Artist Kanwar Singh's New Painting - Jaswant Singh Khalra

Jaswant Singh Khalra was murdered at the age of 42, giving his life to the preservation of human rights in Punjab


Jaswant Singh Khalra: Light Amongst Shadows, is a new painting by artist Kanwar Singh. It chronicles the life's work of human rights activist Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra and the events of the bloody decade (1984 -1995) in Punjab. It depicts how government forces operated with complete impunity to end the Khalistan movement, and in doing so, carried out the secret murders of thousands of its' own citizens, many of them complete innocents. This portrait of Jaswant Singh Khalra and the state of Punjab speaks to the loss of humanity when power is asserted through terror and violence. In those desperate times, the Guru inspires great souls who act as our protectors, saving us from being engulfed by total darkness. In an inspirational speech, which was to be his last, Jaswant Singh Khalra declared:

"I challenge the darkness, if nothing else, then at least around myself, I will not let it settle. Around myself I will establish light." - Jaswant Singh Khalra

In 1995, Jaswant Singh Khalra was forcefully abducted, tortured and murdered by Indian security forces for his work as a human rights activist working in Punjab. Khalra had uncovered and proved the widespread occurrence of thousands of state sanctioned secret executions and illegal cremations of Sikhs across Punjab, referred to as ‘disappearances.’ The state police, aided by various government forces were intent on stamping out the Khalistan movement for an independent Sikh nation through any means necessary. A reign of state sponsored terror flowed across Punjab for nearly a decade with complete impunity accompanied by official government denials of the ground reality. Security forces rounded up countless innocent Sikhs across the Punjab countryside. Many never saw their homes again as they were tortured and executed while in detention. Some of these extra judicial detentions and murders were covered up by the authorities in the form of staged encounters with weapons placed on bodies for the purpose of a media campaign against the Sikh independence movement. Countless other victims were disposed of secretly in city cremation grounds, without the awareness of their families, their existence erased. Though many knew this was going on, without proof of these occurrences, there could be no way to bring them to the world’s attention.

Jaswant Singh Khalra was a witness to this encroaching darkness which was engulfing Punjab in a state of terror and driven by this knowledge, he chose to be a light for humanity. He summoned immense courage, a gift of the divine will, and consciously walked the dark path which lay before him. Risking his life, he collected undeniable proof of the slaughter, uncovering and documenting the identities of thousands of disappeared Sikhs who had been killed and illegally cremated by the state. His work gave closure and solace to countless grieving families who had no way of knowing what happened to their missing loved ones. Jaswant Singh Khalra then travelled to the U.K and Canada to expose the massive scale of these murders and brought international awareness to the fact that state authorities were undeniably behind the illegal detention and killing of its’ own citizens.

Though warned by friends not to return to Punjab, Jaswant Singh Khalra was abducted by security forces on September 6th 1995, outside his home. After a month of illegal custody and torture, he too was murdered and ‘disappeared’ through the very same state mechanisms he sought to expose. His work however, played a major role in ensuring that truth finally prevailed. Too often, the governing powers loose all sense of humanity and assert power solely through terror. In those times all that saves us from being engulfed by complete darkness are those rare, God inspired souls like Jaswant Singh Khalra, who stand against such darkness of the human heart, offering up their lives to be a light for truth and humanity.

 

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