Posts Tagged ‘Freedom of expression’

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

December 13, 2017

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

Sishir Dey

Sishir Dey

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

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

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

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

————–

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

 

Advertisements

India: Proposed reform in criminal justice administration takes away basic human rights and freedom

August 14, 2012

Forwarded statement

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) forwards the statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) August 13, 2012 on the proposed reforms in criminal justice administration in India that proposes a rights trade-off in the excuse of national security, including the negation of the fundamental right to silence and the presumption of innocence. The principle of ‘preponderance of probabilities’ will find itself introduced into criminal trials to convict a person, rather than the requirement of ‘conclusiveness in proof’, the current norm. Statements made by persons to the police during investigation would become admissible as evidence without adequate verification. Expert opinions would be treated as substantive evidence and not as estimations. The trials of offenses punishable with a maximum sentence below 3 years would be reduced into summary proceedings. The draft policy would allow the state to restrict at whim the very scope of the concepts of freedom of opinion and expression. The freedom of the media to report cases, and expose crimes, including those of corruption at high places, would be relegated to the dustbin of history.

INDIA: Reform dishonesty first

August 13, 2012

The government is again planning to change the criminal justice mainframe of the country. Again, the ruse is that of justice to the people and national security. The proposal is open; its true purpose clandestine. If the 2007 report of the Committee on National Policy on Criminal Justice, chaired by Dr. N.R. Madhava Menon, is what has lead to this reform proposal, heed the sign that reads: caution.

On August 9, Mr. Mullapally Ramachandran, union state minister at the Ministry of Home Affairs, stated in Lok Sabha that his ministry is planning to effect a comprehensive change to the criminal justice landscape of the nation. The minister said the overhaul would include amendments to the Indian Penal Code (1860), the Code of Criminal Procedure (1973), and the Indian Evidence Act (1872), collectively known as the criminal major acts.

The ‘reform’ plans to closely consider proposals made by the Committee chaired by Justice V. S. Malimath on reforms of the Criminal Justice System (2003), and the Draft National Policy on Criminal Justice, submitted to the government by Dr. Menon (2007). The Draft National Policy document is itself, in fact, nothing but a summary of the earlier Malimath Committee report.

Mr. Ramachandran informed the House that his ministry has sent its suggestions to the National Law Commission, with a request that the Commission detail the legislative changes needed to bring about the reforms the ministry have in mind. However, neither did the minister care to elaborate, nor did any Member of Parliament think of demanding, the details concerning the proposed reforms. And, no such information is available in the public domain, even at the Home Ministry’s website.

The minister also failed to inform the house whether there would be any public consultation. Given the precedence, there could be some token consultation. Given the history though, not many civil society groups will participate meaningfully, even if they have knowledge of such consultation. This is because the criminal justice system remains a blind-spot amongst Indian civil society groups. Thus, either way, public at large will not be consulted, even though the ‘reforms’ propose to substantially take away their fundamental freedoms.

If the draft national policy is the guideline for the proposed reforms, soon Indians will find their civil rights substantially curtailed. It is a literal death trap for fundamental freedoms. Telephone conversations and other communications will be intercepted by state agencies, acting with statutory impunity, redefining thus the very notion of privacy and privilege in communications.

The draft policy proposes a rights trade-off in the excuse of national security, including the negation of the fundamental right to silence and the presumption of innocence. The principle of ‘preponderance of probabilities’ will find itself introduced into criminal trials to convict a person, rather than the requirement of ‘conclusiveness in proof’, the current norm. Statements made by persons to the police during investigation would become admissible as evidence without adequate verification. Expert opinions would be treated as substantive evidence and not as estimations. The trials of offenses punishable with a maximum sentence below 3 years would be reduced into summary proceedings. The draft policy would allow the state to restrict at whim the very scope of the concepts of freedom of opinion and expression. The freedom of the media to report cases, and expose crimes, including those of corruption at high places, would be relegated to the dustbin of history.

If the national policy as proposed by Dr. Menon’s committee were to be implemented by requisite legislative and constitutional amendments, the relationship between the state and subjects will be re-defined. The amendments will take away the scope of fair trial, since what the police say would soon become proof for conviction. It will, of course, reduce delays in adjudication. This is because it would hardly leave any need for adjudication. Since the policy does not speak about reforming the police by imposing accountability upon the force, the rich and the powerful will still manage to escape investigation, trials and convictions. The national policy only speaks of awarding more powers to the investigating agencies, which, as it is, today, are selectively used and would remain the same. The government has already spoken its mind in failing to implement the Supreme Court’s directives in the Prakash Singh case, watershed directives towards independence and accountability in the criminal justice system. Continued and shameless ignorance of the Court’s directives on one hand, and the institution of these ‘reforms’ on the other, the country will have to continue contending with the same criminals in uniform, policing the people, the only difference being enormous enhancement in police powers, and consequent reduction of individual freedom. With these changes, India will become a police state.

To justify the draconian proposals, Dr. Menon’s committee has liberally used presumptions and surmises, laced together with weaselly generalisations. The draft policy, as far as addressing issues that have rendered the criminal justice system in India a complete failure goes, is a non sequitur. The committee is of the opinion that the Indian state is ‘soft’, which has rendered crime control impossible in the country, and hence has recommended the changes cited above.

It has, in no uncertain terms, discriminated regions in the country, as ‘terrorist’, where it prescribes the role played by the state as an iron fist as just and right, never-mind the fact that such thinking has only helped worsen the living conditions in these regions, with innumerable instances of human rights abuses committed by state and non-state actors.

The committee has, in unambiguous terms, used exceptions such as terrorist attacks as excuse for the dilution of civil liberties, and has encouraged the state to constitute a national framework that could curtail fundamental freedoms to ensure security. The committee has cited restrictions made in other countries as an excuse to justify similar changes in India, suggesting a subjugation of the intellectual sovereignty that Indians must maintain when legislating. The committee’s opinion of blindly following the ‘global trend’ to restrict freedoms suggests two elementary flaws made by the committee: 1) it shows that the committee’s process was not consultative enough, and 2) it shows how, with a single presumptuous sweep, the committee negates the civil liberty movements in the rest of the world that are fighting against such draconian state controls, and how, with equal contempt, the committee treats the collective intellect of the common Indian person. The committee is sure it knows what liberties India should and should not have.

The Menon Committee’s draft national policy emphatically suggests standardising exceptions into norms. On one occasion it quotes an anonymous lawyer, who, according to the committee, demands drastic changes in legal procedures to mandate that the accused, by law, ‘assist’ the court in testifying against himself / herself. To justify formulation of draconian state control in the name of security, the committee repeatedly uses the term ‘public expectation’ in reference to the duty of the state to provide security even at the cost of fundamental freedoms. However, in reality, the committee never approached the public to seek its views.

The policy document and those who drafted it lack the basic honesty expected of such proposals and bodies. They failed to point out the elephant in the room: that the problems affecting the criminal justice system in the country are deep-rooted corruption within the police and within all tiers of the judiciary; ineptitude; an assortment of crimes, including that of torture, committed by law-enforcement officers with impunity; lack of professionalism and any form of training and opportunities for enforcement officers to cultivate the same; and a close to non-existent prosecutorial framework.

There has been so far no attempt by the government to study these evils that have held the country’s justice apparatus at ransom. Without this, propounding that the public gift away their fundamental freedoms to guarantee security is nothing less than fraud upon the country. The only result will be ensuring the security of tenure for criminals in seats of power in the country. Unwillingness to end the aforementioned issues is what adversely affects justice administration in India. It is not a passive oversight, but an active pursuit, easily apparent if one only considers the minimal resources allocated to justice institutions; today, the judiciary is literally smothered out due to lack of adequate funds.

What is the security a citizen can expect when law-enforcement officers only attract deep contempt from the public and display shameless ineptitude in discharging their duties? What is the meaning of protection when police officers rob money and life out of the people and are more feared for rape and murder than street thugs? Where is the value of civilian law-enforcement when the officers mandated to enforce the law breach all laws possible? What is the meaning of ‘reform’, when the officers of the state who are to be reformed are forced to continue in the public perception as criminals in uniform?

Committees constituted to play background scores to a treachery, not advocating reforms where they are needed, and proposing to filch away even those few, but crucial, freedoms that protect common people today – with or without the protection of their state and its agencies – are the real security threat to the nation. Such committees would suggest anything required by those that constitute them. These committees have nothing in common with the larger mass of the country. They have no understanding of how ordinary Indians struggle daily to survive, protecting themselves from criminals in uniform.

