Posts Tagged ‘India’

INDIA: Minting a huge humanitarian crisis with national citizenship register in Assam

September 1, 2018

BHRPC wishes to forward this Written Submission to the 39th Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre on the process of preparation of National Register of Citizens for Assam, India.

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to draw the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council to the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) that India has recently launched in the North Eastern state of Assam and its far reaching consequences not only for the country but also for South Asia as a region and the world too.

The ALRC also wishes to draw the attention of the Council to the fact that the final draft list leaves a whopping 4,007,707 persons out of a total of 32,991,384 people who had applied. The exercise is accused of gross negligence despite being mandated and monitored by the Supreme Court of India.

The final draft is full of problems ranging from personal tragedies like that of a single family member left out of hundred plus members of an extended joint families to at places whole communities are being left out. Those excluded include even persons like family members of a former president of India, veterans of Indian security forces, policemen, kith and kin of legislators to the poor who have no papers to show.

Many of those excluded complain of reasons behind their exclusion being subjective biases and the inherent flaws in the NRC of 1951 and the electoral rolls of 1961 and 1971 that make up the core of the ‘legacy data’. There are many cases in which the direct descendants of those figuring in the NRC of 1951 having been left out from the final draft. The primary reasons behind this include clerical errors resulting in misspelt names right from the parents to those of the claimants now, mismatched relationships and so on. Most of the people being very poor and living in areas routinely affected by floods have also lost their documents.

There are also large-scale complaints of the sectarian biases based on linguistic identity having played against even genuine claims of many of those left out. Chief Minister of West Bengal, a state neighbouring Assam, has complained of Bengali speakers having borne the brunt of the exercise with about 3.8 million of those left out from the NRC, or almost ninety percent, consisting of them.

There have also been allegations about a systemic bias against Muslims, a religious minority community in India and Dalits, erstwhile victims of untouchability now protected by the constitution and listed as Scheduled Castes. Matua Mahasangha, a religious organisation consisting principally of Namashudra Dalits with origins in Bangladesh, gives credence to this argument and claimed most of those affected are members of the community.

The argument gets further support from the fact that India has seen a continuous influx of Hindu refugees, mostly poor Dalits, fleeing persecution in Bangladesh. Studies estimate the total numbers of those who came to India seeking refuge at around 11 million, settled mostly in West Bengal, Assam and Tripura.

Though both the government and Supreme Court of India have promised another chance to all those left out to prove their citizenship along with no coercive measures against them till then, many fear losing their citizenships as all the documents they had have already been produced. Estimates of those finally left out are as high as 2 million.

Further complicating the situation is the fact of Bangladesh’s stern refusal of having anything to do with those left out. Authorities in Bangladesh have already called this issue an ‘internal matter of India with ethnic undertones’. This effectively turns those finally left out as stateless people with nowhere to go adding almost 2 million to already huge number of 10 million people currently estimated to be stateless.

That gives rise to the fear of large internment camps for those excluded from the final NRC list, violation of their human rights and another humanitarian crisis for the world.

In light of this, the ALRC urges the Council to:

1. Ask the government of India to exercise extreme cautiousness in the registration of the citizens and ensure that not a single genuine citizen of India is left out because of clerical errors or a lack of documents missing because of reasons beyond the control of applicants.

2. Ask the government of India to mobilise all authorities in the state of Assam as well as other states like West Bengal, Bihar and others from where many of the people excluded from the draft list come from to cross check their claims and help them secure their documents.

3. Ask the government of India to take concrete measures to dispel the allegations of discrimination against people on the basis of religion and caste and that nobody is denied citizenship because of discrimination.

4. Ask the government of India to urgently engage with the government of Bangladesh to find solutions in case of people still getting left out of the NRC as it claims that most of the ‘illegal’ immigrants are from Bangladesh.

5. Ask the government of India to not take any coercive action and deny people of their fundamental human rights and work for a humanitarian solution to the impending crisis.

(The submission was first published in the website of Asian Human Rights Commission and here it is reproduced verbatim for further dissemination)

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Urgent appeal: Include the excluded people in the citizens’ register (NRC) for Assam, India

August 6, 2018

On 30 July 2018 the Government of India published a draft register of citizens residing in the state of Assam. This draft register admittedly excluded more than four million people who submitted applications for inclusion of their names. These four million people are at the risk of being rendered stateless.

People waiting to check their names in first draft of NRC publish on 31st December 2017

People waiting to check their names in first draft of NRC publish on 31st December 2017 (Photo: thehindiu.com)

Please sign the petition here

The main reasons for exclusion of such a large number of people include:

  1. Having no acceptable documents of pre-1971 as is required for inclusion.
  2. Having no acceptable documents to establish relationship with an ancestor who has a pre-1971 document.
  3. Non-acceptance of otherwise valid documents like school certificates and certificates of birth given by hospitals etc.
  4. Failure to verify submitted documents by the authorities.
  5. Non-acceptance of oral evidence.
  6. Not having an opportunity to establish citizenship by birth under section 3 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 by producing birth certificate or other admissible evidence of birth in India within the period specified.
  7. Non-application of subsection 7 (a) of section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  8. Non-application of Proviso to section 2 of the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950.
  9. Little or no application of Sub-paragraph 3 of Paragraph 3 of the Schedule titled Special Provision as to Manner of Preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens in State of Assam framed under Rule 4A of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 in certain areas including South Assam and West Assam. And so on.

However, there is still a window of Claims, Objections and Corrections which will start and applications from the excluded applicants will be accepted from 30 August 2018 to 28 September 2018. The disposal period and procedure are yet to be notified.

Many of the people who are at risk of being rendered stateless can be saved and included in the register if the procedure of dealing with, and disposing of, the applications are formulated keeping in mind the humanitarian aspect of the process.

Please sign the petition here

In view of this it is suggested that the following points should be considered while framing Modalities in the Form of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP):

  1. Claims:

(1) At the minimum, six months’ time should be given for submitting applications for claims. Otherwise, a lot of people who have their origin in other states outside Assam or who work as migrant labourers in other states or abroad will be grossly prejudiced.

(2) An opportunity to establish citizenship by birth under section 3 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 by producing birth certificate or other admissible evidence of birth in India within the period specified should be given to the applicants.

(3) An opportunity should also be given to the applicants to establish citizenship before 7 December 1985 being the date on which Act 65 of 1985 that incorporated section 6A in the Citizenship Act, 1955 came into effect since as per subsection 7 of section 6A the provisions of section 6A is not applicable to them.

(4) The persons to whom Proviso to Section 2 of the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950 applies should be included in the NRC on the basis of direct or circumstantial evidence.

(5) While considering Claims applications, Sub-paragraph 3 of Paragraph 3 of the Schedule titled Special Provision as to Manner of Preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens in State of Assam framed under Rule 4A of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 should be applied in appropriate cases. One of the reasons for exclusion of such a large number of people is little or non-application of this provision in districts of Barak valley and West Assam. There were people inhabiting in the area now under the 3 districts of the valley for centuries before it was annexed to the British domain by the East India Company and later joined with Assam.

(6) Those minor children whose parent/s is/are included in the final draft but who themselves are excluded from the list due to defects in link documents should be included on the basis of oral evidence or they should be given an opportunity to obtain other documents including birth certificate without hassles. Otherwise, it would be absurd to think that such children emigrated from Bangladesh leaving their parents behind.

(7) In case of married women certificate issued by Panchayat secretaries should be accepted as a link document. Such certificates have been allowed in case of married women after a lot of consideration by the Hon’ble Supreme Court because there is a possibility that no other documents will be available for them. Supporting oral evidence should also be admitted in such cases.

(8) Where the applicants fail to prove link with accepted legacy person by producing prescribed documents but insist on the relationship, they should be given an opportunity to prove the claimed linkage by DNA test conducted outside Assam at the state expense.

(9) No original application or claims application should be rejected on the ground that the documents submitted could not be verified. Their cases may be kept on hold until verification is done. Verification is the responsibility of the state.

(10) Any valid document establishing relationship with the legacy person of the applicant including PAN and ADHAAR cards should not be rejected on the ground that pan card is issued after 2015 and ADHAAR card is not being issued in the state of Assam officially.

(11) Minor mismatches and discrepancies in names, addresses, ages and other details in the documents relied by the applicants should be ignored and the probative value of the documents should not be considered affected.

(12) Order rejecting original application or claims application should record reasons for such rejection in detail dealing with each ground separately.

