Posts Tagged ‘AHRC’

Rights group seeks probe into starvation deaths

February 10, 2012

GUWAHATI: A rights group in the state has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union labour and employment ministerMallikarjun Kharge for a probe into the alleged starvation deaths of 11 people in a tea estate in Cachar district.

The Barak Human Rights Protection Committee(BHRPC) has sent letters to the Prime Minister’s Office and the labour and employment minister, seeking their intervention in the matter.

“Eleven people have already died due to starvation and the condition of many others is still serious. We have demanded setting up of an independent inquiry panel for looking into the incident that led to the death of 11 labourers,” wrote the BHRPC.

The BHRPC alleged that the 11 deaths occurred in Bhuvan Valley Tea Estate, a privately owned tea garden, due to starvation, malnutrition and lack of medical care. The condition of at least five others was serious.

The inquiry panel must be headed by a retired Supreme Court or high court judge and accompanied by nutrition and labour law experts and social activists, said Prasenjit Biswas, director of BHRPC research and study division. “We had written to the state government through the district administration several days ago. However, there was no response,” he said.

Published in The Times of India at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/guwahati/Rights-group-seeks-probe-into-starvation-deaths/articleshow/11826688.cms

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Urgent Appeal: Assam government failed to ensure the right to life with dignity of tea plantation workers leading to ten deaths

February 9, 2012

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) forwards this Hunger Alert regarding the starvation deaths of 10 plantation labourers in Bhuvan valley tea garden in Cachar, Assam:

INDIA: Assam government failed to ensure the right to life with dignity of tea plantation workers leading to ten deaths

 February 7, 2012

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME

Hunger Alert Case: AHRC-HAC-002-2012

 

  Send an Appeal Letter

7 February 2012
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INDIA:Assam government failed to ensure the right to life with dignity of tea plantation workers leading to ten deaths

ISSUES: Right to life; starvation death; rights of workers; right to health; safe drinking water
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), a human rights group based in Assam state that 10 workers died from starvation after their health deteriorated due to working conditions that failed to guarantee their life with dignity for decades. After a private company, Bhuvan Valley Tea Estate closed down the estate in which they were working in October 8, 2011, about 500 permanent and another 500 casual workers lost their jobs and so far 10 workers died of lack of food and proper medical treatment. According to the fact-finding mission conducted by the BHRPC on January 27, 2012, the workers have been deprived of their rights as they were forced do overwork and were paid very low wages without being provided any medical treatment while working and, after closure, had the payment of their wages and their provident fund suspended. The rights of plantation workers to minimum wage, housing and basic medical facilities in accordance with the Plantation Labour Act 1951 have not been implemented. In the course of closure, the government failed to make any intervention to guarantee their fundamental rights. It is further found that basic medical care and food distribution for the poor have not reached those workers who lost their livelihoods and that it is one of the causes leading to the deaths. 

CASE DETAILS:

According to the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), 10 workers died of starvation and lack of medical treatment after the Bhuvan Valley Tea Estate (Estate) was closed in October 8, 2011. The Estate had been running since British colonisation ofIndiawith around 1000 workers in Cachar district of Assam state,India. The closure led to around 500 permanent workers and another 500 casual workers becoming jobless. Without proper dialogue among workers and the Estate and the delay of payment for nine weeks’ wages and of provident funds before the closure, all workers have lost their livelihoods and were exposed to the food and health insecurity.

Until today, 10 workers, Rameshwar Kurmi (45), Subhasini Paul (80), Shachindra Ree (32), Shyamacharan Bauri (55), Nagendra Bauri (55), Sonamani Pandey (40), Bharati Kal (45), Susham Tanti (35), Ratna Goala (50), and Ramashish Dushad (80) died suffering from lack of food and medical treatment. Some became sick after prolonged hard labour in the plantation and their health condition worsened after losing their jobs since they cannot afford to purchase food or medicines.

[photo: Ramashish Dushad who died on January 28]

Other workers have been suffering from various sicknesses but have never received medical treatment. Mr. Prakash Ghatowar (80) and his daughter-in-law Moni Ghatowar (32) of Didarkhush Grant have pain in their legs. Prakash’s grandchildren Pinki Ghatowar (17), Kamalabati Ghatowar (15) and Rinki Ghatowar (12) are compelled to collect firewood from the far off jungles and sell them at the markets giving up their studies.

Sricharan Bauri was a permanent worker of the Estate but has not received food subsidy or medical treatment for last six months, and as a result, his mother Mrs. Belbati Bauri (75 years old) finds it difficult to manage daily life. Belbati gets weaker and sick and may face death soon. In spite of the closure of the Estate, they are still identified as an Above the Poverty Line (APL) family which does not entitle them to receive various government subsidies targeting the poor and therefore have not received any assistance from the administration. Other family members collect firewood to pay for food and medicines for the sick family members.

Another worker Mr. Putul Bauri (50 years old) also has pain in his legs. He testified that for decades while working in the Estate, the workers including him suffered a lot from low wages, overwork, and lack of basic facilities that can ensure their life with dignity.

In fact, since started, the workers have been deprived of their basic rights as workers and other basic facilities, which are ensured by the Plantation Labour Act 1951 as well as by other national policies such as the Public Food Distribution Scheme (PDS) or health care system. The average daily wage was around 55 rupees (1.12 USD) which is far less than the minimum wage inAssam, 100 rupees. The workers often overworked, for which they were not paid. The workers have not been provided any medical facilities, safe drinking water and sanitation under the Act. Thus, the deceased workers as testified did not face death just due to lack of food and medical treatment after the closure, but the workers’ rights to food and health have been violated for decades infringing the Constitution of India, the Plantation Labour Act, and the international human rights laws which legally bind the government.

The BHRPC discovered that the health centre under the National Rural Health Mission does not function properly as it is allegedly run by an unqualified practitioner. Medicines are not available either. The canal constructed under the MGNREGS aiming to guarantee 100 day-employment in rural area for the poor is the only source of water for the workers in this area. Water from canal has been used for multiple purposes such as washing, cooking and drinking. According to the workers, the MGNREGS hardly provides days for employment. [photo: water from canal]

When the Estate was winding up, the workers were told that the Estate was suffering loss and would recover very soon, which did not happen. They were even told that they had better forget the delayed wages. The Estate closed down on October 8, 2011 and the government authorities did not make any intervention to ensure the fundamental rights of workers. The Estate rather tried to suppress the protest of the workers who demanded due wages and other assistances. The administration failed to make intervention when the workers approached them to ask for assistance. The Deputy Commissioner of Cachar district assured that he would intervene but no action was taken at that time.

The administration made promises, which never translated into reality. The meeting in the office of the Deputy Commissioner resolved that the Estate would be opened on January 23, 2012, which did not happen till today. On January 25, Additional District Commissioner (ADC) Mr. Debashish Chakrabarti, ADC Mr. S. K. Das, Assistant Labour Commissioner Mr. K. Singson, the MLA and the Secretary of Barak Cha Shramik Union Mr. Dinesh Prasad Goala, Assistant Manager of the Tea Estate Mr. Fulan Barbhuiya and others participated in a meeting held in the conference hall of the Deputy Commissioner. This meeting decided that a committee be formed under chairmanship of the SDO (civil) of Lakhipur Sub Division to manage the estate.

