Archive for the ‘Human Rights Defenders’ Category

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.

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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.)

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.

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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)

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.

Assam: NHRC asks reports on intimidation of human rights defender

January 16, 2018

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued direction to authorities in Assam calling for a report on allegations of abuse, threats and false case on human rights defender Mr Sishir Dey of Karimganj. The direction of NHRC came on a complaint filed by Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) on 13 December 2017 after the voluntary organization came to know about the abuses and intimidation of the practicing lawyer and rights defender.

Sishir Dey

Sishir Dey

The abuse and intimidation came after Mr Dey posted a short satirical comment on facebook on 8 December 2017 denouncing terrorism in the name of Hindu religion and violent ideas of Hindu political groups. His comment was made in the context of a video of a gruesome murder of a migrant labourer in Rajasmand district of Rajasthan state on 6 December 2017 that was circulating on internet where one Shambu Raigar, the perpetrator, was seen boasting about the murder and claiming that he did it as a warning against inter-religious relationship which he called “love jihad”. For denouncing this heinous crime and display of barbarism, Mr Dey received vulgar abuses and outright threats of physical assaults and murder. A complaint was also filed at the Karimganj Sadar police station against Mr Dey.

It was apparent that Mr Dey was at risk of physical and mental harm from the supporters of concerned political groups as well as of harassment by the police. In the circumstances, BHRPC intervened and filed a complaint at NHRC and informed national and international groups dedicated to protection of human rights defenders including Human Rights Defenders Alert, India and Dublin based Front Line Defenders. BHRPC has also sent a separate communication to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

The direction of NHRC asking for reports within four weeks was communicated to BHRPC on 16 January 2018.

Assam human rights defender Mr Sishir Dey abused, threatened and booked for comment over Rajasthan murder

December 13, 2017

After practising lawyer and human rights defender Mr Sishir Dey of Karimganj district in Assam (India) posted a short satirical comment on facebook on 8 December 2017 denouncing terrorism in the name of Hindu religion and violent ideas of Hindu political groups, he received abusive and intimidating comments and outright threats with physical assaults and murder. The comment was made in the context of video of a gruesome murder of a migrant labourer in Rajasthan state on 6 December 2017 that was circulating on internet where the perpetrator was seen boasting about the murder and claiming that he did it as a warning against inter-religious relationship. A complaint was also filed at the Karimganj Sadar police station against Mr Dey. Mr Dey is at risk of physical and mental harm from the supporters of concerned political groups as well as of harassment by the police.

Sishir Dey

Sishir Dey

Mr Sishir Day is a lawyer practising at the Karimganj district courts. He is a voluntary member of Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (Registered vide no. RS/CA/ 243/B/61 of 2002-03), a voluntary human rights organisation mainly documenting and making legal intervention in cases of violations in Assam. He is responsible for reporting violations of human rights in the district. He is also honorary secretary of the district committee of Assam Mojuri Sramik Union (Registered Vide No. 2287 under the Trade Union Act) a lobour rights defending organisation. He is an active member of Forum for Social Harmony, a platform  fromed collectively by different social activists and human rights defender groups  of south Assam to combat the religious violence and protect peaceful co-existence of communities in the area.

On 6 December 2017 a video was uploaded on internet by one Shambhulal Regar or Shambhu Bhawani, an inhabitant of Rajsamand district in Rajasthan state. In that video it was seen that he was killing a man by hacking him with a hammer like weapon in cold-blood. He then burnt that man pouring some kind of liquid that looked like petrol over the body of that half-dead man. He said that he murdered that person because that person had committed “Love Jihad”, a term used by the Hindhu religious extremists to denote inter-religious marriage or relationship as a form of Islamic terrorism. Later on, the murdered man was identified as Mr. Afrajul Haque (aged 48), a migrant labourer from Maldah in West-Bengal state. That video went viral and created mixed reactions among people. The progressive, humanitarian and human rights defender groups condemned this brutal act and denounced those political and religious groups that support and encourage violence in the name of religion, religious identity and religious sentiments. However, some other people also tried to rationalise and justify this kind of violence and killings on social media platforms and applauded Mr Regar by putting his picture as their profile picture. In that context, Mr Sishir Dey posted a public ‘status’ on his Facebook wall on 8 December 2017 stating in Bengali that “রামভক্ত বাদরের দল ও তাদের পাশবিক সঙ্ঘী ভাবাদর্শ তথা হিন্দু সন্ত্রাশবাদ নিপাত যাক।” which translates as “Down with the Ram devotee apes, their Sanghi brutal ideas and Hindu-terrorism”. After he made the post, abusive and threatening comments started to pour in the comment section of his post. Abuses and threats were also posted by some people in their own facebook pages. They accused him of hurting their religious sentiments and threatened him with assaults and murders. On 10 December a complaint was also filed against him in the  Karimganj Police Station by Mr. Debdulal Das and Mr. Pankaj Das, both identified themselves as the President and Vice-President of Bharatiya Janata Party Yuba Morcha, North Karimhanj Block Mondal, the youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP is the political party which is now running governments both at Assam state and Union of India. However, till the time of writing this report it could not be confirmed if the complaint was registered by the police.

