Archive for the ‘Violation Cases’ Category

FACTS FINDING REPORT ON RAJNIKHAL EVICTION IN DHOLAI AREA OF CACHAR DISTRICT

June 28, 2019

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The temporary tin-shade where the affected families presently staying.(image captured by Neharul Ahmed Mazumder)

This is a report based on a fact-finding visit to Rajhnikhal village where 80 famalies are left shelterless due to sudden and  inhuman  eviction by the Forest Department conducted by BHRPC team consisting of Mrs. Swapna Bhattacharjee, Mr. Nirmal Kumar Das, Mr. Dipankar Chanda, Mr. Neharul Ahmed Mazumder, Mr. Rofie  Ahmed and Miss. Taniya Sultana Laskar.

It was just after the Eid-ul-fitoor was celebrated in the  valley a shocking video of an eviction drive carried out in a Rajnikhal village under Dholai Constituency of Cachar District went viral in the social media. The local news papers also published stories on that during the following days. After coming across the news news BHRPC formed a facts finding team and visited Rajnikhal on 18/06/19 afternoon.

THE INCIDENT

Rajnikhal village is located in an interior area, almost 35 kilometers away along the NH 54 (old) NH no. 306 (new)  from Silchar Town under Narshingpur Block of Dholai Constituency in Cachar District. According to the District Census Handbook published by the Directorate of Census Operation, Assam, the Permanent Location Code Number of Rajnikhal village is  299636 in the Census of 2011.  The same census also informs that the said Rajhnikhal village has a population of 412 person containing in 83 households. According to that same survey it has 0 forest areas and 3.4 uncultivated land. All the inhabitants of that village belong to Muslim community and from Other Backward Class. They basically live upon the agriculture and related sources like fishing, farming, poultry and animal husbandry. But the villagers got a notice on 21/05/2019 to leave the village within 7 days issued by the Local Forest In-charge, Hawaitang range or steps will be taken against them. Seeing the notice there was a big hue and cry in the village. The inhabitants of the village like Lekoi Mia, Ynus Ali, etc started running pillar to post with the request to suspend the notice. They met every political representative of the area to save the roof above the heads of their children but no results.

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The house of Mr. Anam Uddin(41years) and Mrs. Saleha Begum(35years) seen in the picture with their 10 years old son Faruk Hussain . (Image captured by Neharul Ahmed Mazumder.)

On 06/06/ 2019 around 250 people from the forest department came armored with 11 elephants and almost 500  para-military force and forcibly demolished their houses including the village masque and school, perished their crops and vegetable gardens, cut almost all the fruit trees including thousands of battle nuts trees which resulted in almost full abrogation of their source of income. The demolition process started from 9 am and the forces left the village at around 3 p.m at the afternoon.  They left penniless and now leaving under a tinshade a little away from the village with their family including infants and children. One person namely Jitendra Koiri allowed them to stay temporarily in his piece of land. In this rainy season these people are in a really helpless and vulnerable situation.

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 Behind is the house constructed under Indira Awas Yojuna owned by late Mazammil Ali. Front house is a kachha house owned by Mr. Ala Uddin .His mother Razibun Nessa(62years) and his son Solman Uddin can be seen in the photo captured by Neharul Ahmed Mazumder.

Our team found that almost all the houses of the village were demolished including 11  Indira Awas and PM awas houses. “We are paying the Gaon Panchayet taxes regularly. We didn’t have to obtain any kind of NOC from the Forest to obtain the indira awas houses or any other government aid. Then, why this sudden eviction” asked Yunus Ali with tears in his eyes. Four pakka well which were constructed under the MNREGA scheme were also demolished that day. The Shongjogi Sikhsa Kendra established in the village by the government was also demolished which is in violation of the right to education of the children belonging to the village.  We have interviewed 9 pregnant women in the village who are exposed to serious health risk due to the eviction. In this crucial stage of their life they are leaving without a roof upon their head and eating kichdri  once in a day. The names of those women are:-

  • Najma Begum, W/o- Rashid Ahmed.
  • Sahanara Begum, W/o- Yasin Ali.
  • Abjana Begum, W/o- Ramij Uddin.
  • Rumi Begum W/o- Najrul Hussain.
  • Reksona Begum,W/o- Misba Uddin.
  • Anjona Begum, W/o- Ali Hussain Laskar.
  • Mumina Begum, W/o- Nur Uddin,
  • Afsana Begum,W/o- Gias Uddin.
  • Rustana Begum, W/o- Ajmal Uddin.

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An image of the preparation of meal for that day captured by Taniya Sultana Laskar.

There are almost 150 children who stopped going to the school since their school is demolished and now occupied by some of the sheterless families. The families also lost major portion of their source of income and now in risk of disease caused by starvation and malnutrition. There are 7 children including one especially able child namely Salman Ahmed S/o- Sultan Ahmed who have some chronic diseases like Astama, and who are exposed to a bigger health risk. The women in general are in risk of sanitation and menstruation related disease.

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Hafiza Begum is a 3 year old girl suffering from severe asthma sleeping in a floor prepared with bamboo.  

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A pillar bearing  signboard of a MNREGA work done in the village (image captured by Neharul Ahmed Mazumder)

FINDINGS:-

From the above findings, it is clear that:-

  1. The demolition was prima facie illegal as no adequate notice had been provided.The villagers alleged that the village is not at all a forest village or situated in forest land.  
  2. Undue excessive force was deployed to carry out the demolitions.
  3. The forced eviction which has rendered thousands homeless constitutes violation of the Supreme Court judgments which uphold that the right to shelter as a constituent of the fundamental right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the constitution.
  4. The demolition has affected access to education of the children in the village and constitutes gross violation of fundamental right to education of the children.

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A girl namely Rushnu Begum affected with some unknown diseases. 

(Image captured by Taniya Sultana Laskar)

RECOMMENDATIONS:-

  1. An inquiry procedure should be drawn against forest personnel who used undue force against the residents and suppressed their rightful expressions of dissent.
  2. The Forest Department should compensate the people for the economic losses incurred by them due to this illegal demolition of their property and reinstate them as soon as possible.
  3.  The authorities should carry out a survey of the residents in the village along with the participation of people and draw a plan for rehabilitating and housing.
  4.  Sincere attempts need to be made to reconcile the right to shelter of the people with environmental concerns.
  5. A minimum needs scheme should be prepared and allotment of land should be done for all landless people of the country.

 

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Supreme Court remarks on illegal detention fly in face of India’s constitutional and international obligations: CHRI

May 5, 2019
Supreme Court of India. Photo The Hindu

Supreme Court of India. Image: The Hindu

New Delhi, May 1

The Supreme Court needs to reaffirm India’s constitutional and international obligations to rights on complex issues of nationality, detention and deportation and not be unmindful of its own commitment to these duties, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has urged.

The following is the text of the statement, issued today, and signed by a group of eminent citizens including former Supreme Court Justice Madan Lokur, Wajahat Habibullah, CHRI’s Chair and former Chief Information Commissioner, Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, and a number of senior former officials and civil society leaders:

As concerned citizens, we look to the Supreme Court to reaffirm India’s constitutional and international obligations to rights on sensitive issues.  That is why we are disappointed by recent statements by the Chief Justice of India on a complex matter relating to illegal detention and deportation, without heeding India’s own constitutional and international obligations.

While advocating greater detention of suspected ‘foreigners’, the Chief Justice brushed aside the Assam Chief Secretary with a stinging admonition for proposing a methodology for the release of a handful of foreign prisoners who had been in detention beyond their term of sentence for illegal entry. This was especially of concern for the case concerned the wilful violation of the human rights of hundreds of detainees who were languishing in what the court itself accepts are “inhuman conditions”.

We regard these remarks as unfortunate.

Article 21 is very clear in its intent, ambit and process. It binds all duty-holders and citizens with the ringing affirmation that no person in India (and we emphasize that there no special privileges here for Indian citizens) can be deprived of her/his right to life and liberty without due process.

NRC

NRC Official Logo

There is no deportation agreement with Bangladesh. International law lays down that such deportations can take place only with the consent of the country of origin. Bangladesh has consistently refused to accept that its citizens migrate in large numbers to India. Indeed, Bangladesh regards such unilateral efforts as harmful to a bilateral relationship that is critical for the security and stability of both countries and especially of our eastern region.

We cannot place ourselves in a situation where we are seen as forcing people out at gunpoint; it would be ethically unjust, wrong in law and draw international condemnation.

We are acutely sensitive to concerns in Assam and other parts of the North-east and across the country about the problem of illegal migration from Bangladesh, a long-standing issue that has defied official proclamations and pledges of “push back”, “deportation” and “detection”.

Whatever methods are used they must be undertaken within the rule of law frame, be just and fair and designed to minimise individual hardship and tragedy. We believe there is a need that this is a tragedy of growing intensity which is gathering momentum as a result of the current National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam.

Accounts from Assam indicate that often arbitrariness not rule of law is used to define those who have come post-1971 from Bangladesh (of whatever religious denomination) and those who are Indian nationals.

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People submitting NRC applications, Photo: Sabrang India

Lakhs are in limbo and now fear that they may become “stateless” because of a process that is mired in a mix of complexity, confusion, lack of precision and prejudice.

Many of those at risk are from the bottom of the economic pyramid, unable to sustain the complex adjudication process needed to establish their citizenship. Large numbers are already in detention camps.

Although the Supreme Court mandated deadline for a ‘final’ list is July 2019, we understand that not less than 38 lakh persons out of the 40 lakh (four million) who had found themselves off the NRC last year have filed applications for inclusion.  Such a huge number of requests cannot be processed in two months and we urge that this not be hurried as the consequences are too devastating to contemplate. The efforts need to be steady and methodical so that the charges of arbitrariness, prejudice and poor record keeping, which have plagued the NRC process, do not stick.

It must be pointed out here that India is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in which its representatives played a stellar part in developing the language that all of us are familiar with in regard to equality, non-discrimination and gender.  Our international commitments are clear as to the rights of people affected in such situations.

It would also be unacceptable if any Indian of any religious denomination is harmed by negligence, wilful prejudice, wrongful confinement and prosecution.

Failure to address this critical situation adequately and justly would be seen internationally as a gross violation of human rights and a blot on India’s traditional record.  What is also of concern to us are social fault lines that could be exacerbated by insensitive handling that could leave many people desperate, particularly youth, with the potential of radicalization.

As concerned citizens, we appeal to the judicial system and the government to explore a solution that addresses the human dimension. The situation in Assam and inter alia other parts of the North-east represent unprecedented challenges and conditions that cannot be resolved by application of a routine legal framework which is designed to deal with individual cases.

Wajahat Habibullah, Chairperson, CHRI

Members:
Justice Madan Lokur

Justice AP Shah

Ms. Vineeta Rai (IAS, retd, former Revenue Secretary  to the Government of India)

Nitin Desai, former Under Secretary, United Nations)

Jacob Punnoose (IPS, retd)

Poonam Muttreja (Member, Executive Committee, CHRI)

Kamal Kumar (IPS, retd)

Ms. Maja Daruwala (Adviser, CHRI)

Jayanto N. Choudhury (IPS, retd)

Dr. BK Chandrashekar (ex MLC, Karnataka)

Sanjoy Hazarika (International Director)

——————————————————————————————————————The statement is a verbatim reproduction from CHRI website at http://www.humanrightsinitiative.org/press-releases/supreme-court-remarks-on-illegal-detention-fly-in-face-of-indias-constitutional-and-international-obligations-chri

UN questions ‘statelessness and disenfranchisement’ of ‘minority groups’ in Assam

September 26, 2018

Special Rapporteur’s report to UNGA highlights plight of Bengali Muslims

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The UN Special Rapporteur has once again raised the issue of possible statelessness of millions of people in Assam in wake of the exclusion of their names from the National Register of Citizens (NRC). This is part of a report titled Contemporary forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance that was presented before the UN General Assembly.

The 22 page report condemns “nationalist populism that advances exclusionary or repressive practices” and addresses “ascendant nationalist populist ideologies and strategies that pose a sobering threat to racial equality by fueling discrimination.”

Over 4 million people have been left out of the NRC final draft! Most of them belong to socio-economically backward communities and live in rural areas. Many of them are women and children!

On the subject of the exclusion of minorities from the NRC in Assam, the report says,

Nationalist populist parties in other places have implemented administrative and other rules leading to the exclusion of minority groups from official citizen registries on the basis of claims that they are irregular migrants, notwithstanding evidence showing that they are entitled to citizenship. This in turn has led to statelessness, disenfranchisement and increased vulnerability to discrimination, including the denial of basic rights and access to public services such as health and education.

In May 2018, the Special Rapporteur addressed a letter to the Government of India concerning the updating of the National Register of Citizens, a process governed by local authorities in the state of Assam. The letter drew attention to the heightened concerns of the Bengali Muslim minority, who have historically been portrayed as foreigners despite having lived in India for generations, even preceding the colonial era. Since 1997, the Election Commission of India has arbitrarily identified a large number of Bengali people as so – called “doubtful or disputed voters”, resulting in their further disenfranchisement and the loss of entitlements to social protection as Indian citizens.

While many have affirmed that the updating process is generally committed to retaining Indian citizens on the National Register of Citizens, concerned parties fear that local authorities in Assam, who are deemed to be particularly hostile towards Muslims and people of Bengali descent, may manipulate the verification system in an attempt to exclude many genuine Indian citizens from the updated Register.”

The entire report may be read here.

This is the second time the UN has taken cognizance of the humanitarian crisis in Assam. In May 2018, in a letter to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, four UN Special Rapporteurs had said,

It is alleged that the Tribunals have been declaring large numbers of Bengali Muslims in Assam as foreigners, resulting in statelessness and risk of detention. Finally, it is alleged that the potential discriminatory effects of the updated NRC should be seen in light of the history of discrimination and violence faced by Muslims of Bengali origin due to their status as ethnic, religious and linguistic minority and their perceived foreignness. Although the Bengali origin Muslims in Assam descend from peasant workers brought from the former Bengal and East Bengal starting in the 19th century under colonial rule, they have long been portrayed as irregular migrants. As a result of this rhetoric, Bengali Muslims have historically been the target of various human rights violations, including forced displacement, arbitrary expulsions and killings.”

In light of this, it is clear that the NRC issue is under the UN scanner and that given the international scrutiny it will not be easy for divisive forces to function with impunity much longer.

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(The story was first published in CJP and is available at https://cjp.org.in/un-questions-statelessness-and-disenfranchisement-of-minority-groups-in-assam/, this is only a reproduction.)

Urgent appeal: Include the excluded people in the citizens’ register (NRC) for Assam, India

August 6, 2018

On 30 July 2018 the Government of India published a draft register of citizens residing in the state of Assam. This draft register admittedly excluded more than four million people who submitted applications for inclusion of their names. These four million people are at the risk of being rendered stateless.

People waiting to check their names in first draft of NRC publish on 31st December 2017

People waiting to check their names in first draft of NRC publish on 31st December 2017 (Photo: thehindiu.com)

Please sign the petition here

The main reasons for exclusion of such a large number of people include:

  1. Having no acceptable documents of pre-1971 as is required for inclusion.
  2. Having no acceptable documents to establish relationship with an ancestor who has a pre-1971 document.
  3. Non-acceptance of otherwise valid documents like school certificates and certificates of birth given by hospitals etc.
  4. Failure to verify submitted documents by the authorities.
  5. Non-acceptance of oral evidence.
  6. Not having an opportunity to establish citizenship by birth under section 3 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 by producing birth certificate or other admissible evidence of birth in India within the period specified.
  7. Non-application of subsection 7 (a) of section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  8. Non-application of Proviso to section 2 of the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950.
  9. Little or no application of Sub-paragraph 3 of Paragraph 3 of the Schedule titled Special Provision as to Manner of Preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens in State of Assam framed under Rule 4A of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 in certain areas including South Assam and West Assam. And so on.

However, there is still a window of Claims, Objections and Corrections which will start and applications from the excluded applicants will be accepted from 30 August 2018 to 28 September 2018. The disposal period and procedure are yet to be notified.

Many of the people who are at risk of being rendered stateless can be saved and included in the register if the procedure of dealing with, and disposing of, the applications are formulated keeping in mind the humanitarian aspect of the process.

Please sign the petition here

In view of this it is suggested that the following points should be considered while framing Modalities in the Form of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP):

  1. Claims:

(1) At the minimum, six months’ time should be given for submitting applications for claims. Otherwise, a lot of people who have their origin in other states outside Assam or who work as migrant labourers in other states or abroad will be grossly prejudiced.

(2) An opportunity to establish citizenship by birth under section 3 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 by producing birth certificate or other admissible evidence of birth in India within the period specified should be given to the applicants.

(3) An opportunity should also be given to the applicants to establish citizenship before 7 December 1985 being the date on which Act 65 of 1985 that incorporated section 6A in the Citizenship Act, 1955 came into effect since as per subsection 7 of section 6A the provisions of section 6A is not applicable to them.