Yet, there has been no action taken to provide proper compensation for the deceased and their families and to restart the plantation with legitimate working conditions guaranteeing the rights of workers. At present, more workers and their families suffer from lack of food and medical treatment. Without immediate assistance for food and health, they may face the same fate as the 10 deceased workers. It is the government’s responsibility to immediately provide medical support and food subsidy to protect the life of workers in accordance with its obligations under national and international laws.

The local human rights group has already filed a complaint to the Assam Human Rights Commission, yet no response has been received so far.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please express your deep concern about the deceased workers and other workers who lost their job and currently suffer from starvation and lack of medical treatment by sending letters to the government authorities listed below. Please note that theAssam government fails to implement the national law that ensure the rights of plantation workers and further ignore the international human rights laws to ensure the right to life with dignity. The AHRC will send a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on the right to adequate food and on the right to health respectively.

To support this appeal, please click here:

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SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: Call for immediate assistance for food and medical treatment for the jobless workers suffering from starvation and sicknesses inAssam

Name of the deceased:
1. Rameshwar Kurmi, 45 years old
2. Subhasini Paul, 80 years old
3. Shachindra Ree, 32 years old
4. Shyamacharan Bauri, 55 years old
5. Nagendra Bauri, 55 years old
6. Sonamani Pandey, 40 years old
7. Bharati Kal, 45 years old,
8. Susham Tanti, 35 years old,
9. Ratna Goala, 50 years old
10. Ramashish Dushad, 80 years old

Date of incident: Since October 2011
Place of incident: Bhuvan Valley Tea Estate, Cachar district of Assam state,India

I am writing to voice my deep concern about 10 deceased workers who had worked in the tea plantation that was closed down on October 8, 2011. After the tea plantation estate closed, about 500 permanent workers and another 500 casual workers have lose their job and were confronted to an extremely vulnerable situation suffering from lack of food and medical treatment. The workers have been deprived of the wages due for nine weeks of labour and of their provident fund. So far, 10 workers died of starvation and lack of medical care and others face a similar situation without getting any assistance from the government.

I am informed that Mr. Prakash Ghatowar (80) and his daughter-in-law Moni Ghatowar (32) of Didarkhush Grant have pain in their legs. Prakash’s grandchildren Pinki Ghatowar (17), Kamalabati Ghatowar (15) and Rinki Ghatowar (12) are compelled to collect firewood from the far off jungles and to sell them at the markets giving up their studies.

Sricharan Bauri who was a permanent worker of the Estate, has not received any food subsidy or medical treatment for last six months, resulting that his mother Mrs. Belbati Bauri (75 years old) finds it difficult to manage daily life. Belbati gets weaker and sick and may face death soon. In spite of the closure of the Estate, they are still identified as an Above the Poverty Line (APL) family which does not entitle them to receive various government subsidies targeting the poor and therefore have not received any assistance from the administration. Other family members collect firewood to pay for food and medicines for the sick family members. Another worker Mr. Putul Bauri (50 years old) also has pain in his legs. He testified that for decades while working in the Estate, the workers including him suffered a lot from low wages, overwork, and lack of basic facilities that can ensure their life with dignity.

I am aware that since started, the workers have been deprived of their basic rights as workers and of other basic facilities, which are ensured by the Plantation Labour Act 1951 as well as by other national policies such as the Public Food Distribution Scheme (PDS) or health care system. The average daily wage was around 55 rupees (1.12 USD) which is far less than the minimum wage in Assam, 100 rupees. The workers often overworked, for which they were not paid. The workers have not been provided medical facilities, safe drinking water, and sanitation under the Act. Thus, the deceased workers as testified did not face death just due to lack of food and medical treatment after the closure, but the workers’ rights to food and health have been violated for decades infringing the Constitution of India, the Plantation Labour Act, and the international human rights laws which legally bind the government.

I am informed that the BHRPC discovered that the health centre under National Rural Health Mission does not function properly as it is allegedly run by an unqualified practitioner. Medicines are not available either. The canal constructed under the MGNREGS aiming to guarantee 100 day-employment in rural area for the poor is the only source of water for the workers in this area. Water from the canal has been used for multiple purposes such as washing, cooking and drinking.

When the Estate was winding up, the workers were told that the Estate was suffering loss and would recover very soon, which did not happen. They were even told that they had better forget the delayed wages. The Estate closed down on October 8, 2011 and the government authority did not make any intervention to ensure the fundamental rights of workers. The Estate rather tried to suppress the protest of the workers who demanded the due wages and other assistances. The administration failed to intervene when the workers approached them to ask for assistance. The Deputy Commissioner of Cachar district assured that he will intervene but no action was taken at that time.

The administration made promises, which never translated into reality. The meeting in the office of the Deputy Commissioner resolved that the Estate would be opened on January 23, 2012, which did not happen till today. On January 25, Additional District Commissioner (ADC) Mr. Debashish Chakrabarti, ADC Mr. S. K. Das, Assistant Labour Commissioner Mr. K. Singson, the MLA and the Secretary of Barak Cha Shramik Union Mr. Dinesh Prasad Goala, Assistant Manager of the Tea Estate Mr. Fulan Barbhuiya and others participated in a meeting held in the conference hall of the Deputy Commissioner. This meeting decided that a committee be formed under chairmanship of the SDO (civil) of Lakhipur Sub Division to manage the estate.

Yet, there has been no action taken to provide proper compensation for the deceased and their families and to restart the plantation with legitimate working condition guaranteeing the rights of workers. At present, more workers and their families suffer from lack of food and medical treatment. Without immediate assistance for food and health, they may face the same fate as the 10 deceased workers.

I therefore, urge you to make immediate and proper intervention to provide food subsidy and medical treatment for emergency relief. A temporary medical camp should be established urgently to address the serious health issues currently faced by the workers and their families. I am of the opinion that the government has a duty to prevent further death and sickness in accordance with the Constitution of India and the international human rights laws that bind it to respect and protect the fundamental rights. To realize those rights, it is highly required to provide immediate support to the workers.

I further urge you to provide proper compensation for those who died of starvation and lack of medical care and their families. The government is responsible for their death as it failed to implement the domestic laws and policies. All available government schemes should be fully implemented to protect their rights. Furthermore, when the plantation restarts, all the rights of workers should be ensured in accordance with the Plantation Labour Act and international human rights standard.

I will continuously monitor your action for the workers and their families, looking forward to your immediate response.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Tarun Gogoi
Chief Minister of Assam
Assam Secretariat, Dispur
Guwahati-6, Assam
INDIA
Fax: +91 361 2262069

2. Chief Secretary
Assam Secretariat, Dispur
Guwahati-6, Assam
INDIA
Fax: +91 361 2260900
Email: psccy_it@assam.nic.in

3. Dr. Nazrul Islam
Cabinet Minister
Food & Civil Supplies, Welfare of Minorities
Assam Secretariat, Dispur
Guwahati-6, Assam
INDIA

4. Mr. Mallikarjun Kharge
Union Minister of Labour & Employment
Shram Shakti Bhawan
Rafi Marg, New Delhi – 110001
Room No. 120
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2371 1708

5. Mrs. Krishna Tirath
Minister of State
Ministry of Women and Child Development
Shastri Bhavan, Jeevandeep Building
New Delhi
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 23074052, 23074053, 23074054

6. Mr. Justice S. Barman Roy
Chairperson
Assam Human Rights Commission
STATFED H.O. Building, GMC Road
Bhangagarh, Guwahati
Pin – 781005, Assam
INDIA
Fax: +91 361 2529450, 2527076
Email: hrca@sancharnet.in

7. Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001
INDIA
Fax: + 91 11 2338 4863
E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in

Thank you.

