Archive for the ‘Violence Against Women’ Category

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.

……………………………………………………………..

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

……………………………………………………………………………….

[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: How authorities failed to check rampant child trafficking in Silchar

July 27, 2017

IN THE LAST DECADE, Assam has emerged as a hub for child trafficking. According to the National Crime Record Bureau’s 2015 data, Assam recorded 1,317 cases of child trafficking that year—the highest for any state in the country. These cases accounted for 38 percent of the national figures. In November 2015, the Crime Investigation Department of Assam released a report stating “at least 4,754 children” in the state had gone missing since 2012. Of these, the report said, 2,753 were girls. The report also said that in 2014 alone, 129 girls were forced into prostitution by traffickers.

Representative photo taken from internet.

Representative photo taken from internet.

The Price Of Life: The trafficked children of the red-light area in Silchar

By SARITA SANTOSHINI

IN MID DECEMBER OF 2011, Agnes Kharshiing received information that a 16-year-old girl had run away from Radhamadhab Road—a red-light area in Assam’s Silchar town—and returned to her home in Shillong. Kharshiing, who had been working for women’s rights for about six years, decided to seek the girl out. She found her in a Shillong slum, where the survivor was living with one of her siblings. She told Kharshiing about the horrific three years she had spent in Silchar—she had been sexually exploited, and put through physical and mental torture by clients, brothel owners and police officers. She also told Kharshiing of how common the trafficking of minors was in Radhamadhab Road.

Soon after, Kharshiing resolved to organise a rescue mission to Radhamadhab Road, and asked the girl if she would accompany her. The survivor agreed. The red-light area—the biggest in the Northeast by most accounts—is run from a narrow lane inside a quieter part of Silchar’s main market, in the heart of the town. The buildings and shanties on each side of the lane, along with a few smaller houses along connected alleys, are mostly brothels. There are roughly 70 such places, each of which can have up to 20 girls. Every house has an owner known as a “madam,” or “malkin,” who procures girls from traffickers and pays off the local police. The houses are guarded by well-built women. Outside, girls sit on stools waiting for customers.

Kharshiing contacted Anil Kumar Jha, who was then an additional director general of police in Assam, to help organise the mission. Jha was reluctant at first. “He said, ‘Why do you want to go there? It’s a dangerous area,’” Kharshiing told me over the phone last August. “‘They will attack us with daus’”—large Assamese knives. But the activist was adamant and managed to persuade the officer to offer help. (When I called Jha last December, he recalled providing assistance for the rescue, but did not comment on Kharshiing’s recollection of his initial reaction.)

On 20 January 2012, after a month of planning, Kharshiing and the girl who had escaped Silchar accompanied about ten personnel of the Assam and Meghalaya police to Radhamadhab Road. During the raid, which lasted about two hours, they searched about three or four brothels, including the one from which the survivor had escaped. The girl even showed Kharshiing the room she once lived in. “It was dingy,” Kharshiing recalled. “There was a picture of Jesus there.” Most of the lane lay dark and deserted, and the raid was prolonged due to the fact that nobody could be found. One girl, who had been trafficked from Shillong as a minor and knew Kharshiing, ran out of one of the brothels to the rescuers as she heard the survivor’s voice. She had spent years in the same brothel that the survivor had escaped from. The girl later told Kharshiing that the brothel owner had instructed the girls to hide prior to the raid, but she had decided against it.

Kharshiing now believes that the brothel owners were tipped off by the local police and hid minors working for them. But the rescue team still managed to rescue four girls, including a nine-year-old child whose mother had left her behind when she fled the brothel.

IN THE LAST DECADE, Assam has emerged as a hub for child trafficking. According to the National Crime Record Bureau’s 2015 data, Assam recorded 1,317 cases of child trafficking that year—the highest for any state in the country. These cases accounted for 38 percent of the national figures. In November 2015, the Crime Investigation Department of Assam released a report stating “at least 4,754 children” in the state had gone missing since 2012. Of these, the report said, 2,753 were girls. The report also said that in 2014 alone, 129 girls were forced into prostitution by traffickers.

“Assam, mainly Guwahati, serves as a transit point not just for the Northeast but also for other neighbouring countries,” including those in Southeast Asia, Miguel Queah, a child-rights activist, told me. A report published by the NGO Population Council in 2014 counted Assam among the four states where minor girls trafficked from Bangladesh were typically initiated into commercial sexual exploitation.

Due to ethnic conflicts and annual floods, which displace millions of residents, as well as the state’s long history of economic underdevelopment and poverty, a large section of Assam’s population is extremely vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers often lure parents into handing over their children by promising to find them well-paying jobs. Even though 501 people were arrested in Assam for sex trafficking between 2010 and 2012, the state recorded a conviction rate of just 1 percent in these cases.

Silchar, located in the state’s southernmost corner, has emerged as the trafficking trade’s most prominent destination. With a population of roughly 136,000, most of which speaks Sylheti, Silchar is the second-largest urban area in Assam, after Guwahati, the capital, but many locals believe that it is not sufficiently developed to be considered a city yet. Large open drains line narrow roads, and the town is struggling to deal with the increasing number of people, houses and vehicles. The town’s connectivity with the rest of Assam has improved significantly in recent years. A broad-gauge rail track was constructed a few years ago. Silchar’s airport has been seeing more traffic, which has meant affordable airfare. The surrounding national highways, too, are being renovated. The border of Bangladesh is only about three hours by road, which has brought a large number of immigrants into the town over time. Silchar is also easily accessible from the states of Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Tripura.

There are no definite statistics or data regarding the trafficking of women and children to the red-light area in Silchar, but the prevalence of the activity is common knowledge among the town’s authorities and residents. Local and regional newspapers often report on the rescue of minors from the red-light area, which is constantly referred to as a trafficking hub. Civil-society organisations, including those that have worked closely with sex workers here, admit that the area is unsafe to enter for anyone who is not a customer or someone the brothel owners are familiar with.

A 2012 report prepared by a team of the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights put the number of children inside the red-light area at 100. The report also stressed that “in spite of high risk of visiting the area, the Commission went ahead with its task” of reviewing it. According to many survivors’ accounts, trafficked girls in Silchar are often sent to red-light areas in other states for brief periods of time, which indicates an interstate nexus between brothels. A police station lies about 100 metres away from Radhamadhab Road, but there has been a spate of allegations that the local police is in cahoots with brothel owners.

Over a period of eight months, starting in August 2016, I spoke to many local residents of Silchar, two minors who escaped the red-light area, and several human-rights activists, social workers and senior police officers in the Northeast. Having studied multiple cases of rescue in this time, I learnt that in spite of rampant trafficking of children to Silchar for commercial sexual exploitation, the authorities have failed miserably in preventing these crimes, and in rehabilitating the survivors who have escaped or been rescued. On many occasions, children and young women have found themselves back in the red-light area after they were rescued. This state of affairs indicts not only the law-enforcement agencies, who have been accused of delaying investigations and abetting trafficking, but also the judiciary and various levels of government.

ONE WEEKEND IN AUGUST last year, I spoke over the phone with the girl who escaped Silchar in 2011. She is now 22 years old. When I asked her about her life, she said, “Where do I start? There’s too much to say. It might reduce you to tears.”

At a very early age, she lost her mother to cancer, and then her father, a wage labourer, to a stomach disease. She lived with her five siblings—three brothers and two sisters—in a rented home in Shillong. She was the third child, and her elder brother was the only earning family member. “I never went to school because we were poor,” she said.

Before she even turned ten years old, she was trafficked to Mumbai. She spent a year in an ashram in Thane district’s Dongri area. At this time the girl was not harmed—probably because she was too young, she said. She was rescued by the Shillong police and brought back.

The next time, when she was 13 years old, a man she knew, who worked as a driver in Shillong, asked her if she was willing to work in a biscuit shop in another town in Meghalaya in return for money being sent to her family every month. She agreed. “He gave me Rs 500 the day he took me away, and I remember giving it to my brothers and sisters, telling them I was going away for work,” she told me. When she arrived in Radhamadhab Road, she realised she had been sold into a red-light area. When the brothel owner asked her to sleep with customers, she refused. “The owner started hitting me and said she had bought me with money,” she told me. “So, I said okay, now I’ll have to somehow manage and live here. I used to cry every day, thinking of my brothers and sisters.”

Recalling her time in the red-light area, she said there were ten, twenty customers every day. “Sometimes two at a time. … We had to do whatever the malkin asked us to do.” The malkin would sometimes burn her with cigarettes. “She did not give me a single rupee,” the survivor added. “Sometimes I would force the customers to pay me directly. But she would find out and hit me before snatching the money away.” On days when the brothel was tipped off about a rescue operation, the girls were hidden in boxes or sent to a nearby hospital, where they waited until the raid was over. The girl also said she had gotten pregnant, and that the brothel had forced her to abort the baby. “They killed my baby when I was eight months pregnant,” she said. “The doctor gave me some medicines and it was done. They have no emotions there. They just want you to work.”

She told me that some girls are manipulated into believing that this kind of work is fine, but that she never bought that argument. “If someone selected me, I would turn my face away and ask him to get lost,” she said. “But I had to eventually go to him or my malkin would hit me.”

It was three years before she attempted an escape. This was the only part from her short life that she recalled with some positivity. One night, she received a severe beating from her malkin. “I told her, ‘Hit me as much as you want, but if I live today, I will make sure none of the young girls live here,’” she said. She had become friends with a girl from Guwahati, also a minor, who had been sold into the red-light area five years earlier. Both decided to escape.

