Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) organised a local consultation on human rights situation in Barak valley in Silchar (Assam) as part of celebration of 64th international human rights day. The programme started on 1:30 P.M. in the hall of Madhyasahar Sanskritik Samiti. Lawyers, journalists, academics, social activists as well as human rights defenders from different parts of the valley participated the deliberation upon 5 selected topics.
The presentation of a topic by an expert followed by threadbare and in-depth discussion of different angle. Efforts were made to understand the situation and find out ways to deal with it effectively. Mr. Nirmal Bin, a tea garden labourer of Bhuvan Valley Tea Estate, elaborated the human rights situation in the tea gardens with particular reference to the situation in Bhuvan Valley. He stated that labourers are suffering from inadequacy of livelihood support in terms of wages and other benefit due to the under the law. The various facilities provided by the schemes like Integrated Child Development Scheme, National Rural Health Mission etc are just for namesake. He also added that labourers are unable to get the benefits of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, and therefore, the whole situation is horrible in the Estate. Mr. Sujit Das, a social activist working in the tea garden, added that various exploitative systems prevail in garden and hence in every tea garden situation is more or less the same. Scial activist Mr Nirmal Kumar Das, journalsit Mr. Pijush Kanti Das and others took part in deliberation on the situation of human rights in tea gardens. Mr. Pujus Kanti Das claimed that the Plantation Labour Act is itself very defective and implementation of its provisions is conspicuously absent. He said that out of 106 gardens in Barak valley 97 are active, and only 7 active gardens have engaged Labour Officers. He also added that the welfare Officers in the garden are working as Asstt. Manager in many gardens. In this situation how we can expect the overall welfare of the gardens?
Mr. Sahidul Hoque Laskar, General Secretary of Kishan Bikash Samiti, a voluntary organisation working in rural areas in Cachar district, initiated discussions on the rules and regulation of the ICDS with a brief presentation on the situation where he indicated how much violations of rights is going on by breaching the rules and regulation of the ICDS project. He said that the social welfare department of Assam government is a dead department. He presented data relating to Banskandi Development Block area that shows how the officials and their non-official collaborators are making huge money. As an example he cited the discrepency in population data in the area. According to him, they manufactured in the papers approximately 50,000 (fifty thousand) fake population through overlapping population under Banskandi, Lakhipur and Rajabazar ICDS projects. He also claimed that the Mid Day Meal of the students in most cases is not distributed properly in the valley. He further said that the officers are violating the Right to Information Act by not providing information sought by him. Participation in the discussions, Mr. Sabbir Ahmed Choudhury, a professor at MCD College, Sonai advised for filing suit in appropriate court. Mr. Mrinal Kanti Shome, Mr Jishnu Dutta of SAFE, Mr. Nirmal Kumar Das and others also participated in the discussion. They pointed out various provisions of ICDS such as nutrition of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating mothers and remarked that nowhere in Barak valley the same is provided to the beneficiaries. They also cited various examples of forming fake committees who are supposed to supervise the distributing system.
Mr. Nirmal Kumar Das, Secretary, Asom Majuri Sramik Union, initiated discussions on MGNREGS. He said that various provisions like drinking water, rest shed, crèche for children are not provided in this valley. He added that the schemes are implemented without convening Gaon Sobhas properly. Mr Mrinal Kanti Shome, Mr. Sahidul Hoque Laskar and many others supplemented his presentation. Mr. Neharul Ahmed Mazumder of BHRPC said that the attitude and consciousness level of labourers should also be developed through awareness campaign. The participants blamed the officers for their negligence on monitoring.
Mr. Mrinal Kanti Shome, Cachar district secretary of Asom Mojuri Sramik Union spoke on the Public Distribution System (PDS). He contented that the people are divided into various strata by the various schemes. He told that there are many fake ration cards issued in Barak Valley. He also added that on the one side, 5,12,000 people are starving and on other side crores of tonnes of undistributed food grains are rotting. Mr Partha Pratim Paul, professor in the Department of Law, Assam University added that the implementation of various government schemes is necessary. He also stated that the distribution of food grains in Tea Estates are not done properly due to lack of awareness. Mr. Pijush Kanti Das, Mr. Nirmal Kumar Das, Dilip Kumar Singh, Sabir Ahmed Choudhury and others also participated in the discussion. The issue of looting and black marketeering of Kerosine Oil, Iodised salt and other materials which are shiponed off the market were also discussed.
Before lunch break Bengali version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was distributed among the participants. After lunch the consultation started again.
Ms Rumi Dhar, professor of Law Department, Assam University spoke on domestic violence and sexual harassment at work place. She discussed various aspects of the legal provisions including 498A of IPC, Vishaka guidelines etc. Mr. Jishnu Dutta, Mr. Sibajyoti Choudhury, Advocate, District Bar Association, Silchar and other focused on the misuse of the section of 498A and spoke for the protection of the male victims. On this a heated argument broke out. Ms Tania Laskar, student of law, Assam University, Nasim Aktar Mazumder, a teacher of JNV, vehemently opposed the view. Mr Imad Uddin Bulbul, advocate and many others took active part in this arguments. Mr Neharul Ahmed Mazumder intervened and said that misuse of law is not entirely confined to 498A, other sections like 302, 379 etc. are also misused by police. It is primarily because police are responsible for investigation. The abuse of this section is largely due to this fact and not entirely for any flaws in the wording of the law. Mr. Sadique Mahammed Laskar, joint secretary, BHRPC also commented. He opined that every where the misuse of legal provisions are occurring and the main reasons is the attitude of the implementing authorities, lack of awareness among the victims and the long history of victimisation of the female members of the society. He added that though the North East Indian region has a different social system, still in traditions, customs and other social practices there are plenty of examples of victimisation of the women.
Mr. Neharul Ahmed Mazumder, the Secretary General of BHRPC spoke on human rights violations by police and armed forces. He pointed out the various important provisions of the case of Prakash Singh & others Vs. Union of India and others which is also known as police reform case. He also added how Assam passed the Police Act, 2007 by bypassing and also defeating the Suppreme Court’s directions in the police reform case. He pointed out the loopholes of the Assam Police Act, 2007. He added that in Assam Police are not accountable to law but they are accountable to politicians. He suggested that the Assam Police Act, 2007 must be re-framed as per guidelines of the case of Prakash Singh and others Vs. Union of India and others. He further demanded that the draconian laws like the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) must be repeal. This kind of inhuman law is prevailing in Barak valley even against the logic of the state. According to him the area is by no means a disturbed area in any meaning of the term. Mr. Nirmal Kumar Das, Mr. Herajit Singha and others cited various cases of fake encounters, arbitrary detention, torture by state police and the armed forces of the union of India in Barak valley. The renowned human rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila’s name came to fore and her epic struggle is cited a source of inspiration for human rights defenders to fight against the human rights violations in the name of state security that negates the human security.
In the last segment, Mr. Sadique Mohammed Laskar presented an overview of the discussion and Advocate Mr Imad Uddin Bulbul and Mr. Abid Raja Mazumder, Ex-Principal of Nehru College, Pailapool also spoke. After the vote of thanks the consultation ended.
Neharul Ahmed Mazumder
Barak Human Rights Protection Committee
Dated 12 December, 2012