Right to Food Programme (foodjustice@ahrc.asia)
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

 

  Send an Appeal Letter

Document Type :

Hunger Alert Case

Document ID :

AHRC-HAC-002-2012

Countries :

India

Issues :

Labour rightsRight to foodRight to healthRight to life

 URL:  http://www.humanrights.asia/news/hunger-alerts/AHRC-HAC-002-2012

Swami Agnivesh writes to Assam CM on starvation deaths in Bhuvan valley

February 4, 2012

Silchar, 4 February: New Delhi based noted social activist Swami Agnivesh wrote to Chief Minister of Assam Shri Tarun Gogoi on 3 February regarding the incidents of starvation deaths in Bhuvan valley tea garden in Cachar district demanding immediate actions to address the situation. Enclosing the fact-finding report on the hunger situation faced by the tea labourers of the now-closed tea garden released on 1 February by Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) the former member of Team Anna wrote it is ‘a very disturbing report about tea garden poor laboures in conditions of starvation deaths and very poor working conditions – denied wages for months, absence of other benefits etc.’ He urged the CM to ‘look into the report and address the situation with all the urgency at his command.’

The fact-finding report of the BHRPC reveals that the recent deaths of 11 labourers are due to starvation, malnutrition and inaccessibility of the labouerers to the medical services. It also states that the conditions of at least 5 others are so bad that it would be hard for them to survive a month without urgent medical and nutritional intervention. The report concludes that arbitrary and exploitative actions of both the estate management and government drove about three thousand labourers and their families on the verge of starvation. The management abruptly closed the garden on 8 October, 2011 without paying wages due for 9 weeks, dues from provident fund and other benefits and alternative livelihood. The government public distribution system (PDS) and health care facilities are conspicuous by their absence. It expressed concern that without urgent and substantial intervention reports of deaths will keep coming.

BHRPC expects urgent actions on the part of the CM to save the precious human lives in danger of elimination due to huger, malnutrition and lack medical treatment.

Rights groups concern over hunger situation in Bhuvan valley

February 2, 2012

A Hongkong based rights group Asian Human Rights Commission is working on the situation of hunger, malnutrition and lack of medical care in Bhuvan Valley Tea Estate in Cachar where reportedly 11 plantation labourers died recently due to starvation and several others are on the verge of death. The AHRC informed that it would issue a hunger alert world wide very soon and would lodge complaint with the relevant United Nations bodies along with creating pressure on the authorities in India.

A local rights group Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) conducted a fact finding exercise on the situation and published a report on its website. The report was also sent to the national and international human rights organizations including the AHRC. The BHRPC also filed a complaint at the Assam Human Rights Commission and wrote to the other authorities including the prime minister of India and the chief minister ofAssam.

 The fact-finding report of the BHRPC reveals that the recent deaths of 11 labourers are due to starvation, malnutrition and inaccessibility of the labouerers to the medical services. It also states that the conditions of at least 5 others are so bad that it would be hard for them to survive a month without urgent medical and nutritional intervention. The report concludes that arbitrary and exploitative actions of both the estate management and government drove about three thousand labourers and their families on the verge of starvation. The management abruptly closed the garden on 8 October, 2011 without paying wages due for 9 weeks, dues from provident fund and other benefits and alternative livelihood. The government public distribution system (PDS) and health care facilities are conspicuous by their absence. It expressed concern that without urgent and substantial intervention reports of deaths will keep coming.

In the complaint filed at the state human rights commission the BHRPC submitted that the situation prevailing in the said tea garden is a situation of the violations of fundamental human rights provided in the Constitution of India and international human rights norms. The right to food is an integral part of the right to life enshrined in Article 21 and 51A of the Constitution. It is also a gross violation of the Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 1(2) and 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 27(1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 12(2) of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

 The BHRC said that if no adequate and visible actions are taken within a reasonable time the BHRPC will take further actions including lodging formal complaint to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

Released on 02-02-2012

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.

Editor and publisher of a little magazine intimidated and harassed by police in Silchar, Assam

November 20, 2011


A young editor and a publisher were harassed and intimidated for publishing a little magazine for allegedly containing materials that were thought to be immoral and insulting to a section of the society inSilchar,Assam. The magazine titled ‘Via Trunk Road’ contained write-ups, poems and pencil sketches on the rights of the homosexuals and the homosexuality. Additionally, a sketch of the language martyrs memorial altar with the names of eleven martyrs, eleven vodka bottles in a big glass and a burning cigarette was also published in the magazine. Police from Silchar Sdar police station in Cachar district registered a case against the editor and the publisher, raided their houses at mid-night and arrested and kept in detention illegally after a group of some influential people lodged a complaint against them. Subsequently they were released after they apologized publicly under social pressure. But the case against them still continues.

 Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) received written communications from the victims describing the incident in detail.  According o the information, ‘Via Trunk Road’ is a little magazine edited by Sahidul Haque Talukdar (aged 18), son of Nazrul Haque Talukdar and a resident of Munshi Safar Ali Lane, Ghaniala, Malugram, Silchar – 2 (Assam) and published by Shamim Ahmed Laskar (aged 23), son of  Abdul Wahid Laskar and a resident of Ghaniala Road, (near Masjid) Silchar – 2 (Assam). The June 2011 issue  contained some nude and seminude pencil sketches, some poems and articles about homosexuality, social, religious and scientific viewpoints on it. On the back cover page an altar with the names of eleven language martyrs (Bhasha Shaheed) of Barak Valley and a big glass containing eleven vodka bottles and a burning cigarette was sketched and titled as ‘Unish 2050’. The martyrs represent the sentiment of the Bengali speaking people living in the valley. They were killed by the state police for protesting against the policy of the state government to impose Assamese language in place of Bengali, the mother tongue of the majority inhabitants, during a demonstration at Silchar Railway Station on 19th May, 1961. The editor and publisher stated that a photograph published few days earlier in a local newspaper showing the accumulated wine bottles near the altar inspired them to publish the innocuous sketch in an attempt to depict the language martyrs day of 19 May celebration in 2050.

 According to the information received, ‘Bhasha Shahid Station Shahid Smaran Samiti’, a committee associated with the martyrs memorial and some other people were apparently got angry and lodged a complaint against the editor and the publisher of ‘Via Trunk Road’ on 16th July, 2011 at the Silchar Sadar Police Station and demanded their arrest. The Officer in Charge (OC) registered a First Information Report under sections 290/294/500/502/504 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 vide Case No. 1136/11dated 16/07/2011. Section 290 provides punishment for public nuisance, 294 punishes obscene acts and songs, 500 gives punishment for defamation, 502 prohibits sale of printed substance containing defamatory matters and 504 provides punishment for intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace.