Six or seven clandestine paper presentations held at universities, where the public has no access, cannot be the basis for the formulation of a national policy that could diminish fundamental freedoms in India. But the fact is, such a policy is now in place to be implemented and the term ‘public demand’ is used liberally in the policy document, as an excuse to justify parochial, restrictive and draconian changes to be brought into the national legal mainframe.

Security of life and property of the citizen is directly proportional to what is implied as ‘national security.’ Unlike exceptions of violence sponsored by anti-state entities, every day in the length and breath of the country, fundamental rights of the people are brutally violated by law enforcement agencies, especially the local police. Not a single attempt has been made in the country to criminalise violence committed by law enforcement agencies, often in the name of social control, and crime investigation.

Every police station in India routinely practices torture. It is performed publicly, without any form of legislative or practical control. Police officers and policy-makers equally believe that torture is an acceptable means of crime investigation. Just as it is done in the Menon Committee, the country has failed to treat this single fatal cancer, something that has rendered the entire police service in India as nothing more than a group of uniformed thugs lacking moral and operation discipline.

Conditions are far worse when it comes to paramilitary units stationed along the borders and in areas where they are deployed to assist state administrations, like in Manipur, Jammu and Kashmir, and West Bengal. There is no data available in the public domain as to what actions are initiated upon complaints of human rights abuses committed by these forces. As per the information collated by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), there is little doubt that the Border Security Force (BSF) stationed along the Indo-Bangladesh border is a threat to national security. They engage in crimes like rape, torture and extrajudicial execution in routine. The BSF is a demoralised and corrupt force that engages in all forms of corruption, including anchoring trans-border smuggling.

If national security is of any importance, law enforcement agencies must be held accountable, as must members of submissive and myopic committees that advance dangerous proposals, set to further harm lives of their country-men.

Information provided at the National Bureau of Crime Records for the past several years only advances this argument further. According to the Bureau, in 2011 there were only 72 reported cases of human rights abuses alleged against the police in the entire country. Out of this only 7 were cases of alleged torture. There were only 6 cases of illegal arrest and detention, and only 1 and 3 cases of alleged extortion were reported from Punjab and Delhi, respectively. In states like Assam, Bihar, Goa, Jharkhand, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Sikkim and Tripura there were no cases of human rights abuses registered for the year! To say that the statistics mock reality would be an understatement.

India does need reform. It should begin with ending the practice of shameless lying.

# # #
For information and comments contact: 
In Hong Kong: Bijo Francis, Telephone: +852 – 26986339, Email: india@ahrc.asia

The statement can be accessed on the AHRC website at http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-162-2012

.

Illegal raid and Intimidation of human rights defender, Seram Herajit Singha by the army in Assam, India

January 21, 2012

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) received information regarding intimidation of human rights defender, Seram Herajit Singha and harassment of his family by Armed Forces personnel and Assam Police personnel. It is reported that a team of about 20 armed persons raided his house at mid-night on 5 January, 2012 looking for him. But he was not home at that time. There is concern about his and his family’s physical and psychological security.

 Seram Herajit Singha, aged about 27 years and son of S. Amuyaima Singh, is a permanent resident of village Serunkhal, Rongpur Pt-II in the district of Cachar,Assam. He is a well-known social activist working in the fields of wild life and environment and issues relating to Manipuri community living in BarakvalleyofAssam. Currently he works at the Committee on People and Environment (COPE) as Organising Secretary since its establishment in 2009. The COPE has been working for protection of environment and wild life mainly through awareness building among the people by seminar, public meeting etc. At present the activities of COPE is more focused on the campaign against the proposed dam on the river Barak at Tipaimukh for its apprehended devastating affect on the downstream area.

 According to the information, in the dead of night at about 1am on 5 January, 2012 about 20 person carrying guns and sticks raided the houseS Herajit. Some of them were in uniform and others wore civil dress. After they woke up Herajit’s father, mother and younger brother the soldiers told them that they were looking for Herajit. The family informed them that he was not home, as he had gone to Guwahati for works of his organization. The raiding party asked some questions about the activities of Herajit. On inquiry some of the soldiers informed only that they are from Armed Force but did not tell which regiment they belonged to. One of them was in police uniform and he identified himself as a constable of Assam Police posted at the Rongpur Police Outpost at Madhuramukh under Silchar Sadar Police Station.

 The family was shocked and fear-stricken at this mid-night raid. They thought that the soldiers came with malafide intention which might have been even physical termination of Herajit. Because there was no criminal complaint registered with the police against him and he is a responsible and peace loving law abiding citizen. Such a raid at mid night by the army is not warranted for the purpose of law enforcement at any event. Since then he and his family have been living in uncertainty and fear. It is not unreasonable to think this way in this part of the country since many cases have been documented where the worst happened in this way.

 When contacted, the district Superintendent of Police (SP) pleaded ignorance of such a raid but assured of an inquiry. The officers of the nearest army camp at Pailapool denied that any such raid was conducted by them. However, the police officers at the Rongpur Outpost said that they were asked by the army the day before to make available one or two constables for a raid in the night and accordingly they delegated a constable. They refused to say anything more abut the identity of the army personnel or the purpose of the raid. As still no visible steps have been taken by the SP, Herajit, his family and his organization lost faith in his assurance.

 BHRPC thinks that the raid was conducted to intimidate and harass Herajit and his family for his legitimate works relating to human rights of the people to clean environment and particularly his works in the campaign against the proposed dam at Tapaimukh in Manipur launched by the COPE.

 Human rights works including environmental rights by peaceful and democratic means is both duty and rights of every individual as spelt out in the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (also known as The Declaration on human rights defenders. Particularly Article 12 of the Declaration imposes duty on the State to “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or dejure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”

 Under Article 20 f the Universal Declaration of Human Rights everyone is given the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association which includes forming and working in non-governmental organizations. The UDHR also provides in Article 12 that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

 The conduct of the soldiers also amounts to interference in due process rights laid down in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which India is a state party including Article 17 that states that “1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.” and “2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” and Article 22 which provides that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”

 Further more, the right to form association and unions is also guaranteed in Article (c) (1) 19 of the Constitution of India.

 Clause (d) of sub-section (1) of section 2 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 defines human rights as “the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts inIndia.” The Act also mandates the National Human Rights Commission to inquire, suo motu or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf, into complaint of (i) violation of human rights or abetment thereof or (ii) negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant; under section (a) 12 and to encourage the efforts of non-governmental organisations and institutions working in the field of human rights under clause (i) of the same section.

 In the circumstances of the facts of the case and the human rights laws and norms it is imperative that the authorities inIndiashould:

 1. Initiate an immediate, impartial and exhaustive investigation into the reports of illegal raid and harassment of family of human rights defender and COPE member Herajit Shingh;

 2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological security and integrity of S. Herajit Shingh and his family and all members of COPE and their families;

 3. Guarantee that human rights defenders inAssamare able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including police harassment.

NAPM demands release of anti-dam protesters and scrapping of all big dams

December 27, 2011

‘NAPM condemns arrest and harassment of anti-dam protesters in Assam’

DECEMBER 27, 2011

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) forwards this statement issued on 26 December by the NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR PEOPLE’S MOVEMENTS on ‘arrest and harassment of anti-dam protesters in Assam’.

New Delhi, December 26: Tonight at 2:15 am Assam Police in collusion with other security forces swooped down on the protesters at Ranganadi who have been blockading the Highway since December 16 and thwarting state’s attempt to carry turbines and dam materials to project site of Lower Subansiri Dam. Nearly 200 people have been arrested and earlier also security forces have been harassing the ptotestors. In past too, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti fighting against the big dams on Brhamaputra have faced government’s ire and often been attacked and jailed. NAPM stands in solidarity with KMSS and other students groups of the region who have been consistently opposed to the Big dams in highly sensitive seismic zone. We condemn the sustained action and harassment of KMSS and their activists and targeting of Akhil Gogoi for constantly opposing the destructive development policies and corruption of the government machinery.

For past few weeks there been a serious agitation going on against theAssamgovernment and NHPC. Thousands and thousands of people daily wage earners, farmers, school teachers, students, and others from middle class have been gathering at the protest site at Lakhimpur town.

The dam on river Subansiri at Gerukamukh is for the 2010MW Lower Subansiri Hydro Electric Project (LSHEP) under the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC). The project is scheduled to be completed by 2015, but a series of questions need to be answered about the big dams, like impact on agriculture, fishes, ecology, earthquakes etc.

The Assamese farmers have joined this movement spontaneously because they have learned from their experiences. Small hydro-projects have already taught them a lesson. For past several years, they have no cultivation as sand siltation had damaged their fields, sudden floods caused by the water released by the hydro-projects have led them to nowhere.