After the BJP formed governments both at union in 2014 and in Assam state in 2016, India has been witnessing a rise of religious fundamentalism and politically motivated violence. Before, the perpetrators of violence committed in the name of religions and violations of human rights by state agencies did not enjoy the kind of political support and impunity as they are getting now. Many Muslim youth were killed in the name of cow protection, and protection of women from alleged “love-jihad” and other excuses.  South Assam, also known as Barak valley, is a relatively peaceful area in the state. But now it is evident that to gain political advantage a group of people are trying to flare up communal violence in the valley. Recently a relatively new Kolkata (in West Bengal state) based outfit known as Hindhu Samhati called a conference on 2 December, 2017 at Silchar, the main town in Barak valley, where some of their leaders delivered communally provocative speeches and tried to polarise people in the name of religion. One of their guest speakers Mr. Debatanu Bashu openly asked his followers to go for mass killing of the Muslim people in the valley*. In this connection a first information report (FIR) was registered by police but no further actions were taken. In this background it appears that the abuse, threats and complaint against Mr Dey were an effort to create an environment of fear among the human rights defenders and progressive community workers.

Mr Dey is at risk of getting physically assaulted and even killed by the extremists who issued threats. He is also likely to be harassed by the police in connection with the complaint against him, though it does not attract any penal provisions. There are also concerns about safety and physical and mental wellbeing of his family and friends and other human rights defenders working in Assam.

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* News report can be seen at https://youtu.be/pUTRegymhKs

 

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

April 21, 2017

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

send-button

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
———————————————————————
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)

 

 

Human rights defenders severely beaten up by a government officer in Karimganj, NHRC moved

December 18, 2015

Press statement

18 December, 2015

Guwahati: Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) has today filed a complaint and appeal for urgent actions to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) regarding a case of assault and intimidation of two human rights defenders in Karimganj district of Assam by a government official and his accomplices.

According to information received by BHRPC, anti-corruption and labour rights activist Mr Shyamraj Rajbhor and his wife Ms Aradhana Rajbhor, who is also an activist in her own right, were badly beaten up causing serious injuries on 2 December, 2015 allegedly by Mr P K Roy, Block Development Officer (BDO), Ramkrishna Nagar Block (in Karimganj district of Assam) and his accomplices. It is obvious that the attack was carried out to intimidate them and members of their organisation Mojuri Sramik Union (MSU) into silence on the matter of alleged corruption relating to allotment of a house under Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), a central government flagship programme to provide housing for the rural poor in India. The activists obtained relevant documents under the Right to Information Act, 2005 that showed that funds under the scheme were allotted to a person not eligible for IAY benefits depriving the actual beneficiaries. Their complaints in the matter were ignored by the BDO for a long time. But when they pursued further the BDO tricked them into coming to a house of one Mr Ravi Malakar where he and his other accomplices severely beat them up causing serious injuries. They had to be given treatment as in-patients for seven days in the Santosh Kumar Roy Civil Hospital. They are still recuperating.

Despite filing complaints to the police and district authorities no actions against the alleged perpetrators have been taken. Mr and Ms Rajbhor and members of the MSU are apprehending more such attacks in view of the lack of any deterrent actions and preventive measures.

In its complaint BHRPC urged the NHRC to ensure registration of a case against the attackers, their arrest, prompt and objective investigation, payment of compensation to the victims and arrangement of proper security for members of MSU and other human rights defenders working in the area.