 According to the victims, On 25 July, 2011 at 12.15 midnight 8-9 police personnel arrived at Shamim’s house; some of them were in civil dresses. Mr. Mukut Kakati, an officer, asked Shamim about his involvement with the magazine. Then he asked about Sahidul and wanted to visit his house. He also informed that an FIR had been lodged against their magazine and hence a meeting would be held at Shamim’s Residence. They reached Sahidul’s house at 12.45 am and woke him up by calling him and knocking on his door. Sahidul at first followed them and after a while he rushed to his mother’s room to inform his mother who at that time was in sound sleep. Mr. Kakati entered the room forcibly and said that it would take hardly 30 minutes. Both were astonished when they came to know that they were taken to Malugram Police Outpost instead of arranging any meeting at Shamim’s place. Mr. Kakati asked Shamim to bring all the unsold copies of their magazine, which he did. Then they reached Silchar Sadar Police Station instead of Maligram outpost. The victims alleged that most of the police personnel were visibly drunk.

 There for the first time, Shamim and Sahidul came to know that they had been arrested. At that time two other detained persons were badly beaten by Mr. Kakati in front of the Shamim and Sahidul and were let free; this was a frightening experience to Shamim and Sahidul. Both of them were taken toS.M.DebCivilHospitalfor medical test. They replied that they have no injury when asked by the Medical Officer. They returned to the Police Station at around 1:30 am. After checking their clothes they were detained in the lock up. Shamim’s spectacles were snatched though it was inevitable for a myopic person like him. They were kept in the police lock-up, which according to hem, was not in a condition to be in for a human being. It was filled with cockroaches, rats, mosquitoes, smell of urine and stool, dirty water etc. There was no water facility in the lavatory and it was so dirty that they started vomiting. They were provided with a blanket as mattress, which was perhaps not washed since years and smelt bad.

 The Investigating Police officer (I/O) wrote to the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) objecting to the grant of bail to the detainees showing various absurd reasons. He described, ‘.. a news was published in the Samayeek News Paper where deliberate and malicious photographs against the Bhasa Shahid Station…..’ He also described that the accused persons have intentionally caused breach of peace by writing against the feeling of a particular religious community. He further added that the situation was not suitable and might turn to worst leading towards bloodshed. These statements were utterly false and made with malicious intentions. However, the objection was not considered and the accused were released on bail of Rs. 20,000 at 2:30 pm.

But on the contrary to the description of the police, some renowned cultural activists and intellectuals of the valley condemned the arrest and demanded withdrawal of the case. As the editor and the publisher both were Bengali and as there was no religious sentiment attached with the martyrs but only linguistic concern, the question of communal violence raised by police was absurd and intentional. They also raised question about the inaction of the administration and the complainants regarding heaps of garbage of used bottles of wine, gutka packets and other similar things on and around the actual altars of Bhasa Shahid even after reports and photographs had been published in the local newspapers. They also said that the question of obscenity in art and literature is still controversial and there is no exact definition of the same. So there is no ground to demand arrest and to execute it. Moreover, Mr. Mukut Kakati was misusing his power at the instance of the influential persons. His letter to the CJM shows that he has no idea about the martyrs and the related phenomena. He only tried to extend the detention of the accused persons without any proper reason and with ill intention. Mr Kakati arrested the accused and kept them in detention in inhuman condition without maintaining proper legal process.

 BHRPC thinks that the sections of law that were invoked against the accused were not warranted by any thing published in the said magazine and as such the actions of police in registering the FIR, conducting raids, arresting the accused, keeping them in detention and attempt to mislead the courts with false statements amount to violations of fundamental rights under the Constitution of India and basic human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966.

 BHRPC urges the authorities to provide adequate compensation to the victims for the physical and mental harassment and violations of their rights; initiation of disciplinary actions against the erring police personnel and guarantee of the safe exercise of right to freedom of expression and thought in Barak valley.

AFSPA: A blotch on democracy in India

August 20, 2011

The Asian Human Rights Commission, REDRESS Trust UK, and Human Rights Alert, Manipur, India jointly authored and published a report on the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 titled: The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 in Manipur and other States of the Northeast of India: Sanctioning repression in violation of India’s human rights obligations on 18 August, 2011.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 in Manipur and other States of the Northeast of India: Sanctioning repression in violation of India’s human rights obligations

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 in Manipur and other States of the Northeast of India: Sanctioning repression in violation of India’s human rights obligations

In a statement jointly issued issued on 18 August, 2011 by AHRC, REDRESS and HRA it is claimed that a draconian legislation like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 and the concept of democracy do not go together. While democracy nurture values of justice, equality and fraternity, laws like the AFSPA are synonymous with injustice, discrimination and hatred. A report that analyses the legislation’s complete incompatibility with India’s domestic and international human rights obligations is released today in India, Hong Kong and London. Human Rights Alert, a human rights organisation working in Manipur, India; REDRESS Trust, a human rights group based in London, UK; and the AHRC, a regional human rights body based in Hong Kong have jointly authored the report.

It is also stated that the report while analysing the Act draws extensively upon international and domestic human rights jurisprudence, that India is mandated to follow. The report exposes the visibly different standards even the Supreme Court of India has adopted while deciding the constitutionality and thus the compatibility of the law with India’s international and domestic human rights obligations. Despite repeated calls to repeal the law immediately by government-sponsored Committees that have studied the law, the Government of India is yet to take any steps in that direction. International human rights bodies like the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Racial Discrimination have expressed concern about the law and its implementation in India, suggesting that the law should be repealed.

The law has attracted, repeatedly, wide-ranging criticisms from jurists, human rights activists, and even politicians within India and abroad. Organisations like the AHRC and Human Rights Alert have documented more than two hundred cases, over the past eight years, where the state agencies operating under the statutory impunity provided by the Act has committed serious human rights violations in states like Manipur. Most of these cases has been reported by the AHRC through its Urgent Appeals Programme and brought to the attention of authorities in India and within the United Nations. Yet, so far not a single military or police officer has been prosecuted for the human rights abuses they have committed under the cover of impunity provided by this law.

The report also places emphasis upon the unique form of protest by Ms. Irom Chanu Sharmila, through her decade-long hunger strike, which has been largely ignored by the national media in India.

The report could be downloaded here.

For comments on the report you may contact:
1. Mr. Babloo Loitongbom
Human Rights Alert
Manipur, India
Tel: + 91 385 2448159

2. Mr. Serge Golubok
REDRESS
London, UK
Tel: + 44 20 7793 1777

3. Mr. Bijo Francis
AHRC
Hong Kong
Tel: + 852 2698 6339

Killed, Buried and Vanished: Custodial death of Islamul Hoque Choudhury

April 20, 2011

He barely manages to walk. His physical structure is so weak and fragile that it may collapse at any moment. A cultivator having a small plot of land and part time wage labourer, he crossed 75 years of his life and so far succeeded to provide his family members the minimum requirements for keeping them alive. He is a successful fighter so far fight for livelihood is concerned as per the standard applicable in this part of the planet. But on the other front he is a soldier who lost many battles. He could not save his 23 year old son who was killed in a staged encounter on 20 May, 2000 at Panichowki under Sonai police station in the district of Cachar of the Indian state of Assam. Then he started another kind of fight, of which he has no training and knowledge, the fight for justice for his slain son. His body may be slander and fragile but his determination and belief in the justice system is rock hard. For more than 8 years he has been fighting single handed without any apparent result and is still optimistic.

It is this optimism which made him the other day to call on me and share his grief. He also shared with me all the documents and information he could gather regarding the encounter of his son. This account is on the basis of these documents and information.