The next morning, she told me, while it was raining, she asked her madam’s daughter, who was keeping a watch on the girls, to buy puris for breakfast. “As soon as she left, my friend and I made a run for it,” she said. “Some men tried running after us, but we escaped.” They took an auto first and then a bus, where some locals drew attention to them, saying they were from the red-light area, but they remained undeterred. They found a newspaper shop at a taxi stand, and sought help from the shopkeeper. “We were so hungry and thirsty,” she said. “We were not even wearing slippers or dupattas.” The shopkeeper allowed them to hide in his shop for a couple of hours as the malkin’s son, along with women from the red-light area, searched the taxi stand for them. He gave them food, some cash and a mobile phone, and bought them tickets on a shared jeep going to Shillong. A few army men in the jeep promised to protect them, and paid for their meals on the way.

The girls reached Shillong at 1 am. The survivor told me she was unable to find her old home, and that she and the other the girl spent the night under a pear tree. Over the next few weeks, she found her siblings scattered across the town. The girls managed to find a rented home, and lived there for a while. About three months later, the girl from Shillong asked her friend to go back home to Guwahati.

THOUGH EVIDENCE, especially in the form of testimonies, points to the fact that trafficking in Silchar has been mounting, there is little acknowledgement of the problem from government and law-enforcement agencies, even as many police personnel have been implicated in the crime. I confronted several police officers over the lack of action on the front.

“We can’t go by people’s perceptions, we need facts and complaints,” Rakesh Roushan, the superintendent of police of Cachar district, in which Silchar is the largest urban area, told me when I met him in his office in March. “Whenever there’s a complaint or we receive information, we take action.”

I told him that many of the children who have escaped or have been rescued from the red-light area have testified to unchecked trafficking of minors, and that many still remain inside. “We do not have information that things are happening on a large scale,” Roushan told me. “We do not think trafficking is a major issue here.” Roushan, who had been recently posted in Silchar, said he was not “up-to-date about all the previous cases,” and that he would be eager to look into them.

I then met Sudhangshu Das, the deputy superintendent of police, who was distracted through most of out conversation, having simultaneous discussions with a police officer called Swapan Dey and another journalist. When I got a chance to speak, I reminded him of our telephonic conversations and told him I wanted to discuss trafficking in Silchar. Das was insistent that I go inside the red-light area to clear my false perceptions about trafficking and the involvement of the local police. Most other people I spoke to advised me against visiting the red-light area on my own, but a few hours after speaking to Das, I decided take a look at the area from the outside. The entrance lane had been barricaded with a bamboo fence. Nearby, there were a few paan shops and small dhabas that sold home-brewed liquor. A local who was accompanying me was uncomfortable throughout. He said the residents were all aware of trafficking and police involvement, but there was little anybody could do, and they had decided to quietly go about their lives.

“Even if we shut prostitution down, it will spread everywhere,” Das had told me in his office. “It has already spread around Silchar. Prostitution is such an old profession.” I asked him about the children in the red-light area and if the police officers around it knew what was happening. Dey interrupted to say that they didn’t go into the red-light area looking for children—suggesting that he thought child trafficking was not a problem there. The police did go in, he said, to arrest men who had committed petty crimes, such as theft.

Das had another theory about the presence of children in the brothels. “The red-light area has been there since I was born,” he told me. “We don’t disturb it because the children are of the sex workers and the owners. Of course they will have children there.” I told him again that the children rescued from there had been trafficked, and asked him about specific cases, but he refused to answer my questions until I had visited the red-light area. After the interview, I learnt from an old newspaper article, republished in a research book by the Silchar-based NGO Barak Valley Welfare Development Society, that Swapan Dey, who is now in charge of the Udharbond police station, was one of four police officers suspended in 1999 for returning a girl who escaped from the red-light area to the owners of the brothel to which she had been trafficked.

Next, I visited the Silchar office of Ujjawala—a scheme by the central government to prevent trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. The staff there told me that 28 girls had been rescued from the red-light area since the scheme’s inception in 2012. Twenty of these cases were registered under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, they recalled, and only two cases had resulted in convictions. Survivors and their families were afraid of long legal procedures and the dangers involved in filing cases against traffickers, the staff said. The office had not received funds from the government for about two years. Every time they called the ministry of women and child development, they told me, they were informed that their funds were being processed. Ujjawala is now struggling to carry out its functions in the area.

In a statement to the press, in 2012, the then deputy commissioner of Cachar district, Harendara Kumar Dev Mahanta, said that the government had decided to shut down the red-light area since “such illegal activities cannot be carried out in the heart of the town.” But it is clear that the district administration did not follow the statement up with any concrete action. The government has not carried out any detailed investigation, survey or eviction in the area yet.

The only government body to visit the area with some regularity has been the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. I spoke to Runumi Gogoi, who was the chairperson of ASCPCR until May this year, at her Guwahati office in August 2016.

Recalling a visit she made to Radhamadhab Road in 2015, she said that district administrators accompanying her walked with their hands covering their noses because of how unhygienic the place was. Gogoi said she believed that all trafficked minors had been hidden prior to her visit. Only the madams, she said, reluctantly came forward to talk. However, she happened to see a girl who seemed to be about six to seven years old. After exchanging a few words with her and the woman who claimed to be her guardian, Gogoi had reason to believe that the child would be put to work in a few years. I asked her if she could not have rescued the girl on the basis of her suspicion. “If I rescue one girl, what will happen? I won’t be able to go back inside again,” Gogoi said. Following her visit, she sent a proposal to concerned departments regarding the rehabilitation of the children of sex workers. She did not receive a reply.

IN THE AFTERMATH of the 2012 raid, which the girl who escaped Silchar in 2011 went on, Kharshiing heard more damning information from those rescued. One of them told her that when she had once tried to escape along with another trafficked girl, two policemen captured them and returned them to the brothel in exchange for a hefty sum of money.

In February 2012, Kharshiing filed two separate complaints with the National Human Rights Commission, or NHRC, on behalf of the survivors. One alleged that “the girls have been trafficked and sexually exploited and the perpetrators were assisted by the police of the Silchar Sadar police station”—which lies next to the red-light area—and the second demanded compensation for the survivors. In response, the NHRC called for an investigation into the involvement of police officers, and directed the Assam government to compensate survivors under the Assam Survivor Compensation Scheme, which provides a sum of Rs 1 lakh to any survivor of human trafficking who requires rehabilitation.

In a letter addressed to Kharshiing, dated 28 January 2014, the NHRC noted that Cachar’s superintendent of police had put down in a statement to the commission that the complainants had been unable to identify any policemen involved with the accused traffickers. But the commission added that the statement lacked merit since the policemen had not been called in for an identification parade. The NHRC further emphasised that “there appears to be a deliberate attempt to cover up the involvement of the policemen in the trafficking business and to save the policemen against whom specific allegation was made.” The commission said that it had asked the superintendent of police to send a report on further investigation by 5 March 2014.

Yet it was only in November 2015 that the police called one of the rescued girls for an identification parade. “We reached early morning but were made to wait till evening in the same police station whose officers were involved in exploiting the girls,” Kharshiing said. The girls identified Mintu Seal, an assistant sub-inspector posted in a police station in Karimganj district, and Tapan Nath, a former home guard, from a group of 20 men; both of them had earlier worked at the Silchar Sadar police station. A month prior to the identification parade, during the celebration of the sixty-seventh Assam Police Day, Seal had been one of 44 officers awarded a commendation medal by the then chief minister, Tarun Gogoi. The 22-year-old who escaped Silchar in 2011 also recalled with disgust during our conversation in August that Nath had once come seeking her services, and that she had declined.

Kharshiing has not heard from the police in the 18 months since the identification parade. The commission continues to await further information from authorities. Rajveer Singh, who was the superintendent of police in Cachar district from August 2015 to October 2016, told me over the phone in August that a charge sheet has been filed against the two officers, and that action would be taken according to court orders.

The 22-year-old escapee, in the meantime, went on another rescue mission with police from Assam and Meghalaya in 2014. She was pregnant then. She remembered that, on this mission, a particular obese officer from Guwahati had chatted and smoked with brothel owners and even offered to help them if they bribed him. “I did not have a phone or I would have recorded it,” she said. “I told him that this is not good.” The officer, annoyed, threatened to leave her in the red-light area.

She told me that many of the malkins tried to attack her and abused her. “But they couldn’t do anything,” she said. “The two Shillong police who were with me were very nice.” She recalled one of the malkins telling her, “You come here again and again to pull out girls, and finish our business? We won’t let you. We’ll finish you instead.” She said that they were able to rescue a woman and her child on that mission. There were many other girls who wanted to escape and be rescued, she told me, but they had either been scared into silence, or hidden away.

EARLY LAST YEAR, a rescue mission to Radhamadhab Road conducted by two NGOs—the Nepal-based Maiti Nepal and the Meghalaya-based Impulse—exposed serious flaws in the system meant to provide justice and relief to the survivors.

On 2 January 2016, a few days after two investigative officers of Maiti Nepal mapped out the red-light area for the operation, members of Impulse and the local police conducted a raid that led to the rescue of 11 girls, including three minors. Hasina Kharbhih, the founder of Impulse, who was a part of the operation along with another woman colleague, told me that, ahead of the raid, she had been in touch directly with Assam’s director general of police, Mukesh Sahay. She sought assistance from the local police only 15 minutes prior to the raid to ensure there was no tip-off, and yet, when the rescue team entered the red-light area, they found the gates locked and most children hidden away. Information had reached the brothel owners anyway.

The three rescued minors, all of whom were from Nepal, were sent to a government-registered rehabilitation home in Guwahati. The activist Miguel Queah, who spoke to the other eight rescued women while they were in the State Home for Women and Children in Guwahati, told me that they asked one question repeatedly: there were so many children in the red-light area so “why didn’t you rescue them?” One of the rescued women, a 27-year-old who had three sons and one daughter, told Queah that there were “pimps” who sourced women from all over the country and sold them to brothel owners in Radhamadhab Road. She also said that the brothel owners treated the women poorly and kept all or most of the money that came from the clients. Most of the eight rescued women said that initially they had been trafficked to the area or had been forced into sex work, but, eventually, they started pursuing the work willingly due to a lack of other options.

However, a 25-year-old said that she had been made to perform sex work against her will. She had been trafficked roughly ten years earlier, while still a minor, when she was employed as a domestic helper in a Guwahati home. She now wanted to return to her own home. She told Queah about being confined in a small room in Radhamadhab Road from 10 pm to 8 am every day, and being physically abused when she refused to work. Another woman sought government assistance so that she could save herself from being forced back into the red-light area. Two of the eight women rescued were from Nepal, Queah said, and were especially worried and vulnerable because their families back home had been severely affected after the 2015 earthquake. They did not know what to return to. Queah prepared a detailed report with all information for the court proceedings to follow. He also included specific recommendations and mentioned the fact that one of the women was willing to give up sex work and instead assist in curbing the trafficking of minors from Nepal into Silchar, if she was assured state protection.

But things turned out differently in the state home. In April 2016, a local Bengali daily reported that the women had been tricked back into the red-light area. In April 2016, the 25-year-old who was trafficked ten years ago escaped again and went to the police station to lodge a complaint against her brothel owner and her husband. Speaking to a few reporters, she recounted that when they were in the state home in Guwahati, brothel owners in the red-light area of Silchar contacted them through a few men. They offered to help the women search for their respective addresses so they could all return home. In spite of being suspicious of the offer, she recalled in the article, it was so intolerable staying in the state home that the women eventually agreed. According to many survivors, the state home has been hostile to them—they have complained of misbehaviour by staff, unclean toilets and a lack of food.

The women signed the required papers, and the state home agreed to release them, as documented in a court order in Queah’s possession. None of the concerned NGOs were notified. In a subsequent court hearing, men from the red-light area brought in people who posed as guardians for the women, and the women played along, believing that it was all for their own good. After the court passed its judgment asking that the women be sent to their respective homes with the “guardians,” the women were taken back to the red-light area. After about two months, the 25-year-old who was first trafficked ten years earlier mustered up the courage to escape following a bout of torture by her brothel owner. The article reported that she was angry and upset with the NGOs, which she said had rescued them but abandoned them in a sorry state.

Kharbhih, who only found out about the release of the eight rescued women during a visit to Silchar a few days after the court order had been passed, went seeking names and contact details of custodians with whom they were sent, without success. She was exasperated that her NGO had not been informed of the court hearing and the survivors’ subsequent release, even though the organisation is a petitioner in the case.

“Our recommendations were very clear,” Queah told me last August. “For the 25-year-old, we provided her home address and the name of her father, asking that her family be located, and a probation officer or the district social welfare officer study the social background of the family through a home visit. She, and the other women, should have been restored only after these verifications were done.”

Along with Queah’s detailed report, Kharbhih’s NGO, Impulse, had also prepared and sent a psychological report to the state home, saying that the eight women required a few more months of counselling and time to recover in the rehabilitation centre. “We sent a local team to Silchar to trace back the girls, but in the absence of sufficient information, like phone numbers, it wasn’t easy,” she told me over the phone last September. “It wasn’t easy to enter the red-light area again either.”

When I asked DSP Sudhangshu Das if he was aware of the eight rescued women being tricked back into the red-light area, he said he had received no such information. SP Rakesh Roushan, on the other hand, told me that he had heard that the eight women had willingly returned to the red-light area, and cited the incident as an example of how sex work was more of a social and economic issue than a criminal one. He said he was not aware of the details of the girls being tricked.

The case gets murkier. In a letter dated 1 June 2016, addressed to the superintendent of police, crime investigation department, Queah lodged a First Information Report stating that two of the three Nepali minors who were rescued along with the eight women had revealed in their counselling sessions that “one or more men from the NGO, involved in the rescue mission, had sex with them.” Queah requested investigation and action against the perpetrators. The letter was forwarded to Cachar’s then superintendent of police, Rajveer Singh, who told me last August that he was aware of the incident and that a case had been registered in Silchar. To date, however, the police have not responded to Queah’s letter, or approached the two girls for their statements. “I’ve worked on trafficking cases in several districts across Assam, and the SPs have always been responsive and willing to coordinate,” Queah told me. “This is the only time when there has been no correspondence or action at all in months.”

After spending about a year in a government-registered rehabilitation home in Guwahati, the minors were sent back to their respective homes in Nepal in December 2016. Kharbhih said she has written to the anti-human-trafficking unit headquarters in Guwahati, asking them to provide a directive to the AHTU branch in Cachar to speed up the investigation and provide an update regarding its status. In Silchar, Poulomi Dutta Roy, the former director of Ujjawala, has been volunteering on the case on behalf of Impulse, but said she has received little cooperation from the police so far.

When I met a child-rights activist familiar with the case in a coffee shop in Guwahati last August, he told me that he did not expect any justice for the Nepali minors in the case. The three Nepali minors all belonged to remote parts of Nepal, he told me. Two of them—one of whom worked in the red-light area in Silchar for two months and another for a year—had been trafficked by an agent who promised them well-paying jobs, while the third minor had been trafficked by a relative about five years earlier, when she was 12 years old. “They were so scared,” the activist told me. “They did not even reveal their real names for a long time. They couldn’t trust anyone.” In the counselling session, according to the activist, they recalled being beaten, watching others get beaten, and being locked up in small rooms time and again. If they ever tried to run away, the police would pick them up, sexually abuse them and drop them back at the brothel. They had been sent to other red-light areas as well, including one in Delhi for a brief period of time. “Most rescued girls recount similar forms of exploitation,” the activist told me. “But who’s listening?”

Since the rescue of the 11 girls in January last year, a staffer under the Ujjawala project in Silchar told me, the brothel owners have further restricted entry into the area to control the flow of information to outsiders. Queah and Kharbhih are adamant that a Public Interest Litigation be filed in the courts, as they think there is enough evidence to shut the brothels down, and rescue and rehabilitate all those trafficked. But even as this quest for serious action against the red-light area continues, the sexual exploitation of trafficked women seems to be spreading beyond the red-light area. According to Paulami Dutta Roy, there are now several trafficking networks in seemingly quiet Silchar, and prostitution is being carried out not just in the red-light area but also in rented flats and homes, where clients are directed through social media.

ON A COLD, GLOOMY MORNING this March, I met the girl who escaped Silchar in 2011 in a one-room shanty she lives in with her three children. We talked sitting on a wooden single bed, while her children fought and played around us. Before I met her, I had spoken to her twice on the phone last year, once in August and then in December. She had sounded upbeat during both of those conversations. But this time, she seemed tired and troubled. Her life since her escape had been fraught with struggle, and she repeated several times that the government should have compensated her with a house instead of with money.

She told me that one of her friends who had escaped had returned to the red-light area and that another had sold her own child to earn some money. “This other girl, I had rescued her in 2012, she sells drugs now,” she said. “She has such a good life now, she even owns a car. She asked me to do so as well, but I refused out of respect for Agnes. I told her that I don’t want to earn money by ruining someone’s life.”

She sustains herself on the income of her younger sister, who works as a nurse in a missionary home. She said she faces discrimination from local authorities because of her past. As a result, she has no voter card or ration card to help her avail of government subsidies and schemes. She tried building a house with the money given to her by the government, but said she was cheated, as the land did not belong to the person who sold it to her. She was forced to vacate the house. “What work will I look for?” she asked. “Who will give me work when I have three kids? If they had given me a house, I could live there peacefully and also open a shop or something.”

Most survivors face similar problems. In Ujjawala’s shelter home in Silchar, I met a 17-year-old who was trafficked to the red-light area when she was about 11 years old. A few weeks after she was taken in, her brothel owner forced her to take pills that induced menstruation, and put her to work soon after. She, too, recounted instances of torture. “My owner mostly kicked me here,” she said, pointing towards her pelvic region.

She also talked of being locked up, and of police officers who acted as informants for the brothel owners. “Some days we would not get time to eat, there were so many men coming in,” she said. “There would be more than five customers every day, all night and sometimes even during the day. We wouldn’t get much time to sleep. We even had to wake up from sleep and take customers sometimes.”

After spending about four years in the red-light area, she escaped to Guwahati. She spent a few months in a state home for children, and a few more in the Centre for Development Initiatives. There she was trained to be a domestic helper and provided with employment in a household.

But she fled again and returned to Silchar. This time, the brothel owner kept her in her own house and told her that she would put her back to work when the situation was better and the officer-in-charge at the Silchar Sadar police station changed. In the meanwhile, the owner tried to sell her into the brothels of Sonagachi in Kolkata, but, following X-ray tests (used to determine a person’s approximate age), they refused to accept a minor. “I had come back with a different motive, to fight and take away money from her,” she told me. “But I never succeeded in doing this.” In November, she fled from the brothel owner’s house and was directed to the Ujjawala home by the police.

When I met her, the 17-year-old seemed visibly distressed and confused. Having lost her parents, she only recalled the address of an uncle who was refusing to take her home. “I am not educated, but I hope I can find some kind of work. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll commit suicide,” she said, weeping silently.

