Posts Tagged ‘Assam government’

Assam government white paper on foreigners’ issue

October 26, 2017

Home and Political Department of Government of Assam published a WHITE PAPER ON FOREIGNERS’ ISSUE on 20 October, 2012. A copy with annexure is uploaded here since it was taken down from the government website for reasons better known to them.

White-Paper

Annexure-1

Annexure-1A

Annexure-1B

Annexure-1C

Annexure-2-17A-except-9-and-12

Annexure-9

Annexure-12

AN-EXPLANATORY-NOTE

Advertisements

NHRC asks for Assam’s response on its findings of violence-victims’ plight

September 25, 2012

New Delhi, September 25th, 2012

The National Human Rights Commission after considering the report of its team which was deputed to study the relief and rehabilitation measures in the camps set up by the Government of Assam in the violence affected three districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri has asked the Chief Secretary of the State to submit its response on the findings of the NHRC team. The Commission while giving eight weeks time for the State Government to respond has also called a report on the following:

” The number of people who are still staying in the various camps;
” Whether any Commission of Inquiry has been constituted by the State so far and any preliminary inquiry report filed? If so, a copy of the said report may also be furnished to the Commission;
” What concrete steps have been taken by the Government after the recent incidents to prevent recurrence of such violence in the State?”

Photo: ibtimes.com

Photo: ibtimes.com

A four member team constituted by the NHRC visited the Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri districts of Assam from 6th -9th August, 2012 and submitted a detailed report to the Commission. Some of the important findings of the NHRC’s investigation team are as follows:-

” All the relief camps were by and large over crowded;
” There was a wide difference in the actual and official figures of total inmates at the relief camps. This is creating problems in proper supply of food, ration and other amenities;
” At many places the inmates were found cooking their own food even while braving the lack of firewood;
” Hygiene and sanitation was not up to the mark;
” Drinking water, toilets, bathing facilities not enough to meet the requirement;
” Inmates including substantial number of children suffered from Malaria, Dysentery, Typhoid, Jaundice and the inmates complained that medicines being prescribed to them were proving ineffectual;
” Security was a principal concern and the inmates feared returning back to their villages;
” Hot and humid condition with lack of power supply, lighting and fans made the situation bad in many camps even as some of these were water logged, leaving almost no space for the inmates to even sit;
” Bedding in most of the camps was not provided;
” Children and women particularly were facing tough time: Women were not getting sanitary napkins, even as the district authorities claimed that these were being provided;
” The Government of Assam wide communication dated 03.08.2012 prescribed rupees one thousand (rupees five hundred for clothes and rupees five hundred for utensils for each family) in camps. However, during the interaction with inmates in camps, it was found that many families had not received any monetary assistance. In some cases only amount for clothes was received. Most of them complained that this amount was inadequate;
” It was also observed that there was no information on the exact number of deaths as well as disbursement of the amount to the next of kin of the deceased;
” One camp officer to look after such a large number of inmates at each camp was found to be grossly inadequate.

The information was released by NHRC Joint Registrar (Law) Mr A K Parashar.

 

 

 

Assam Clashes: From Humanitarian Crisis to Ethnic Pluralism

August 6, 2012

Prasenjit Biswas*

The perpetual fear in the eyes of 126 years old Jagat Basumatary and his wife Malati Basumatary in a camp 70 kms away from their home located at Bengtoli village of Chirang district tells it all. Jagat Basumatary’s appeal for peace and tranquility in the midst of attack and counter-attack raises a concern for mutual respect and bond between Bodos and Bengali Muslims. The apparent difference of identity between an immigrant Bengali Muslim and a Bodo indigenous person gets dissolved in the remarkable story of Parbotjhora subdivisional area of Kokrajhar where both the sides resisted any attempt to disturb peace. So also goes the example of Kukurmari village at Chirang district where both the communites stood guard at each other’s doors.

Assam map

Assam map

Among the most dastardly attacks on human dignity and persona is the one in which Sumana Basumatary, a woman in her late thirties had to leave her house at Salkocha-Bansbari at Kokrajhar district with two of her minor children leaving behind her husband Chubja Basumatary, suffering from typhoid and immobile. Sumana recounted the horror tale of watching her house burn with her husband inside. The whole household, paddy-stack and the animals reared were reduced to ashes. In another incident of retaliation four members of the family of motor mechanic Manowar Hussein were subjected to brutal attack. Reportedly four members of his family, namely, Manowar Hussein, his wife Bachibon Bibi, son Muktar Hussein and three months old daughter Rukchana Khatun were abducted. Bachbon Bibi was allegedly raped and murdered. The same fate was meted out to Manowar Hussein and their three months old daughter, while the son Muktar Hussein sustained injuries. All the four of them were thrown into Gaurang river from the bridge over Ganga talkies in Kokrajhar town. The surviving son Muktar Hussein could recount the horror tale to the rescuers, who could rescue him from the river in a badly bruised state. The whole story came out in vernacular media. In another such pathological incident, the dead body of a deaf and dumb person was found floating on the river Champaboti at Khagrabari of Bongaigaon district. The dead man was identified as Samsul Hoque by his family members, who went missing after some armed men attacked their home and village at Khagrabari.