Reports of the case have also been sent to the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders for appropriate actions and other national and international organisations that look after the security of human rights defenders including the Human Rights Defenders Alert– India, Asian Human Rights Commission, International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Amnesty International.

For further information you may contact

Mr Nirmal Kumar Das

Mobile: +919435238753

Or BHRPC at bhrpc.ne@gmail.com

Assam: Human rights defenders intimidated and beaten up in Karimganj district allegedly by a government official and his hired goons

December 18, 2015

Anti-corruption and labour rights activist Mr Shyamraj Rajbhor and his wife Ms Aradhana Rajbhor, who is an activist in her own right, were badly beaten up causing serious injuries on 2 December, 2015 allegedly by Mr P K Roy, Block Development Officer (BDO), Ramkrishna Nagar Block (in Karimganj district of Assam) and his accomplices presumably to intimidate them and members of their organisation Mojuri Sramik Union (MSU) into silence on the matter of alleged corruption relating to allotment of a house under Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), a central government flagship programme to provide housing for the rural poor in India. Despite filing complaint to the police and district authorities no actions against the alleged perpetrators have been taken. Mr and Ms Rajbhor and members of the MSU are apprehending more such attacks in view of lack of any deterrent actions and preventive measures.

Background: The MSU is a trade union registered under the Trade Union Act, 1926 vide registration number 2648 dated 29/10/2015. The main office of the union is located at Ratanpur Road, Hailakandi district in Assam. The primary objectives of the union include: 1. Ensuring security and welfare of the labourers of unorganised sectors and the tea garden labourers; 4. Proper implementation of the government schemes and programmes meant for the welfare of the poor people such as (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), IAY etc.; 4. Proper implementation of Public Distribution System etc. They mainly work through peaceful street activism like rally, demonstrations etc.; and also use Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005 to expose and fight corruption whenever necessary and other legal mechanisms including litigation in courts of law, if necessary.

34 year old Mr Shyamraj Rajbhor is the Secretary of Block Committee of the MSU for Ramkrishna Nagar Development Block and Ms Aradhana Rajbhor (32) is his wife and a member of the union. Both of them are residents of village Rajnagar (Post Office: Purva Harinagar) under Ramkrishna Nagar Police Station in Karimganj district, Assam. At the time of attack they were involved in works on alleged corruption relating to allotment of fund for IAY house. At the local level the authority of such allotment rests with the BDO.

According to leaders of the union, documents obtained through application under the RTI Act suggested that there were mis-allocation and misappropriation of fund under IAY scheme. The union members said that it was found that fund for a house had been allotted to a person who did not come under the category specified for the scheme because their name was not there in the lists of Below Poverty Line (BPL) families for whom the scheme is meant. The MSU, therefore, filed a complaint on 16 June, 2015 regarding the matter in the BDO office. The BDO after a long delay conducted a hearing on the case and said that he would inspect all relevant documents and would also conduct a spot verification on 2 December, 2015. But on the stipulated date when Mr Shyamraj Rajbhor went to the BDO office to produce the documents obtained through RTI application as well as the lists of BPL candidates of the area etc., he found that the BDO had already left the office. When Mr Rajbhor called him up he was asked to go to the house of one Mr Ravi Malakar of village Rajnagar in Ramkrishna Nagar area.

The incident: According to Mr Rajbhor, he along with some other union members and the supposed beneficiaries of the IYA in the area who were deprived due to the mis-allocation went to the said house, but the house owner did not permit them to enter his premises. Later on, after further telephonic conversations with the BDO, who was already inside the house, Mr Ravi Malakar informed that he would allow only Mr Rajbhor to come inside and meet the BDO. Accordingly Mr Rajbhor accompanied the house owner and met the BDO.  Mr Rajbhor produced the documents regarding the alleged wrong allocation of IAY housing fund but the BDO claimed that the documents were false and the particular house regarding which the complaint was made was that very house of Mr Ravi Malakar. But when Mr Rajbhor insisted that it was not true, the BDO got furious and started abusing and hitting, punching and kicking him. Then the other eight persons present there, who were allegedly hired by the BDO, namely Mr Shibu Das, Mr Paplu Dev, Mr Jontu Das, Mr Piklu Dev, Mr  Shundangshu Dev, Mr Moni Malakar and Mr Ravi Malakar also started beating him up. They repeatedly punched him on the head, face and other parts of the body. They also kicked him when he fell down on the floor. Hearing hue and cry generated by this Ms Aradhana Rajbhor also entered the premises and came forward to help her husband. She was also assaulted and molested by the perpetrators, according to her. When the other persons along with the driver of their vehicle tried to enter the premises another two persons stopped them in the gate and threatened to beat them up brandishing bamboo sticks. They also snatched the files containing the documents regarding the alleged corruption. When Mr Rajbhor almost became senseless the perpetrators took him aboard a Bollero car and started to move the vehicle but again threw him out a few metres away. Then his companions took him and his wife to the local hospital from where they were referred to the Santosh Kumar Roy Civil Hospital in Hailakandi town. They were admitted there and treated for seven days. Thereafter, they were released with the prescription of one month’s complete bed rest. At the time of filing this report they were still under medications.