The 22-year-old who escaped Silchar in 2011, too, said that she feels helpless to the point that she constantly considers returning to the red-light area. She has been forcibly evicted from houses multiple times in the past few years. “Actually, I was better off there,” she said. “Even if there was sadness, there were no hassles like this. But after coming back here, I have faced a lot of difficulty. … There, at least we got food to eat and a bed to sleep on. At least we didn’t have to keep listening to someone say ‘Empty the house now and leave.’”

A few minutes before we ended the conversation, while telling me how tired and angry she was, she trailed off and mentioned that Kharshiing had suggested that they go into Radhamadhab Road for a rescue again. “I want to go,” she said, fiercely. “Why should they keep children there?”

Sarita Santoshini is an independent journalist based in Assam, reporting on human rights, development and gender issues.

This report was first published in Caravan Magazine on 1 July 2017 and  is available at http://www.caravanmagazine.in/reportage/trafficked-children-silchar-red-light-area . The report is reproduced here for wider dissemination.

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

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

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

CASE NARRATIVE:

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

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

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

BACKGROUND

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

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

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

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


SUGGESTED ACTION

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

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

To support this case, please click here:

send-small

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)

 

 

Text of the Judicial Inquiry Report on torture and killing of Manorama Devi by the Assam Rifles

November 29, 2014

Thangjiam Manorama Devi was a Manipuri village girl who was brutally tortured and subjected to gruesome sexual violence before she was killed by a team of the para-military force Assam Rifles in 2004. The incident caused widespread outrage and anger and sparked public protest leading to a judicial inquiry into the matter. The report of the inquiry was never made public until this year when the Supreme Court of India asked for it in connection with hearing on a PIL seeking probe into custodial deaths in the north-east States. The report exposes the Assam Rifles efforts to cover up the incident by lodging false FIRs and trying to avoid inquiry by unjustifiably invoking the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958.

Thangjam Khuman Leima Devi, mother of Thangjam Manorama, at her residence in Imphal in 2004.

Thangjam Khuman Leima Devi, mother of Thangjam Manorama, at her residence in Imphal in 2004.

Here are a few highlights of the report as prepared by Krishnadas Rajagopal and published in The Hindu:

She was found dead with multiple gun shot injuries on her private parts and thighs at Ngariyan Yairipok Road, hardly two km away from a police station, states the report.

The judicial inquiry report on the murder of Thangjam Manorama, a Manipuri girl, in 2004, handed over to the Supreme Court recently after being kept under wraps for over a decade, reveals the “brutal and merciless torture” by a 17 Assam Rifles team.

The murder gave renewed impetus to calls for withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

After a decade of remaining under wraps, the report by the Judicial Inquiry Commission graphically reveals the last hours of “brutal and merciless torture” Manipuri village girl, Thangjam Manorama, suffered at the hands of a team from the 17th Assam Rifles before she was shot dead.

The Manorama case led to widespread protests against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) and spurred calls for a review of the law, especially by the Justice J.S. Verma Committee in 2013.

The report, submitted to the State government way back in December 2004, was never made public.

This week, the government handed it over to the Supreme Court. The court had demanded it as part of a hearing on a PIL seeking probe into custodial deaths in the north-east States.

“This is one of the most shocking custodial killing of a Manipuri village girl,” C. Upendra Singh, retired District and Sessions Judge, Manipur, who was Chairman of the Commission, wrote.

He describes how Manorama was picked up by “a strong-armed troops of 17th Assam Rifles” in the night between July 10-11, 2004 from her home in Imphal East District. She was found dead with multiple gun shot injuries on her private parts and thighs at Ngariyan Yairipok Road, hardly two km away from a police station.

The report details how the incidents of the night started with her younger brother, Thangjam Basu, watching the Hindi film Raju Chacha half past midnight, heard some noise outside. Within the next few minutes, the Assam Rifles party crashed into the house. The report said that Manorama, who was “clutching on to her mother Khumaleima”, was dragged out screaming “Ima Ima Khamu (mother, mother please stop them)”.

The report said she was tortured on her front porch, as the family watched. It said how Basu remembers hearing his sister’s “muffled and dimmed voice saying Ie Khangde (do not know)” to the troops’ questions. It said the men then took her away to “places”.

The report said that the two FIRs filed by the 17th Assam Rifles claimed she led them to recover Kenwood and Chinese grenades and an AK 47 rifle. It said she tried to escape and was shot in the legs. The FIRs claimed she had bled and died.

The Commission report blamed the police for leaving the investigation to the “discretion and mercy” of the Assam Rifles. It narrated how the Assam Rifles had invoked the AFSPA with the Enquiry Commission.

Mr. Singh said he countered that his enquiry was only a fact-finding exercise, and sanction under Section 6 of AFSPA would only come later when the personnel is found to have done wrong.

The Commission said not a single one of the 16 bullets fired at Manorama hit her legs. The report called the escape story a “naked lie.”

The report said most of the injuries would reveal that she was shot when “helpless”. It said some injuries suggest sexual assault too. The Commission had examined 37 witnesses.

Download full text of the report here.

How poverty wages for tea pickers fuel India’s trade in child slavery

July 25, 2013
in Assam
The Observer, Saturday 20 July 2013 22.00 BST

When the trafficker came knocking on the door of Elaina Kujar’s hut on a tea plantation at the north-eastern end of Assam, she had just got back from school. Elaina was 14 and wanted to be a nurse. Instead, she was about to lose four years of her life as a child slave.

She sits on a low chair inside the hut, playing with her long dark hair as she recalls how her owner would sit next to her watching porn in the living room of his Delhi house, while she waited to sleep on the floor. “Then he raped me,” she says, looking down at her hands, then out of the door. Outside, the monsoon rain is falling on the tin roof and against the mud-rendered bamboo strip walls, on which her parents have pinned a church calendar bearing the slogan The Lord is Good to All.

Elaina was in that Delhi house for one reason: her parents, who picked the world-famous Assam tea on an estate in Lakhimpur district, were paid so little they could not afford to keep her. There are thousands like her, taken to Delhi from the tea plantations in the north-east Indian state by a trafficker, sold to an agent for as little as £45, sold on again to an employer for up to £650, then kept as slaves, raped, abused. It is a 21st-century slave trade. There are thought to be 100,000 girls as young as 12 under lock and key in Delhi alone: others are sold on to the Middle East and some are even thought to have reached the UK.

Every tea plantation pays the same wages. Every leaf of every box of Assam tea sold by Tetley and Lipton and Twinings and the supermarket own brands – Asda, Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and the rest – is picked by workers who earn a basic 12p an hour.

If it says Fairtrade on the box, or certified by the Rainforest Alliance or the Ethical Tea Partnership, it makes no difference: the worker received the same basic cash payment – 89 rupees (£1) a day, a little over half the legal wage for an unskilled worker in Assam of 158.54 rupees. To place that in context, a worker receives about 2p in cash for picking enough tea to fill a box of 80 tea bags, which then sells for upwards of £2 in the UK. The companies say they know the wages are low, and they are trying to make things better, but their hands are tied by the growers. The growers, who set the wages by collective bargaining, say it is all they can afford.

But there is a price for keeping wages so low, and it is paid by the workers who cannot afford to keep their daughters. When the traffickers come knocking, offering to take the girls away, promising good wages and an exciting new life, they find it hard to say no. “He said he would change our lives,” says Elaina, now 20. “The tea garden was closed when he came and my parents were not working, so my father wanted to send me.”

The trafficker had promised excitement and glamour: instead she started work every day at 4am and worked until midnight, and though he promised to give her 1,500 rupees a month, she was never paid. He kept her as a prisoner, unable to leave the house or contact her family.

“His wife was suspicious about what was happening. I told her he had raped me but he denied it and told me to shut up my mouth,” she says. “After that, I was always crying, but he kept me locked in the house. I was afraid. I had no money and he threatened that I would end up in a brothel.”

She was saved only when he sent her to a new owner who, on learning her story, sent her home.

Elaina’s is not an isolated case. Rabina Khatun, now 18, discovered she had been sold into slavery when she agreed to go to Delhi to work as a maid. A woman from the village had tempted her with the promise of 3,000 rupees a month. “She said, ‘Come and see Delhi. It is bigger than your village’,” she says. She was 14: it was two years before she was allowed to go home. When she complained she had not been paid, she was sold on again to three men as a plaything. “I was taken to a house and they locked me in. Then they raped me. Afterwards they took me to Old Delhi station and left me there with no money. I was physically and mentally ill from what had happened to me. I want the men to be punished. I am never going to Delhi again. I am very angry. I want to kill them.”

Both Elaina and Rabina gave the Observer written permission to identify them as a way of exposing the trade.

Indian government figures show 126,321 trafficked children were rescued from domestic service in 2011-12, a year-on-year increase of nearly 27%. But many anguished parents have no idea what has happened to their daughters. According to India‘s National Crime Record Bureau, a child goes missing in India every eight minutes, and more than a third are never found.

For the parents of the missing, the pain is hard to bear. Saphira Khatun carefully places the picture of her daughter Minu Begum on the table in front of her. There are tears in her eyes. Minu had been doing well in school and wanted to join the police. But her head was turned by promises of money from a female trafficker in the village. “She had big dreams,” says her sister Munu, 20. “Any 12-year-old wants to go to the big city: it is more exciting than the village.”

One evening, Minu failed to come home. Her family have not seen her since that day four years ago. “Nobody does anything to stop bad things happening to poor girls,” says her 17-year-old sister Nadira. “Please help us to get our sister back here. Wherever she is in India, please give me my sister back.”