Photo: samaylive.com

Photo: samaylive.com

The spate of hatred and mistrust led to a huge exit and displacement of a massive population of about 4 Lakhs from their villages spread across three Bodoland territorial autonomous districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang and Baksa and its adjoining Dhubri district. Almost 400 villages belonging to both Bodo and Muslim communities are vacated. The condition of the relief camps has been such that there is widespread food poisoning, viral fever and dysentery resulting into at least thirteen reported deaths including six infants. Apart from total absence of a sense of human security, the poor hygienic conditions in the camps only tell the apathy of the both local and the state government.

Photo courtesy: Jagaran.com

Photo courtesy: Jagaran.com

Much after the initial spate of riots, on 1st of August, there are incidents of arson and burning down of homes at Majorgaon in Chirang district, where rioters burnt down seven houses belonging to victims of the minority community. Once again there is a planned flare up in Chirang district. In another similar incident, houses at Churaguri village near Bijni township of Chirang district are again set on fire by an armed mob in presence of Police and security officials. Already 40 houses of the same village are burnt down on 24th July and on 2nd august, rest of the houses are all burnt down. The whole action is carried out apparently keeping in view that the Muslim inhabitants should not return and reclaim their households. The whole incident happened when some of the affected people were returning from Matilal Nehru relief camp at Bijni to their households at Majorgaon near Bijni town. On the assurances from the government; they thought they can safely return now. They were astounded to see the presence of some people in fatigue, reminding them of the trauma that they already suffered. Soon after, the remaining seven houses were gutted in presence of police. Many of the Bodo inhabitants are still refusing to go back to their homes, as they fear retribution and retaliation. Out of the 43 camps in Bijni and Kajalgaon subdivision, there are still over a lakh of minority Muslim population. A contradictory pattern emerges in these camps. As Bodo inhabitants are going back to those villages which are not affected by violence but from which people took shelter out of apprehension, the minority population from 29 villages of Chirang district worst affected by arson and killing are still not out of the trauma of what they have gone through.

Photo: Outlook.com

Photo: Outlook.com

The worst affected areas where sizeable number of deaths occurred are Gosaigaon subdivision and in and around Kokrajhar town. A large number of villages dominated by minority population were burnt down. The villagers were forewarned by the neighbours to leave for safe shelter and as they left homes, the homes were easily burnt down. Such villages include Duramari, Moujabari, Hekaipara, West Tabuchar, Namapara, Nayapara, Kalapani, Bamungaon etc. in Kokrajhar, from where large number of people came to safe shelters. A few who were left to take care of abandoned homes were also killed by armed gangs.In Gosaigaon area, villages such as Ballamguri, Hacaharabari, Palasguri, Malguri etc, are burnt down. Large scale arson continued in these villages for a week since 19th July, despite some presence of security forces. In two other districts of Chirang and Baxa, villages are burnt down in a similar fashion. Some of the worst affected villages of Chirang district include Bechborbari, Nathurbari and Mothapur in Bijni subdivision ; Ulubari and Pakriguri in Kajalgaon subdivision.

Photo: Thehindu.com

Photo: Thehindu.com

The account of such rioting and displacement brings to mind the existing public discourse of immigrant versus indigenous conflict. What is very peculiar in this situation is the claim made by some of the indigenous pressure groups that most of the displaced Muslim Bengali minorities are not genuine Indian citizens. As the homes of these people are burnt down, it is quite possible now to turn them into Bangladeshis. As their return to homes is becoming more and more insecure, what is needed to be done is not merely a packaged rehabilitation, but saving the camp dwellers from this test of citizenship to which they are sure to fail, owing to burning down of their last shred of papers.

Although the immediate context of the entire rioting is now known as killing and counter-killing between Bodo and minority Muslim groups, yet a look at demographic situation would be worth. In four BTAD districts out of a total population of 31,55, 359, Bodo and other plain tribes are only 10,50,627. But in terms of land holdings, Bodos have higher access and ownership to land as their land rights were safeguarded by chapter X of the Assam Land and revenue regulation Act,1886. So the picture that emerges is that the effective right to livelihood and hold over land by the Bodos is in no way threatened by the presence of Bengali Muslims, Asomiya and other plain non-tribal communities.

Photo: Thehindu.com

Photo: Thehindu.com

The absurd question is, can anyone reverse this demographic picture overnight by ethnic cleansing and displacement?