  1. Objections:

(1) No objection application should be accepted unless the person objecting knows the person objected to personally and sets forth reasonable grounds for such objection in the application.

(2) The notice of hearing in case of an objection should clearly state the grounds of objections to enable the concerned person to prepare her rebuttal. Such notice should be served with all seriousness giving at least six months’ time personally by the local NRC Seva Kendra (NSK) officials. Unless there is an endorsement of the notice receiver, the service should not be treated as complete.

(3) Without giving an opportunity of cross-examination of objector no objection should be accepted.

  1. Corrections:

(1) Officials who know the language of the applicant well shall be entrusted with the task of correcting names and other details.

(2) There should be a separate system of transliteration in Bengali and other languages to avoid spelling errors in names and other details published in those languages.

Please sign the petition here

Racism in India

March 2, 2017

The MP Bezbaruah committee that recommended several cultural, legal and administrative measures to end discrimination of North East people in Delhi and other cities, could not address and recognise the question of race, which seeming arises over and over again in this saga of difference. Prasenjit Biswas and Suraj Gogoi ask, will this be corrected by appropriate reforms? 

racismOccupying a mere eight per cent of  the total land area in India, the seven Northeastern states and its ethnically-diverse people is a “micro-community” within the country.  The anonymity of belonging to a geographical region is itself challenging, as there is no common Northeastern Indian identity. Culturally and ethnically distinctive larger identities such as Nagas, Meiteis, Axomiyas alongside Kuki, Mizo, Khasi, Garo and many other ethnic and non-ethnic communities, including Bengalee Hindus and Muslims comprise a significant diversity that is “largely mismanaged”. The issue is how to manage this diversity at the national level?

Continuous harassment, humiliation and repression in the form of racism, under-representation, misrepresentation, as many scholars have suggested, goes on unabated. Chilling videos of landlords beating up Northeast girls in January in Bengaluru, the rape of another in Delhi’s Green Park area, rescue of young adult girls from traffickers’ network are some of the common malaise faced by an ordinary Northeasterner, as they travel to other parts of the country.

In the late 1960s, Nari Rustomji termed  Northeast India as a “Mongoloid fringe” of the country. Colonial rulers drew lines, Inner and Outer, and reinforced them with unenviable pusillanimity and controlled movement outside the hills. Post-colonial regimes in India continued with either a “leave them alone” or  “mainstreaming”, leaving a lot of loopholes in ensuring genuine recognition of cultural and ethnic specificity across the country.

The politics of misrepresentation went to the extent that in the popular biopic blockbuster Mary Kom, Priyanka Chopra replaced a Meitei actress Bala Hizam or another tribal actress Masochon V Zimik, who did not have the needed prosthetic eyelid that Chopra had to put on to make her look like Mary Kom. It is a complex substitution of a wide eyed Punjabi to turn her into chinki-eyed Mary Kom. This incident highlights how Northeasterners cannot represent themselves without a sanction from dominant identities.

In various media discourses too, Northeasterners are presented in terms of conflict, violence, insurgency, meat-eating and other such stereotypes. Within regional media, hill districts and remote localities are never talked about except in a negative way of presenting violence, insurgency or any other disruptive issues. Hill tribes of Manipur face exclusion, discrimination and arbitrary difference that makes them realise their experience of being treated unfairly.

A recent work of a non-fiction by Nandita Haksar, entitled The Exodus is Not Over: Migrations from the Ruptured Homelands of North-east India brought out how Tangkhul women face everything — death to rape and sexist exploitation in Goa and Delhi. A large number of malls in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab, which employ people from the Northeast portray a similar story of a culturally different migrant workforce that have to often bear the brunt of being different-looking with very different food habits. The upmarket restaurants, malls and markets make use of their language skills and other positive features, while they keep facing a discriminatory looking-down by owners, customers and buffs, although there are instances of fellow-feeling and kindness.

