Aditi Tandon, Tribune News Service
New Delhi, April 3. Years after militancy was crushed in Punjab, justice has been done to the families of youths who were picked up by the police, killed and cremated in gross violation of human rights.
Closing the 16-year-old Punjab mass cremation case which involved the killing of youths in Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Majithia districts of the state, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today awarded a compensation of Rs 27.94 crore to the families of 1,513 victims (out of the 2,097 cremated) who could be identified after documentation of circumstantial evidence.
In each of these 1,513 cases, Rs 1.75 lakh will be paid to the next of kin of the victim. The commission has written to the DC, Amritsar, to release the money.
The NHRC award marks the end of hearings that followed the December 12, 1996, Supreme Court order which remitted the case of Punjab’s 2,097 unidentified bodies to the commission after the police and the CBI were unable to make a headway.
As many as 532 bodies remain unidentified.
Speaking to The Tribune today, NHRC member Satyabrata Pal said: “The Punjab Government has assured us of the payment.
This was our last and best effort to identify the bodies after the police and the CBI were unable to do so.”
The NHRC orders came on the report of the second committee set up to identify the cremated bodies. The committee, comprising IAS officer DS Bains, Virender Singh, District and Sessions Judge (retd) and DIG (Border Range), Amritsar, submitted the findings on March 22, 2012.
During its hearing, the commission on October 10, 2006, noted that of the 2,097 bodies cremated in Amritsar, Majitha and Tarn Taran, 1,245 had been identified.
For human rights abuse of the 194 youths in police custody immediately before their death, the families will get a compensation of Rs 2.50 lakh each.
“In case of 1,051 identified deceased persons whose bodies were not in police custody but were cremated by the State of Punjab without following the Punjab Police Rules and humanitarian law, the commission has awarded Rs Rs. 1.75 lakh to the next of kin,” the order says.
While the commission had identified 1,245 bodies, for the rest (814), it had appointed Justice KS Bhalla, retired judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court as Commissioner for receiving evidence and probing the matter.
The Bhalla Commission submitted its report on June 30, 2007, and identified 143 bodies and the commission on February 15, 2007, awarded compensation in 53 cases.