Photo: thenational.ae

Photo: thenational.ae

The Bodoland territorial Council accord signed between GOI and leaders of Bodo liberation Tigers (BLT) in its clause 4.3 allowed the non-tribals to hold onto their existing holdings; while both the Bodo and non-Bodo people, in general, could buy and sell land after due legal formalities. The argument that land held by Bodos will be bought over by crafty Muslims does not hold much water, as the indigenous Bodos continue to depend on their farmland and homestead economy. As a matter of fact, the Bodos allow share-cropping on their land by Muslim peasantry, which is a culture of shared livelihood that no amount of violence can erase. In a nutshell, Bodos do enjoy full political power in the Bodoland autonomous area, while Non-Bodos enjoy other economic, social and cultural rights. Measures of protective discrimination under sixth schedule of the Constitution are working well for Bodos and other tribal communities. Therefore, there is no effective endangerment and emasculation of the rights of indigenous population in the whole of Bodoland as some make it out to be. Ethnic violence is only a symptom of breakdown of ethnic inter-relationship in an ethnically plural society of Bodoland, within which every community is actually secured and protected with their due constitutional rights. The contributions made by Muslim Bengali citizenry to the indigenous economy and society and to the growth and sustenance of Asomiya as state language of Assam cannot be shelved under the carpet by any deviant categorization. The shared space of life between Bodos and Muslim Bengalis also cannot be destroyed by violence alone, as the life-force generated by such camaraderie is far stronger than any disruptive attempt. The rhetorical difference between Bengali Muslims and Bodos is only a hypothetical ploy to experiment with various contingencies of political power sustained by an engineered trauma and insecurity, which needs to be dealt using law. It is also not yet too late to realize that peace and tranquillity between ethnic minorities in a ethnically plural Bodoland is the only way to ensure social justice and economic progress.

Photo: ibtimes.com

Photo: ibtimes.com

 

* The writer is Professor at the Department of Philosophy in the North Eastern Hills University, Shillong, Meghalaya and Director, Research, Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), Silchar, Assam.

 

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

July 19, 2012

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

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

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

The report:

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

The victim:

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

 

Place:

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

Incident:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controversy over ‘conversion and marriage’:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

Recommendations:

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

To the Government of Assam:

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

To the Central Government of India:

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

For any clarification and more information please contact:

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Director, Legal Affairs

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC)

Cell: +919401942234

Email: wali.laskar@gmail.com


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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Other civil society groups corroborate hunger deaths in Assam tea garden

April 27, 2012

A civil society group comprising of several non-government organisation presented report of their study on the starvation deaths of workers in the Bhuvan valley tea estate in Assam on 25 February 2012 before media in Guwahati that corroborated reports of the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) The Guwahati based civil society group further claimed that “twelve people have died due to starvation and the condition of 45 other labourers is still serious in the Bhuban Valley tea estate. The management decided to close down the estate Oct 11, 2011 and it led to starvation as the labourers have no other option to earn their livelihood.”

The preliminary report that they have issued is posted here.

CIVIL SOCIETY INQUIRY REPORT OFBHUBANVALLEYTEA ESTATE DEATHS

CACHAR:ASSAM

PRESS RELEASE

Introduction

Till now 11 persons have died since the tea garden was locked on 11 October 2011. The news of the death of 10 people in Bhuban valley Tea Estate in Cachar district had appeared in the electronic and print media. In order to understand the ground reality and in order to verify the cause of the death, a team consisting of members from civil society visited the site on 22 and 23 February 2012. Saito Basumatary, coordinator of People’s Rights Forum, Wilfred Topno, President, Adivasi Sahitya Sabha-Assam, Stephen Ekka , Director, PAJHRA, Godfrey Here, Secretary, Nawa Bihan Samaj and Rejan Horo, organizing secretary, central Committee AASAA made an extensive study of the situation.

The team visited the families of the victims, interacted with the members , met the garden assistant manger, panchayat members, health department and labour department. It interviewed the people concerned and collected relevant data. It met the members of other activist groups like – BHRPC (Barak Human Rights Protection Committee), Monierekhal Tea Estate Youth Club and Seva Kendra .  It discussed  individually and with the groups on the issue of the death of workers during the lock out period.

Bhuban Valley Tea Estate is situated about 50 km away from Silchar and falls under Motinagar Police station in Lakhipur constituency. On 14 January 2012 Sentinel news paper had carried the news of death of 10 workers from the tea garden. Thereafter it also appeared in the electronic media. The tea garden has 900 ha of land with tea plantation and labour hamlets.  According to its register 480 permanent members  and  some 500 temporary labours work in the tea plantation. The total population of the tea  plantation is about 2000.

