Posts Tagged ‘Adolescent girls’

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

Police report on alleged rape of a patient by her doctor in Assam

May 12, 2012

….

On perusal of relevant records of the case, it transpired that on last 27/11/2011 the complainant (name and address withheld by the BHRPC for protecting identity) lodged an FIR at Dholai PS interalia alleging that on the same day @ 4PM the complt. being accompanied by her sister in law (name withheld) had been to the chamber of Dr Dilip Paul at Sadagram (Dholai Bazar) where he refused to check her up. Instead, he asked her to be in his residential chamber for her check up and treatment. On her arrival at his residential chamber the accused doctor asked her to go inside while her sister in law was asked to wait outside. As soon as she entered the house, the accd. doctor closed the door and window from the outside and forcibly raped her.  Hence the case was registered and investigated.

In course of investigation the I/O examined the complt. (victim) and recorded her statement U/S 161 CrPC as well as recorded judicially U/S 164 CrPC. In both statements given to police and to the court, the complt. corroborated the gist of the FIR. The I/O also visited thePO, drew up sketch map. The I/O got the complt. medically examined at SMCH, Silchar and collected medical report where the concerned doctor of the SMCH, Silchar opined that (1) Evidence of recent sexual intercourse not detected (II) evidence of violent mark not detected in her private part and (III) her age is above 18 years and below 20 years. The I/O, also, in course of investigation examined the following witnesses who appeared to be acquainted to the fact or the case. Their statements were recorded U/S 161 CrPC.

WITNESS:

  1. (Name withheld by the BHRPC)
  2. (Name withheld by the BHRPC)
  3. (Name withheld by the BHRPC)
  4. Mrs Manjuma Sangami

The first three of the four witnesses examined above corroborated the gist of the FIR to the extent of their knowledge about the occurrence. The fourth witness Mrs Manjuma Sangmai being the wife of the accd. doctor relayed the story in her statement in the way to defend her accd. husband.

In course of investigation the accd. Dr Dilip Paul was arrested in connection with the case and examined and interrogated thoroughly vis-à-vis the charges leveled against him. Later on, he was released on bail as per the direction of the Hon’ble Gauhati High Court. During the investigation the charge under section 376 IPC found established against the accd. Dr Dilip Paul. Hence charge-sheet was already submitted against him on 13/03/12.

………

Sd/

Superintendent of Police

Cachar, Silchar

Date: 17/03/12

(This report (vide No. G/SR/1281 dated 16/03/12) was submitted to the Deputy Registrar of the Assam Human Rights Commission in response to the notice issued by the AHRC for report on the complaint filed by the BHRPC and has been registered vide AHRC Case No. 302/2/11-12.)

(In response to a letter of the Deputy Registrar, AHRC, the BHRPC submitted its comments on the report which is available here and BHRPC statement can be viewed here.

Assam police charge a government doctor of raping his patient

May 12, 2012

Press briefing

For immediate release

Assam police charge a government doctor of raping his patient

The police inAssam have filed a charge-sheet in the court against a doctor for raping his patient. The charge-sheet under section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 has been filed by the officer-in-charge of the Dholai police station (PS) on 13 March 2012 at the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate in the district of Cachar after investigation of a case filed by a minor girl on 27 November, 2011. This is disclosed recently by the district superintendent of police (SP) in Cachar in a report (vide No. G/SR/1281 dated 16/03/12) submitted to the Deputy Registrar of the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in response to a notice of the AHRC.

The report states that the survivor lodged a First Information Report (FIR) at Dholai PS inter alia alleging that on 27 November, 2011 at about 4 PM the complainant being accompanied by her sister in law (name withheld to protect identity) had been to the chamber of Dr Dilip Paul at Sadagram (Dholai Bazar) where he refused to check her up. Instead, he asked her to be in his residential chamber for her check up and treatment. On her arrival at his residential chamber the accused doctor asked her to go inside while her sister in law was asked to wait outside. As soon as she entered the house, the accused doctor closed the door and window from the outside and forcibly raped her.

The AHRC issued a notice to the SP for a detailed report about the case after it registered a case of human rights violations (vide AHRC Case No. 302/2/11-12.) on the complaint filed by the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC).

The report of the SP, however, mentions that the medical test conducted after the investigation of the case started do not corroborate the allegations of the victim as well as those of the BHRPC against the doctor. It says that (1) evidence of recent sexual intercourse not detected, (II) evidence of violent mark not detected in her private parts and (III) her age is above 18 years and below 20 years.

