EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 20/38/94
UA 382/94 "Disappearance" / Fear for safety 21 October 1994
INDIA Raj Kumar, aged 22
Raj Kumar, from Ludhiana, Punjab, has not been seen since he appeared at a
press conference on 4 October 1994 in the presence of Ludhiana police who then
took him away. However, the police have denied that he is in their custody,
and Amnesty International fears for his safety.
Raj Kumar was reportedly detained and tortured by Punjab police in August on
allegedly fabricated charges of theft. Relatives filed a habeas corpus
petition on his behalf, and he was released on orders of the High Court after
a warrant officer found him in police custody. A judicial inquiry into his
illegal detention was later ordered.
On 3 October, Raj Kumar came to the Punjab and Haryana High Court along with
two women, Rangilo and Bangarin, one of whom had been detained with him in
August, to attend the hearing of the district and sessions court in connection
with the judicial inquiry. He came to the court despite reports that the
Ludhiana police had urged him not to pursue giving evidence in the case. Outside
the court, policewomen reportedly tried to abduct the two women, who sustained
minor injuries in the scuffle, but were not taken by the police.
Three plainclothes policemen then entered the court building and dragged Raj
Kumar out of the court. This was witnessed by the judge and several other
witnesses. The police claimed that Raj Kumar was "suffering from plague" and
covered his mouth with a piece of cloth as they took him out of the building.
Many people were too afraid to come to his assistance fearing that they might
catch the disease.
Raj Kumar appeared at a press conference the following day and reportedly stated
that he had not been abducted by the police. However, he was then taken away
by the police, and has not been seen since. A delegation from the Punjab Bar
Association tried to meet with Raj Kumar through Ludhiana police but were
informed that he was not in their custody.
On 14 October, Rangilo and Bangarin reportedly went to the High Court to complain
about the abduction of Raj Kumar. Police again reportedly tried to abduct them,
but were again unsuccessful.
Amnesty International regularly receives reports alleging that in Punjab men
and women believed by the authorities to be members or sympathizers of Sikh
opposition groups, or their relatives, are held in unacknowledged detention
or have been killed in police custody, often after torture. Their deaths or
"disappearances" are wrongly attributed by officials to an "encounter" between
militants and the police, to an "escape" during such an "encounter" or to other
improbable causes. Even though legal safeguards against unacknowledged
detention exist in India's criminal law and procedural code, they are often
simply not adhered to and prisoners are held in unacknowledged detention for
weeks and sometimes months.
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