  • Name & Adress :BhubanValleytea Garden, P.O. Motinagar        Dist: Kachar
  • Tea Garden owner : Ghanasham Sarda, Mr.Basant Barua (Director)
  • Population:  2000,House hold around 1000 Permanent Labour:  480 including sub-staff.
  • There are three division of Bhuban Valley TE, 1.Moti Nagar Division, 2. Chaigur Division, 3. North Bank Division.
  • Tea Garden management  closeted T.E. on 11 october 2011 without any notice to the tea garden labourers

 Background

The Bhuban Valley TE is said to be owned by Sarda Company. However, it appears to have been mananged by different individuals. Prior to 2002, the tea garden did not seem to have problem. However later the people were not getting their PF and other benefits.  It was discovered that the PF was not deposited for several years which amounted to Rs. 65 lakhs. The management showed that due to lack of profit from the garden they were unable to deposit the amount. When these poor household have been given opportunity  to work around with living wages and better management of the garden, the laborers would not have been led to such acute poverty. The estate is poorly managed and with much negligence of the management for the well being of the laborers. As a result the estate management may have suffered lost and the blame has been always on the poor laborers for the non-productive works. And these might have resulted for agreement after agreement between the management and union of laborers especially leader mostly influenced by political purposes by imposing unconstitutional provisions on the poor laborers for productive works. But these provision seems to have been unworkable and the blame has been of unproductive works of the laborers by the management. As such there have been lock out in the tea garden without prior notice to the laborers.

However on the other side of the story, the cause of poor management of the estate has many reasons. Firstly the actual owners of the estate are stranger to many of the laborers and district officials. Poor laborers, who have already retired, have never seen the real owners. It is reported that since the owner has many other businesses in other places and the actual owner never comes for managing and monitoring the estate. So the management seems to be a proxy management through staff and other close individuals. Even this is vivid clear when in one of the prosecution cases against the management, that the individual who are managing on ground and paper commented in the appeal cases mentioning they are not the real owners and so unable to be prosecuted.

During the lock out every work was suspended. The tea garden dispensary was closed, the people had no work and no pay. Most of the families being dependant on the tea garden, were driven to go to the forest and sell fire wood, look for work in nearby village, where they were compelled to work for less money than in the tea garden. In the garden they were paid Rs. 51/- where as they were forced to work for Rs. 40/- or 30/-.

Findings

Livelihood

During the lockout period the some labourers were taken to the other tea gardens for work, few were going for daily wage in nearby villages and some of them were going out to collect firewood and sell them in the market place. Young boys and girls are migrating to other cities in search of work to support their family members.

When the labourers are taken to the other gardens for work where they are paid Rs.50.00 as wage, when they are going to work in the nearby villages they are paid Rs.30.00 – Rs.40.00.

They collect “Kham Alu”, “Pan Alu” and Kola phul etc. from the nearby forest and hill for their survival

Wage

  1. Wage of this tea garden is @Rs.50/- per day whereas wage in the other Barak valley Tea Estates is @Rs51/-, Brahmaputra valley is @Rs71.51/- andWest Bengal@Rs.85/-
  2. Ration 6kg per 2week,
  3. One third of the house hold are fully dependent on Tea Garden if garden is closed they can not survive.

The people do not have any other source of income.

Health

During the lock out period the hospital was closed though a pharmacist was looking after the tea garden hospital. At the same time they do not have enough money to diagnose and treat them with the private practiceners or take the patient to the town.  There is a PHC at Sonai (about 8 km) and a Sub-Centre at Motinagar (around 2 km) away.

It was found that many children and adults were suffering from different diseases.

Drinking Water& Sanitation

The tea garden set up lacks drinking water facility. There are two ring-wells which are hardly 8-10 ft deep and during this period it is dry. There is one PHE unit setup at the Tea Garden in the year 2011 but it is non functional.

The people walk up to 4-5 km up on the foot hill to collect water from a spring, or collect water from the nearby ponds and canals which is unsafe for drinking purpose.

People are undernourished and prone to various diseases.

Women are anemic. Children are malnourished.

 VIOLATION OF LEGAL PROVISIONS

There is violation of Plantation Labour Act.  No provision of drinking water facilities, housing, medical facilities.

When the company is not able to provide the life saving measures. The management of the company should be handed over to the government.

DEMANDS

The health condition of the people is in critical stage. The critically ill women and children particularly need immediate care. Even after the tea garden opened on   7 February, two more people have died all due to lack of sufficient food and medicine.

  1. extra allocation of pds ration

There is need to provide them relief by way of supplementary food articles for at least 6 months.

  1. Immediate and proper medical support

Even though there is tea garden hospital which is provided with some minimum medicine during the last week, there is no nurse and a doctor. A doctor with a nurse should be provided with medicines.

  1. Drinking water facilities

PHE water supply should be made functional and water supply connection should be set up to the hamlets where the tea workers inhabit

.

  1. Management

There is alleged problem of ownership of the tea garden. We hold Government responsible for the ill management and for all the mishap on the tea workers. Government should take responsibilities as the tea gardens are not able to manage themselves.

  1.  IMPLEMENTATION of supreme court order

The supreme court order of provision of basic food and nutrition to the people has not been followed. The management should be taken to tasks.

  1. Entitlement

All the entitlement of the government such as 100 days of work, job card to even permanent workers family, proper distribution of the PDS, provision of housing should be immediately.

  1. Provident Fund

Criminal procedure should be taken for the years of PF that has not been deposited by the tea management.

