N-Map has been working with an innovative and exciting human rights organization (and fellow Echoing Green fellow), Ensaaf, to support its fight for justice for the people of Punjab. Ensaaf’s mission is simple: to hold accountable individuals who committed acts of violence against Sikhs during the Sikh self-determination struggle and uprising in the 1980s and 90s. In one of recent history’s little-known human rights disasters, the Indian government murdered or disappeared many thousands of Punjabis, and tortured thousands more. To date, no one has been held accountable for the murders.
Though Ensaaf’s mission is simple, it is extremely challenging to execute. The culture of impunity in India is stunning. Police brutality is rampant, as are “fake encounters,” murders of detainees by Indian police under the guise of police self-defense. Just reading the newspapers every morning for the two weeks I was in Punjab, I was amazed at how common and widely reported this practices were. I think that there was a “fake encounter” story every day. Ensaaf is fighting against this – and helping India to live up to its claim to be the world’s biggest democracy.
Ensaaf is conducting documentation of violence against Sikhs and their mostly Hindu neighbors in order to create a record and gather evidence to hold perpetrators accountable. N-Map is helping to train the organization’s field workers to use video cameras, so that they can get video testimonies of victim families, to add a human element to Ensaaf’s research and documentation efforts. We interviewed a number of families as well, as well as prominent activists and lawyers, and we are creating a set of videos to help Ensaaf advocate for accountability both inside India and internationally.
Here is the first of many videos. This one profiles a particularly courageous victim-activist: