India: 47 Officers Get Life For Murdering 11 Men

| by Nik Bonopartis
A police parade in Delhi.A police parade in Delhi.

It took 25 years, but the families of 11 Sikh men who were murdered by police were finally given justice by a court in India, which sentenced 47 officers to life in prison.

Although the officers weren't convicted until April 4, 2016, the murders happened in 1991, when a bus carrying a group of Sikh families was returning to the Pilibhit district from a pilgrimage, according to BBC News. A team of police officers stopped the bus and separated the men from the women and children, authorities said.

Then the police split the men into three smaller groups and took them into a nearby jungle area where they executed them.

The officers and their supervisors lied about the incident in reports, claiming the victims were armed militants, BBC News said. They concocted the story because, at the time, there was a spate of attacks by Sikh separatists.

The officers thought they would receive recognition and awards for killing the Sikhs, according to World Religion News, since they staged the murders as a so-called "fake encounter."

Fake encounters are a tactic used by police in India as a response to the country's slow and dysfunctional criminal justice system, according to BBC News. Police stage the encounters when they believe indefinite delays will derail criminal cases and allow suspects to go free, although the men killed in the 1991 incident were not accused of any crime.

In all, 57 police officers were tied to the murders, according to The India Express, but ten have died in the years since. Thirteen are still active in the police department and the remaining 34 had retired or left the force.

The judge overseeing the case said investigators were pressured by senior police leaders, who prevented certain commanders and other higher-ups from taking the blame for the murders, Indian Express reported.

Relatives of the victims said the convicted officers were let off lightly.

“We are not satisfied with the judgment," Balvinder Jeet Kaur, whose husband was killed in the 1991 encounter, told The Indian Express. "The accused should be given death sentence. We will file an appeal."

Sources: BBC News, Indian Express, World Religion News / Photo credit: Antonio Milena/Wikimedia Commons

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