Urgent Appeal: Woman forced to quit job and denied justice after sexual harassment in Assam

BARAK HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION COMMITTEE

Urgent Appeal No. BHRPC Case No 58/2010/UA/23/210 Dated: 25 January 2010

Dear Friends,

Acting on the information provided by Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) issued the following Urgent Appeal. Please take the suggested actions.

Yours

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Urgent Appeal Desk

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee

Rongpur, Silchar-9, Assam, India

Click here to send an appeal to the authorities

 

INDIA: Woman forced to quit job and denied justice after sexual harassment

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-011-2011

25 January 2011
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INDIA: Woman forced to quit job and denied justice after sexual harassment

ISSUES: Violence against women; Sexual harassment; Police corruption
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) concerning the case of Ms. Lara (name changed) a victim of sexual harassment from Assam state. It is reported that the victim had to resign from her job since her superior colleagues tried to sexually molest her. On the day of her resignation, the suspected officers tried to rape the victim at their office. The police, despite having registered a case against the suspects are now demanding the victim to forgive the suspects and settle the case.

CASE DETAILS:

It is reported that on 2 December 2010 at about 2.30pm, Lara’s two senior colleagues, Mr. Sandip Sarkar and Mr. Rajeeb Nath, assaulted, molested and attempted to rape Lara at the office of her company. Lara worked as an office assistant and a computer operator at Rose Valley Chain Marketing System Ltd., at Bhaga Branch in Assam state. The incident happened at the regional office of the company, where she was asked to report by her seniors. The company where Lara was employed is a subsidiary of Rose Valley Group with Registered Head Office at RGM-25/3010, Raghunathpur, VIP Road, Kolkata – 700059, West Bengal.

Sarkar is the Assistant Regional Manager at the regional office at Silchar, Assam state. Sarkar called Lara on 18 November 2009 at about 9pm on her mobile telephone and demanded sexual favours from Lara. Lara refused and requested Sarkar not to use such language with her in the future. Due to this, Lara alleges that Sarkar deliberately transferred her from Aizawl branch, Mizoram state to an office in Bhaga which is nearer to the regional office (about 45 Kilometres from Silchar).

Lara alleges that Sarkar then repeatedly called Lara and continued using unsolicited and sexually implicit language in the conversations, despite Lara’s request to stop it. Lara claims that Sarkar also tried requesting Lara’s colleague, Ms. Dolly (name changed), to convince Lara to pay heed to Sarkar’s unsolicited demands. Both Lara and Dolly being subordinate staff were helpless and worse, it was impossible for them to avoid Sarkar’s calls.

On one occasion Sarkar asked Lara and Dolly to come at Silchar Branch at 4pm. Lara and Dolly informed Sarkar that the last bus from Silchar to Bhaga stops at 4pm. Sarkar then offered Lara and Dolly to stay at a hotel at Silchar. However, they refused to travel to Silchar on that occasion.

Both Lara and Dolly complained to the Senior Marketing Officer Mr. Mrinal Kanti Dutta about the harassment to which Sarkar subjected them to. Dutta enquired into the matter. Instead of taking action against Sarkar, Dutta and the vigilance officer of the company requested Lara and Dolly to forgive Sarkar for the sake of the company’s name and goodwill.

Lara alleges that due to the complaint, Sarkar withheld her salary increment by misusing his senior position in the company. It is alleged that soon another senior colleague, Mr. Rajeeb Nath, became Sarkar’s accomplice in his misadventures against Lara. Nath contacted Lara and informed her that her pending salary increment would be released only if Lara agreed to Sarkar’s unsolicited requests for sexual gratification. Nath also informed Lara that she would be posted to her hometown Aizawl branch should she comply. Lara once again refused to the demands. Sarkar and Nath continued harassing Lara regularly over the mobile telephone continuously then on.

The situation gradually became so unbearable to Lara that she decided to resign. Lara submitted her resignation letter on 2 November 2010 to Mr. Jyoti Prasad Mohan, the Regional Manager, requesting the company to relieve her from the job on 30 November 2010. The same day, Lara went to the regional office at Silchar for the final settlement of her salary and other dues including the amount due to her from the Employees’ Provident Fund. Lara reached the regional office at Silchar by noon and found the Regional Manager not at the office.

