Urgent Appeal: Journalists assaulted in Assam University

BARAK HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION COMMITTEE

Urgent Appeal No. BHRPC Case No 63/2011/UA/24/210 Dated: 31 March 2011

Dear Friends,

Acting on the information provided by Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) issued an Urgent Appeal concerning the incident of assault on journalists at the Assam University campus, Silchar allegedly for covering students’ protests and demonstrations. It is reported that the journalists sustained serious injuries and their cameras, laptops and other equipments were snatched away and destroyed.  Please take the suggested actions.

Yours sincerely

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Urgent Appeal Desk

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee

Rongpur, Silchar-9, Assam, India

INDIA: Journalists assaulted in Assam University

March 31, 2011

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-071-2011

Please click here to take action

31 March 2011

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INDIA: Journalists assaulted in Assam University

ISSUES: Freedom of opinion and expression; Assault; Witness Protection

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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) that a group of journalists were assaulted at the Assam University campus in Assam. It is alleged that the proctor of the university is behind the incident. The journalists claim that the security staff who attacked the journalists at the behest of the proctor, destroyed their laptops, camera and other equipments. The journalists were covering a protest and demonstration by the students claiming adequate sanitation, drinking water and other basic amenities within the university. One of the journalist who was injured had to be admitted at the Silchar Medical College and Hospital (SMCH) due to serious injuries he suffered in the incident. Four other journalists were treated at the primary health centre inside the university campus.

CASE NARRATIVE :

On 25 February 2011, the Proctor of the Assam University, Mr. Manabendra Dutta Choudhury, Dean of Students Welfare, Mr. Ramendra Bhattacharjee, and the university Security Guardsa attacked a group of journalists inside the university campus at Silchar.

A group of agitating students reportedly rescued the injured journalists, namely Mr. Samin Sen Deka of News Time Assam, Mr. Anath Bandhu Nandi of DY 365, Mr. Paplu Das and Mr. Anupam Mandal of Frontier TV News and Mr. Bibhuti Majumdar of NE TV. Among the injured scribes, Mr. Samin was sent to the Silchar Medical College and Hospital (SMCH) due to the serious nature of his injury and four others were treated at the primary health centre inside the university campus.

It is reported that the hostel inmates of the university were striking and resorted to a blockade at the main gate of the university campus demanding immediate uninterrupted water supply at the hostel. Mr. Ratan Das, General Secretary of Assam University Students’ Council alleged that the drinking water crisis at the hostel was acute for a long time including the scarcity of toilets. And students had been demanding for a permanent solution for this. But the university authorities have reportedly paid no attention to the students’ demands.

The journalists were covering the student agitation that ensued. At about noon the proctor of the university and the Dean of Social Welfare arrived in the campus while the scribes were reporting news using their laptops. The proctor started hurling abuse at the journalists and demanded them to stop sending the footages. The journalists tried to talk to the proctor but the proctor reportedly lost his temper and started assaulting them. The security guards accompanying the proctor and the Dean joined in assaulting the journalists thereby damaging their laptops, camera and other communication equipments.

One of the injured journalist, Mr. Anath Bandhu Nandi, alleges that Mr. Choudhury first kicked at a laptop and then the guards jumped on them. At the behest of the proctor and the Dean, the security guards kicked, punched and assaulted the journalists with sticks. Thereafter, they snatched laptops, cameras and other equipments and damaged them.

It is reported that the journalists have filed a complaint at Silchar Sadar Police Station, which is registered as Silchar PS Case No. 285/11. The accused Mr. Choudhury refused to make any comment regarding the assault while contacted for his version. Mr. Choudhury said “I am not authorised to say anything, let the scribes say whatever they wanted to”.

It is also reported that the university authorities subsequently prevented the distribution and reading of the Dainik Samayik Prasanga , a local daily, inside the university campus. Students and journalists claim that the conduct of the university authorities is, to say the least, authoritarian and undemocratic.

The students’ protest was reportedly peaceful and the demonstration for adequate sanitation, drinking water and other basic amenities not only reasonable, but the demand very urgent. The state government must take all necessary steps to guarantee the freedom of opinion and expression of the students and the journalists and also ensure their personal safety. The police must immediately record the statements of the victims and other witnesses in the incident without further delay, a legal requirement that they have not undertaken so far. Should there be any request from the victims for protection against further threat, the police must provide the same.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The information reveals a prima facie case of offences of ‘voluntarily causing grievous hurt’, ‘theft of equipments’ and ‘criminal intimidation’. This constitutes offenses under Sections 351, 378, 425, 503, 506 read with Sections 34 and 35 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities listed below asking them to intervene in the case immediately.

The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression seeking an intervention in the case.