Arjun and Mukti Tati’s daughter Binita would be 17 now. She was 14 when the trafficker took her away with promises of money and a better life. But a year passed, then another, and no word came. They went to plead with the trafficker to help find her, but he refused. “She was a very gentle girl, always playing, very happy,” Mukti says. “We went to him 100 times but he always said he had no information.”

The traffickers live openly among the other villagers. They argue that they are victims too. Shobaha Tirki, 50, worked in the tea gardens for years, rarely earning more than 500 rupees a month. One day he met a big trafficker who promised him good money if he would send girls from the village to his placement agency. “I took maybe 20 girls from here to placement agencies in Delhi. A lot of them came back but five or six did not.” He gets 10,000 rupees per girl. It is not hard to convince them to go with him, he says. “I tell them about Delhi and how it is good to go to a big city,” he says. “I tell them they will have a room of their own and a bathroom of their own.”

The girls who come back and have been cheated of their wages head straight for his house, he says. He tells them to talk to the agency. “They never get their money though,” he says.

Many of the traffickers are women, who find it easier to convince the girls to go with them. Kusma Takri, 27, gets 4,000 rupees for every girl. She says she needs the money. “This is my job. I know the Delhi placement agencies are bad but I am caught between the placement agencies and poverty.”

Rama Shankar Chaurasia, chair of child rights group Bachpan Bachao Andolan, says the scale of the trafficking is immense. “They are kept as slaves, their wages are withheld and taken by their placement agency or supplier, their employers are told not to pay them directly because if they do the girls will run away.”

The going price for a maid can be as much as 60,000 rupees, he says. “The person who pays that feels they have purchased the girl. But the rising demand from the ever-growing middle class must not be at the cost of slavery for hundreds of thousands of children.”

The UK brews 165 million cups of tea a day, importing about 10% of world production. Assam, in the far north-east of India, has more than 850 tea estates. Many of the workers are descendants of tribal groups from central India originally trafficked to Assam as labour during British rule.

The state produced 590 million kilos of tea last year, more than half of the total Indian production of 1 billion kg. It sells for 140 rupees a kilogram at auction in Assam, but according to a joint report by Oxfam and the Ethical Tea Partnership, workers there are paid at rates equivalent to just 40% of the average Indian wage.

According to the Indian Tea Association, all workers in the main Brahmaputra valley estates receive a basic cash wage of 89 rupees (£1) a day – a little over half the minimum legal wage. The ITA claims that benefits in kind make the total package worth 178 rupees a day for permanent workers and 158 rupees for temporary workers.

Its director general, Monojit Dasgupta, claims the tea plantations have an agreement with the state government that whatever its members pay will be regarded as the legal wage. “It is not a question of paying so little, it is what the industry can afford,” he says. But the employers can achieve the basic legal minimum wage for the state only by including in the calculation statutory benefits such as maternity pay and sickness benefit, and discretionary items such as free tea.

Rights groups say this is unethical. “Tea planters and tea packers have known for years that wages in the industry are shockingly low – often below internationally acknowledged poverty levels,” says Ron Oswald, general secretary of the International Union of Food Workers. “Yet instead of tackling this honestly they hide behind certification schemes and claims of additional benefits and food rations – which are in fact ways of keeping workers tied into semi-feudal relations with tea garden owners.”

Murray Worthy, from War on Want, says benefits in kind are no substitute for the cash wages the workers deserve. “It beggars belief that the giant tea brands can justify these poverty wages. With the lion’s share of the price of tea ending up in their profits, they could easily afford to ensure all tea workers are paid a decent wage”.

There is a general agreement among the brands, retailers and certification bodies that wages on the tea plantations are a problem.

Fairtrade – which certifies Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose teas – says it accepts that wage levels in Assam are “well below” living wage levels and says it is working with other certification bodies to improve them. A spokeswoman said that prices need to rise if progress is to be made on improving wages.

The Ethical Tea Partnership – which certifies Twinings and Tetley – says its members are powerless to set wages but points to a joint report commissioned with Oxfam and published in May, which highlighted problems with low pay. Commenting on the report, Alison Woodhead from Oxfam said: “No matter how big and powerful, individual tea companies or certification organisations cannot tackle the deep-rooted and complex barriers to a living wage on their own. The best chance we have of eradicating poverty wages is for the whole industry – producers, governments, retailers, trade unions, companies and certification organisations – to work together to find a solution. We are delighted that that process has now started and we will continue to support its progress.”

The Rainforest Alliance – which certifies Unilever brands, including Lipton – says it hopes certified farms will be paying a realistic living wage within five years.

Typhoo says it works closely with all three certification bodies to improve conditions on its plantations.

The Indian government hopes to have 335 anti-trafficking units set up in police stations around the country by the end of this year. But even the police admit there is no simple solution.

At Laluk police station, the faces of missing girls stare out from the noticeboard. Sub-inspector Nirmal Biswas, the newly arrived officer in charge, sits behind a large desk next to his crime chart. It lists 24 kidnappings for 2012, against 10 rapes and 17 thefts.

He reports that in the past month police have registered four cases of trafficking, and recovered one girl and her trafficker.

It is progress, he says. But it will not stop the trade, because the money which has been earmarked for the area by the government never reaches those who need it.

“It is the poverty here,” he says. “If any trafficker offers 1,000 rupees, they will get girls. It will be defeated only with employment and development and eradication of poverty.”

The Article is reposted from the Guardian from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/20/poverty-tea-pickers-india-child-slavery

Custodial death of Ajijur Rahman and the situation that led to his death

July 19, 2012

BHRPC report on efforts of effecting communal division, riots and custodial death in the aftermath of “conversion and second marriage” of Dr Rumee Nath

An aged person named Mr Ajijur Rahman was picked up from his residence at Kalain under the Katigorah police station in the district of Cachar (Assam) by a raiding police team led by Mr Y T Gyatsu, a probationary Indian Police Service (IPS) officer posted as Additional Superintendent of Police at the Cachar police headquarters at Silchar in the night between 6 and 7 July 2012 and was tortured to death in the lock-up of Kalain police patrol post.

The police team was conducting raids to arrest some persons who were accused or suspects of creating mischief and rioting on and after 4 July in Kalain area. The law and order situation of the area deteriorated due to a call of general strike by the Hindu Jagaran Mancha in protest against alleged police harassment of youths belonging to their community who were suspected of being parts of the mob that assaulted Dr. Rumee Nath and her ‘husband’ on 29 June at Karimganj for her ‘conversion and marriage’ with the Muslim boy. The Mancha was also reportedly protesting against the protests of the supporters of Dr. Nath.

The report:

After the incident the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) formed a fact finding team comprising of 1. Mr. Neharul Ahmed Mazumder, 2. Mr Sadique Mohammed Laskar, 3. Mr Raju Barbhuiya, 4. Mr Nirmal Kumar Das, 5. Mr Aftabur Rahman Laskar, 6. Ms S Sarmila Singha and 7. Mr Abdul Wakil Choudhury to find out the factors and the situation that led to the death of Ajijur Rahman. The team visited Kalain area on 14 July and met family members and relatives of the victim, victims of rioting and their family and relatives and respectable citizens of the area including president, secretary and members of Kalain Bazaar committee Mr Sukhendu Kar, Mr Karunamoy Dey, Mr Asit Baran Deb and others. The fact finding team also visited the Kalain police patrol post and talked with the officer-in-charge Sub-Inspector of police Mr Anowar Hussain Choudhury and some constables. This report is based on the information collected by the team.

The victim:

The victim Mr Ajijur Rahman was aged about 60 years and a permanent resident of village Boroitoli Part-I, Kalain under Katigorah police station and was respected as a senior local businessman. The place, where his house situates, borders with three villages of Boroitoli, Brahmangram and Lakhipur. He was the head of his family which comprised of his 5 sons Mr Fariz Uddin (aged 42), Mr Sarif Uddin (39), Mr Selim Uddin (30), Mr Nazim Uddin (26), and Mr Mahim Uddin (20), 4 daughters Ms Anowara Begum (32), Ms Monowara Begum (aged 24 and unmarried), Ms Reena Begum  (aged 18 and unmarried), Ms Runa Begum  (aged 15 and unmarried), his wife Ms Saleha Khatun (55) his mother aged about 80 years and the children of his sons. It is a big joint family of people of three generations living together. It appeared that the family belongs to the emergent lower middle class of Bengali Muslims in Barak valley (South Assam).

 

Place:

Kalain is situated at a distance of about 40 kilometres from Silchar towards west and is a growing semi-urban area serving as a local business centre for the entire West Cachar region. The population of Bengali speaking Hinuds and Muslims are almost equal in number. Hindus have been living mostly nearby the market. Beside these two religious communities, some other people belonging to Manipuri, Bishnupria and Hindi speaking communities are also living in the outskirts. According to the local residents, people of Kalian belonging to different communities have been living harmoniously and in peace and love with each other for times immemorial. However, there were small quarrels and even fighting at times between people belonging to different communities but they were of personal nature and the religions of the parties have had nothing to with them.

Incident:

A huge police team led by Mr Y T Gyatsu raided the house of Mr Ajijur Rahman at about 12.30 in the night intervening between 6 and 7 July. They first cordoned off the house from all sides and then knocked at the doors. The inmates of the house were fast asleep. At the sound of heavy knocks Mr Ajijur Rahman got up and opened the door. A big number of police personnel including a lady constable remained outside the house and four/five of them including Mr Gyatsu went into the house. They asked for Mr Nazim Uddin who was not home at that time. In fact, no other male members of the family were present in the house since they were in hiding. The able male members of all families of the area were hiding themselves in apprehension of indiscriminate arrest and harassment by police in the wake of the rioting. As an aged person Mr Rahman did not feel the need to hide himself.

The police team made all female members to go out of the house and they conducted a search for Mr Nazim Uddin in all rooms including kitchen and bathrooms in vain. They demanded of Mr Ajijur Rahman to tell them the whereabouts of his son or they would send him in jail in place of his son. When he pleaded ignorance of whereabouts of his son Mr Gyatsu hurled a torrent of verbal abuse and started assaulting him. He demanded that Mr Rahman would have to take his son to the police patrol post before 6am. Mr Rahman told that he would not be able to do so since he did not know where his son is and latter’s mobile phone was also off. At that Mr Gyatsu started boxing his ears and the back of his head while dragging him. Member of the raiding police team constable Mr Badrul Islam Barbhuiya, Ms Reena Begum, daughter of Mr Rahman and other eye witnesses told the BHRPC team that Mr Gyatsu did not let the old man to wear even a top under garment. The old man cried and pleaded with Mr Gyatsu not to take him to the police station as he was to go to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for Haj pilgrimage. His wife and daughters also wept uncontrolably and urged the police officers to spare the old man at least for the sake of God since he did not know anything about incidents of 4 July. These beseeching of the helpless was not heeded.

Mr. Mahibur Rahman[1], a neighbour and cousin of Mr Ajijur Rahmn, told the BHRPC team that when he heard of the cries of wife and daughters of the latter he went there and saw that the police was taking him with them. He then sneaked to house of other neighbours Mr. Taj Uddin[2] and Mr. Shahid Uddin[3] and awakened them. They were to move silently since they were themselves very afraid of the police and a prohibitory order under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 was also in force. Three of them stood at the front side of a house[4] at a distance of about 20 metres from the patrol post to witness what was happening to the old man there. According to them, from that place everything was clearly visible since the doors and windows of the patrol post house were wide open and electric lights were on. They stated that they saw Mr Ajijur Rahman was seated on a red plastic chair. They inferred from the gestures of the police personnel and Mr Rahman that they were talking. Then two personnel coming from two sides kept his thighs in tight grip in a way that rendered Mr Rahman unable to move. And then another police personnel dressed like a higher officer and in his facial and physical features resembling to a tribal man came and placing his one grip at the chin and another on the head twisted the head of Mr Ajijur Rahman with tremendous force. It seemed that the body of Mr Rahman became motionless and loose and his head leaned at the side at which his head was left by the officer. This is also corroborated by Mr Taj Uddin and Mr Shahid Uddin.

According to the police personnel posted at the Kalain patrol post with whom the BHRPC team talked, there were two police officers there at the time who more or less look like tribals. One is Mr Y T Gaytsu and another is Mr L Saikia, the Deputy Superintendent of Police. It appears that the person who twisted the head of Mr Ajijur Rahman is either Mr Gyatsu or Mr Saikia.

According to the above mentioned eye witnesses, after the assault of the officer all people in the patrol post got agitated and a hullabaloo ensued. Two personnel lifted Mr Ajijur Rahman as if they were lifting a dead body and put him in a vehicle which then went away. It was at about 2am.

Mr. Mahibur Rahman further stated that a certain person named Mr AJijur Rahman Khan called him up on his cell phone and informed that a person of his name from Boroitoli was brought to the Kalain Community Health Centre and the physician in-charge of the hospital Dr Sumon Bhomik advised to take him to the Silchar Medical College and Hospital as he could not feel his pulse. Circumstances strongly indicate that Mr Ajijur Rahman  was brought dead and he died due to twisting of his head.

After that the family, relatives and neighbours of Mr Ajijur Rahman tried to find out what happened to him during the remainder of the night and in the morning some of them went to the SMCH and came to know about the death of Mr Rahman with help from local member of Assam Legislative Assembly Mr Ataur Rahman Mazarbhuiya. Autopsy of the body was conducted at the SMCH on 7 July and was handed over to the relatives of the deceased. After performing last rites Mr. Ajijur Rahman was laid to rest on the next day.

The local people were concerned that the post mortem report might not reflect the true causes of death and material facts might be suppressed since the autopsy in India is conducted in a very unscientific, legally improper and unreliable way. Usually someone engaged in manual scavenging cuts the body at the direction of a surgeon who stands at a safe distance and looks at the body from there. The surgeon does not touch the body or examine it otherwise. From that distance he makes a guess and writes down the cause of death based on the guess. In cases of custodial deaths the body remains under the custody and absolute control of the police since before the death until the autopsy report is prepared.

Observing such appalling conditions of autopsy procedure the National Human Rights Commission of India issued guidelines to the states as well as the central government calling for their immediate action to address the lack of transparency while dealing with deaths in custody. The Commission recommended video recording of the inquest as well as the post-mortem of the victim. The Commission has even recommended using a standardised ‘post-mortem examination report form’ by the forensic surgeons. These recommendations however have not been implemented in India in their letter and spirit. Sometimes the procedures may be recorded but the report is not prepared as per the recommended guidelines.

Sharing the concerns of the local people the BHRPC instantaneously on 7 July wrote a letter to the District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police and Superintendent of the SMCH enclosing the NHRC guidelines and urging them to conduct the autopsy as per the guidelines.

The DM also ordered an inquiry into the incident of death to be conducted an executive magistrate. People are of the opinion that it is nothing but an attempt to cover up the case and save the guilty officers and personnel. Executive magistrates are not independent judicial authorities. They are servants of the government and exercise quasi-judicial powers. They usually do not record evidence before the other parties and give parties opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses of the other party in violations of universally recognised rules of judicial procedure. There are reasons, therefore, to believe that their inquiry may not be objective and impartial.

The Parliament of India keeping in view of the lacunae in law regarding inquiry into the deaths in police custody incorporated a subsection (1A) in section 176 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 by section 18 (ii) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Act, 2005 providing for an inquiry by a judicial magistrate in addition to the inquiry or investigation held by the police. Although the BHRPC reminded the DM of this mandatory provision it was ignored.

The widow of late Ajijur Rahman filed a complaint at the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Cachar on 7 July 2012 under section 302, 506 and 34 of the IPC against Mr Y T Gyatsu and other police personnel. The complaint was sent to the Katigorah Police Station for registration and investigation. It was registered and assigned a case number vide Katigorah PS Case No. 291/12. The Officer-in-Charge of the police station entrusted a Sub-Inspector of police with the task of investigation. There are reasons to suspect the objectivity and impartiality of the investigation officer because he is working under the very persons who have been named as accused in the case.

Background:

As mentioned above, the police team that picked up Mr Ajijur Rahman was conducting raids to arrest some persons who were accused or suspects of creating mischief and rioting on and after 4 July in Kalain area. The law and order situation of the area deteriorated due to a call of general strike by the Hindu Jagaran Mancha in protest against alleged police harassment of youths belonging to their community who were suspected of being parts of the mob that assaulted and brutally beaten up Dr. Rumee Nath and her ‘husband’ on 29 June at Karimganj for her ‘conversion and marriage’ with the Muslim boy. The Mancha was also reportedly protesting against the protests of the supporters of Dr. Nath.

After the call of “bandh” (strike) on 4 July was given by the Mancha some groups in different areas of Barak valley issued a counter call to the people not to observe the bandh because, according to them, frequent strikes are harmful for the business and economy. These groups are thought to be the supporters of Dr Nath. In the morning of 4 July activists of the Mancha went to different parts of the valley to enforce the strike. One of such groups came to Kalain bazaar where they faced resistance from others who wanted the market to function normally.

The bazaar committee, a committee of shop keepers having shops at Kalain, intervened and a tripartite meeting was held among the opposers and supporters of bandh and the committee. The committee offered a compromise proposal after talk with both the parties that the shops could remain closed till 12 noon and then the shops could be opened. Though there were indications of acceptance by both the parties but it could not be finalised as some people of both the parties were adamant in their stands. The members of the committee went to their homes giving up hope of any settlement.

According to the information gathered by the BHRPC, after break down of talks when supporters of the bandh were trying to enforce it forcibly the police raised a barricade and kept most of them outside the barricade. However, they were trying to break the barricade unsuccessfully. With times the situation became very tense. At about 11.30am a mob of Muslim youths came with bamboo sticks and attacked anyone belonging to Hindu communities including shop-keepers and members of the bazaar committee. To face the attack many youths of Hindu communities also came out with sticks. A fight between the communities ensued. Stones were pelted from both sides. Some cycles and motor cycles were burnt down. About 18 people were wounded. They were 1. Mr Sunil Mandal, 2. Mr Sushil Deb, 3. Mr Sumon Deb, 4. Mr Pronit Deb, 5. Mr Sukhendu Kar, 6. Mr Jamal Uddin, 7. Mr Deepak Podder, 8. Mr Titu Baishnob, 9. Mr Buddha Deb Roy, 10. Mr Manna Deb, 11. Mr Sumit Shulkabaidhya, 12. Mr Badrul Islam Barbhuiya, 13. Mr Ranjit Deb, 14. Mr Khalil Uddin, 15, Mr Moin Uddin, 16. Mr Kamrul Haque, 17. Mr Debabrata Paul, 18. Mr Monsur Uddin and others. First six persons sustained serious injuries. Three reporters who went there to cover the situation were also caught in the fight between two communities and received injuries.

According to the local people, had the administration handled it efficiently the situation could be brought under control and the fighting and resulting injuries could have been averted. Executive magistrate Ms Khaleda Sultana Ahmed, DSP (probationary) Mr Iftikar Ali and in-charge of Kalain police patrol post Mr Anowar Hussain Choudhury were present. They failed to handle the mob frenzy. People felt they could take measures including lathi charge and tear gas fire. These measures could disperse the mob. Due to the inability of the authorities to take decisions the fighting intensified.

