On the 18 year Anniversary of S. Jaswant Singh Khalra, we share with you 10 amazing facts about this inspiring defender of human rights, that you likely never knew.
For example, did you know S. Jaswant Singh Khalra was many things including:
1. The Best Friend You Could Ask For
Jaswant Singh Khalra, a lawyer by education, was a bank employee in the city of Amritsar in Punjab. During the early 1990s, while working, Jaswant Singh realized his friend stopped showing up for work. While searching for a his friend who went missing, Jaswant Singh Khalra discovered files from the municipal corporation of the city of Amritsar which contained the names, age and address of thousands of Sikhs who had been killed and later illegally cremated by the Indian security forces as unclaimed bodies. Further research revealed thousands of cases in three other districts in Punjab. In total, Mr. Khalra discovered approximately 25 000 cases of extra-judicial killings.
2. A Fearless Traveler
To raise awareness of the human rights abuses in Punjab, at the invitation of the World Sikh Organization of Canada, Mr. Khalra travelled to Canada in April 1995. Mr. Khalra’s grandfather had earlier made the same journey on the Komagata Maru (only to be turned away by Canadian authorities).
3. A Canadian & A Rebel Since 1914
Jaswant Singh’s grandfather Harnam Singh had migrated to Shanghai before the outbreak of the first world war in 1914. There, he became involved with a group of Indian revolutionaries under Gurdit Singh, originally from Sarhali village in Amritsar district and the founder of a group called Ghadr which translates to Rebel. Jaswant Singh Khalra’s grandfather Harnam Singh and Gurdit Singh began to work closely from the Far Eastern arena. In May 1914, both of them arrived at the port of Vancouver with 376 Sikh immigrants in a passenger ship called Komagata Maru. Due to racist policies they were refused permission to land, and the ship was compelled to return to Calcutta. Thereinafter, Harnam Singh Khalra became a Great Freedom Fighter and a Ghadar Party Activist, that helped overthrow the British Raj.
4. A Human Rights Defender Recognized by Amnesty Intl
Jaswant Singh Khalra is one of the human rights defenders featured in Amnesty International’s campaign to promote the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” – (amnesty international)
5. A Socialist
“The atmoshphere of intense political discussions at home and the frantic pace of political developments in Punjab and the rest of India shaped Jaswant;s early political orientations. By the time he joined college at Jhabal, Jaswant Singh Khalra called himself a “scientificsocialist” and became the instigator of several small agitations directed against corruption, abuse of authority and tha avarice of trading classes. (Reduce To Ashes, 24)
6. A Feminist, Anti-Caste & Anti-Police Corruption Activist
Jaswant Singh also organized several small agitations against police officials who abused their postions of power to harass small, indigent people. Once, he organized the picketing of Khalra police station whose SHO had molested a women belonging to a low caste.
7. A Student Activist & a Supporter of Student Unions
In Bir Baba Buddha College at Jhabal, Jaswant Singh Khalra became the spokesperson for the Punjab Students Union, a Left-wing group influence by the radical left-thinking as it evolved in Bengal’s Naxalbari region in the early 1960’s.
8. A Pacifist
In his opinion, people’s struggles for substantial reforms within the established order could not be won by the use of violence.
In a handwritten press note dated February 25, 1995, Jaswant Singh Khalra had predicted his ‘disappearance’ at the hands of the Punjab Police (before his visits to Canada). He had learned that his abduction had been approved by the Congress government in power at the time. The press note written by S. Khalra’s shows his bravery and spirit of sacrifice. Read the english version here