(4) The persons to whom Proviso to Section 2 of the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950 applies should be included in the NRC on the basis of direct or circumstantial evidence.

(5) While considering Claims applications, Sub-paragraph 3 of Paragraph 3 of the Schedule titled Special Provision as to Manner of Preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens in State of Assam framed under Rule 4A of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 should be applied in appropriate cases. One of the reasons for exclusion of such a large number of people is little or non-application of this provision in districts of Barak valley and West Assam. There were people inhabiting in the area now under the 3 districts of the valley for centuries before it was annexed to the British domain by the East India Company and later joined with Assam.

(6) Those minor children whose parent/s is/are included in the final draft but who themselves are excluded from the list due to defects in link documents should be included on the basis of oral evidence or they should be given an opportunity to obtain other documents including birth certificate without hassles. Otherwise, it would be absurd to think that such children emigrated from Bangladesh leaving their parents behind.

(7) In case of married women certificate issued by Panchayat secretaries should be accepted as a link document. Such certificates have been allowed in case of married women after a lot of consideration by the Hon’ble Supreme Court because there is a possibility that no other documents will be available for them. Supporting oral evidence should also be admitted in such cases.

(8) Where the applicants fail to prove link with accepted legacy person by producing prescribed documents but insist on the relationship, they should be given an opportunity to prove the claimed linkage by DNA test conducted outside Assam at the state expense.

(9) No original application or claims application should be rejected on the ground that the documents submitted could not be verified. Their cases may be kept on hold until verification is done. Verification is the responsibility of the state.

(10) Any valid document establishing relationship with the legacy person of the applicant including PAN and ADHAAR cards should not be rejected on the ground that pan card is issued after 2015 and ADHAAR card is not being issued in the state of Assam officially.

(11) Minor mismatches and discrepancies in names, addresses, ages and other details in the documents relied by the applicants should be ignored and the probative value of the documents should not be considered affected.

(12) Order rejecting original application or claims application should record reasons for such rejection in detail dealing with each ground separately.

  1. Objections:

(1) No objection application should be accepted unless the person objecting knows the person objected to personally and sets forth reasonable grounds for such objection in the application.

(2) The notice of hearing in case of an objection should clearly state the grounds of objections to enable the concerned person to prepare her rebuttal. Such notice should be served with all seriousness giving at least six months’ time personally by the local NRC Seva Kendra (NSK) officials. Unless there is an endorsement of the notice receiver, the service should not be treated as complete.

(3) Without giving an opportunity of cross-examination of objector no objection should be accepted.

  1. Corrections:

(1) Officials who know the language of the applicant well shall be entrusted with the task of correcting names and other details.

(2) There should be a separate system of transliteration in Bengali and other languages to avoid spelling errors in names and other details published in those languages.

Please sign the petition here

BHRPC condemns attack on Swami Agnivesh

July 20, 2018

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) is shocked and hurt by the reports of attempt of lynching on renowned human rights defender Swami Agnivesh allegedly by the Bharatya Janta Yuba Morcha at Pakur district of Jharkhand on last 17th July 2018.

BHRPC believes that the attack was done for silencing his strong voice towards justice and democracy. Swamiji, has been working for the downtrodden people peacefully for a decade.  His contribution towards emancipation of bonded labor is appreciated by the whole world.

Swami Agnivesh in a discussion of problems of tea labourers at Silchar, Assam

Swami Agnivesh in a discussion of problems of tea labourers at Silchar, Assam

BHRPC recalls that at its invitation Swamiji visited the starvation afflicted tea garden, namely Bhuvan valley tea estate in Cachar, Assam in 2014 where about 35 people died due to malnutrition and lack of basic health care. His visit and works on the issue helped the people to fight the situation and survive the crisis.

BHRPC cendemns this dastardly attack on the octogenarian human rights defender in the strongest terms and demands that the authorities should guarantee his security and well being and bring the attackers to justice at the earliest.

Assam: Abuse, threats, intimidation and false case against human rights defender, scholar and writer Prof. Tapodhir Bhattacharjee

July 9, 2018

Assam human rights defender and renowned literary theorist and litterateur of South Asia Mr. Tapodhir Bhattacharjee has been abused, threatened and booked for an article written by him exposing the discriminatory and arbitrary procedure of updating of National Register of Citizens (NRC).

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Prof. Tapodhir Bhattacharya

Please sign the petition HERE

Following the publication of an article in by Professor Tapodhir Bhattacharjee, on Tuesday 3rd July, 2018 in the “Aajkaal“, a leading Bengali daily news-paper published from Kolkata, West Bengal, titled “Assam e Bangalir Shoroshojja” meaning “Bengalis on a bed of thorns in Assam” pointing out the racist and anti-people aspects of ongoing updation process of National Register of Citizens in Assam, at first, a section of electronic as well as print media based in Guwahati including the Pratadin Times, News 18 Assam etc. and “Edinor Sangbad”, “Axomiya Pratidin” among the print media branded him as a conspirator against the Assamese community. Then on 8 July a complaint was filed for registering a false criminal case against him in Dispur Police Station purportedly under section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Mr Tapodhir Bhattacharjee is a renowned and award winning literary theorist and critic and exponent of the contemporary theory and comparative aesthetics. Along with it, he is an essayist, poet, story-writer and the editor of a widely circulated little magazine “Dwiralaap”. He is a dedicated Human Rights Defender and at present works as the President of the Citizens Rights Protection Co-ordination Committee(CRPCC). This organization has been working against arbitrary deprivation of citizenship rights of the citizens and against continuous enforced statelessness of people of Assam for a long time. He is also an honorary member of Barak Upottoka Bongo Shahitto O Sanskriti Sammelan (Barak Valley Bengali Literary and Cultural Association), a prestigious body of litterateurs and intellectuals of South Assam. He is also the former Vice-Chancellor of the Assam University, Silchar and Tagore Professor of Delhi University. His father late Mr. Tarapada Bhattacharya was a freedom fighter and a member of the Assam Legislative Assembly from Katigorah Constituency, Cachar. Both of his parents were teachers. His wife Mrs. Swapna Bhattacharya is also a renowned and award-winning story-writer. Defaming and intimidating a person of such a stature and popularity is designed to stop him from his constant work mainly through writing and raising awareness for protection of basic human rights of linguistic and ethnic minorities of Assam as well as other human rights defenders working on the issue of arbitrary deprivation of citizenship rights of people in Assam.