SIGNATORIES

  1. WILFRED TOPNO                                         2. STEPHEN EKKA

President Adivasi Sahitya Sabh                           Director, PAJHRA

  1. SAITO BASUMATARY                               3. GODFREY HERE

Coordinator, People’s Rights Forum                Secretary, Nawa Bihan Samaj

  1. REJAN HORO

Organizing secretary, AASAA

Central committee

Annexure(1)

Death list

Death ListLbetween Oct 2011 to Feb 22.

Name of  Death person Sex Age Address
  1. Nagendra Bauri
M 60 North Bank Division
  1. Panchami Bauri
F 3 North Bank Division
  1. Sonamoni Pandey
F 65 North Bank Division
  1. Ratana Gowala
F 35 Chingur Division
  1. Rameswari Kurmi
F 45 Motinagar Division
  1. Subasini Paul
F 70 Do
  1. Sancharan Bauri
M 75 North bank Division
  1. Atul Bauri
M 60 North Bank Division
  1. Susom Tanti
M 45 North Bank  Division
  1. Rasis Dusad
M 85 North Bank Division

17th Jan

  1. Belboti Bauri
F 75 North Bank Division

18th Feb.2012

  1. Jugendara Bauri
M 55 North Bank, Division

22nd Feb.2012

Situation in the Barak valley Tea Garden

There are 106 registered Tea Garden out of that 7 tea garden are closed or Abandoned tea Gardens. Situation may be worse or similar to Bhuban valley Tea Garden. Those tea Garden are the following:

  1. ChargolaValley
  2. Durganagar TE
  3. Modon Mohon
  4. Sreebehula TE
  5. Sengla Chera T.E(taken by new company)
  6. Chincoorie TE
  7. Sarswati TE

ooooooo

(Read here  first report,and  update iupdate iiupdate iiiupdate ivupdate v,update vi)

.

‘Assam police yet to achieve its legitimacy and lawfulness’, reports police body

April 22, 2012

The Sentinel published a report on 22 April 2012 on the findings and recommendations of the 2010 annual report of the Assam State Police Accountability Commission. The Bengali version of the report as published in the 23 April 2012 issue of the Dainik Prantojyoti can be seen here.

Will policing in Assam ever have a ‘‘humane face’’ in the real sense of the terms? When will the police really begin to behave as a service in a democracy, and not as a brutal, colonial-type force as it acts in many cases? When will ordinary citizens really feel they are being served by the police? These are inconvenient questions, but the police in a democracy must face them and evolve as a people-friendly force.

The issue of policing in Assam has become a much-talked-about subject these days. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had, on April 16, at the Chief Ministers’ Conference on Internal Security in New Delhi, laid stress on ‘‘policing with a human face’’ in the State, which has seen militancy-related violence ebbing in recent times. The State Police Accountability Commission, in its annual report for 2010, has also given thrust on ‘‘democratic policing’’.

The annual report of the Accountability Commission prepared by Justice (retd) DN Chowdhury, who is also the chairman of the Commission,  states that ‘‘democratic policing is used to describe the characteristics of policing in a democratic State where police serve the people of the country, not a regime’’.

 The report has revealed that the State’s police force is ‘‘yet to change its attitude towards democratic policing’’ and ‘‘if the police is to achieve its legitimacy and lawfulness, it must seriously endeavour to become accountable to law’’.

Regarding the lodging of First Information Report (FIR) at police station, the report states that FIR is not registered at the first instance concerning issues relating to breach of trust, misappropriation of properties, and other issues. “Sometimes even if the FIR is registered, though belatedly, investigation does not take its due course with end result that the registration of the case becomes a mere formality to escape from the charge of serious misconduct,” adds the report.

On the issue of ‘‘general diary’’ maintained by the police, the report points finger at the Assam Police Act 2007 that has not been amended in order to make the general diary a legal instrument with its transparency at the level of thana/outpost activities, which is overdue. “The scope of enhancing police accountability is very wide in the general diary to be maintained having the force compatible with that of the RTI Act,” states the report.

“The general diary in respect of information of non-cog nature under the provision of CrPC 155 is one of the important indices of police performance at Thana/Outpost level. The Commission has observed that many of the complaints received by the Commission relate to non-registration of cases and refusal in the guise of non-cog to police. Hardly the police action is supported by the initial records as may be required under the provision of CrPC 155 to find mention in the general diary with advice to the complainant to approach the nearest judicial magistrate for ordering investigation of the non-cog cases by police,” states the report.

Wrath of police: Photo courtesy merinews.com

Wrath of police: Photo courtesy merinews.com

The report has also emphasized computerization as a strongest tool for transparency and accountability of the police to the law. “It is needless to emphasize that the right of the citizens will be better addressed by receiving FIR in the computer through networking having access to the general public,” adds the report.

Regarding supervision of cases registered against cops, the report states that such cases are invariably to be supervised and the cases should be dealt with newer provision in the ‘‘rule book’’ to be amended on a greater priority putting them even as special report cases. “The government should take suitable action in this regard and direct the Director General ofPolice,Assamto initiate proposal to the government accordingly,” says the report.