What is at issue is the very idea of an Indian face as distinguished from a Mongoloid face along with all its attendant cultural stereotypes, which create a sense of alienation and otherness. For the Northeasterners inventing new forms of socialisation is a constant need to link themselves with “strangers” as employers and neighbours in Indian cities, which is a major challenge. They remain as intruders in other social space of being Indian, as “pastoral keepers” of cultural norms in cities may not give them the connective tissue.
Lin Laishram, who acted alongwith Priyanka Chopra in  Mary Kom stated that in every audition she had to face discrimination. Atim, the chief protagonist in Nandita Haksar’s work sees “some of her Tangkhul workers go out with managers” to get some favour, while she experienced statements like “no job for chinkies” here. Do the ideas of India fail to accommodate the racially-different? As professor Bimol Akoijam, a clinical analyst stated, it is like  “when this ‘racial other’ is positioned as ‘backward’ or ‘tribal’ (anthropological subjects), it produces a judgment that converts the ‘difference’ to being ‘inferior’. This informs the racist attitude towards the people from India’s North-east”.
Akoijam went onto pointing out the need for sensitivity about racism as Article 15 of  the Constitution debars discrimination on the basis of sex, community, religion and race. He also pointed out, albeit for the first time, that race emerges as the major category of discrimination in the context of Northeasterners coming to live in mainland India.

 Indeed, he had the shock of his life when he found a reference in JD(U) Rajya Sabha member Pavan Varma’s book Becoming Indian as “my African friend”. Akoijam sought a correction as he hailed from Manipur, but the author never thought it fit to correct it. Thanks to the racist analogies of misrepresentation, Northeasterners could be anything but Indian, they could be Chinese, Nepalis, Africans and the like.

In matters of food too, for instance, a broccoli is never a part of Assamese cuisine nor is fermented bamboo to Jats. To bring it even closer, akhuni (soya bean)  is not central to most cuisines found in Assam but certainly to the Meiteis and Nagas. Our mental map of landscapes is also imagined through food. Any attempt at exclusion and intolerance towards practice of those elementary cultural practices is a gross violation of human rights and secular understanding of Indian society. A major problematique in this is eating of beef, pork, insect, or dog meat by North-easterners and hill people, which is culturally prohibited.

One remembers Naga supremo Angami Zapu  Phizo shouting at the Governor of Assam on  the occasion of the signing of the 1975 peace accord in Shillong. Phizo remarked, “How can there be peace when one side does not share the food of the other side?”

It is seen at large that the food culture of Indian people are divided on multitude of connotations—value systems, religious beliefs and caste associations. Different kinds of food cultures and habits exist parallely, however, it necessarily doesn’t mean an existence without any conflict. As such ecological and social niches that food from North-east carries is taken with a sense of being exotic. But certainly, it does not constitute as an essential part of Indian food culture of samosa or jeelabi or sabjee.

Students from the Northeast living in Delhi, Bengaluru,  Chennai, and also in other metros, often share a very conflicting relationship with their landlords and neighbours. They often face complains of their food being smelly and stinky. One sees very evidently that food has become an instrument of creating a distinctive other and can often cross that already ambiguous relationship to become violent.

Although public memory is short, one would recall the exodus of Northeasterners from major cities in India. This was in 2012 when violence broke out in Bodoland forcing thousands to leave their  homes and hearths. It almost turned communal where people were killing each other or burning houses—about 77 people lost their lives and 400,000 had to take shelter in relief camps. Even after five years, at least half of them continue to stay put. To this violence, some hate-rumours were spread through social media that people from the mainland were targeted in the Northeast. This led to attacks by some unknown people in various metros in India, triggering panic among students and others who belong to the  North-east. The attacks were in retaliation to the displacement in Bodoland. An estimated 200,000 from various cities returned home. This resulted in restaurants running out of staff, malls with no security guards, airlines and airports with fewer crew members and so on.

This targeting of the people in the cities was the result of bad understanding of geography and it carried strong racial undertones. It was a situation where anyone who looks like a Northeasterner was thought to be a Bodo. If that is not racism and bad geography, what is it? This is the result of absence of the Northeast subject from school textbooks in the mainland. Although, some efforts have been made recently, the Northeast largely remains neglected in school textbooks. Is this not internal orientalism?

The imagination of the Northeast in the minds of most Indians is one of an unknown territory, whose inhabitants are not much known. They are known only if they accept mainstream culture such as Hinduism (in case of Meitei or some Arunachalee tribes) and along with the package, a mainstream language like Hindi. Certainly one does not see an easy way out of the situation.