After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed governments both at centre in 2014 and in Assam state in 2016, one hundred more Foreigners Tribunals were set up and a large number of people including the indigenous people of Assam were served notices by these Tribunals and in many cases notices are not properly served and decisions are taken ex -parte declaring the person referred to in the case as a foreign national under a procedure that puts burden of proof on the suspect. After such decision, people are kept in detention centres indefinitely. Moreover, since the updation of National Register Citizens for Assam is going on in the state under a questionable procedure, a sense of helplessness and desperation have developed among the vulnerable groups of people to such an extent that at least ten people, including a man from indigenous Boro community and rest from people of Bengali origin, have committed suicide. More recently through a letter dated 11 June 2018 addressed to the Minister of External Affairs, Government of India, United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on minority issues, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary from of racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the Special Rapporteur on promotion and protection of right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief have expressed their concerns and asked for a report from the Government of India on the issue of discrimination faced by people of Bengali origin. In such a scenario the term “bed of thorns”, which is a metaphor taken from the Indian epic Mahabharata, appears to have been used in the post-editorial essay to denote this extremely stressful and uncertain situation prevailing in Assam as an outcome of discriminatory, arbitrary and irrational procedure adopted by the NRC authorities.

The complaint filed in Dispur Police Station is has invoked section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Section 153A provides punishment for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony and is non-bailable. The opinion piece penned by Mr. Bhattacharya does not by any stretch of imagination falls under any penal provisions of law, let alone section 153A, IPC. He critiqued the state policies and actions that are resulting in arbitrary deprivation of citizenship of a large number of citizens of India including people of indigenous communities through a procedure already questioned by the United Nations Special Rapporteurs. There is not a single word in his entire essay that is calculated to promote enmity between communities. Rather the write-up seeks to promote harmony between communities through promotion and protection of equal rights of people of all communities living in Assam. The speech in the article is well within the protection of Article 19 of the Constitution of India as well as Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966. And it does not fall under any of the eight items enumerated under Article 19(2).

His works as the president of CRPCC and member of other civil society organizations as well as in his individual capacity fall within the meaning of human rights works as contemplated under the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and as such he is also protected under the declaration as a human rights defender.

In this background it appears that the defamation, threats and the false complaint against Mr Tapodhir Bhattacharya is an effort to create an environment of fear among the human rights defenders and progressive community workers. It is to be mentioned that earlier also in the 1970s and 80s, hundreds of community workers were killed in Assam after branding them as “Badan” meaning “conspirator and traitors”.

Therefore, Mr Tapodhir Bhattacharajee is at risk of getting physically assaulted and even killed by the extremists. He is also likely to be harassed by the police in connection with the complaint against him. There are also concerns about safety and physical and mental well being of his family and friends and other human rights defenders working in Assam, particularly on the issue of arbitrary deprivation of citizenship.

 

Please sign the petition HERE

 (For more information,  Taniya Laskar may be contacted at bhrpc.ne@gmail.com.)

CJP Urgent Appeal: Stop Move to Make Assamese Muslims Homeless & Stateless Sign our Petition NOW!

April 26, 2018

(BHRPC forwards this Citizens for Justice and Peace petition to protect bonafide Indian citizens from enforced statelessness)

A humanitarian crisis is underway in Assam as you read this. The National Register for Citizens (NRC), a record of ‘legitimate’ Indian citizens living in Assam, is being updated for the first time since 1951. The ostensible objective is to weed out ‘Illegal Bangladeshi immigrants’. However, the numbers tell a chilling story… one of a conspiracy of ‘othering’ and exclusion.

NRC Appeal

Representational image by CJP

3.29 crore people from 68.27 lakh families in Assam have submitted over 6.5 crore documents with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to prove their Indian citizenship. But the NRC recently published a list of only 1.9 crores as legal citizens.

A huge number of 1.39 crore Assamese, almost all Muslim, are under threat of having their legitimate citizenship revoked. CJP believes this is discriminatory. Join us and raise your voice against this injustice. Sign our Petition NOW!

  • We demand an immediate halt to this anti-constitutional and potentially polarizing move.
  • We demand an end to this attempt to brand all Muslims as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
  • We demand that corrupt local officials are NOT empowered with coercive powers to unilaterally decide fates of entire families.
  • We demand a stop to dividing Assam for narrow political gains.

Raise your voice against this now. Sign our petition.

The appeal was published on CJP website and reproduced here for wider dissemination.

BHRPC condemns attack on Meghalaya editor Patricia Mukhim and demands immediate actions to bring the perpetrators to book

April 25, 2018

Press Release:

Silchar, 25 April, 2018

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (HRPC) condemns with utmost reserve and fortitude the dastardly incident of throwing petrol bombs by a set of sponsored miscreants on 17 April 2018 on the home of Patricia Mukhim, a noted woman journalist, the editor of the Shillong Times, based at Shillong, Meghalaya. BHRPC is deeply concerned at the horrific and terroristic cowardice shown by masked attackers and their sponsors on a free thinker, a woman journalist and a social and feminist crusader, a defender of human rights in its noblest connotations, which is enough an indication that woman journalists are no longer safe and the freedom of press is under severe threats from various vested coteries. We are further aggrieved by the fact that the law enforcing agencies in the state of Meghalaya are not yet able to trace the culprits and failed completely in bringing them to book so far. Needless to say that both rule of law and constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression of a woman journalist and a renowned human rights defender lies tattered in this incident, raising serious concerns about future of fearless and independent journalism, which is a major source of defense of human rights.

shillong

Patricia Mukhim (Photo courtesy to Time8

Despite several condemnations in the media and civil society bodies, there is reportedly not much progress in giving justice to Kong Patricia Mukhim, as she is fondly addressed across Northeast of India and India in general. The human rights community across the region feels insecure at this massive failure of policing and ensuring security of writers, journalists, civil society activists and other such human rights defenders, who are always at the risk of being targeted by vested interests from the front and their sponsors from behind.

A fierce social critic, she is well known for her lambasting editorials and other Op-Ed pieces critiquing the mining lobby, vigilante groups who ostracize woman and other marginalized segments and even ethnic socio-political bodies for undermining democratic norms belonging to the Indian State of Meghalaya and beyond. If her voice could be silenced by threat and intimidation, these extractive economic and political forces would have a heyday in a resource rich state like Meghalaya and can carry on unabated mining  of coal, limestone and uranium at the irreparable peril of human and natural ecologies. Therefore, there is every reason to conjecture and see through the designs behind attacking her at her home, which fortunately missed the target by a wafer thin barrier. She as the survivor has undergone psychological stress and damage of her property due to the attack, which needs to be compensated in every possible ways by the Authorities concerned.

BHRPC, therefore, urges upon the authorities in the state of Meghalaya and in the Government at the Centre to adopt visibly strong measures to protect the life and liberty of women journalists of the Northeastern region in general and Kong Patricia Mukhim in particular. BHRPC also urges upon them to nab the culprits without further delay and inform the public of the progress made in arresting the culprits.

As a human rights group, BHRPC believes that it is the duty of the State to ensure fundamental rights of freedom of expression and right to dissent of all the journalists as human rights defenders and hence instance of such attacks on their lives indicates an ominous portent on the very face of the democracy. BHRPC, therefore, demands that visible and exemplary actions at setting the crime rights by bringing the culprits to book cannot any longer wait, else, the defenders of human right have to spring into democratic action to press for these legitimate demands.

Taniya Sultana Laskar

Secretary General

(9401616763)

প্রেসবিবৃতি: গত ১৪মার্চ হাইলাকান্দিতে সংঘটিত ধর্ষণ এবং তৎপরবর্তী সাম্প্রদায়িক রাজনীতির নিন্দা জানায় বিএইচআরপিসি

March 19, 2018

গত ১৪মার্চ তারিখে হাইলাকান্দি জেলার  বেতছড়া গ্রামে ১৩ বছর বয়সী কিশোরীর ধর্ষণ এবং তৎপরবর্তী খুনের ঘটনাটি নিয়ে বিএইচআরপিসি  তীব্রভাবে শংকিত এবং লজ্জিত। এ ঘটনা আমাদের আরেকবার সমাজের সবচেয়ে জঘন্যতম দিকটির সামনে দাঁড় করিয়ে দেয়। যেখানে দুজন মানুষ শুধু তার লিঙ্গ পরিচয়ের সুবাদে অসমান। শুধুমাত্র লিঙ্গ পরিচয়ের সুবাদে একজন মানুষকে তার জীবন,আত্মসম্মান সব হারাতে হয়। এমতাবস্থায় ভারতীয় দণ্ডবিধি অবশ্য এই অপরাধের সবচেয়ে জঘন্যতম শাস্তির বিধান দিয়ে আমাদেরকে অল্প স্বস্তি দেয়। তাই বিএইচআরপিসি চায় এই ঘটনায় জড়িত অপরাধীর কঠিন থেকে কঠিনতম শাস্তি হোক।

তাছাড়া বর্তমান সময়ে জম্মু এবং কাশ্মীরের রাসনা গ্রামের ঘটনাটি থেকে শুরু করে সাম্প্রতিকতম এই ঘটনাটি নিয়েও যে ধরণের সাম্প্রদায়িক রাজনীতির এক ঘৃণ্য চক্রান্তের প্রবনতা দেখা গেছে বিএইচআরপিসি এর তীব্র নিন্দা জানাচ্ছে। এবং প্রশাসনের কাছে এসব কাজে জড়িতদের দৃষ্টান্তমূলক শাস্তি প্রদানের আবেদন রাখছে।

Representative photo taken from internet.

Representative photo.

 তবে বিএইচআরপিসি মনে করে ধর্ষণ একটি সামাজিক অপরাধ। ধর্ষণের ক্ষেত্রে অপরাধী মনস্তত্ত্বের সাথে সাথে আমাদের আর্থ-সামাজিক-সাংস্কৃতিক পরিকাঠামোও বহুলাংশে দায়ী। সেজন্য প্রত্যেকজন অপরাধীর শাস্তি সুনিশ্চিত করার সাথে সাথে এইসকল অপরাধের চিরনির্মূলীকরণের জন্য বিএইচআরপিসি  আরেকবার ২০১২ সালে জাস্টিস বার্মা কমিটির দেওয়া নিম্নলিখিত  সুপারিশ সমূহ সম্পূর্ণরূপে বাস্তবায়নের আবেদন রাখছে-

১/ ধর্ষণের মামলাসমূহের সহজ নিষ্পত্তির জন্য আলাদাভাবে একটি সুপটু ‘রেইপ  সেল’ বা ‘ধর্ষন প্রকোষ্ঠ’ নির্মাণ করতে হবে। যারা এরকম ঘটনাদি রিপোর্ট হওয়ার সাথে সাথে উপযুক্ত ব্যবস্থা গ্রহণ করবে এবং বিনামূল্যে আইনি সাহায্য প্রধানের জন্য সচেষ্ট হবে।