The BHRC claimed that the victim/survivor is a minor girl studying in class IX.

However, on the examination of the witnesses of the complainant, witnesses of the accused and the place of occurrence the investigating police officer found that charge under section 376 of the IPC which provides punishment for rape is established, states the SP.

 When the AHRC asked the BHRPC for its comments on the report of the SP the latter submitted a detailed response pointing out why the medical report can not be relied upon. According to the BHRPC the medical report can not be relied upon because (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; and (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.

The BHRPC also said that 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. 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.

The BHRPC in its submission urged the AHRC to recommend to the authorities to provide an adequate amount of compensation to the victim/survivor; and while fixing the quantum of the compensation the AHRC should 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 in 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.

Date: 12 April, 2012

Guwahati,Assam

For any clarification and more information please contact

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Mobile: 09401942234

Email:wali.laskar@gmail.com

The police report can be viewed here and the BHRPC comments can be viewed here.

A minor patient allegedly raped by government doctor in Cachar, Assam

December 31, 2011

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) received information about rape of a minor girl by Physician In-Charge of Dholai Primary Health Centre (PHC) in Cachar, Assamat his residence about 4 pm on 27th November 2011. Miss Rajia Begun, (name changed to protect identity) a minor girl, went to a pharmacy at Dholai Bazar, where Dr. Paul privately practices, for medical consultation for her ailment. Dr. Paul asked her to visit him at his residence in the evening. Accordingly she went there, accompanied by her sister-in-law (brother’s wife), where she was allegedly raped by Dr. Paul. Later, on the same day she filed a complaint at the Dholai Police Station and the case has been registered as First Information Report No. 302/11 dated 27/11/11 under Section 367 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The victim has not yet been provided with any compensation and there is also the risk of impunity involved in the case.

BHRPC first received information about the case from a news paper report published on 28 November 2011 in local newspapers. BHRPC then contacted the victim and her relatives, and collected certified copies of the FIR and deposition of the victim under section 164 of Cr. P C, 1973 before a Judicial Magistrate (First Class) at Silchar.

According to the information thus gathered, the victim Miss Rajia Begum is a student of class X, aged about 17, daughter of Khalil Uddin and a resident of villageIslamabadunder Dholai Police Station in the district of Cachar,Assam. The alleged perpetrator is Dr. Dilip Paul of village Sadagram under Dholai Police Station. He is the In-charge physician of Dholai Public Health Centre at Dholai Bazar,Cachar,Assam.

According to Miss Rajia Begum on 27 Nov, 2011at about 4pm she along with her sister-in-law Nur Nahar (name changed to protect identity) went to a pharmacy at Dholai Bazar to consult a physician. There they met Dr. Dilip Paul who asked about her illness and advised her to go to his residence in the evening. The victim also stated that accordingly she went to the residence of Dr. Paul accompanied by Mrs. Nur Nahar (name changed to protect identity) in the evening. Dr. Paul asked her to come inside the room but did not allow her sister-in-law inside. He asked Mrs. Nur Nahar to wait outside.

 According to the deposition of the victim before the magistrate, after she entered the room, Dr. Paul closed the door and asked her to lie on the bed and close her eyes. She also stated that Dr. Paul then suddenly put his hand on her mouth and forcibly raped her against her will. She claimed that she could not cry out for help because of the tight grip of Dr. Paul’s hand on her mouth. According to her, when he finished, his grip fell loose and she pushed him aside and ran out by opening the door.

She also stated that she told her sister-in-law all about the incident. They both went home crest fallen and humiliated. Later, on the same day they went to the Dholai Police Station accompanied by her brother and lodged a complaint which was registered as mentioned above. The case has been assigned to Sub-Inspector of Police Mr. Bimal Shaikia for investigation.

It is reported that even after more than one month of the incident and registration of the FIR the police failed to arrest the accused and the officer in charge of the police station has not forwarded to a Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of the offence on a police report, a report under section 173 of the CrPC.

BHRPC thinks that the information provided in the FIR and in the deposition U/S 164 of the Cr.PC reveals prima facie case of violations of fundamental right to life and personal liberty provided under Art 21 of the Constitution of India along with an offence punishable under section 376 of the IPC.

