//570 more victims of Punjab mass cremations identified

570 more victims of Punjab mass cremations identified

New Delhi, April 3 (PTI): Boosting the hopes of justice for the victims of "secret cremations" carried out by Punjab police at the height of militancy, the number of deceased identified, whose next of kin would get a chance to claim compensation from the state government, has gone up from 703 to 1,273.

NHRC Chairman, A S Anand, at a hearing on the Punjab Mass Cremations case, today stated that the state Government had filed a petition in the Commission submitting that it had identified 570 more persons who had allegedly been cremated secretly.

"We expect that the Punjab Government shall continue to make efforts to identify as many as more possible out of the remaining partly identified and unidentified bodies," Anand said.

However, while 824 bodies remain in the unidentified category, the state government reported 10 duplications in the overall list of the 2,097 victims, which will be studied by NHRC.

The NHRC Bench comprising Anand, Members Justice Shivaraj V Patil, Justice Y Bhaskar Rao and R S Kalha also granted three more weeks to the state government to trace the next of kin of 38 deceased and pay a compensation of Rs 2.5 lakh each.

NHRC had in its March 8 hearing directed Punjab government to pay compensation to the relatives of the 38 victims, but the state government has so far disbursed Rs 44.3 lakh of the total amount of Rs 95 lakh it has to pay.

The Commission also directed that Rs 2.5 lakh compensation be paid to the next of kin of one Ram Singh.

The Punjab government has conceded that he was in deemed custody of the state police in Tarn-Taran district prior to his disappearance.

The victims’ counsel has been given two weeks’ time to submit comments on the affidavits filed by the state government about the bodies that have now been identified.

The Commission has fixed May 15 as the next date of hearing.