Twenty years ago, in the Punjabi countryside I sat on a charpai, sipping tea and listening to a harrowing tale from a young man, just a little older than myself. Let’s call him Gurmeet Singh, which is not far from his name. Gurmeet looked decades older, aged as he was by his long sojourn in an Indian prison. A part of the Sikh Students’ Federation, Gurmeet had gone underground into the insurgency that wanted to carve out Khalistan from the Indian republic. I don’t know how many people died in this insurgency because the Indian government remains chary about it. By the 1990s, the Khalistan movement dissolved, partly because of the collapse of the agenda of its organizations, the repression of the State and the toll that violence takes in a society. Few of Gurmeet’s neighbors wanted to continue to support what they had once seen as essential and now only saw as an inconvenient tragedy.
As Gurmeet told me his story, I remember being transfixed by his hands. The nails were contorted, and his fingers gnarled. I asked him about them, but he looked through me and didn’t say a word. The marks of torture must remind him everyday of the pain, and of the humiliation. Nothing in his eyes said that he was reconciled to the present. Hatred and bitterness burned him, but there was no avenue for those feelings to manifest themselves. His own unit in the Khalistani struggle had been disbanded, broken up by the arrests and the disapproval of their families.
Read more here: Operation Torture » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.