Sad loss – Justice Ajit Singh Bains, a warrior of human rights, dies at 99.
Justice Bains had remained a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court from October 1974 to May 1984. In the aftermath of 1984 turbulent years, he formed an organization Punjab Human Rights Group(PHRG) and started speaking against the brutal police repression in the 1980s.
I had the opportunity to meet him several times and work with him on human rights issues.
PHRG was the first human rights body in India. It brought out reports of fake encounters in which many young people were killed in Punjab.
He was instrumental under Barnala government in getting many young Sikhs released who were arrested during the Darbar Sahib assault. He highlighted that 90% of them were innocent.
His reports raised the awareness about the human rights violations in Punjab. His major thrust was on rule of law and following the constitution and respecting the individual rights of citizens.
He spoke against KPS Gill and Beant Singh government. His arrest was immediately ordered by Beant Singh. Gill disrespectfully slapped this stalwart and sent him to jail in 1992. Major protests were spontaneously organized by lawyers in Haryana, Himachal and in Delhi besides Punjab. Only after a huge worldwide protest, he was released. He also spoke against the political leaders like Badal and others who blatantly ignored the abuses by the police officials.
He also ran unsuccessfully for a Parliament seat from Jalandhar and didn’t miss any opportunity to speak fearlessly. He always advocated that police should not be used by politicians for political purposes or for abuse by the powerful. He said that there were many honest police officials too.
He was well-respected by Indian and other world human rights activist for his thorough work and his steadfast stance on democratic rights. He was invited as PHRG founder to appear for human rights testimonies at British parliament and US Congress.
He authored several books and pamphlets on rights violations of Punjabi youth and documented the abuse at Ladda Kothi.