85-year old Gurdev Singh has spent 12.5 years in jail in Punjab, India under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA).  TADA, enacted in May 1985, comprised part of the laws instituted during the police counter-insurgency campaign in Punjab. This act lapsed in 1995, but the Indian government continues to detain people under TADA, for offences allegedly committed prior to May 1995.  

Human rights groups have chellenged this law for its draconian provisions.  TADA establishes in camera courts and authorizes detention of persons in a “disturbed area” based on mere suspicion.  Under Section 21 of TADA, detainees are presumed guilty until proven innocent for certain charges; Section 20(8) prohibits the granting of bail even if the detainee has not been charged for ninety days.  Furthermore, in practice, confessions extracted through torture are admitted in TADA courts, in direct violation of Article 15 of the UN Convention against Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

According to the Committee for Coordination on Disappearances in Punjab, “Punjab registered 17,529 cases under the TADA since its promulgation in 1985 up to 31 July 1994.”  There were only a handful of convictions. 

Gurdev Singh recently described his experiences at a press conference:

The Punjab police has already killed my two sons and I don’t know why they are keeping me in jail even after completion of my life sentence. I don’t know what danger they have from an 85 year old who is suffering from so many ailments and is hard of hearing.

My younger son who left military [after the Army’s 1984 attack on Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple)] was killed in a fake encounter by Punjab Police on 17 December 1987. After that all hell was let loose on my family. My elder son was killed by Punjab Police Cats (Kalian Bilian) and his dead body was thrown in the village to terrorize people.

Gurdev Singh described how he and his younger brother Jora Singh, aged 70 years, have been tortured by the Punjab police.  They are both serving TADA sentences.  Further, seven years ago, the police disappeared his third son, Kinder Singh.  According to Gurdev Singh, after this son’s disappearance, his wife Surjit Kaur died of shock. 

Chapter 2 of Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab gives an extensive analysis of TADA. 


You must be logged in to post a comment.

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind