub Inspectors) and Prithipal Singh (former Head Constable).
On 11 April 2011, the Supreme Court of India dismissed the appeal filed against the sentence to Life imprisonment for four accused scathingly criticizing the atrocities committed by Punjab Police during the disturbance period.
The City Council of Fresno has Approved to change the name of Victoria Park after the Sikh Human Rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra on 26 August 2017. After bringing the motion into the City Council for changing the name of Victoria Park after the name of Jaswant Singh Khalra in City of Fresno, The Council Member Oliver Baines said, " Jaswant Singh Khalsa for Punjabi/Sikh Community is like Martin Luther King Junior for my community"