Sarkar was in-charge of the regional office in the absence of the Regional Manager. It is alleged that Sarkar intentionally kept Lara waiting outside his cabin until 2.30pm. When Lara entered the cabin and took a seat, Sarkar called Nath over his extension to visit him. Nath came to the room immediately. Thereafter, both Sarkar and Nath asked Lara to stay in a hotel and have sex with them. They also told Lara that all her problems would be resolved if she obliged.

Lara sternly rejected the proposal and stood up from the chair. Suddenly, both Sarkar and Nath jumped over Lara and assaulted her physically. Both tried to overpower Lara and rape her then and there. Lara gathered strength and started shouting for help. Other colleagues in the office assembled near the room after hearing Lara shouting for help. However, Sarkar and Nath managed to escape from the office. Lara alleges that Sarkar was vigorously trying to remove her shirt. While they escaped, Sarkar snatched Lara’s gold chain that she was wearing. In the attempt to snatch the chain, Sarkar tore off Lara’s shirt. Lara alleges that the chain is worth Rs. 15,000.00.

Immediately after the incident, Lara filed a complaint at the Vairangte Police Station in Kolasib district, Mizoram state. The officer-in-charge (OC) forwarded the complaint to the Silchar Sadar Police Station on 3 December 2010. It was reported that on 4 December 2010 the OC of Silchar Sadar Police Station registered a case, number 2254 under Sections 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman) and 427 (mischief causing damage) read with Section 34 (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) against Sarkar and Nath.

It is also reported that Mr. Puia, Sub-Inspector of police is the Investigating Officer (IO) in the case. Lara alleges that the IO did not show any interest in investigating the case. Instead, the IO made several calls to Lara from various telephones asking her whether she wanted to rejoin the company or would join any other work. The IO expressed his readiness to help Lara in either way. According to Lara, the IO made his last call from the mobile number +91-94352 95037 at 6.27pm on 18 January 2011.

Lara suspects that the police is under the influence of Sarkar and Nath, for which they are using their position in the company. Lara alleges that the case would never be investigated and even today the police have failed to properly record her statement or to question other witnesses to the incident. Lara also fears that she will receive no further protection from her assailants, should they try to hurt her further or threaten her.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please send letters to the authorities named below expressing your concern in this case and urge them to ensure legal redress to the victim.

The AHRC is also sending a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, calling for an intervention in this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: The molestation and attempted to rape of a working woman must be investigated

Name of victim: Ms. Lara (name changed), former employee of Rose Valley Chain Marketing System Ltd., Bhaga Branch in Assam state
Name of alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr. Sandip Sarkar, Assistant Regional Manager, Rose Valley Chain Marketing System Ltd., Silchar, Assam state
2. Mr. Rajeeb Nath, Officer, Rose Valley Chain Marketing System Ltd., Silchar, Assam state
Date of incident: 02 December 2010
Place of incident: Regional office of Rose Valley Chain Marketing System Ltd. at Silchar, Assam

I am writing to express my concern about the case of sexual molestation and attempted rape reported to me, wherein it is alleged that the investigating officer is not showing any interest to investigate the case properly. I am informed that the accused in the case sexually molested and assaulted the victim in the case, Lara, on 2 November 2010 at the regional office of the company where she once worked.

The victim in the case, Lara, worked as an office assistant and a computer operator at Rose Valley Chain Marketing System Ltd. at Bhaga Branch of Assam state. The company is a subsidiary of Rose Valley Group of Companies with Registered Head Office at RGM-25/3010, Raghunathpur, VIP Road, Kolkata – 700059, West Bengal.

I am informed that the main suspect in the case is Mr. Sandip Sarkar, an Assistant Regional Manager of the company stationed at the regional office in Silchar, Assam state. I am informed that Lara is accusing Sarkar that he had made several unsuccessful attempts to lure Lara into an illegal sexual relationship with him. For this, it is alleged that Sarkar misused his position at the office as an officer superior to Lara. I am informed that Sarkar transferred Lara to an office closer to the regional office where Sarkar is working. Lara also alleged that Sarkar had an accomplice in the crime, which is Mr. Rajeeb Nath, who is also a senior staff member of the same company. Lara alleges that on 18 November 2009 at about 9pm Sarkar contacted Lara over her mobile telephone and demanded sexual favours. I am informed that Lara refused outright and requested Sarkar not to use such language with her in the future.