The elderly man is known as Haji Sarif Uddin Choudhury and is a resident of village Dhanehori under Sonai police station in the district of Cachar, Assam. Islamul Hoque Choudhury was his son who used to help his father in cultivation and wanted to start his own business howsoever small may be.

On 19 June 2000 Islamul Hoque Choudhury was at Banskandi bazaar and the neighbourhood area searching for the motor cycle of his brother which was lost the day before. He went there after receiving information that the cycle had been seen in this area. After a day long search he could see two men riding the lost cycle came to the bazaar. When he asked them where they found this cycle the bikers started to punch him. They also raised hue and cry shouting alarm of pick-pocket. People in the marked gathered, caught Islamul and searched him but found nothing except 20 rupees.

In the meantime some police men from Banskandi police out post came in a jeep and arrested him at 8pm. Another person named Ripon Laskar arrested by police was in the jeep. Later, an ezahar was filed in the Bnaskandi police out post under Lakhipur police station signed by Foizur Rahman and Salim of Banskandi. Both these complainants claimed in the ezahar that Islamul Hoque and Ripon Laskar were trying to kidnap them from Silghat ferry, a nearby river ferry and that the two arrested persons had links with the Peoples United Liberation Force (PULF), an extremist organisation allegedly based in Manipur.

According to Haji Sarif Uddin Choudhury, during the interrogation both the arrested persons were subjected to severe torture and Ripon Laskar succumbed to the resulting injuries in the night itself on the spot. Higher police officers were informed of the incident and it was decided that an encounter must be staged to avoid public wrath. For the purpose a team was formed headed by Mr. Hareswar Brahma, the Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) of Lakhipur Sub-Division, Mr. Choudhury claims.

In the dead of night some police personnel from Banskandi out post, Officer In-charge (O/C) of Lakhipur police station and the said SDPO went to Dhanehori taking with them Islamul Hoque and the body of Ripon Laskar in a jeep. There they purportedly searched the house of one Sukkur Uddin but nothing objectionable could be recovered from his house. Thereafter they rushed to Panichowki, a village in the foot of the Bhuvan Hills about 50 kilo metres away from Silchar, the district head quarter. On the way to Panichowki they met another police team belonging to Sonai police station, which were patrolling during night hours. The Lakhipur police team took Sonai police party with them and proceeded to Panichowki rest house, a house maintained and used by Forest Department, where they reached at about 3pm on 20 June 2000.

Some villagers of Panichowki state that on 20 June 2000 in the early morning a few gun fires were heard and when they came out of their houses at the sound they saw a police party in and around of Panichowki rest house. One of them, namely Karunamoy Das, by profession a pan-collector, (pan is a leaf used with betel nuts found in the hilly jungles) states that at the time of firing he was very near to the place of occurrence. He noticed the incident and as per his statement when police were beating the arrested person he was begging to the police for his life by requesting them to hand over to Jail instead of beating and torturing. But the police did not give any heed and lastly they shot him dead.

The next day both the dead bodies were sent to Sonai police station and after conducting post mortem examination at Silchar Medical College and Hospital (SMCH), Silchar the officer in the police station handed over the dead bodies to the relatives. The relatives of Islamul and his local people buried his body on 21 June 2000 observing religious rites.

The local media carried the police story for a few days with usual journalistic exaggerations that police arrested two high profile extremists belonging to PULF from Banskandi daily market at 8pm on 19 June 2000 and brought them to the police station for further interrogation. The I/C (In-Charge) of Banskandi out-post conveyed the information to the SDPO, Lakhipur who along with O/C, Lakhipur took part in the interrogation. On the basis of interrogation and with a view to unearthing further facts they along with arrested persons proceeded to Dhanehori and thereafter to Panichowki. At Dhanehori the police searched the house of one Sukkur Uddin on the basis of the information extracted from the arrested persons but they recovered nothing objectionable from his house. Thereafter they rushed to Panichowki for the same purpose along with another police team from Sonai police station. Both the police teams reached Panichowki rest house at about 3pm on 20 June 2000. The police party asked both the arrested persons to head them towards the hideouts of the PULF extremists. As they were passing through the premises of the Panichowki rest house all on a sudden firing from the nearby jungle began and both arrested persons who were leading them died due to cross firing. Police further add in their statements that had they not been trained up for self defence they would have been killed due to extremist’s firing. According to police the following two reasons were responsible for the death of two arrested persons:

1. They were leading the police party and naturally they were going in advance.

2. They lacked the training of self protection.

But the lone soldier of the cause of justice Haji Sarif Uddin Choudhury started his fight. He succeeded to compel the District Magistrate of Cachar to order a magisterial inquiry into the incident after 3 months on 19 September 2000. The report of the inquiry never saw the light of the day. Nevertheless, Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) a human rights organisation working in Assam, managed to get access to an unauthenticated copy of the report of the inquiry. Although there are many questions remained unanswered in the report the Magistrate found that ‘firing took place behind the rest house where both the accused succumbed to the injuries’. He also finds “reason to believe that there was no firing from jungle or extremist side and firing which took place at Panichowki in the early morning of 20-6-2k was only from police side.” The report goes on: “During the whole operation of the nights of 19-6-2k and 20-6-2k the Sr. Police Officer, i. e., SDPO, Lakhipur was present along with other police personnel who could have guided his party to avert from such killing.”

The Magistrate concludes: “I, therefore, find Sri Hareshwar Brahma, SDPO, Lakhipur to have committed guilt and excess during the operation.”

But no prosecution initiated against the SDPO and his team.

A complaint was also filed with the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and accordingly a case was registered vide. AHRC Case No. 3451 of 2001. The AHRC after about six years found that a prima facie case of human rights violations exists and observed that “it was not only a fake encounter but there was also gross negligence on the part of the police for not giving full protection to both the deceased persons” and awarded an interim compensation of rupees fifty thousand by its judgment and order dated 14-06-2006. But the judgment is mysteriously silent on the question of prosecution of the violators. Whereas under section 18 (a) (ii) the AHRC is empowered to recommend to the concerned government or authority to initiate proceedings for prosecution against the concerned person or persons where the inquiry discloses the commission of violation of human rights or negligence in the prevention of violation of human rights or abetment thereof by a public servant.

But the most mysterious is the strength of Haji Sarif Uddin Choudhury with which he declares “age or death can’t take me away before justice for my son is ensured by way of prosecution and due punishment to his murderers. Without prosecution of the accused a compensation of rupees fifty thousand is nothing but an insult to the soul of my son and the society.” Police kill people and a meager amount of money from the public fund is given. What type of justice is this?”, he asks.

“If you want to prevent the killing of your son by the police it must be ensured that the persons who already committed such offences must be brought to justice”, said Neharul Ahmed Mazumder, Secretary General of BHRPC. He also states that “a regime of de facto impunity is carefully maintained in North Eastern region including Assam for which it is almost impossible to get justice for the victims and prevent repetitions of such extra legal killings. We need to fight unitedly to break the regime.”

Urgent Appeal: An old man assaulted by the Central Reserve Police in Assam

April 8, 2011

BARAK HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION COMMITTEE

Urgent Appeal No. BHRPC Case No 64/2011/UA/25/211 Dated: 9 April 2011

Dear Friends,

Acting on the information provided by Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) issued an Urgent Appeal concerning the case of torture of a 66-year-old person, his aged wife and son by a group of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officers at the victim’s residence. No action was taken upon a complaint filed at the Silchar Sadar police station concerning the incident. It is reported that the Office-in-Charge (OC), instead of investigating the case is demanding that Fariz settle his complaint against the CRPF and rather withdraw it should he not dare facing yet another assault from the CRPF. Fariz filed another complaint at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which was also not acted upon. Please take the suggested actions.