Even though a report by an expert committee comprising scientists from IIT Guwahati and universities in Assam have advised the government against mega dams in a tectonically unstable region, NHPC and Assam Government is hell bent on implementing the project. Arunachal Pradesh has at least 140 hydroelectric projects, big and small, in various stages of construction, together they will endanger the life of residents of people not only in downstream but in upstream as well.

NAPM urges the State and Union government to seriously look at the dam building in country in light of the ongoing controversy over the Mullaperiyar Dam, ongoing agitations against the big dams inAssam, Vishungadh-Pipalkoti HEP in Uttarakhand, Polavaram in Andhra Pradesh, and various dams inNarmadaValley. Dams as a technological tool for development, irrigation, flood control have been exposed. It is high time serious thought was given towards decommissioning of the dams rather than building more big dams.

We demand fromAssamgovernment that the protesters be released immediately and big dams inBrhmaputraRiverValley, Subasniri rivers be all together scrapped. Ministry of Water Resources in this regard should take the lead and stop planning dams in different states of North East in a highly active seismic zone.

Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey, Prafulla Samantara, Ramakrishna Raju, Vimal Bhai, Rajendra Ravi, Anand Mazgaonkar, Madhuresh Kumar

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

For and on behalf of BHRPC

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

November 20, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People fast for repeal of AFSPA at Silchar, Assam

November 6, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press Statement, November 02, 2011

People fast for repeal of AFSPA at Silchar, Assam

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

Silchar, 6 November 2011: Hundreds of people gathered in front of the district headquarters at Silchar, Assam on 5 November, 2011 and demonstrated peacefully while observing symbolic fast for the day from 9am to 5pm in solidarity with the nationwide Save Democracy Repeal AFSPA campaign and to mark 11th year of epic fast by Irom Sharmila Chanu in demand of repeal of the draconian law called the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958. The event was organized by Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), Human Rights Organisation, Cachar, (HRO). Apart from the members of some other social organizations such as Kishan Bikash Samiti, Banskandi, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Assam Majuri Shramik Union, COPE and others many lawyers, journalists, teachers, artists and cultural activists also participated.

Many community leaders, social workers, journalists, teachers and lawyers addressed the gathering and explained what is AFPSA, how it is affected our lives and why it needs to be immediately repealed. Every one who talked expressed his/her profound respect to Sharmila, her determination and sacrifice and urged the people to rally behind her until the bad law goes. Some of the speakers narrated some cases of indiscriminate killing, barbaric torture, inhuman treatment of the civilians by the members of the armed forces ofIndiain Barak valley, other parts of North East India andJammu and Kashmir.

Sadique Mohammed Laskar, joint secretary, BHRPC, opened the talk by welcoming the hunger strikers. He informed the gathering that this movemenr has become a worldwide phenomenon now and we are a part tat larger agitation against state repression and corporate loots. Womens rights activists and poet Snigdha Nath recited a Bengali version of the poem titled Imprisoned in Democracy by Musab Iqbal. Reputed lawyer and activist Mr. Imad Uddin Bulbul talked at length about the violence in North East, its reasons and particularly it impact on the day to day lives of common people. He also condemned violence by non-state actors. BHRPC secretary general Neharul Ahmed Mazumder discussed how the AFSPA takes away fundamental rights to life, liberty and human dignity enshrined in the constitution. Waliullah Ahmed Laskar, a prominent human rights defender in North East India, talked about politics of the AFSPA and other draconian laws and said such laws and policies are based on racism and fascism. He also brought our the lack of legality in the law by showing procedural and substantial deficiencies in the AFSPA. M Shantikumar Shingh said that it is hopeful that the people of Barak valley joined the movement, it does not matter that they did it after 11 years. Thirthankar Chanda laws are actually used to repress the voices of activists who protest against corruption, exploitation and corporate loot of natural resources jeopardizing environment and livelihood of the masses. President of Cachar Human Rights Organisation Mr. Irabat Shingh showed how AFSPA is misused and abused by narrating many cases of human rights violations.

Others who addressed the gathering include reporter Dilip Shingh, convener of All Barak Students Association Baharul Islam Barbhuiya, publicity secretary of Assa Meira Paibi Organisation Meiragnloi Devi, secretary of the Silchar Press Club Mr. Shankar Dey, Monir Uddin Laskar, Herajit Shingh, Reba Nath, Bikash Das Purakayastha, Arup Baishya, Dipankar Chanda, Pijush Das, Dayanand Shingh, Lili Devi and others. Everybody urged they central government to repeal the AFSPA and other draconian laws and seek the political solutions for the political problems. They also unanimously wanted to make the movement stronger and more widespread. After the fast was broken BHRPC submitted a memorandum addressed to the prime minister of Indiaurging him repeal the AFSPA.