I am informed that Lara’s transfer from Aizawl branch, Mizoram state to Bhaga was a deleberate action by Sarkar. I am informed that Sarkar then repeatedly called Lara over her telephone and demanded her to sleep with Sarkar. It is alleged that Sarkar even asked another female colleague, Ms. Dolly (name changed), to convince Lara that she should pay heed to Sarkar’s demands for sexual favours. I am informed that later Sarkar started receiving help from Nath to contact Lara and threaten her that should she continue to refuse Sarkar’s request she would have a tough time at the job.

I am informed that both Lara and Dolly complained to the Senior Marketing Officer, Mr. Mrinal Kanti Dutta, about the harassment against which there was an inquiry. However, the officer refused to act against Sarkar and Nath. Instead, the officer after the inquiry requested Lara and Dolly to forgive Sarkar for the sake of the company’s name and goodwill.

I am informed that Sarkar thereafter refused to pay salary increments to Lara. Dejected and abused, Lara resigned from the job on 2 November 2010. On the same day, Lara went to the regional office at Silchar for the final settlement of her salary and other dues including the Employees Provident Fund. It is reported that it is when Lara was summoned to Sarkar’s room on that day that Sarkar and Nath tried to rape Lara inside the office room. I am informed that other staffs members present in the office are witnesses to the event, at least to the extent that they had gathered around the room in which Lara was molested when they heard her cries for help. It is also reported that Sarkar, while he fled from the room snatched Lara’s chain worth Rs. 15,000.00.

I am informed that the complaint filed by Lara immediately after the incident at the Vairangte Police Station in Kolasib district, Mizoram was forwarded to Silchar Sadar Police Station on 3 December 2010. It was reported that on 4 December 2010 the OC of Silchar Sadar Police Station registered a case number 2254 under Sections 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman) and 427 (mischief causing damage) read with section 34 (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) against Sarkar and Nath.

However, instead of investigating the case, the OC is trying to persuade Lara to settle the matter. I am informed that Lara is now certain that her case would not be investigated and that Sarkar and Nath are using their influence and money to prevent the police from taking any action in the case. It is also reported that Lara is afraid that Sarkar or Nath will hurt Lara and that the police will provide no protection to her should something like that happen.

I am also informed that in a case decided by the Supreme Court of India, there are strict laws to be complied by the employers as well as the government to ensure safety of women from sexual harassment in places of work. Quite obviously Lara’s case is a direct contradiction of the Supreme Court’s directives in the Vishaka case.

I therefore request you to intervene in this case to ensure the following:

1. The police must immediately record the statement of the victim;
2. Should there be any request from the victim for protection against further threat, the police must provide the same to the victim;
3. The statements of other witnesses in the incident are to be recorded by the police without any further delay;
4. The suspicious conduct of the police officer who is in charge of the investigation of the case must be investigated by a superior officer and if the inquiry finds that the officer is at fault, he must be punished;
5. A female officer must investigate the case

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Tarun Gogoi
Chief Minister of Assam
Assam Secretariat, Dispur
Guwahati-6, Assam
INDIA
Fax: +91 361 2262069

2. Chief Secretary
Assam Secretariat, Dispur
Guwahati-6, Assam
INDIA
Fax: +91 361 2260900
Email: psccy_it@assam.nic.in

3. Mr. G M Srivastava
Director General of Police
Assam, Ulubari
Guwahati-7, Assam
INDIA

4. Mr. PU Lalthanhawla
Chief Minister of Mizoram
A/14, Zarkawt, Aizawl, Mizoram
INDIA
Fax: +91 389 2322245

5. Mr. R. Lalzirliana
Home Minister of Mizoram
Armed Veng “N”, Aizawl
Mizoram
INDIA

6. Mrs. Krishna Tirath
Minister of State
Ministry of Women and Child Development
Shastri Bhavan, Jeevandeep Building
New Delhi
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 24654849, 24654667, 24616466

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Send an appeal

Posted on 2011-01-25

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