This is also a prima facie case of violations of the universally recognized human rights as stated in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the UN Declaration on Violence Against Women as well as the provisions of legally binding International human rights treaties, to which India is a state party, including ICCPR, UN Convention Against Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment, The UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Child in need of care and protection is taken into custody by the police

March 15, 2011

Her name is Nupa Bibi and she is aged about 12 years. She lost her parents, home and relatives how she can’t tell. She was employed by a ‘doctor’ as a domestic worker. She was abused, ill-treated and frequently beaten by both ‘the lord and lady’ of the house so much so that she could no longer bear it and tried to run away even she has nowhere to go. She was found traumatised and wandering in front of the ticket counter of Capital Travels (Pvt.) Ltd. in Silchar, Assam on 28 January, 2010. What will happen to her? Another victim of trafficking? Another of the thousands mentally ill living in the streets of Indian towns and cities? Or whatever you may guess.

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) expressed its deep concern over her situation in a statement and informed that at about 3.30 pm on 28 January, 2010 officials of Silchar Municipality Corporation contacted BHRPC informing that a girl child frightened very much and unable to tell her address properly was rescued. She was intending to board bus for Guwahati to go home in Kokrajhar. Members of BHRPC visited her at the Municipality Office and tried to talk to her. She was indeed frightened. The BHRPC team came to know from her that her father’s name is late Hamid Ali.  She could not tell the name of village but told that she was from Kokrajhar, a district in lower Assam, and she was working as a domestic help in the house of a doctor working in the Silchar Medical College and Hospital, Silchar for about one month. The doctor and his wife (who is also a doctor) had ill- treated her and even sometimes beaten her up, she alleged. But could not tell their names. When this conversation was going on Mr. Arun Singh, sub inspector of police with a constable came from Silchar Police Station and taken her into custody. Answering to the questions of BHRPC members he told that they would examine her by a doctor and would try to identify the person/s accused by the child of ill-treatment and cruel conduct and that is necessary for lodging an FIR. There is nothing to worry about it. When contacted, the O/C assured BHRPC that the child would not be returned to the persons accused by her and he would try to trace her home address and send her safely.

The statement said, at about 7pm another team from BHRPC visited the police station to know about arrangement for the accommodation of the child for the night and progress of the investigation. The OC informed that the child would remain in police custody and sleep in the police station. As to the FIR he informed that it was not registered. He even tried to ‘dwell on the inefficacy of laws criminalising child labour in such cases’.

BHRPC claimed that it offered psychological counselling by its experts and accommodation in a family environment for the traumatised girl with full responsibility in view of the fact that there is no such home maintained by Government any where in Barak valley for children who are in need of care and protection (CNCP) as is contemplated in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. But the OC rejected this offer. ‘He insisted that the law does not allow him to do so, in spite of the fact that even the Indian parliament does not trust the police with women and children as is evident from the proviso to section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, which says “no male person under the age of fifteen and woman shall be required (by police) to attend at any place other than the place in which such male person or woman resides”.’

BHRPC alleged that ‘the police also acted against the law by not registering an FIR on such clumsy pretext that the victim complainant is a minor. Employment of children of less than 14 year old as domestic help is a cognisable offence under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and there is no bar based on the age of the person giving information in section 154 of the CrPC, which makes registration of FIR mandatory if information about commission of a cognisable offence is given to an officer-in-charge of a police station.

There is also constitutional prohibition on employment of children aged below 14 years in any hazardous works in Article 24 and work as domestic servants is notified as hazardous. Violation of this article is violation of a fundamental right. In the instant case another important fundamental right of the victim, namely the right to education is also violated. The governments in India has constitutional obligation to provide free and compulsory education to the children below 14 under Article 21A.

It is also to be noted that India has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In the present case a plethora of rights enshrined in the CRC were violated, particularly the Article 15 and 32 which respectively guaranteed the right to the free and primary education and “the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development”.’

BHRPC urged the authorities to ensure: ‘1. Return of the victim to her family members with sound physical and mental health as soon as possible. And if a reasonable time is needed to trace her address BHRPC once again offers accommodation for her in a family environment for that period of time with full responsibility. 2. Provision of education and future well being of the child. 3. Registration of FIR regarding the accusation of employment of child labour, assault and battery and other ill-treatment on the victim as alleged;  prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the case and a speedy trial.’

Public meeting on the situation of women’s rights in Barak valley

March 7, 2011
Time
Tuesday, March 8 · 2:30pm – 5:30pm

Location
Communication Centre, Barak Human Rights Protection Coommittee, First Floor, Kachari Masjid Complex

Sadarghat Road
Silchar-788001, Assam, India


More Info
Senior members of BHRPC and local women’s rights activists will discuss the situation of women’s right in Barak Valley of Assam on the occasion of Internation Women’s Day.