Aftermath: A complaint detailing the incident was lodged on 2 December, 2015 at Ramkrishna Nagar Police Station. According to the MSU members, no case was registered till date and the statements of the victims and the witnesses were not recorded. According to Union President Mr Altaf Khan, “the attitude of the police is very questionable as the miscreants are not arrested till now”. Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) is concerned that if no action is immediately taken against the alleged perpetrators the path of justice for the victims may get difficult and such intimidating attacks on human rights defenders working in the area may be repeated.

Recommendations: 1. A case under the appropriate sections of law should immediately be registered against the accused BDO and his accomplices.

  1. All the accused including the BDO should be arrested immediately.
  1. A prompt and objective investigation into the case should be conducted under the supervision of a Deputy Superintendent of Police leading to filing of charge sheets as soon as possible.
  1. Adequate amount of interim compensation as well as ex-gratia for their treatments should be paid to the victims.
  1. The state should provide security to the leading members of the Mojuri Sramik Union and other human rights defenders who are at risk of such attacks.
  1. An additional case of misappropriation of public money by the public servant must be registered regarding the wrong allotment of Indira Awas Yojana.
  1. Any other appropriate actions for creating a safe and friendly environment for those who are defending rights of people guaranteed under the constitution of India and human rights treatises to which India is a state party.

NHRC moved over harassment of activists in Assam

June 20, 2012

Guwahati, 20 June: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken up the case of intimidation of, and police high-handedness on, the members of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and other organisations for their protest against the on-going construction of the lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Power (LSHP) project in Lakhimpur district of Assam. Acting on a complaint filed by the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) the NHRC has a registered a case on the matter assigning case number 198/3/12/2012.

The BHRPC said in the complaint that the KMSS is a peoples’ organisation working for the realisation of democratic and constitutional rights of the people and for protection of the interest of the peasants in the state and claimed that the organisation and its members come within the ambit of the term human rights defender as understood in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders as well as NHRC Declaration on HRDs.

It was alleged that on May 11 2012, a team of police personnel attacked KMSS activists who were demonstrating peacefully at Ghagar in Lakhimpur district, and unleashed “inhuman atrocities” on them while at the time of filing the complaint 27 activists were also kept in detention and their makeshift camp at Ghagar in Lakhimpur district was dismantled by police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

It was also alleged that Lakhimpur district administration deployed around 300 special police officers to prevent activists from staging any protest which is, according to the BHRPC, a serious matter and in clear violations of the Supreme Court ruling in the Nandini Sundar and Others Vs. Union of India and Others.

The BHRPC urged the commission to take appropriate actions including 1. ensuring unconditional and immediate release of the members of the KMSS and other organisation who have been detained in connection with the protest against construction of the LSHP; 2. ensuring that the authorities and police allow the activists to stage peaceful protest against the construction including their stay in makeshift camps as the right to protest is a part of the right to freedom of expression; 3. ensuring initiation of legal actions against those members of both the state police force and the central reserve police force who will be found guilty by a prompt and objective investigation into the allegations of high-handedness against the activists; 4. recommending adequate reparation to the human rights defenders for physical and mental agony as well as financial loss caused due to police high-handedness; 5. ensuring security and safety of the human rights defenders and their families inAssamso as they can work in defence of human rights without fear of any reprisal; and 6. any other actions that is deemed appropriate to the Commission in the matter.