Yours sincerely

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Urgent Appeal Desk

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee

Rongpur, Silchar-9, Assam, India

INDIA: An old man assaulted by the Central Reserve Police in Assam

April 8, 2011

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-074-2011

Send an appeal letter

8 April 2011

——————————————————
INDIA: An old man assaulted by the Central Reserve Police in Assam

ISSUES: Torture; Impunity; Martial law; Rule of law

——————————————————

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) concerning the case of torture of a 66-year-old person, his aged wife and son by a group of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officers at the victim’s residence. It is reported that the CRPF tortured Mr. Fariz Uddin Barbhuiya, his wife and son on 27 July 2010 causing serious injuries to the old man. The CRPF assaulted Fariz since he had protested against the CRPF concerning a civil dispute. Fariz had to be hospitalised at the Silchar Medical College Hospital (SMCH) to recover from the injuries. No action was taken upon a complaint filed at the Silchar Sadar police station concerning the incident. It is reported that the Office-in-Charge (OC), instead of investigating the case is demanding that Fariz settle his complaint against the CRPF and rather withdraw it should he not dare facing yet another assault from the CRPF. Fariz filed another complaint at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which was also not acted upon. Fariz is a retired CRPF constable.

CASE NARRATIVE:

A team of about ten CRPF personnel entered the Fariz’s house and assaulted him along with his wife and son on 27 July 2010. Fariz was seriously injured in the incident and had to be hospitalised. The CRPF is a paramilitary force in India.

Fariz is a retired CRPF constable living in front of the 147 battalion of the CRPF camp. Fariz’s house is within the jurisdiction of Silchar Sadar Police Station in Cachar district of Assam state. Fariz supports his family with his pension and the earnings from a small shop where he sells betel nuts and operates a public call office (PCO). Fariz alleges that he was assaulted for protesting against the CRPF concerning a civil contract.

Fariz alleges that one Mr. Radheshyam Sahu, had obtained permission to cut and sell grass from the CRPF 147 battalion campus through a public auction. Thereafter, Sahu entered into a contract with Fariz on 22 April 2010 allowing Fariz to cut and sell grass for which he paid Sahu Rs. 7,500.00. Few days later, Fariz came to know that Sahu had allowed another person to cut and sell grass from the same campus. Aggrieved by the breach of contract, Fariz went to Sahu and demanded an explanation.

It is reported that Sahu ignored Fariz’s question and misbehaved to him. Fariz was disappointed and on 26 June complained to the commander of the battalion, Mr. T. K Hati, asking him to intervene. The commander reportedly informed Fariz that it was him who allowed the other person to cut and sell grass from the campus. Fariz then reminded the commander about the contract and requested the commander to return his money.

Fariz alleges that the officer shouted abuses at him when he demanded the officer to return the money. The officer then threatened Fariz and warned him that he will be taught a lesson for daring to demand the return of the money from a superior officer. Fariz went home disappointed. Fariz stated that following his argument with the commandant, a team of more than ten CRPF personnel accompanied by Mr. Sahu came to Fariz’s house at around 4.30pm on 27 July. Fariz claims that the team was led by the commander Mr. Hati and accompanied by CRPF constables Mr. Abani Nath, Mr. Shashi Bhushan, and Havildar Mr. Amir Uddin Laskar.

Fariz claims that the officers forcibly entered the house and started beating him without any warning. The officers assaulted Fariz with gun butts. The officers then kicked Fariz and punched him on his head and other parts of his body. Fariz’s wife, Aftarun Nessa Barbhuiya, and his son, Asif Akhtar Barbhuiya, tried to intervene and requested the officers to spare the old man. Fariz was lying on the ground soaked with blood. However, it is alleged that the CRPF then assaulted Aftarun Nessa and Asif Akhtar.

Fariz further alleges that the officers then damaged furniture, utensils and other valuable things in his house. Fariz claims that the officers then took the cash box of his shop that had approximately Rs. 2500.00 in it at the time. When the officers left, they warned Fariz against complaining to the authorities or to the police about the incident. The officers also threatened the family that they would be charged with false cases of keeping illegal firearms and ammunition if they sought help from the human rights organisations or informed the media. After the officers left the family called an ambulance and took Fariz to the Silchar Medical College and Hospital (SMCH). Fariz was admitted at the SMCH and after a few days when his health improved discharged from the hospital.

It is reported that Fariz filed a complaint at the Silchar Sadar Police Station on 28 July 2010 concerning the incident and requesting the police to take appropriate actions against the CRPF officers. The police registered an FIR (First Information Report) based on the complaint as Silchar PS (police station) Case No. 1445/10 under Sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 448 (punishment for house-trespass), 325 (punishment for causing grievous hurt), 323 (punishment for causing hurt), 427 (mischief causing damage), 307 (attempt to murder) and 149 (punishment of being a member of unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). Sub-Inspector Mr. Jitu Mani Goswami was the investigating officer (IO) of the case.

Fariz, however, alleges that the IO was not investigating the case. Instead, the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of the Silchar Sadar Police Station was demanding Fariz to come to an amicable settlement with the accused CRPF personnel and withdraw the complaint. Another complaint was then filed at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on 5 February 2011 with the help of local human rights group, Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC). BHRPC informs that there have been no responses from the NHRC yet concerning the case.

BHRPC and Fariz allege that the assault and theft was a punishment for daring to complain to the CRPF commandant as well as demanding money back from the officer, which the officer viewed as challenging his authority, that too by a retired and old former constable. In places like Assam in India, the CRPF and other paramilitary units have absolute impunity wherever they are posted. The AHRC has reported more than 300 cases of torture, murder and rape committed by the CRPF and other paramilitary units in India over the past six years. Most of these cases find some action only when the AHRC makes the incident public. The AHRC has also noted that in many cases the victims refuse to speak about the incident due to fear of further assault or threat from these agencies. India also does not have any form of witness protection laws or mechanisms.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities listed below asking them to intervene in the case immediately.

The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the question of torture seeking an intervention in the case.

To support this appeal click here

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: Please investigate the case of assault by the CRPF of a 66-year-old man at his residence along with his wife and son

Name of victims:

1. Mr. Fariz Uddin Barbhuiya aged about 66 years residing within the jurisdiction of Silchar Sadar police station in Cachar district of Assam state

2. Ms. Aftarun Nessa Barbhuiya, wife of Fariz

3. Mr. Asif Akhtar Barbhuiya, son of Fariz

Names of alleged perpetrators:

1. Mr.Radheshyam Sahu, owner of the High Tech Communication shop

2. Mr. TK Hati, commander of the 147 battalion of CRPF camp stationed under the jurisdiction of Silchar Sadar police station in Cachar district of Assam state

3. Mr. Abani Nath, constable of the 147 battalion of CRPF camp stationed under the jurisdiction of Silchar Sadar police station in Cachar district of Assam state

4. Mr. Shashi Bhushan, constable of the 147 battalion of CRPF camp stationed under the jurisdiction of Silchar Sadar police station in Cachar district of Assam state

5. Mr. Amir Uddin Laskar, Havildar of the 147 battalion of CRPF camp stationed under the jurisdiction of Silchar Sadar police station in Cachar district of Assam state

Date of incident: 27 July 2010

Place of incident: Victim’s residence

I am writing to seek immediate actions in the case reported to me of assault by the Central Reserve Police (CRPF) of a 66-year-old man, his wife and son at his residence on 27 July 2010. I am concerned to know that the complaints filed by the victims at the local police station and at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have not been acted upon. On the contrary, the local police is demanding that the victim settle the case with the CRPF outside the police station and withdraw his complaint, or dare facing yet another assault from the CRPF.

