Urgent appeal regarding abuse and threats received by human rights defender Bondita Acharya

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee forwards this Urgent Appeal issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission regarding gross abuse and serious threats received by human rights defender Bondita Acharya:

INDIA: Assamese Human Rights Defender Bondita Acharya violently threatened on social media.

 

April 19, 2017

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-023-2017

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19 April 2017
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INDIA: Assamese Human Rights Defender Bondita Acharya violently threatened on social media.
ISSUES: Cyber Abuse, Cow Slaughter, Freedom of Speech and Expression
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Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing about the death threats, rape threats and other abusive messages received by renowned Human Rights Defender, Bondita Acharya, in Assam. She shared her thoughts on a social platform in Jorhat, condemning the arrest of three people for the possession of beef.

CASE NARRATIVE:

On April 4th, three people were arrested by the police in Johrat, Assam. A complaint was made by the local BJP leader Mridupawan Bora. He accused them of offending religious sentiments, because they were in possession of 500 grams of beef meant for consumption. Since one was a minor, the other two were arrested and charged under Section 295 (a) of the IPC and the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950 (hereinafter the Act).

According to MASUM, our partner organisation, Bondita Acharya posted her comments on the incident on a social media website on 6th April 2017. Reports state that she had commented that even people from higher castes of the Hindu community eat beef in the state and it was not just Muslims who consumed beef. This angered some people. She received death threats, rape threats, threats of acid attacks and sexually abusive comments. All this for condemning the arrest of three people, and expressing her views on the matter of beef consumption in the state.

On April 9, Acharya filed a complaint with the Superintendent of Police at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Guwahati. She attached screenshots of comments made against her on social media. AHRC has been given access to these by MASUM. Reportedly no action has been taken on her complaint to date. According to a statement issued by ‘Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression’ (WSS) of which Acharya is a member, the Bajrang Dal has issued a press release demanding a public apology from her for her criticism of the arrests.

BACKGROUND

According to the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950, under which the three were arrested, cattle slaughter is allowed only under certain conditions. As per Ss. 5 and 6 of the Act, cattle cannot be slaughtered unless a certificate in writing from the Veterinary Officer is obtained for the purpose. Nowhere does the Act state that possession or consumption of beef is criminal or prohibited.

It is becoming increasingly common for people to take refuge in the anonymity and assumed safety offered by the Internet. It allows them to make violent threats and abusive comments, especially against women, on social media platforms. Recently, the young activist, Gurmehar Kaur, was at the receiving end of similar vitriol for sharing her views on the India-Pakistan impasse. In this case, Acharya has also been subject to terrible abuse online. And this is simply because she stated what she feels with respect to beef consumption habits in Assam and the North East. The police must ensure that crimes of this nature are swiftly investigated, utilising the best technology and skills available and prevent religious fundamentalists from having an upper hand.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Bondita Acharya is a human rights defender from Assam, in north-eastern India, and a member of Women in Governance (WinG) Assam. She is also the Northeast coordinator of Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA) and a member of the network Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS).


SUGGESTED ACTION

Please write to the following authorities requesting that Ms. Acharya and her team are provided protection and her complaint is registered and enquired into speedily by the investigating agencies.

The AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michael Forst, urging his intervention in this matter.

To support this case, please click here:

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SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ………………..,

INDIA: Assamese Human Rights Defender Bondita Acharya violently threatened on social media.

Name of Victim: Bondita Acharya, Human Rights Defender in Assam
Name of Alleged Perpetrators: Members of a Social Media Platform
Date of incident: 9/10 April, 2017
Place of Incident: Johrat, Assam

I am writing to you to voice my deep concern about the death threats and rape threats and sexually explicit abuse received by Bondita Acharya, Human Rights Defender. She received all this on a social media platform for expressing her views on the consumption of beef by Hindus and commenting on the arrest of 3 persons for the same.


On April 4th, three people were arrested by the police in Johrat, Assam after a complaint was made by the local BJP leader Mridupawan Bora. They were accused of offending the religious sentiments of the people, because they were in possession of 500 grams of beef meant for consumption. Since one was a minor, the other two were arrested and charged under Section 295 (a) of the IPC and the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950 (hereinafter the Act).

According to MASUM, AHRC’s partner organisation, Bondita Acharya posted her comments on the incident on a social media website on 6th April 2017. Reports state that she had commented that even people from higher castes of the Hindu community eat beef in the state and it was not just Muslims who consumed beef. This angered some people. She received death threats, rape threats, threats of acid attack and sexually abusive comments on social media. All this for condemning the arrest of three people, and expressing her views on the matter of beef consumption in the state.

On April 9, Acharya filed a complaint with the Superintendent of Police at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Guwahati. She attached screenshots of the comments made against her on social media. AHRC has been given access to these by MASUM. Reportedly no action has been taken on her complaint to date. According to a statement issued by ‘Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression’ (WSS) of which Acharya is a member, the Bajrang Dal has issued a press release demanding a public apology from her for her criticism of the arrests.

According to the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950, under which the three were arrested, cattle slaughter is allowed only under certain conditions. As per Ss. 5 and 6 of the Act, cattle cannot be slaughtered unless a certificate in writing from the Veterinary Officer is obtained for the purpose. Nowhere does the Act state that possession or consumption of beef is criminal or prohibited.

It is becoming increasingly common for people to take refuge in the anonymity and assumed safety offered by the Internet. It allows them to make violent threats and abusive comments against women on social media platforms. Recently, the young activist, Gurmehar Kaur was at the receiving end of similar vitriol for sharing her views on the India-Pakistan impasse. In this case, Acharya too has been subject to terrible abuse online simply because she stated what she feels with respect to beef consumption habits in Assam and the North East. The police must ensure that crimes of this nature are swiftly investigated, utilising the best technology and skills available.

A little about Bondita Acharya – she is a human rights defender from Assam, in north eastern India, and a member of Women in Governance (WinG) Assam. She is also the Northeast coordinator of Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA) and a member of the network Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS).

I therefore request you to ensure that:


• Ms. Acharya’s complaint is registered and swiftly investigated to bring the perpetrators to book for the cyber abuse

• The safety and security of Acharya and her team are ensured by providing her with protection
• Investigate into the case of the 3 people arrested for cow slaughter as they were allegedly merely in possession of beef and that is not a criminal act as per the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950

I look forward to your prompt action in this matter.

Yours sincerely,

______________

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Justice H.L. Dattu, Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Manav Adhikar Bhawan
Block-C, G.P.O. Complex, INA
New Delhi-110023
Email:cr.nhrc@nic.in

2. Shri. Mukesh Sahay
Director General of Police (Assam)
Ph: 03612450555
Email id: dgp@assampolice.gov.in

3. Shri. R Chandranathan
ADGP, CID, Assam
Email: : adgp-cid@assampolice.gov.in / ssp-cid@assampolice.com

4. Shri. RP Meena
IGP (Special Branch) , Jorhat, Assam
Ph: +91 96549 58803
Email id: igp-security@assampolice.gov.in

5. Michael Forst
UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Palais Wilson
United Nations Office at Geneva
CH 1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
Email: urgent-action@ohchr.org

Thank you.

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

 

 

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