“In our earlier reports we also mentioned that the directives of the Commission for indicating the erring police personnel accountable were not taken in right spirit. Instead instances were found for out-manoeuvring our guidelines and directives. Setting up of the District Accountability Authority and the appropriate steps for creating awareness among the public are some of the issues which need to be addressed for effective functioning of the Accountability Commission and for greater benefit of the people,” says Justice DN Chowdhury in his report.


Source: http://www.sentinelassam.com/mainnews/story.php?sec=1&subsec=0&id=114551&dtP=2012-04-22&ppr=1#114551 accessed on 22 April 2012.


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

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
——————————————————
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
——————————————————

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:

——————————————————

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,

—————-

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.

Tea labourers die of starvation in Assam

February 1, 2012

Read update i, update ii, update iii, update iv, update v, update vi,update vii

First preliminary report:

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) has learnt about 10 recent deaths due to starvation, malnutrition and lack of medical care in Bhuvan Valley Tea Estate, a privately owned tea garden, in the district of Cachar in North-East Indian state ofAssam. 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. 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 is feared that without urgent and substantial intervention reports of deaths will keep coming.

BHRPC learnt about the deaths from the reports published on 16 January, 2012 in the local newspaper about a gathering of the tea labourers in front of the district administrative headquarters at Silchar. The labourers gathered to know the outcome of the tripartite meeting among district administration, Barak Cha Shromik Union (a tea plantation labourers union known to be affiliated with ruling political party) and estate management about the situation of tea garden and labourers. Speaking to the news reporters the labourers informed that 9 persons had already been died due to starvation and malnutrition till 15 January.

BHRPC members with local leaders at Chengjur on 27 January 2012

BHRPC members with local leaders at Chengjur on 27 January 2012

To verify the claims of the labourers and gather more information about the situation BHRPC formed a fact-finding team comprising of Dr. Prasenjit Biswas, Mr. Neharul Ahmed Mazumder, Mr. Sadique Mohammed Laskar, Mr. Waliullah Ahmed Laskar, Mr. Raju Barbhuiya and Mr. Nirmal Kumar Das. The team visited the tea garden area on 27 January and talked with the victims, their family members, neighbours and leaders of the labourers. This report is the outcome of that exercise.

It is learnt that Rameshwar Kurmi (45), Subhasini Paul (80), Shyamacharan Bauri (55), Nagendra Bauri (55), Sonamani Pandey (40), Bharati Kal (45), Susham Tanti (35) Ratna Goala (50), Atul Bauri and Ramashis Dushad (80) lost their lives due to starvation, malnutrition and lack of medical care. All were labourers or ex-labourers of the tea garden or their dependents.

Ramashish Dushad lying on a bedstead, his legs are swollen and infected.

Ramashish Dushad lying on a bedstead, his legs are swollen and infected.

Mr. Ramashish Dushad of Didarkhush Grant was alive when BHRPC team visited him on 27 January, 2011. He died on 28 January. He was suffering from swelling and infections on his legs so badly that he was completely impaired, his body did not even permit him to get up from the bed. He was an ex-labourer. According to him, he did not receive his dues from provident fund, gratuity and arrears. He had none to take care of him, and he had no such ability to engage someone as caretaker, moreover the management and the government were indifferent to his condition, he complained.

Mr. Prakash Ghatowar (80) and his daughter-in-law Moni Ghatowar (32) of Didarkhush Grant are also suffering from swelling on their legs. They also narrated the same story of government apathy and injustices of the management. They are deprived of livelihood, remunerations and proper medical treatment. Prakash is half fed with his family of one daughter-in-law, three daughters and grandchildren. He lost his physical strength and in no position to exert himself in any kind of manual works. His grand children Pinki Ghatowar (17), Kamalabati Ghatowar (15) and Rinki Ghatowar (12) are compelled to collect firewood from the far off jungles and sell them in the far off markets ignoring their studies. Prakash and Moni are suffering from acute mal-nutrition and may die if no early intervention is made.

Prakash Ghatowar and Moni Ghatowar

Prakash Ghatowar and Moni Ghatowar

Belbati Bauri sitting at veranda of her house made of mud (second from left)

Belbati Bauri sitting at veranda of her house made of mud (second from left)

Belbati Bauri (75), wife of late Debendra Bauri, is also waiting for her last moment. She is week, pale and in need of medical care. Although her son Sricharan Bauri was a permanent labourer in the estate, he was not getting any ration, medicine or remuneration for last six months. Ironically they were regarded as being above poverty line (APL) family, and therefore, are not eligible for government schemes meant for the poor. According to them, other facilities provided by the PDS did not reach to them properly. Other members of the family including a college girl Moni Bauri engaged themselves in hazardous works like collecting firewood and selling them for food and medicine for themselves and the sick members. The family has six members.

Putul Bauri showing his swollen legs (left).