I am informed that there were about ten CRPF officers who entered the Fariz’s house and assaulted him along with his wife and son. Fariz was seriously injured in the incident and had to be hospitalised. The CRPF is a paramilitary force in India.

Fariz is a retired CRPF constable living in front of the 147 battalion of the CRPF camp. Fariz’s house is within the jurisdiction of Silchar Sadar Police Station in Cachar district of Assam state. Fariz supports his family with his pension and the earnings from a small shop where he sells betel nuts and operates a public call office (PCO). Fariz alleges that he was assaulted for protesting against the CRPF concerning a civil contract.

Fariz alleges that one Mr. Radheshyam Sahu, had obtained permission to cut and sell grass from the CRPF 147 battalion campus through a public auction. Thereafter, Sahu entered into a contract with Fariz on 22 April 2010 allowing Fariz to cut and sell grass for which he paid Sahu Rs. 7,500.00. Few days later, Fariz came to know that Sahu had allowed another person to cut and sell grass from the same campus. Aggrieved by the breach of contract, Fariz went to Sahu and demanded an explanation.

It is reported that Sahu ignored Fariz’s question and misbehaved to him. Fariz was disappointed and on 26 June complained to the commander of the battalion, Mr. T. K Hati, asking him to intervene. The commander reportedly informed Fariz that it was him who allowed the other person to cut and sell grass from the campus. Fariz then reminded the commander about the contract and requested the commander to return his money.

Fariz alleges that the officer shouted abuses at him when he demanded the officer to return the money. The officer then threatened Fariz and warned him that he will be taught a lesson for daring to demand the return of the money from a superior officer. Fariz went home disappointed. Fariz stated that following his argument with the commandant, a team of more than ten CRPF personnel accompanied by Mr. Sahu came to Fariz’s house at around 4.30pm on 27 July. Fariz claims that the team was led by the commander Mr. Hati and accompanied by CRPF constables Mr. Abani Nath, Mr. Shashi Bhushan, and Havildar Mr. Amir Uddin Laskar.

Fariz claims that the officers forcibly entered the house and started beating him without any warning. The officers assaulted Fariz with gun butts. The officers then kicked Fariz and punched him on his head and other parts of his body. Fariz’s wife, Aftarun Nessa Barbhuiya, and his son, Asif Akhtar Barbhuiya, tried to intervene and requested the officers to spare the old man. Fariz was lying on the ground soaked with blood. However, it is alleged that the CRPF then assaulted Aftarun Nessa and Asif Akhtar.

Fariz further alleges that the officers then damaged furniture, utensils and other valuable things in his house. Fariz claims that the officers then took the cash box of his shop that had approximately Rs. 2500.00 in it at the time. When the officers left, they warned Fariz against complaining to the authorities or to the police about the incident. The officers also threatened the family that they would be charged with false cases of keeping illegal firearms and ammunition if they sought help from the human rights organisations or informed the media. After the officers left the family called an ambulance and took Fariz to the Silchar Medical College and Hospital (SMCH). Fariz was admitted at the SMCH and after a few days when his health improved discharged from the hospital.

It is reported that Fariz filed a complaint at the Silchar Sadar Police Station on 28 July 2010 concerning the incident and requesting the police to take appropriate actions against the CRPF officers. The police registered an FIR (First Information Report) based on the complaint as Silchar PS (police station) Case No. 1445/10 under Sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 448 (punishment for house-trespass), 325 (punishment for causing grievous hurt), 323 (punishment for causing hurt), 427 (mischief causing damage), 307 (attempt to murder) and 149 (punishment of being a member of unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). Sub-Inspector Mr. Jitu Mani Goswami was the investigating officer (IO) of the case.

Fariz, however, alleges that the IO was not investigating the case. Instead, the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of the Silchar Sadar Police Station was demanding Fariz to come to an amicable settlement with the accused CRPF personnel and withdraw the complaint. Another complaint was then filed at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on 5 February 2011 with the help of local human rights group, Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC). BHRPC informs that there have been no responses from the NHRC yet concerning the case.

BHRPC and Fariz allege that the assault and theft was a punishment for daring to complain to the CRPF commandant as well as demanding money back from the officer, which the officer viewed as challenging his authority, that too by a retired and old former constable.

I am also informed that in places like Assam in India, the CRPF and other paramilitary units have absolute impunity wherever they are posted. I am informed that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has reported more than 300 cases of torture, murder and rape committed by the CRPF and other paramilitary units in India over the past six years. In most of these cases actions were initiated only when the AHRC made the incident public. I am also informed that the AHRC has noted that in many cases the victims refuse to speak about the incident due to fear of further assault or threat from these agencies as it has happened in this case.

I therefore request you to intervene in this case to ensure the following:

1. That the police must immediately record the statement of the victims;

2. That the police investigate the case without any further delay;

3. That if required the witnesses provided protection by the police;

4. That the NHRC informs Fariz and/or BHRPC the status of the complaint they have filed at the NHRC without any further delay.

Yours sincerely,

—————-

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. K. Vijay Kumar, IPS
Director General
Central Reserve Police Force
Block No. 1, C.G.O. Complex
Lodhi Road
New Delhi – 110001
INDIA

2. DIG (ADM), NES (Ops) Sector NES
Operations Headquarters
Jorhat
Assam
INDIA

3. Mr. Tarun Gogoi
Chief Minister of Assam
Assam Secretariat, Dispur
Guwahati-6, Assam
INDIA
Fax: +91 361 2262069

4. Director General of Police
Assam, Ulubari
Guwahati-7, Assam
INDIA

5. Chief Justice
Guwahati High Court
Government of Assam
INDIA
FAX +91 361 2604122 or +91 362 2735863 (Registrar General)
E-mail: hc-asm@nic.in, hicourtg@rediffmail.com

6. Chief Secretary
Assam Secretariat, Dispur
Guwahati-6, Assam
INDIA
Fax: +91 361 2260900
Email: psccy_it@assam.nic.in

Thank you.

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

See the appeal at AHRC website: http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAC-074-2011

Forwarded Statement: INDIA: A responsible government will listen to the people

April 7, 2011

Forwarded Statement

April 7, 2011

Dear friends,

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) is pleased to forward the  Statement issued jointly by the Asian Human Rights Commission and (1) Madhya Pradesh Right to Food Campaign Support Group; (2) Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangthan; (3) Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Morch; (4) Sarokaar; (5) Baal Panchayat; (6) Nagrik Adhikar Manch; (7) Yuva Samvad; (8) Prasoon and (9) Vikas Samvad; human rights organisations working in India regarding the people’s movement demanding the Government of India to legislate the Jan Lokpal Bill without any further delay.