BHRPC Fact-finding Report on Army Atrocity in Mohanpur, Hailakandi

May 27, 2010

Vandalism by Soldiers in Assam Causing Grievous Hurts and Miscarriage

Report in the Portable Document Format (pdf)

In another atrocious incident in Assam soldiers of the Indian army illegally raided several houses in a village, indiscriminately beaten up many people including bed-ridden aged persons, expectant mother causing miscarriage, children and disabled persons causing grievous injuries to them in the district of Hailakandi on 23 May, 2010. They molested young girls and attempted to rape them. They also reportedly robbed a family of all their cash and other valuables. There are strong fears among the villagers that the incident may be repeated and worse. Extrajudicial killings by state agents are common in this part of India, and impunity remains a severe problem.

BHRPC received information that at about 3.30 am on 23 May, 2010 a group of 16/17 soldiers belonging to the artillery 11 field regiment from their base at Arunachal, Silchar knocked at the door of Mr Nurul Hoque Barbhuiya (better known to the local people as Samoi Panchayat), former president of Mohanpur Gaon Panchayat (GP, elected village level local government body, village counterpart of municipality) and husband of the present president, aged about 42, of village Mohanpur under the jurisdiction of Algapur police station in the district of Hailakandi in Assam. Mohanpur is a village situated at a distance of about 15 kilometres to the northward from Hailakandi town.

Having received information a team from BHRPC visited the village and talked with victims, their relatives, doctors treating them and other villagers and collected evidence from them. BHRPC also talked with police officers including the officer in charge of Algapur police station. The information received reveal that the soldiers were in uniform and their faces were covered with black clothes. They were not accompanied by a police officer or any other representative of the civil administration.

When the present GP president Mrs Hawatun Nesa, wife of Nurul Hoque Barbhuiya, aged about 30 years, opened the door the soldiers entered the house and asked for Samoi Panchayat, her husband. She told them that he did not return home last night from the house of a relative in another village where he went the day before. They started searching for him in all the rooms and asked the inmates to get up from bed. They wrung the throat of 82 year old bed-ridden father of Samoi Panchayat Mr Mashur Ali Barbhuiya because he could not immediately drag his body from the bed, which normally he hardly can do without help. They also beat up 65 year old mother of Samoi Panchayat Mrs. Fulerun Nesa accusing her of hiding her son. The soldiers then started breaking and destroying household goods such as furniture including chairs, tables, beds, drawers, wardrobes etc. and utensils.

Mrs Hawatun Nesa Barbhuiya stated that when in the morning at approximately 7.30 am people from the locality tried to see what is going on the soldiers opened fired. They fired in the air three times at which the whole village got terrified. She was not allowed to feed her five children and ailing elders till the soldiers left her house at about 2.30 pm in the evening. When she tried they abused her and threatened her by pointing gun at her ear and they forced her to serve them tea and snakes several times.

Her daughters Farhat Parvin Kawsar Barbhuiya aged about 9, Rahat Parvin Kawsar Barbhuiya aged 7, and sons Fuzail Ahmed Barbhuiya aged about 6, Suhail Ahmed Barbhuiya aged about 5 and Mikail Ahmed Barbhuiya aged 3 were badly traumatised. BHRPC members observed that the children developed some syndrome of trauma such as they could not sleep well in the night due to several interruptions by nightmares, they even experience hallucinations that armed men are trying to kidnap them in waking hours, they shudder and break down into weeping even at indirect mentions of the incidents.

In the mean time, some of the soldiers went to the adjacent house belonging to Mr Moinul Hoque Barbhuiya and purportedly searched for Samoi Panchayat. Mrs Rejwana Parvin Barbhuiya aged about 24, the older daughter of Moinul Hoque who is married and came for a few days to her father’s house, stated that two soldiers seriously misbehaved with her younger sisters namely Sabina Yasmin Barbhuiay aged about 14, a student of class VIII, and Shahnaj Yasmin Barbhuiya aged about 17 and studying in class XI. The soldiers repeatedly proposed them for sex and elopement in front of all family members and other soldiers. They grabbed their hands and engaged in scuffling with them. They also told the girls that they are soldiers with big guns and they can do anything with them. The soldiers threatened that if they would not comply they would be abducted and raped. They took the photos of the girls in their mobile sets. Rejwana told that she managed to protect the girls somehow from the worst. But they also got traumatised.