Putul Bauri showing his swollen legs (left).

Putul Bauri (50) is also suffering from swelling of his legs. His health does not allow him to work, so he resorted to beggary. Wiping his tears again and again he tried to express his sufferings and his anger against the estate management and the labour unions. According to him, the situation of the labourers of the tea garden did not become so bad in a day. It took decades. The labour unions did not raise their voice against the unjust and exploitative policies of the management; for example, wages lower than the all Assam average, non-payment of wages, non-payment of other benefits, gratuity and making the labourers to work overtime without remuneration. Condition of his health is very bad.

Bablu Bauri lying in his courtyard. His father Atul Bauri died of hunger recently.

Bablu Bauri lying in his courtyard. His father died of hunger recently.

Bablu Bauri (25) and his mother Surabala Bauri (55) had been living under-fed for months. Bablu’ father Atul Bauri (60), died recently due to malnutrition and lack of medicine. Bablu was a casual worker in the estate though he worked regularly. They are now confined within the house as it is not permitted by ritualistic rules of their community to go outside the house after death of a family member. They can not go outside in search of livelihood.

Plantation labourers Bashistha Dushad (42), Anjana Dushad (42), Gulab Dushad (50), and some other grassroots leaders like Shyamlal Tanti (45), Budhan Goala (45), Mahendra Majhi (36), Jaharlal Goala, Kamal Ghosh, Nirmal Goala, Luchan Kumar Ghosh and Bachun Satnami narrated the story of their sufferings and expressed their grievances against the indifference of the administration in spite of several representations from them.  They stated that for years the estate management was exploiting them in various ways. Some of the labourers were employed as permanent labourers and are paid wages as low as rupees 50/- per day at the time of the closure and the rest were engaged as casual workers and paid even lower wages at rupees 41/- even though they worked for years. It is also alleged that the estate management did not provide any residential quarters for housing the labourers and their families. The management has engaged hired hooligans to suppress the voice of the exploited whenever they tried to protest, the labourers said.

Villagers taking bath in the cannel, the only source of water.

Villagers taking bath in the cannel, the only source of water.

They also claimed that while the neighbouring estates were providing facilities in spite of all drawbacks, this estate was exploiting them. The wages of the labourers remained pending for long under various pretext, they were told that the estate was suffering loss and would recover very soon but that soon did never come. The management tried to push them to such a situation that the workers would be compelled to search for alternative livelihood and would forget their dues. The workers demanded their dues and stopped working. The estate closed down on 8 October, 2012. Since then the management escaped and engaged their agent named Fulan Ahmed, a local resident as assistant manager to suppress the protest. Finding no other way the workers approached the administration several times. The Deputy Commissioner of Cachar district assured them that he would find a way out. However, the labourers are not in a position to trust any assurance from the government or the management.

The labourers and their families living in the garden area further stated that they were also deprived from the benefits of various welfare schemes launched by the central government and state government. For example, there are only about 7 Anganwadi centres in the whole estate where more than three thousand people are living. The centres are run under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) to provide nutrition and health care for the children, adolescents and gestating and lactating mothers. The Supreme Court of India in People’sUnionfor Civil Liberties and others vs. Union of India and others (Writ Petition (C ) No. 196 Of 2001) directed the governments to establish such a centre in every settlement that has at least 40 children under six but no Anganwadi.

Even these few centres are not properly functioning, according to the local inhabitants. They said that workers and helpers of Anganwadi centres come only once or twice in a month. But they also cautioned not to go by the records maintained in the office of the Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) since they maintain false records to show proper utilisation of the money which they siphon off to other channels.

There are also a few houses granted under the Indira Awas Yojna (IAY) in the garden area. However, the people claimed that most of such houses are grated to the labourers who are connected with management and the labour union affiliated with ruling party of the state. The poorer are completely deprived from the IAY.

There is, of course, a house proclaiming through its signboard to be a health centre run under National Rural Health Mission of the government ofIndia. But the local people informed that it is not functioning properly. According to them, it is run by an unqualified practitioner. Moreover, the medicines are not made available.

Villager washing cloth in the same canal

Villager washing cloth in the same canal

There was also a canal reportedly dug under a scheme under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (MGNREGA), an Act of parliament that provides for 100 days of work for one person from every household and in case of non-availability of work it guarantees unemployment allowance for the same number of days. Due to corruption the provisions of the Act are not implemented properly, particularly in remote areas. The people of the area stated that it is the only work done under MGNREGA in the garden area and it provided only few workdays for only some labourers.

They also stated that the canal is the only source of water. It gives them water for all types of use. People bath in it as well as wash their utensils, cloths and use the same water for drinking and cooking foods.

A woman taking drinking water from the same canal

A woman taking drinking water from the same canal

It is also learnt that the district authority sanctioned Rs 15 lakh per year for primary health care, but there is no sign of its utilization. There is an ambulance, but the driver demands rupees 400 as fare from each patient, which is not affordable to them.