The MP Bezbaruah Committee that recommended several cultural, legal and administrative measures to end discrimination of Northeast people in Delhi and other cities, could not address and recognise the question of race, which seemingly arises over and over again in this saga of difference.

(Prasenjit Biswas is Vice Chair of BHRPC and Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy, NEHU, Shillong and Suraj Gogoi is a researcher in Sociology, National University of Singapore)

racism-in-india

The article is first published in the Statesmen and is available here:http://epaper.thestatesman.com/c/17145416 . It is reposted here verbatim for wider dissemination.

The price of tea from death valley

September 20, 2013
  • AMANDA HODGE IN BARAK VALLEY, ASSAM
  • From: The Australian
  • August 31, 2013

AS India’s well-fed politicians bickered over a proposed Right to Food bill this week in New Delhi, workers in some of northeast Assam’s most remote tea gardens were literally starving on their feet.

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.

In seven months last year, 34 people died of starvation or malnutrition-linked diseases on a single tea estate, Bhuvan Valley in southern Barak Valley, when owners temporarily shut operations and stopped paying workers for demanding better conditions and eight months of owed wages.

“It was more like Death Valley than Bhuvan Valley. People were dying from one house to another,” says Prasenjit Biswas, who chairs the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee that brought the issue to the attention of authorities. Under pressure from the government and National Human Rights Commission, the owners restarted operations but the deaths have continued.

From the roadside, Bhuvan Valley looks just like the gardens of Eden on the tea packets from which so many Australians brew their tea; flashes of colourful saris amid land lakes of topiaried green that seem to levitate above hillocks and plains.

It is less picturesque up close.

As tired, bony women file from the gardens at dusk, Mannu Ravidas, a casual tea labourer, waits for his wife.

Like most of the workers here he was born on the estate, descended from the original tribal workers trafficked to Assam from central India during British rule.

His ribs protrude from his body and his legs bow outwards in the tell-tale sign of rickets, a common affliction among workers.

Ravidas, 50, says during last year’s closure his family “went hungry every day”, and his father eventually died.

“We are still hungry,” he says. “We eat rice and roti two times a day. One meal is full, the other half. We give my two children more than we eat ourselves but things are much worse than they used to be. When they were small they did not need so much.”

His wife is the only permanent tea labourer in the family. She receives 72 rupees ($1.20) a day, and weekly subsidised rations of 5kg of rice and 3kg of flour that looks like sawdust.

To supplement her meagre income, Ravidas buys sacks of rice and resells them by the roadside.

“So many people fell sick and died, including children,” says Champa, who heads the garden’s women’s panchayat (council).

“Things improved a little when the new manager came but now he has gone and we’re worried. He tried to get a doctor for the dispensary here, and for the owner to pay us the money he owes, but the owner refused so he left.”

The same thing happened before last year’s deaths and workers here are again frantic with worry.

With no manager to endorse their daily pickings, how will they be paid?

Assam produces half a million tonnes of strong black tea annually, filling the tea bags of some of the most recognised tea brands sold in Australia, including Liptons, Twinings and Tetley. It represents half of India’s total tea production.

Trying to understand the anachronistic slavery like labour system and working conditions of labourers in tea industry in Assam that drive them to starvation deaths. In Bhuvan valley tea estate on 19 August 2013 Waliullah Ahmed Laskar, Amanda Hodge and Dr Prasenjit Biswas. — at Bhuvan valley Tea Estate, Cachar, Assam.

Trying to understand the anachronistic slavery like labour system and working conditions of labourers in tea industry in Assam that drive them to starvation deaths. In Bhuvan valley tea estate on 19 August 2013 Waliullah Ahmed Laskar, Amanda Hodge and Dr Prasenjit Biswas. — at Bhuvan valley Tea Estate, Cachar, Assam.

But declining productivity — and hence profits — in many Assamese tea gardens has had an alarming impact on the health and living standards of tea workers. Barak Valley has the lowest-paid tea workers in India, with a minimum wage of R72 a day — less than half the federally mandated minimum daily wage of R158.54 and at least R12 less than workers in neighbouring valleys.

Estate owners say the rest of the wage is paid in kind, through the provision of housing, pensions, food rations and proper healthcare — services they are compelled to provide under the Tea Plantation Labourers’ Act.

In reality, many estates fail to deliver even basic services such as clean water, and owe their workers millions in unpaid wages.