INDIA: A responsible government will listen to the people

Veteran human rights defender and anti-corruption activist, Mr. Anna Hazare has started an indefinite fast in New Delhi, on 5 April, demanding the Government of India to legislate the Jan Lokpal Bill without any further delay. The Bill is a model law against corruption, drafted and proposed by the civil society in India to the government. The Bill, if enacted by the Parliament, would create two independent institutions in the country, the Lokpal in the centre and the Lokayuktha in the states, mandated to accept complaints from the general public concerning corruption, and to investigate and prosecute persons suspected of corruption. The Lokpal and the Lokayuktha, if constituted, are conceived to be independent bodies like the Supreme Court and the Election Commission and to remain immune from any form of external influences. Several civil society groups in India have joined Hazare in his struggle.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) along with the above named organisations expresses solidarity to the struggle and joins hands with the rest of the civil society in the country in the fight to create an environment to constitute a corruption free India. We believe that the civil society initiative in India will lead the way and will form the bedrock of inspiration for similar movements in South Asia.

Dealing with corruption is a taboo for governments that holds fort in New Delhi and at the state capitals. For the past 42 years, a draft Bill to constitute a Lokpal has been pending before the Indian Parliament. No government was interested in dealing with the subject, or if interested, was unable to get the law passed. Even though the country’s economy advanced to become the fourth largest in the world in terms of GDP dollar estimates derived from purchasing power parity, India still does not have an independent functioning mechanism to deal with corruption. In that, India is one of the alarmingly corrupt countries of the world, being ranked 87 consistently for the past nine years, by global corruption monitoring agencies like the Transparency International.

Corruption and the concept of a socialist, secular and democratic republic cannot go together. Corruption undermines justice, liberty, equality and fraternity, the core values of India’s constitutional framework. Freedom and sovereignty has no purpose or meaning should corruption remain the central cord with which the social fabric of a country is woven and if corruption determines the balance of power in interactions among the people and between the people and their government. Social evils like caste-based discrimination can be only addressed adequately in a corruption free environment. Rightly conceived social welfare measures will deliver timely results should corruption be brought under control. Effective control of corruption could be the silver bullet with which poverty can be eliminated. Corruption undermines fair trial and thus sustainable development and progress. A corruption free environment is thus the dream of every aam admi and in that perspective Hazare’s protest represents the whole of India, including those who have formed the government and those who opposes it.

While having a legislation that envisages the constitution of independent and capable institutions is a prerequisite to contain corruption, it will be devoid of legitimacy, should it lack adequate consultation in the process and if the law does not receive the support of effective implementing entities.

A good law must ideally represent the will of the people, for which they must be heard. The collective wisdom of Indians must be thus held supreme and the civil society must take the lead to therefore consult the people, gathering opinion of what they wish to have as a corruption prevention entity in the country. The Parliament cannot and must not be held the sole representative body for this purpose, since many members of the Parliament lacks moral and legal legitimacy as they have benefited from the existing corrupt environment. It is thus for the civil society of the country to take the lead, in consultation with the government, to decide upon a transparent and mature process through which an all inclusive and time bound consultation could be held to deal with the subject.

The AHRC is of the opinion that having a law unaccompanied by an effective implementation framework is destined to fail. To begin with, the present entities in India that deals with corruption must be thoroughly scrutinised. Of particular importance are: (1) the Central Bureau of Investigation, (2) the Central Vigilance Commission, (3) prosecutorial agencies and (4) the local police. In any jurisdiction of the world where corruption has been successfully prevented, the police have been kept away from the entire process. Within Asia, like in Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea, where the governments have been successful in keeping corruption relatively low, the corruption prevention framework has completely excluded the police from playing any investigative role on allegations of corruption. On the contrary, it was the police who have been brought under the scanner and prosecuted in the first phase of controlling corruption in all the four countries. Even today, these countries keep a watertight separation between policing and corruption prevention. If the success in these countries could be emulated in India, which has been the case also in some of the western countries, the presence of police officers on deputation, irrespective of their ranks must be prevented in the whole corruption prevention apparatus. Once the corruption within the police is controlled, it is relatively easy to deal with the failing rule of law environment, that must be revived to effectively deal with corruption.

A drive against corruption must also reflect its seriousness within the prosecutorial service. The hard work and labour of an investigation will be futile should the prosecutor fail in her job. The existing standard of prosecution in the country is not capable in discharging its legal mandate. The practice of appointing special prosecutors in selected cases must be dropped. Instead, the entire prosecution service must be reviewed and its standards improved drastically, to fit a justice system that guarantees fair trial. In the excuse of easing the job of the prosecutor, processes once suggested by shortsighted government committees like the one that was headed my former judge, Mr. Malimood, must not be adopted.

The appointment of the members for the proposed Lokpal and Lokayuktha must be open, transparent and practical. It must not be based on the sheer pleasure of the government or of seniority in service, as it is the case for the CVC, nor should it be cumbersome as suggested by the Jan Lokpal Bill. A simple, transparent process must be devised. In most jurisdictions where independent and capable corruption prevention agencies exist, such processes also have been devised. Similarly, both institutions must have its own independent staff to function, appointed not on deputation from other government services as it is currently the case concerning the human rights commissions, but selected on the basis of merits and trained and equipped to discharge their job.

Indeed such processes would entail heavy expenses, which could not become a tenable excuse for a country like India, nor can the government deny such spending since it would smother the very functioning of an essential institution that the country need for its very survival and if it respects democracy as one of its founding norms. Indians might be poor India is not.

In addition to the above suggestions, an effective law against corruption must also guarantee time-bound investigation and trials. One of the curses of India’s justice apparatus is the inordinate delay in investigation and adjudication, which together can take more than 20 years. In cases concerning corruption, the experience so far is that the investigation itself could take more than two decades. The law could also consider providing a wider interpretation and definition to the term ‘corruption’. In today’s context, corruption need not necessarily be limited to financial corruption. The country’s governments are notorious for formulating polices with corrupt or otherwise malicious intentions. In that, policies that illegally profits any government or entities therein implemented through corrupt means or with malafide intentions must also be brought within the scope of corruption. Contrary to the mistaken perception that such wider definition of corruption would defeat the law, it has been successfully implemented in many countries, that has helped to bring in added responsibility and accountability within governments.

Contrary to what has been repeatedly projected by some of the political parties in the past few months, corruption in the country and its magnitude today cannot be held as the fault of any single government. Every political party in the country has an unshakable responsibility in deteriorating the conditions in India to the levels as it is today. Those political parties that pledge support today to the movement led by Hazare, understandably for sheer political mileage, have their own rotten skeletons inside their wardrobes. Yet this does not mean that these entities must not be consulted during the people’s consultative process. As a citizen of the country, everyone, including those who are part of the ruling coalition today, has a right to be part of the consultation, as individuals. Preventing corruption, for that matter is not the vested agenda of any particular political party. It is a decisive cause for the country, in which every political party that believes in democracy has a responsible role to play.

The AHRC wishes Hazare good health and supports him and his colleagues in this unique movement, which has the potential, not only to change the destiny of Indians, but also that of the region for a better tomorrow. It is also the responsibility of all civil society groups inside and outside India to join the campaign and extend support to Hazare and his friends.

The AHRC call upon the government of India to ensure that all necessary steps are initiated to ensure that Hazare’s fast finds a meaningful end. By doing so, the government is not succumbing to the sloganeering of the political opposition, but is respecting its people and thus fulfilling its mandate.

http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-050-2011