23 yrs after ‘encounters’ wiped out family, father and son reunite

The son had been presumed dead in an encounter. The father had fled the village to escape police.

After 23 years of being constantly on the run, looking over their shoulders, the father and son are back together — the only surviving members of a family which lost 16 members in two 'encounters' by the Punjab police in two states.

Kashmir Singh and his son Dilbagh have now moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court for protection from police.

Dilbagh had fled his village in Tarn Taran in 1988 to Mumbai at the age of 13 when he learnt that members of his family had been killed by unknown assailants, and Punjab police had labelled them terrorists. He worked as a cleaner and then as driver and remained constantly on the move. Six years later, he learnt that the rest of his family — which, too, had fled Tarn Taran — was killed in another 'encounter' by Punjab police in Maharastra's Amravati in 1994. The newspaper reports of the encounter listed his name among the victims, along with his seven-year-old sister, one-year-old nephew and one-and-a-half-year-old niece.

His father, Kashmir, had been on the run since the 1988 encounter. When he saw the 1994 'encounter' reports, he presumed his son too had been killed.

"I feared that if I returned to my native village, I would be killed since my relatives were accused of having terror links. In 1998, after normalcy had returned to Punjab, I informed my elder brother that I was alive but decided not to return. Having lost my entire family, I did not feel like returning to my village," Kashmir Singh told The Indian Express.

According to the police, six people were killed in Tarn Taran in 1988—one of them, Dilbagh's paternal grandfather, by the police and the rest by "unidentified assailants." Police admitted that 10 people—including Dilbagh—were killed in the Maharashtra encounter.

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