The meeting in the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Cachar resolved that the estate would be opened on January 23, 2012; but nothing happened like that. Again on January 25, 2012 another meeting held in the conference hall of the Deputy Commissioner. ADC Mr. Debashish Chakrabarti, ADC Mr. S. K. Das, Assistant Labour Commissioner Mr. K. Singson, the MLA and the Scretary of Barak Cha Shramik Union Mr. Dinesh Prasad Goala, Assistant Manager of the Tea Estate Mr. Fulan Ahmed and others took part in the meeting. This meeting decided that a committee will be formed under the chairmanship of the SDO (civil) of Lakhipur Sub Division to manage the estate. The workers are still anxious about their future.

BHRPC finds that the anti labour policy of the management and the political interference has led to this situation; every estate is more or less affected by this. The management exploits the illiterate workers with the acquiescence of the authorities, the government facilities does not reach to the beneficiaries, there is no facility provided for the senior citizens and the healthcare facilities are only for namesake. Malnutrition, illiteracy and uncertainty are the common ingredients of the lives of the tea labourers.

Children in front of Belbati Bauri’s house.

Children in front of Belbati Bauri’s house.

BHRPC found that the situation prevailing in the tea garden is prima facie a situation of gross violations of fundamental human rights guaranteed in the Constitution of India and international human rights norms. The right to food is an integral part of the right to life. In India, under the Indian Constitution, apparently there is no fundamental right to food but the fulcrum of justiciability of the right to food comes from a much broader “right to life and liberty” as enshrined in Article 21. Also Article 51A which forms a part of the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution is unambiguous: “The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties…” These incidents of deaths due to hunger, malnutrition and lack of treatment show that the state failed miserably in performance of its duties.

 Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states: “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food …”. Article 11(1) of the ICESCR states: “the States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food …”.

Family of a tea labourer in the Bhuvan valley tea garden live here. This is their home.

Family of a tea labourer in the Bhuvan valley tea garden live here. This is their home.

Article 11(2) of the ICESCR recognizes “the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger”, i.e. the right to at least a nutritional intake ensuring survival. This provision is to be read in conjunction with those concerning the right to life (the UDHR; art. 3, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), art. 6; the  Convention on Rights of the Child (CRC), art. 6).

Although there is a widespread narrow interpretation of the right to life merely as a safeguard against arbitrary killing, the Human Rights Committee rejected such restrictive interpretation and invited States to adopt “positive measures” to protect the right to life in a broader sense, including “measures to eliminate malnutrition and epidemics”.

Article 27(1) of the CRC recognizes “the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development”. The States Parties to the Convention have the duty to “take appropriate measures” to assist parents in fulfilling their primary responsibility to implement such right, “particularly with regard to nutrition” (art. 27(3)). Moreover, article 24(2)(c) of the CRC commits States to combat child malnutrition.

Under article 12(2) of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), States have to ensure to women “adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation”.

Article 1(2) of the ICCPR and of the ICESCR states that “in no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence”.

In its General Comment 12, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) clarified that “the right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement” (para. 6). According to the General Comment, the realization of the right to adequate food requires:

A woman labourer in the hunger struck Bhuvan valley tea estate in Cachar, Assam

A woman labourer in the hunger struck Bhuvan valley tea estate in Cachar, Assam

the availability of food in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, free from adverse substances, and acceptable within a given culture” (para. 8); and

the “accessibility” of adequate food, including both economic accessibility (“personal or household financial costs associated with the acquisition of food for an adequate diet should be at a level such that the attainment and satisfaction of other basic needs are not threatened or compromised”) and physical accessibility (i.e. physical access to food, including for vulnerable groups, such as children, elderly people, physically disabled, etc.) (paras. 8 and 13).

In the circumstances, BHRPC recommends authorities and other national and international bodies to provide urgent relief to the tea workers in terms of food supply and medical treatment to prevent further deaths and deterioration of health conditions of sick workers and their dependents.

BHRPC also recommends to authorities to conduct a prompt, impartial and objective inquiry into the situation of the garden to fix responsibility for the deaths and the conditions that led to this situation including corruption in implementation of government welfare schemes and non-adherence to the provisions of the Plantation Labour Act and other laws applicable in the estate management by an independent commission of inquiry headed by a sitting or retired judge of a high court or the supreme court and comprising of, among others, medical experts, nutrition experts, labour rights and human rights experts.

BHRPC further recommends to the authorities that the garden must immediately be re-opened and run according to the laws providing all rights and benefits to the labourers under the laws.

Neharul Ahmed Mazumder, (Secretary General)

Sadique Mohammed Laskar (Joint Secretary)

Dr. Prasenjit Biswas (Director, Research and Study)

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar (Director, Law and Legal Affairs)

Raju Barbhuiya ( Executive Member)

Nirmal Kumar Das (Associate Member)

Silchar, 1 February 2012

                                                                                        

Read now update iupdate iiupdate iiiupdate ivupdate vupdate vi,update vii