২/ সবকটি থানা এবং জিজ্ঞাসাবাদ কক্ষকে CCTV ক্যামরার আওতায় আনতে হবে।

৩/ অনলাইলে এফআইআর দেওয়ার বন্দোবস্ত করতে হবে।

৪/ এসব ঘটনার সাক্ষী এবং সাহায্যকারী দের সাথে অপরাধীদের মতো ব্যবহার করা যাবে না।

৫/ পুলিশবিভাগকে উপযুক্তভাবে লিঙ্গ সংবেদনশীল করে গড়ে তুলতে হবে।

৬/ ধর্ষণের মামলায় সাজাপ্রাপ্ত আসামিদের আইন করে নির্বাচনে প্রার্থী হওয়ার অযোগ্য বলে ঘোষণা করতে হবে।

৭/  যৌন শিক্ষাকে শৈক্ষিক পাঠ্যক্রমে অন্তর্ভুক্ত করতে হবে। বিএইচআরপিসি এক্ষেত্রে সর্বাঙ্গীণ যৌনশিক্ষা বা Comprehensive Sexuality Education এর প্রচলনের পক্ষে।

৪/  রাজ্য সরকারের যাতে প্রশাসনের উপর প্রতিপত্তি খাটাতে না পারে সেজন্য রাজ্য পুলিশ সুরক্ষা কমিশন বা State Police Security Commission গঠন করতে হবে।

৫/ ২০১৪ সালে ভারতীয় স্বাস্থ্য এবং পরিবার মন্ত্রকের নির্দেশিকা মতে জঘন্য এবং অমানবিক two-finger test এর প্রচলন সম্পূর্ণরূপে বন্ধ করতে হবে।

Assam: Woman human rights defender Christina Pyrtuh and her family assaulted, molested and driven away for anti-corruption works

February 18, 2018

Mrs. Christina Pyrtuh and her family were assaulted, molested and driven out of her home and village for protesting against corruption in implementation of schemes under the local area development fund of the member of legislative assembly (MLA) of Assam representing their constituency Katigorah in the district of Cachar in Assam. She also protested against malfeasance of funds meant for Indira Avas Yojana (now rechristened as Pradhan Mantri Avas Yojana). She and her family are now temporarily living in Meghalaya at great risks of danger to her and her children’s life and limbs. She and her family are being persecuted for her works of protest as a Human Rights Defender.

Mrs. Cristina Pyrtuh is a 34 years old woman from the Khasi community of the village Baikham Punji, under Kushiarkul Gaon Panchayat in Katigorah in the district of Cachar, Assam. Her father’s name is late Benjamine Suting. She has four children. She is a farmer by occupation. Inspite of her cardiac illness, she is a very active woman and aware of her rights and duties as a member of the society.  Her family includes:

  1. Pretane Pyrtuh 15 years old daughter of Christina Pyrtuh.
  2. Aryan Pyrtuh , 12 years old son of Cristina Pyrtuh.
  3. Dannyster Pyrtuh, 6 years old son of Christina Pyrtuh.
  4. Esharica Pyrtuh, 11years old. Daughter of Christina Pyrtuh.
  5. Stalbida Pyrtuh, mother of Christina Pyrtuh. She is almost 70 years old. She is wholly dependent on Christina Pyrtuh.

The Baikam Punji is one of the very interior Punji[1] under Kushiarkul Gaon Panchayat of Gumra area which is about 45 Kms away from Silchar, the district-headquarters of Cachar. About 40 families with 116 voters, mainly from Khashi community live there.  The average standard of living of the inhabitants is very poor. The main source of livelihood of the inhabitants is traditional farming.  Since it is a hilly area the only source of drinking water is a water reservoir constructed three years before. For primary health care service, a sub-center under Kalain Hospital has been set up in 2013 but it always remains closed and no doctor or staff has visited there since the construction[2].  Huge corruption is allegedly going on in implementation of different government schemes meant to be implemented by the Gaon Panchayat authorities, the local self-government institution. The only road through which they communicate has always been a kachhasarak[3]. It is only this year that an amount of 29 lakh 80 thousand rupees has been sanctioned by the local MLA from his MLA fund for construction of the road.

According to Mrs. Christina Pyrtuh, which account was also corroborated by the newspaper reports, there were allegations of gross corruption in the construction works of the said road sanctioned under the MLA fund. Villagers of Baikam Punji organized a meeting on the issue at the 1618 No. Baikam Punji L.P.School  on 19 December 2017.  MLA Shri Amar Chand Jain was also present there. Mrs. Cristiana Pyrtuh also participated in the meeting and raised her voice against such corruption allegedly committed by the GP president Bablu Das in collaboration with some of the local people like Dilip Pyrtuh, Jan-Mukhim, Daboymi Lamare, Sidwel Suchiang and the village headman Drickson Shyllain implementation of different government projects in the Punji. Mrs. Pyrtuh along with other villagers such as Than-Mukhim, Fiden Kamen as well as the local teacher Mr. Banamali Prashad alleged that apart from the poor construction of the roads, Mr. Bablu Das and his accomplices also adopted corrupt practices during the distribution of houses under the Prime Minister Avas Yojona as they did earlier when it was known as Indira Avas Yojona. After taking bribe, they had given the financial assistance to Rumen Suchiang whose husband is a BSF[4] personnel and who is the daughter of Jan-mukhim, one of their accomplices. Some family members of Dilip Pyrtuh also got the financial benefits.  Witnessing by his own eyes MLA scolded the accused persons and instructed the villagers to remain in correspondence with him and inform him about any further malpractices.