For more information contact:

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC)

Mobile: 09401942234

Email: wali.laskar@gmail.com

Rongpur Part IV, Silchar-9

Assam, India.

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

BHRPC to observe fasting and demonstration for repeal of AFSPA

November 2, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press Statement, October 02, 2011

 

BHRPC to observe fasting and demonstration for repeal of AFSPA

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), a voluntary organization for human rights working in Assam, in co-operation with Cachar Human Rights Organisation (CHRO) is organizing a one day symbolic fast and demonstration from 9am to 5pm on 5 November, 2011 in front of the district head quarters at Silchar (Assam, India) in demand of repeal of the draconian law called the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in solidarity with the nationwide campaign of Save Democracy Repeal AFSPA to mark the 11th year of epic fast of iconic human rights defender and poet-journalist Irom Chanu Sharmila of Manipur.

The AFSPA is a piece of colonial legislation which gives the armed forces of India unfettered power: (i) to use lethal force even to the causing of death on civilians on mere suspicion that they may cause breach of any law or order, (ii) to search any dwelling places by breaking them on mere suspicion without warrant and (ii) to arrest people without warrant and to keep them in custody for unspecified time and the Act also bars the judiciary to question any acts of the armed forces operating under the Act in areas declared disturbed under the Act. The Act is in force in parts of North East includingAssam for more than five decades and a version of the Act inJammu and Kashmir for more than two decades. The Act violates the spirit and values of the Constitution of India, universally accepted human rights standards and democratic norms. Government appointed committees including the one chaired by Justice Jeevan Reddy also found the Act undesirable and unambiguously recommended for its repeal.

Actions taken under the Act caused hundreds of extra-judicial killings, rapes, torture, enforced disappearances putting the people living in the AFSPA affected area under terror, affecting normal governance and defeating democracy. Civil society groups across North East and from the other parts of the country advocating and agitating for repeal of the Act. The most emblematic protest has been carrying out by Irom Sharmila who has been on hunger strike since 5 November, 2000 in demand of the repeal of the Act. She is continuously arrested and re-arrested on charges attempt to commit suicide and forcibly fed through a nasal tube by the prison wardens.

BHRPC urges the people of the region to participate in the symbolic fast and demonstration of 5 November, 2011 in solidarity with Irom Sharmila and Save Democracy Repeal AFSPA campaign in demand of repeal of the Act and investigation of human rights violation allegations.

For more information contact:

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

M: 09401942234,

Email: wali.laskar@gmail.com

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC)

Rongpur Part IV, Silchar-9,

Assam, India

BHRPC condemns attack on anti-AFSPA campaigners

October 20, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BHRPC Statement, October 20, 2011

 

BHRPC condemns attack on anti-AFSPA campaigners

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) is shocked at the reports of attack on the campaigners against the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) and strongly condemns the incident and the anti-democratic fascist mindset displayed by the attackers on the peaceful protestors.

It is reported that when a large number of students mainly from the North East Indian states joined the Save Sharmila Solidarity Group at the north campus of Delhi University as a part of the Srinagar-to-Imphal Yatra demanding repeal of the AFSPA miscreants created nuisance at the rally pelting stones and tomatoes. Several students sustained injuries due to stone pelting.

It is also alleged that in spite of information provided, theDelhipolice arrived late in the scene and did not make any arrest of the alleged attackers but instead denied permission to hold the peaceful rally any further.

It is to be mentioned that the 4,500 km longSrinagar-to-ImphalYatra is being carried out to make common people aware of the draconian, anti-democratic and anti-human rights provisions of AFSPA applicable in the North Eastern states andJammu and Kashmir. The rally is being joined by several social activists of national fame such as Medha Patkar, Magsaysay Award winner Sandeep Pandey, National Alliance of People’s Movement leader Faisal Khan, Irom Sharmila’s brother Irom Singhajit and Parveena Ahangar of the Association of Disappeared Persons.

BHRPC believes that the attack is a blatant violation of, and an assault on, the basic fundamental rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly committed with tacit support of the police. The incident displays the discriminatory attitude, anti-democratic and fascist mindset of the authorities and a section of the people towards the North Eastern people. The AFSPA is the legislative embodiment of that attitude and mindset. Both the attitude and mindset, and the statute is dangerous for democracy, rule of law and human rights inIndia. They do not have a legitimate place in a democraticIndia.