Towards the evening Additional District Magistrate Mr Borenya Das went to Kalain with a force of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and ordered the police to charge the mob with sticks and fire of tear gas. The mob then got dispersed. The district administration then issued a prohibitory order under section 144 of the CrPC. The situation slowly came under control.

The police registered cases against many named and unnamed suspects who were accused of involvement in fighting on 4 July and started conducting raids of the houses of the people living there to arrest the suspects. It was one of such raids during which Mr Ajijur Rahman was picked up by the police and tortured him to death.

Controversy over ‘conversion and marriage’:

Apart from the mob hysteria that drove the mobs of both communities at that moment, this communal clash resulted from efforts of communalisation of ‘conversion and second marriage’ of Dr. Rumee Nath, encouragement and provocation of youths by a minister of Assam government to take law in their hands and beat up anyone who enters into inter-religious marriage.

Dr. Nath is a Member of Legislative Assembly of Assam (MLA) elected from Borkhola constituency in Cachar district holding ticket from the Congress party. She was earlier also elected from the same constituency as a candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from which she later defected. She has been married with Mr. Rakesh Singh of Lucknow of Uttar Pradesh and from him she has a girl child who is about 2 years old. It was reported that their matrimonial relation has not been going well for some months.

In the month of April she reportedly got ‘converted into Islamic religion’ and ‘married’ one Jakir Hussain (also known as Jakey) of Badarpur under Karimganj district apparently as per Islamic rules. However, it is reported that the ‘conversion and marriage’ took place in the same sitting. Many Muslim clerics maintained that the marriage was invalid for it was solemnised before observing iddat period of three months and therefore her first marriage was subsisting. Validity of her conversion was also under question mark as it was tainted with motives that were not entirely pious. Most intellectuals of the valley also did not take her ‘conversion and second marriage’ pleasantly. According to them, her actions were immature, improper and not befitting of a public figure.

Her first husband filed a case against her and her ‘second husband’ under section 494, 497, 498 and others of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 accusing her of bigamy, (accusing her second husband of) adultery, enticing or taking away or detaining with criminal intent a married woman. She also filed case against her first husband alleging domestic violence.

The BHRPC maintained that right to get converted into any religion is a part of the freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion guaranteed by Article 25 of the constitution of India. Per se inter-religious and inter-caste marriages are also recognised by the Special Marriage Act, 1955 and such marriage should be encouraged as they can promote harmonious communal co-existence and secularism. However, in case of Dr. Nath the things are a little different. She was a married woman with a two years old child. Bigamy or living with another person as man and wife during the subsistence of earlier marriage prima facie amount to offence against the institution of marriage. Abandoning a 2 year old child is cruelty on the child and violation of child rights. These grievances against her could be legitimately vented through legal means and judicial process and which was what her first husband resorted to.

However, some groups including the Hindu Jagaran Mancha exerted themselves to blow it out of all proportion. They conjured up spectre of ‘love jihad’ and started campaign against inter-religious and inter-caste marriages, friendship between girls and boys belonging to different communities and even resorted to vigilantism by raiding parks, restaurants and other public places in search of inter-religious couples and friends and beating them up. Ostensibly this group received encouragement from political leaders who were interested in diving people in religious lines and diverting the attention of the people from the real issues of starvation deaths, corruption, miserable conditions of rural and urban roads and the national highways, human rights violations by police and armed forces etc.

A very influential politician of the ruling congress party in Assam Mr Gautom Roy, Minister for Public Health and Engineering (PHE), at a public function organised to mark 3 years of Assam government issued a call to the public to beat up any boy who marries a girl from a different community and to hand over the girl to her guardians. Provoked and encouraged by this call a mob of more than one hundred youths attacked Dr Nath and her ‘second husband’ at about 10pm on 29 June 2012 at Hotel Nakshatra in Karimganj where she was staying for the night after visiting her constituency. Both of them were brutally assaulted, and according to her, attempts were also made to rape her. After hours a police team rescued them in serious conditions. They were rushed to Guwahati for treatment.

The BHRPC could not confirm any direct links of the minister with the attack on Dr Nath and the mob that attacked her. But it is obvious that his call to beat up such couples definitely encouraged the mob. The comment of the minister is not only against the established constitutional canons of the land and principles of human rights but also a provocation to breach the public order and a call towards further lawlessness and jungle raj. Any person including a minister may disagree with any law and in such cases he should propose repeal or amendment of the law if he is sincere in his opinions. A minister who is part of the party that rules at the central and state governments should have proposed amendment of Article 14, 21 and 25 of the constitution and the Special Marriage Act, 1955 if he sincerely thought that conversion and inter-religious marriages are undesirable. By provoking youths he betrayed his motives.

The attack on Dr Nath is a manifestation of desperate reactions of patriarchy and its interests against the empowerment of women and empowered women. These are attacks on expression of moral agency in women. She was abused and attacked only because she was a woman.

Conclusion:

It is found that Mr Ajijur Rahman was the latest victim of inhumanity and brutality of the police which they sometimes without any rhymes and reasons unleash on the very people for whose protection they are being paid. His son Mr Nazim Uddin might be an accused or suspect and his arrest might also be necessary in the situation. But it is absolutely illegal to take his father into custody to be used as bait for the son. Moreover, the torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment to which he was subjected and which allegedly caused his death are not only illegal but also inhuman and barbarous.

It is also found that groups of people who have vested interest in communal divisions among the people created controversy around ‘conversion and second marriage’ of Dr Rumee Nath and engaged in a communal campaign. It polarised some people in religious lines and created tensions in Barak valley.

Provocative and ant-constitutional statement of Minister Gautom Roy encouraged the mob of the male dominated society to attack Dr Nath, a woman who represents more than 1 million people in the law-making body of the state and her ‘second husband’.

The alleged police harassment of youths and inefficient investigation of the attack case and efforts of forcible enforcement of strikes led to the fighting between the communities at Kalain; communal mass hysteria of some Muslims youths of Kalain and inefficient handling of the situation by the  authorities present there led to the fighting between the communities resulting in injuries of many innocent people; insensitivity to human rights of the people and reliance on illegal means and torture during investigation by the police resulted in the death of Mr Ajijur Rahman.

Recommendations:

The BHRPC recommends to the authorities including the Central government of India and government of Assam to take following actions:

To the Government of Assam:

  1. To conduct a prompt and objective judicial inquiry into the death of Ajijur Rahman and the circumstances that led to his death;
  1. To cause the investigation of the case of custodial death of Mr Ajijur Rahman to be conducted by a team led by an officer of the rank of Superintendent of Police of the Crime Investigation Department of Assam police;
  1. To pay an ex-gratia of an adequate amount to the next of kin of Mr Ajijur Rahman;
  1. To hand over the investigation of mob attack on Dr Rumee Nath to the Central Bureau of Investigation of Delhi Police as name of a minister of Assam government is involved in the incident;
  1. To amend the Assam Police Act, 2007 to bring it in conformity with the directions of the Supreme Court of India in Prakash Singh and others Vs. Union of India and others case;
  1. To separate investigation wing and maintenance of law and order wing of Assam police completely;
  1. To train the officers and other personnel of Assam police in following human rights laws while tackling riots and dealing with mobs; and
  1. To take any other actions needed for protection of human rights of the people.

To the Central Government of India:

  1. To ensure a prompt and impartial inquiry by a judicial authority into the death of Ajijur Rahman, communal fighting and mob attack on Dr. Rumee Nath;
  1. To ensure that the investigation of the case of custodial death of Mr Ajijur Rahman is conducted by a team led by an officer of rank of Superintendent of Police of the Crime Investigation Department of Assam police;
  1. To ensure  payment of ex-gratia of an adequate amount to the next of kin of Mr Ajijur Rahman;
  1. To ensure the investigation of mob attack on Dr Rumee Nath to the Central Bureau of Investigation of Delhi Police as name of a minister of Assam government is involved in the incident;
  1. To repeal the colonial Police Act of 1861 and enact a police act as per directions of the Supreme Court of India issued in Prakash Singh and others Vs. Union of India and others case;
  1. To enact the Communal Violence Bill after further consultation with the civil society;
  1. To enact the Prevention of Torture Bill after further consultation with civil society;
  1. To enact a law providing for adequate reparation and rehabilitation of the victims of human rights violations by the state agencies and their families after consultation with the civil society; and
  1. To take any other appropriate actions required for protection of human rights of the people.

For any clarification and more information please contact:

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Director, Legal Affairs

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC)

Cell: +919401942234

Email: wali.laskar@gmail.com


[1] Mr. Mahibur Rahman, aged about 50, son of Haji Haroos Ali, resident of Lakhipur Part-I, Kalain, Katigorah, Cachar.

[2] Mr. Taj Uddin, aged about 44, son of late Abdul Barik of Boroitoli Part-I

[3] Mr Shahid Uddin,  aged about 25, son of late Abdul Wahab Barbhiuya of Brahmangram.

[4] The house belongs to one Mr Mainul Haque. They did not awake him lest the police know about any movements.

 

 

 

Constructive engagement elusive at India’s Second UPR at the UN

May 31, 2012

India dodged recommendation for repeal of AFSPA

New Delhi, May 29, 2012 – India’s human rights record was reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) under the mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 24 May 2012 in Geneva. The review was marked by a general lack of acceptance of human rights challenges in the country and a mere reiteration of domestic laws, policies and Constitutional provisions by the Government of India (GoI). Regrettably, the answers of the government did not address critical issues related to gaps in implementation of laws and enjoyment of rights, with India’s Attorney General (who led the government delegation) stating in his opening address that, “India has the ability to self-correct”. According to Miloon Kothari, Convenor of the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR): “By employing a defensive and largely selfrighteous position at the HRC, GoI has, at least in its initial response at the HRC, once again lost the opportunity to constructively engage with the UN human rights system and in accepting the enormous human rights challenges it is faced with.”