To support this appeal, please click here

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: The assault upon journalists by the Assam University staff must be investigated

Name of victim(s):

1. Mr. Samin Sen Deka, aged about 40 years, Silchar News Burea of News Time Assam residing at the Jail Road near Normal School, Silchar, Assam

2. Mr. Bibhuti Mazumdar of NE TV, Silchar Correspondent residing at Khatal Road, Silchar, Assam

3. Mr. Anath Bandhu Nandi, cameraman of Dy 365 resident of Radamadau Road, Silchar, Assam

4. Mr. Paplu Das, Silchar News Burea of Frontier TV News, a resident of Nikunja Bhavan, opposite Durgasankar Patsala, Ambicapatty, Silchar, Assam

5. Mr. Anupam Mandal, Cameraman of Frontier TV News, a resident of Nataji Sarani, Batartal, Meherpur, Silchar, Assam

Names of alleged perpetrators:

1. Mr. Manabendra Dutta Choudhury, Proctor, Assam University, Silchar, Dargakona, Cachar, Assam

2. Mr. Ramendra Bhattacharjee, Dean, Students’ Welfare, Assam University, Silchar, Dargakona, Cachar, Assam

3. Security guards of Assam University, Silchar, Dargakona, Cachar, Assam

Date of incident: 25 February 2011

Place of incident: Assam University Campus, Silchar, Assam state

I am writing to voice my concern regarding the assault upon journalists on 25 February 2011 in Assam state. This incident occurred at the Assam University campus in Silchar. It is reported that the Proctor of the university, Mr. Manabendra Dutta Choudhury, Dean of Students’ Welfare, Mr. Ramendra Bhattacharjee, and the university security guards are responsible for the incident.

I am informed that the students were staging peaceful protest and demonstration demanding adequate sanitary facilities, regular supply of drinking water and other basic amenities at the university premises. Mr. Ratan Das, General Secretary of the Assam University Students’ Council alleged that the drinking water crisis in the hostel is acute since a long time including the scarcity of toilets. And students had been demanding immediate uninterrupted water supply at the hostel for several months now.

The journalists were reporting news concerning the protest at the time they were attached. I am informed that at about half past noon the proctor of the University and the Dean of Social Welfare arrived at the campus while the scribes were reporting the news concerning the protest using their laptops and other communication equipments from the campus.

I am informed that the proctor started shouting abuse at the journalists and demanded them to stop reporting about the protest. The journalists reportedly tried to talk to the proctor but the proctor lost his temper and started assaulting them. The security guards accompanying the proctor and dean also joined the proctor in the assault. It is reported that they destroyed laptops, cameras and other communication equipments of the journalists.

I am informed that a group of agitating students rescued the injured journalists, namely Mr. Samin Sen Deka of News Time Assam, Mr. Anath Bandhu Nandi of DY 365, Mr. Paplu Das and Mr. Anupam Mandal of Frontier TV News

and Mr. Bibhuti Majumdar of NE TV. Amongst the injured scribes, Mr. Samin was sent to the Silchar Medical College and Hospital (SMCH) due to the serious nature of his injury and four others were treated at the primary health centre inside the university campus.

One of the injured journalists, Mr. Anath Bandhu Nandi, alleged that Mr. Choudhury first kicked at a laptop and then the guards jumped on them. At the behest of the proctor and the Dean, the security guards kicked, punched and beat the journalists with sticks. Thereafter, they snatched laptops and cameras and other equipments from the journalists and destroyed them.

It is reported that the journalists have filed a complaint at Silchar Sadar Police Station, which is registered as Silchar PS Case No. 285/11. I am informed that the accused Mr. Choudhury refused to make any comment regarding the assault of the media-persons while contacted for his version.

It is also reported that the university authorities did not allow the distribution and reading of the Dainik Samayik Prasanga, a local daily, inside the university campus since the incident. It seems that the university authorities are behaving as if they are law unto themselves. The students’ protest was reportedly peaceful and the demonstration for adequate sanitation, drinking water and other basic amenities are not only reasonable, but the demand very urgent. The state government must take all necessary steps to guarantee the freedom of opinion and expression of the students and the journalists and also ensure their personal safety. The police must immediately record the statements of the victims and other witnesses in the incident without further delay, a legal requirement that they have not undertaken so far. Should there be any request from the victims for protection against further threat, the police must provide the same.

I am informed that the incident amounts to crimes of various natures like ‘voluntarily causing grievous hurt’, ‘theft of equipments’ and ‘criminal intimidation’. This constitutes offenses under Sections 351, 378, 425, 503, 506 read with Sections 34 and 35 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

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

1. The police must immediately record the statement of the victims;

2. The state government takes all necessary steps to guarantee the freedom of opinion and expression within the state and guarantee the personal safety of the journalists involved in the incident;

3. That the police investigate the case without any further delay;

4. The statements of other witnesses to the incident recorded by the police without any further delay.

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. Ms. Ambika Soni
Minister of Information and Broadcasting
Room No 560, A Wing Shastri Bhawan
Dr Rajendra Prasad Road, New Delhi-110001
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2379 5053
Email: mib.inb@gmail.com

3. Director General of Police
Assam, Ulubari
Guwahati-7, Assam
INDIA

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

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme

Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia )

Send an appeal letter now

See the Ungent Appeal at the AHRC website:

http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAC-071-2011

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