The accused persons got very angry and annoyed at the protesters including Mrs Pyrtuh. They organized a meeting of their own in the village and asked the villagers to boycott and ostracize the protesters. Then one of the accused Daboimi Lamare who is a neighbor of the Mrs Pyrtuh started abusing her often after getting drunk. He asked her to leave the village otherwise he said he was going to make her life worse than hell by cutting her water connection. Then on 29 December Mrs. Pyrtuh saw that the pipe through which her family got water from the local water-reservoir was cut down. She complained to the villagers who suspected that the accused Daboymi Lamare did this as he warned. When asked he admitted that he did it indeed because the pipe went through his land and he was not going to allow it any more. The villagers then suggested Mrs. Pyrtuh a new route to carry the pipe through avoiding the accused person’s land. She bought a new pipe and connected it through the way the villagers suggested. But on 31 December the new water pipe was wrecked again.  She was forced to fetch water in pitcher by herself from a distant river without the pipe.

On 1 January 2018 two of the accused persons namely Daboy Lamare and Jan-mukhim again attacked Mrs. Pyrtuh’s house, vandalized in the yards, abused the victim family with filthy languages and threatened them with death. In Mstr. Arayan Pyrtuh’s words, Daboy Lamare said, “I will flee to Bangladesh after killing you with my Do-nala and fouling the graveyard with the venom of your dead body.”  The whole night they remained near her house waiting for an opportunity to attack them.  The victim family got very scared and sent words to the villagers for help but nobody came forward this time.  On 2 January Mrs. Pyrtuh lodged a complaint to the police.

Following the complaint, the police registered an FIR vide the Katigorah P.S Case No. 08/18 and on that night the police came and arrested two of the accused namely Diboymi Lamare and Dilip Pyrtuh. However, the victim saw that Diboymi came back home that night itself and Dilip got released on the very next day.

After coming back home the accused persons got more enraged and they started a vicious campaign against Mrs. Pyrtuh. They went door to door trying to manipulate the villagers saying that she didn’t want the development of the village. Their campaign included attempt of her character assassination linking her with another person who also spoke out against them in the meeting.

On the other hand, due to shortage of drinking water the victim family fell ill and Mrs. Pyrtuh, Mstr. Dannyster Pyrtuh and Mstr. Aryan Pyrtuh, two of her children, had to be hospitalized in the Kalain Primary Health Center on 3 January, 2018. They were suffering acute diarrhea along with severe dehydration. Mstr. Dennyster Pyrtuh was referred to Silchar Medical Collage, Silchar. The victim decided to consult another earlier known doctor before taking him to the Silchar Medical College and fortunately with his medication the child showed improvement. She took him to home on 4 January, 2018.

After returning home some of the villagers informed her that they called one more meeting on 5 January, 2018 to settle the issue and she had to attend the meeting.  She went there bonafide keeping in mind the well-being of her children and hoping that now at least they would get enough drinking water but it turned out to be more of a nightmare.  When she went there one of the accused Shiduel Suchiang started clicking her photo from here and there. Then all the accused persons started pressurizing her to withdraw the case and not to give any statement to the press. The said Shudiel Suchiang also assaulted her in that meeting. They also threatened Mstr. Denyster Pyrtuh. Then on 5 January, 2018 at about 7 P.M Jan Mukhim came with some of his accomplices whom the victim family could not recognize and pelted stones to the victim’s house at the Punji. The inmates of the house had to run to a safe place nearby to save themselves. In the process Mrs. Stelbeda Pyrtuh narrowly escaped a fatal stone. The accused persons also went on abusing and threatening the whole family with death. The family had to spend the night in utmost fear and terror. And on that morning after spending a whole sleepless night they had to leave the Punji for a safer shelter. But before that she filed another complaint to the Gumra Police Investigation Center on the incident of stone pelting and threatening but no actions have been taken by the police. Right now, they are living with a relative in Meghalaya temporarily.  However, she regularly visits the Police Investigation Centre, Gumrah to know about the status of her case, although they did not pay any attention to her requests and no actions were taken as well.

Mother and children of Mrs. Chrinstina Pyrtuh after they were driven out of home

Mother and children of Mrs. Chrinstina Pyrtuh after they were driven out of home

Seeing no other options, Mrs. Pyrtuh contacted Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) and came to the office on 19 January 2018. Since the police was not taking any actions on her case, BHRPC advised her to give a representation to the higher police officials. Accordingly she met Superintendent of Police, Cachar on 23 January 2018 and submitted a representation requesting for investigation of cases and for providing security to her and her family. Then, on 24 January 2018 the Investigation Officer of Gumrah Police Investigation Centre called her over the phone and asked her to go to the police station. She went there with her son Aryan at 1.pm in the noon but was asked to wait outside. She waited till 6 pm but nobody bothered to talk to her. She was a cardiac patient and as it was a cold weather she felt ill. She was having serious breathing problems. The little one (her son) called one of her friends who immediately took her to the nearby Kalain FRU where she was admitted in serious condition. She was then referred to the Silchar Medical College on the next day but she opted to go to NEGRIMS in Shillong (Meghalaya) in view of threats to life and went there.

BHRPC also wrote to the SP on 12 February 2018 but no action was taken. Then an appeal dated 17 February 2018 was sent by BHRPC to the Director General of Police, Assam and other authorities requesting for appropriate actions.

Mrs. Pyrtuh and her family are staying in Meghalaya till today. The police are still inactive and no charge-sheet has been filed yet. BHRPC is concerned about the safety and security and well-being of Mrs. Pyrtuh, her mother and children.

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For further information, Ms Taniya Laskar, Secretary General, BHRPC, may be contacted on 9401616763 and at taniyalaskar@gmail.com.

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[1]                      It’s a small unit of some Khashi family living in an area under a leader known as the Head-man.

[2]                      As per the news paper report.

[3]                      A temporary road.

[4]                      Border Security Force.