Of the eighty countries which participated in India’s UPR – a peer-review process of the human rights record of all UN member states – many reiterated the recommendations made during India’s first UPR in 2008 to ratify the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) and the Convention against Enforced Disappearances (CED). GoI accepted both recommendations four years ago but they have remained unfulfilled. On the question of torture, GoI referred to the Prevention of Torture Bill (PTB), which is pending before Parliament, without commenting on the non-compliance of the PTB with CAT’s definition of torture. WGHR regrets that GoI left many questions unanswered, including desisting from commenting on the ratification of CED.

WGHR is also disturbed thatIndiadodged the recommendations for repeal and review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) by referring to the Supreme Court’s upholding of its constitutionality and by citing Army’s human rights cell as a redressal mechanism. Ms. Vrinda Grover, human rights lawyer and member of WGHR, expressed serious concerns at GoI’s misleading response to the HRC, which camouflaged the systematic impunity enjoyed by armed forces for human rights abuse in the Northeast of the country and Kashmir: “The refusal and reluctance of GoI to squarely address the issue of impunity under AFSPA, in spite of numerous recommendations by international bodies, government appointed committees and UN Special Rapporteurs is unacceptable in a country that proclaims to be the largest democracy in the world.”

Strong recommendations were made toIndiaon the need to impose a de jure moratorium on the death penalty. The government’s response, that simply cited its de facto policy of awarding death penalty in the ‘rarest of rare cases’, is also deeply unsatisfactory in light of statistics that show an increase in the number of death sentences awarded by the courts.

There were recurring concerns by many states on the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion and belief, anti-conversion laws and targeting of religious minorities. Surprisingly, while GoI has initiated a Communal Violence Bill to address the issue of violence against religious minorities, it expressed uncertainty before the HRC for the need for such a law. The Indian government’s insistence at the international level that existing laws and judicial decisions are sufficient to deal with egregious violations such as torture and attacks on religious minorities is very disappointing, when new laws on these issues are being debated at the national level.

On the multiple recommendations it received on the need to ratify the Optional Protocol (complaint mechanism) to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), India once again stated that its domestic legal remedies were adequate to address gender-based discrimination. Many states also recommended withdrawal of GoI’s reservation to Article 16 of CEDAW – which guarantees non-discrimination in all matters relating to marriage and family life – and emphasized the need to enact a comprehensive anti-discrimination law. WGHR deeply regrets the fact that GoI did not engage substantially with recommendations made on issues relating to women, including maternal mortality, prenatal sex selection, infanticide, sexual and gender-based violence, political participation of women, sexual harassment at the workplace, early/child marriage, harmful traditional practices, honour crimes, and trafficking.

Sadly, GoI failed to use the UPR as an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to bridge the gap between the law and the grim statistics on various forms of gender-based violence. Its tendency to rely upon domestic law repeatedly to explain the multiple challenges to the attainment of gender equality is disquieting, especially when access to justice remains a barrier for many, and several domestic laws are inconsistent with the universal standards on sex equality.

WGHR, however, welcomes GoI’s positive shift on the issue of homosexuality, which was raised by many countries. The government affirmed its support of the High Court of Delhi judgment decriminalizing homosexuality and stated that it would take a sensitive view of the matter that has been appealed in the Supreme Court.

The human rights of children received significant attention at the HRC. States repeatedly raised issues related to child mortality, child labour, child sexual abuse and trafficking. Many governments stressed the need for a reduction of the excessively high rates of maternal and child mortality and urged the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals in that regard. It was also recommended thatIndiaratify the Third Optional Protocol (establishing a communications procedure) to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A notable number of states also reiterated the need to ban all forms of child labour. The GoI stated that it was “fully conscious of issues pertaining to child labour” but that there was “no magic wand to address it”. This stand is oblivious to the fact that the legal scenario in the country has changed as being at school and not at work is now a fundamental right for all children from 6 to 14 backed by a powerful Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. The logical corollary of this change is for GoI to revisit its stand and amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act.

Given the scale of poverty and large-scale denial of socio-economic rights in India, the insufficient attention given to economic, social and cultural rights at the UPR – with the exception of health and education – was disturbing. WGHR hopes, however, that references by member states to the need for more attention to housing for low-income groups and reduction of slums; more focus on poverty alleviation; removal of rural and urban inequities; and improvement of access to water and sanitation, will be turned into recommendations by the HRC before the adoption of the outcome document on Wednesday 30 May, 2012

On the critical issue of the right to adequate and nutritious food, it is disturbing that GoI has dismissed the need to universalise the Public Distribution System, which operates on the basis of an unrealistic poverty line and excludes genuinely poor rural households due to targeting errors, corruption, inefficiency and discrimination in distribution. GoI has also failed to respond to concerns about the rights of peasants and farmers, the issue of unprecedented numbers of farmers’ suicides and the endemic malnourishment that still persists in the country, as recently acknowledged by the Prime Minister himself.

Overall, WGHR regrets that GoI desisted from responding to most of the substantial comments, questions and recommendations by states. According to Miloon Kothari: “It remains to be seen whether GoI will take a constructive view and accept the many recommendations it will receive from the Human Rights Council on 30 May and engage in a genuine dialogue, including cooperation, with the UN between the second and third UPR. The opportunity also still exists, prior to the final adoption ofIndia’s report in September 2012, for GoI to begin a process of serious consultations with civil society and independent actors – including human rights institutions – at home. It is only when such steps, consistent with a democratic mode of governance, are taken that the UN will be convinced that GoI is serious about fostering an atmosphere that will contribute to an improvement in the adverse human rights situation on the ground.” 

For more information, contact:

 Miloon Kothari, Convenor, Working Group on Human Rights inIndiaand the UN (WGHR) phone (Geneva): +41 792020679; email: miloon.kothari@gmail.com

 Vrinda Grover, Lawyer – phone: +91 9810806181; email: vrindagrover@gmail.com

 Madhu Mehra, Director, Partners for Law in Development (PLD) phone: +91 9810737686; email: programmes@pldindia.org

[The Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN – a national coalition of fourteen human rights organizations and independent experts – works towards the realisation of all civil, cultural, economic, political and social human rights in India, and towards holding the Indian government accountable to its national and international human rights obligations. For information on WGHR, please visit: http://www.wghr.org]

See the original statement here.

BHRPC comments on police report on rape of a patient by her doctor

May 12, 2012

 The Cachar district superintendent of police submitted a report to the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on allegations of rape of a patient by her doctor raised by the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC). Below are the comments of the BHRPC on the police report:

       1. The findings of the police investigation that the charge under section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 against the accused/alleged violator is established as stated in the report of the district superintendent of police (SP), Cachar is substantially correct.

        2. The medical report can not be relied upon for a number of reasons:

                             i. There was inordinate delay in conducting the test;

                             ii. The report goes against the circumstantial evidences;

                            iii. The report goes against the accounts of the witnesses as recorded by the police;

                      iv. The element of sympathy of the doctors who conducted the test towards the doctor who is the alleged violator creeping in and vitiating the objectivity of the findings can not be ruled out as both of them are colleagues and belong to the same profession.

        3. The findings of the police is correct because there are supports and corroborations among the accounts given by the victim/survivor in her First Information Report (FIR), her statement before the judicial magistrate recorded under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973 and the accounts of witnesses recoded by the police.

         4. As the report of the medical test is not reliable for the reasons stated above the claim in the report about the age of the victim/survivor being between 18 to 20 years can also not be relied upon.

      5. According to the statements of the victim/survivor in both the FIR and that which has been recorded under section 164 of the CrPC and the witness accounts, it appears that the victim was a minor at the time of violations of her rights.

       6. The facts and circumstances described in documents on record including the FIR, victim’s statement under section 164 of the CrPC, and the report of the SP clearly establish commission of offence of rape by the alleged violator upon the victim/survivor. Therefore, it is established that human rights of the survivor/victim have been violated.

     7. The filing of charge-sheet by the police will facilitate the criminal court to conduct trial on the criminal aspect of case in order only to fix criminal liability and proportionate penal measure called for under the law. It is not the domain of the trial court to consider human rights liability of the violator and remedies to the victim/survivor.

    8. Therefore, it comes under the jurisdiction of the Commission to fix human rights liability and more importantly to provide redress to the victim/survivor in terms of adequate compensation.

In view of the above submission, the BHRPC most humbly urges that the Commission may be pleased to:

  1. Recommend to the authorities to provide an adequate amount of compensation to the victim/survivor;
  2. While fixing the quantum of the compensation the Commission may take into consideration the aggravating factors involved in the case such as (a) that the alleged violator is a government servant paid from the state exchequer for acting as savoir for those who are suffering from physical distress; (b) that the victim/survivor went to the alleged violator in full trust as his position demands; (c) that the alleged violator took benefit of position of custodian of the victim/survivors at the moment of commission of the violating acts; (d) that the case has a clear custodial angle; (e) that the age and social and other circumstances of the victim/survivor are such that the minor girl has had an entire life full of colours but which has been destroyed beyond repair for no faults of hers and her life has become an undesirable and unbearable burden on her fragile shoulders; and
  3. Any other recommendations and/or actions as the Commission deems fit and proper for vindication of human rights of the victim/survivor and to meet ends of justice.

The statement of BHRPC on the matter can be viewed here.