Mrs Hawatun Nesa also stated that the soldiers took away items of apparel, cosmetics, utensils and jewellery etc. bought to be given as wedding gift to Shahnaj at her marriage fixed to be solemnised on 26 May, 2010 worth approximately Rs. 70, 000.00 (seventy thousand) and Rs. 20, 000.00 (twenty thousand) cash. She also stated that the soldiers took signatures of Rejwana and herself in a paper written something on it which they did not allow her to read and they used her official stamp in the paper. They did it at gun point. The soldiers took away some official documents and papers belonging to the GP office. They also took away two mobile phones with SIMs with the numbers +919854621923 and +919435582945 used by Mr. Nazim Uddin, brother of Hawatun Nesa, and Hawatun Nesa respectively. However, the mobile used by her brother was returned to Hawatun Nesa on 25 May, 2010. She filed a complaint to the officer in charge (OC) of Algapur Police Station (PS) but police did not register a First Information Report (FIR).

Some other soldiers were also on rampage at the same time in other parts of the village. At about 5 am they raided the house of Mr. Mujammil Ali Barbhuiya, aged about 35, son of late Namor Ali Barbhuiya of Mohanpur part VI, half a kilometre away from the house of Samoi Panchayat. Mujammil Ali lives by farming his lands and at that time he was preparing to go to his farming field for work. Soldiers stopped him and asked whether he knows the whereabouts of Samoi Panchayat. But at his expression of ignorance they started beating him with the butts of gun and bamboo sticks. When he fell to the ground they kicked him incessantly. His clothes were torn into pieces. When his wife Mrs Rushna Begum Barbhuiya tried to rescue him they also beat her up.

They left severely injured Mujammil Ali when they saw another old man Mr. Abdul Jalil Laskar, aged about 65, in the street, who was going to the nearby mosque to participate in the morning prayer. They grabbed him and without much ado started administering severe blows of gun butts and bamboo sticks on the fragile body of the old man. When people tried to intervene they were also beaten up. Mrs. Latiful Begum Barbhuiya, a woman aged 35, Sharmina Begum, a girl aged 12 and a mentally retarded boy Imran Hussain aged about 14 were also badly beaten up. An expectant mother of about 9 months of gestation Mrs. Suretun Nesa (aged about 30, wife of Altaf Hussain Barbhuiya) was not spared. The soldiers kicked her in the abdomen and as a result she suffered miscarriage on 25 May, 2010 at the Silchar Medical College and Hospital, Silchar.

Another group of soldiers at about 6 am went to a nearby house belonging to Amit Das (known also as Sona Das, aged about 35, son of late Umesh Das). They also asked him about Samoi Pachayat and when he told them that he did not know where he is, they started beating him. He sustained injuries on his legs and is under treatment in the Community Health Centre, Mohanpur. It is also reported that soldiers even tried to prevent the wounded and injured from going to hospital.

The villagers are as much terror struck as surprised by the incidents. They are at a loss to explain the incidents. As there is no complaint against Samoi Panchayat with the police or any other authorities. He is a peace loving public spirited person. According to the persons BHRPC team spoke with, Samoi Panchayat is a very respectable person in the village. People love and trust him. He was elected as the GP president for two consecutive terms and when in the last election the seat fell under the quota for women his wife got elected with a huge margin. Some villagers requesting anonymity told that they saw political conspiracy behind the incidents. Neither Samoi Panchayat nor his wife is a member of a political party. They are independent politicians. They also don’t divide funds for rural development schemes that are implemented by the Panchayat among politicians and officials as is the practice in many other GPs. These villagers think that some of the politicians, most probably, belonging to ruling congress party might want to teach Samoi Panchayat a lesson and for this purpose they are using the army.

There are fears among the villagers for the safety of Samoi Panchayat and two girl children Sabina and Shahnaj. BHRPC is also very concerned for their safety and physical and psychological integrity of all victims and other villagers.

It is obvious that the actions of the soldiers don’t come within the rules of any civilised society. They not only violated human rights of the villagers but also violated the law of the land and committed serious crimes of house trespass, robbery, grievous hurt, causing miscarriage, attempted rape, molestation, assault, criminal intimidation and so on with intent to terrorise the people for political purpose like members of a terrorist group.

Report prepared by

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

For BHRPC

On 26 May, 2010-05-26

At Guwahati, Assam