BHRPC urges the authorities to take appropriate actions under the law against the alleged attackers and make arrangements for the protection of the human rights defenders campaigning against the AFSPA.

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC)

Guwahati,Assam

20 October 2011

BHRPC denounces crackdown on anti corruption protest

June 7, 2011

Press Statement

For immediate release

07 June, 2011, Silchar

 

BHRPC to fast to denounce crackdown on anti corruption protest

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) strongly denounces the unnecessary use of brutal police force that led to injuries to about 70 protestors against corruption at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi in the early hours of 5 June, 2011, and demands a prompt and impartial investigation into the incident. However, BHRPC does not share, like many other human rights organizations, the political, social and economic vision of Swami Ramdev and considers many of his demands and rhetoric as highly objectionable and ill-advised, but feels that everybody should stand for all others’ right to peaceful protest, freedom from torture and ill-treatment and right to life.

 BHRPC also condemns the prohibitory orders by the Delhi police under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) under the jurisdiction of New Delhi district with a view to disrupt the announced peaceful protest and fast by Anna Hazare and activists of the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement on 8 June, 2011 at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.

 In solidarity with IAC, members of BHRPC along with other 20 organisations will fast on 8 June, 2011 in Silchar (Assam) in solidarity with the nationwide movement against corruption led by Anna Hazare and other movements against violations of human rights, repression and injustices. BHRPC urges the people of Assam, particularly the residents of Barak valley, to join the country in protest against repression of people’s voices by force and in demand of an effective anti-corruption institution under the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill.

 BHRPC considers that the use of force must be in accordance with the strict necessity to uphold peace and human rights. The right to life and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and right to freedom of the thought and expression which includes right to dissent and right to protest are enshrined in the constitution of India as well as provided in international human rights law and standards, including in treaties binding on India, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by the country in 1979. These cannot be violated by the government as has been done in this case.

 BHRPC has been witnessing with concern the increasing tendency of excessive use of force and highhandedness of the governments in dealing with peaceful protest against injustices and anti-people government policies throughout the country including opening fire on the protest against nuclear power project at Jaitapur, Maharastra killing one; deployment of heavy police force against the villagers opposing forcible land acquisition for the POSCO project in Jagatsinghpur, Orissa; illegal arrest of Akhil Gogoi, secretary general of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti in Guwahati, Assam on 10 April, 2011 while addressing a press conference.

 BHRPC believes that the struggle against corruption can not be separated from the struggle for a democratic India that respects human rights and the rule of law. It is simultaneously a struggle against privatisation, against neo-liberal policies, against draconian laws like AFSPA and the sedition law, against state crackdowns on dissenting voices and against corporate dictation of government policies. It is simultaneously a struggle to defend the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across the country.

Neharul Ahmed Mazumder

Secretary General

Download

BHRPC hails Supreme Court order granting bail to Dr. Binayak Sen

April 17, 2011

The Supreme Court of India granted bail to Dr. Binayak Sen, an internationally recognised human rights defender on 15 April after a prolonged hearing. Dr. Sen was serving life sentence meted out to him on 24 December 2010 along with two others. Dr. Sen was charged with sedition under sections 124A read with section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. He was also charged with working for outlawed Maoists under sections 8(1), 8(2), 8(3) and 8(5) of the Chhattisgarh Vishesh Jan Suraksha Adhiniyam (Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act), 2005 and section 39(2) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) on 31 January 2011 wrote to the Prime Minister of India and other authorities including the Chief Justice of India urging them to release him and repeal these repressive laws.

BHRPC hails the order of the Supreme Court of India granting bail to Dr. Binayak Sen made on 15 April 2011 and reiterates (See earlier statement) its demands for a thorough and objective inquiry into the alleged conspiracy to falsely book Dr. Sen in order to intimidate other human rights defenders and to repress voice of dissent. BHRPC also urges the authorities in India to immediately release all other human rights defenders who are put behind bars unjustly.

BHRPC further welcomes the statement of Union Minister for Law and Justice that laws of sedition need to be revisited and urges the government to repeal/amend all repressive laws including the infamous Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958. BHRPC expresses its solidarity with Irom Chanu Sharmila of Manipur who has been fasting for more than a decade demanding repeal of the AFSPA.