Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal


Srinagar, June 29: Prominent human rights activist Ram Narayan Kumar, well known for his extensive work on custodial torture and disappearances particularly in Punjab, passed away yesterday in Kathmandu due to sudden illness. He was 56.


Kumar, who had been residing in Austria, with his wife for several decades, was a frequent visitor to South Asian countries and spent much of his time in researching, investigating and documenting cases of human rights abuse.


Better known for his series of works on Punjab’s human rights scenario, he was the co-author of Reduced To Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab which is a report of the Committee for Coordination on Disappearances in Punjab (CCDP). The report focuses on human rights violations committed by the Punjab Police during its operations to suppress the Punjab insurgency in India, from 1984 to 1994. The report prompted the National Human Rights Commission to take cognizance of the large scale custodial disappearances and deaths in Punjab during that decade.


Other well known books and reports he authored include Terror in Punjab: Narratives, Knowledge and Truth, Critical readings in Human Rights and Peace and Disappearances, secret cremations and the issue of truth and justice in Punjab.


Known for his boldness, clarity of views and his non-partisan approach, Kumar was among the first few human rights activist to claim that “the issue of Khalistan was used by the State to divert attention from real issues of democracy, constitutional safeguards and citizens’ rights.”


Associated with the South Asia Forum for Human Rights, he was well known and well respected among the human rights community of South Asia, both for his contribution to the issues of justice and peace and also for his politeness, humility and appealing personality. His loss has been deeply mourned across the region and is a major loss to the human rights champions and the cause of human rights.


For over a year, Ram Narayan Kumar had been engaged in documenting cases of human rights abuse and impunity enjoyed by security forces, both in Kashmir and the North-East. He was a frequent visitor to Kashmir, where his dream of bringing to surface an extensive document on human rights violations, on the pattern of his Punjab volumes, remains an unfinished agenda.



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