Fair Trade Australia spokesman Nick Tabart says while consumers have successfully pressured the coffee and chocolate industries into improving wages and conditions, the tea industry lags way behind. Of 900-odd tea gardens in Assam, nine are Fair Trade certified.

“We’re well aware that (Assam) is a region that requires attention,” he told The Weekend Australian.

But the biggest barrier to securing living wages on tea estates is decades of low prices, underinvestment by tea estate owners and a “difficult legacy” of bonded labour.

Nirmal Bin’s wife Basanti was 33 when she died on July 30 after a four-month illness. She was a permanent Bhuvan Valley tea worker and so entitled to medicines from the garden’s “dispensary” (just an outbuilding tacked on to an overgrown ruin) to treat her diagnosed kidney disease. “But they would only give us paracetamol,” he says.

Many retirees on the estate have been forced back to work because owners refuse to pay out their pensions from the state’s Provident Fund — money deducted from wages that should have been accruing over decades.

Tea garden owners are required to match that sum each week but the union admits proprietors of Bhuvan Valley and at least nine other local gardens have not done so.

“Their wages are very low, there are no other facilities, housing, medicine, drinking water,” says BN Kurmi, a union official based in the regional capital of Silchar. “If we are more strict then (the owners) will close the gardens and then again the starvation will come.”

Kurmi admits many workers are exploited and that the union “failed” the starving labourers of Bhuvan Valley last year.

It is still failing them.

Behind the dispensary, Imti Rani Dushad is awaiting a pension payout following the death of her husband last year from tuberculosis, which he probably contracted from the canal water that workers relied on until a water treatment plant was finally built a few years ago.

He died inside the dirt-floor hut in which she must now raise their five children alone. The long-closed dispensary reopened a week later.

Now her greatest fear is that she too will fall ill.

“There’s no hope for me or my children,” she says. “How can I improve our condition? My neighbours can’t help me. Their condition is as bad as mine. Except for human sympathy they can’t offer anything.”

In another hut, Sri Charam Baruri nursed his dying mother last year. Her death was long and painful but he doesn’t know what killed her.

His wife, the mother of four children, died a few months earlier, from another mystery cause that may have been meningitis.

In the looming dark — there is no electricity — worker after worker comes forward to tell of their losses.

India’s federal Tea Board says many of the 109 tea gardens of Barak Valley have been neglected by the tea owners, who lease the land from the state.

“We’re focused on helping them improve methods and quality,” says R Kujur, the board’s assistant director in Silchar, though workers’ welfare is a “state government concern”.

To rejuvenate declining tea estates the Tea Board is offering up to R80,000 per hectare to gardens willing to pull unproductive bushes and plant better performing varieties. Aware that publicity of shocking labour conditions — combined with a slide in tea quality — can hurt the industry, it has introduced a certification scheme and is pushing for proprietors to sign on.

“It will take time to motivate the owners and labourer but I can assure you that within three years you will see a huge difference,” Kujur says.

Bhuvan Valley is replanting 20ha of bushes but the Tea Board is still working to get gardens like Craig Park on board. The once grand estate’s tea bushes are producing 50 per cent less leaves than a decade ago.

The district’s deputy commissioner described conditions at Craig Park as a “sorry state of affairs” and noted many workers had died while awaiting retirement payouts. Labourers fear the garden will eventually be closed.

If that happens, thousands of workers will be forced off the land — with nothing to show for generations of cheap toil.

Published at The Australian and available at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-price-of-tea-from-death-valley/story-fnb1brze-1226707856072#sthash.9pLYjpRk.dpuf

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

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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.

 

 

 

DIGEST OF INTERNATIONAL JURISPRUDENCE ON THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS WHILE COUNTERING TERRORISM

June 16, 2012

The non-state armed groups (insurgents, extremists or terrorists, whatever you may call them) need to be dealt with and contained because they violate rights of the people to live peacefully, they try to impose their will on the people and the state unlawfully and violently trampling the constitutionalism and the rule of law that are sine qua non for civilised human existence. It is the mandate of the state to maintain the reign of law and constitution and the writ of the government established by law along with ensuring security and safety of the person and property of the citizens. But when the state through its security forces and law enforcement agencies commits more atrocious acts than the acts which it professes it is fighting the difference between the non-state terrorists and the state gets blurred.

