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The Unexplained Deaths at Bhakra Canal

ICE Graveyard 28/04/2016 Damanvir Kaur

For the past five years, divers in the state of Punjab, India have been routinely retrieving four to five deceased bodies from the Khanauri barrage of the Bhakra Canal, located in the district of Patiala (Hindustan Times, 2016). Despite the alarming number of bodies already retrieved, they continue to appear and often identification and cause of death are not determined.
Inderjit Singh Jaijee, from the organization Movement Against State Repression (MASR), has led the charge in bringing awareness to this issue. In a letter addressed to the Punjab Government, Jaijee urged government officials to take immediate action in recovering all the bodies in the Bhakra Canal as well as adjoining canals in Sangrur, Fatehgarh Sahib, and Ropar. He also stated that it is imperative the government work towards identifying the bodies and causes of death (MASR, 2015).
In 2012, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered the installation of underwater lights at the barrage. In his letter to the government, Jaijee stated that as of last year, the lights had not been installed (MASR, 2015).
In a video posted on the news website, footage taken by the divers shows the brutal reality concerning the deaths at the canal. Disturbingly, bodies can be seen floating, entangled in debris and badly decomposed. According to Sikh24, the bodies, once recorded in the ongoing count, are often left in the canal and as the video painfully shows, devoured by dogs.
Jaijee and others have stated that one reason for these deaths may be farmer suicide. In a report published by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New York University School of Law in 2012, it is estimated that more than a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide since the mid-1990s (CHRGJ, 2012).
This staggering statistic is especially true in the Indian state of Punjab. Overwhelmed by crushing debt and failing crops, resulting from the government enforced green revolution that has devastated the agricultural landscape of Punjab, farmers are often left helpless and unable to recover (NPR, 2009).
In February 2016, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) wrote to the Punjab Government, ordering officials to provide an explanation to whether these deceased bodies were due to suicide, homicide, or accidental. Two months later, the government is yet to reply (Hindustan Times, 2016).
Last week, Punjab Government officials visited the Khanauri barrage, stating an effort would be made to identify bodies and inform family members, preserve unclaimed bodies at a hospital for a duration of time, and ensure an availability of divers near the canal (The Tribune, 2016).

2016-04-28-1461810910-6567875-BhakraCanal.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-04-28-1461810910-6567875-BhakraCanal.jpg
Government officials visiting the Bhakra Canal (photo courtesy of The Tribune)

Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. (9 October, 2012). Every Thirty Minutes: Farmer Suicides, Human Rights, and the Agrarian Crisis in India. Retrieved from
Hindustan Times. (18 April, 2016). Bodies in Bhakra canal: 2 months on, NHRC awaits Punjab's reply. Retrieved from
Movement Against State Repression. (18 November, 2015). Human Bodies Routinely Seen at the Khanauri Barrage. Retrieved from
National Public Radio. (14 April, 2009). 'Green Revolution' Trapping India's Farmers In Debt. Retrieved from (26 April, 2016). Sangrur Mystery: Dead Bodies Continue to Wash Up at Khanauri Barrage. Retrieved from
The Tribune. (16 April, 2016). Officials told to step up vigil at Khanauri barrage. Retrieved from

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