Since independence in 1947 as in colonial times India has a number of laws containing provisions that are termed by the liberal jurists and human rights defenders as draconian and repressive unparalleled in the democratic world. Such laws are held responsible for regular violations of human rights with impunity resulting in defeat of the rule of law and continuity of lawlessness breeding more terrorism and violence. Despite this reality there is also a shrill voice for more stringent laws in the country.

Even before the terrorist attack in Mumbai on 26 November, 2008 the demand for “stronger and tougher anti-terror laws” kept getting shriller and hasher and was being projected as panacea. It started after the present parliament repealed the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA), although some provisions of POTA incompatible with human rights laws were incorporated into the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) by way of amendment. The discourse of ‘tough’ laws is premised entirely on the misrepresentation of facts. It seems that the advocates of ‘tough’ laws want us to believe that there were no terrorist attacks in India when some of the “toughest” (read most draconian) laws in the civilised world were in force such as the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) and its other local variants; the National Security Act, 1980 (NSA); the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act, 1987 (TADA); POTA; UAPA and other state enactments. But the reality is that some of the worst terror offences were perpetrated when these “stronger and tougher anti-terror laws” were in force such as hijack of an airIndia flight from Kathmandu to Kandhahar, Red Fort attack, parliament attack etc.

New law becomes necessary when existing provisions are proved ineffective or counter effective. There are still many draconian and colonial provisions in our general criminal law composed of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) the Evidence Act, 1972 and others. Records of implementation and effective implementation of laws in India is very dismal due to many factors including corruption and inadequacy in both quantity and quality of man-power in the Criminal Justice Administration System and the inefficacy of some of the provisions of law themselves. With registration of First Information Report the justice administration machinery gets into motion. There are hundreds of thousands of cases where police does not register FIR without being greased. It has become the rule in some part of the country. There are also numerous cases of custodial torture and death for not paying gratification by the detainee/arrestee or their relatives to the police. When the state of the things is this it is ridiculous to think that “stronger and tougher anti-terror laws” will free us from crimes and criminals, let alone the question of terrorism.

Terrorism is the worst form of crime. It is just a matter of common sense that the people who love to kill and get killed would not have any fear of law howsoever “tough” and “strong” that law may be. Soon after the terrorist attack in Mumbai, Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) reminded that “it has been seen that in countering terrorism the state often succumbs to the design of the terrorists by failing to respect the human rights of the people. When this happens the terrorism triumphs because the state itself does the act of terror. More over, failure to respect human rights creates breeding ground of terrorism” in a statement issued to condemn the attack. Counter terror laws and practice violating human rights are used by the terrorists to justify their heinous acts and the state cites these terrorist acts to justify its acts of violations of human rights. In the process the ordinary human beings are just sandwiched between state and non state terror. These two forms of terrorism feed on each other and are same for general population.

Unfortunately the Indian State has succumbed to the terror design and gave them the triumph after the Mumbai attack. A bill has been passed amending the UAPA after the November attacks in Mumbai which violates international human rights treaties.

New amendments to anti-terror laws include: 1. Sweeping and overbroad definitions of “acts of terrorism” in violation of the principle of legality, 2. No clear and strict definition of what constitutes “membership” of a “terrorist gang or organization” also violate the principle, 3. Minimum period of detention of persons suspected to be involved in acts of terrorism extended to 30 days from 15 days and the maximum period of detention of such persons to 180 days from 90 days – already far beyond international standards, 4. Denial of bail to foreign nationals who may have entered the country in an unauthorised or illegal manner, except in very exceptional circumstances, also violates international human rights standard, 5. The requirement, in certain circumstances, of accused people to prove their innocence, is in violation of basic principle of universal criminal jurisprudence and natural justice.

Another new legislation has been passed constituting the National Investigating Agency which, inter alia, authorises special courts to close hearings to public without defining or limiting the grounds under which they may do so. This is also in violation of the due process principle.

While introducing the bill for amendment of the UAPA, the government took plea in the preamble of the bill that it is bound under several international instruments to combat terrorism specifically citing some select United Nations Security Council Resolutions such as1267 (1999), 1333 (2000), 1363 (2001), 1373 (2001), 1390 (2002), 1455 (2003), 1526 (2004), 1566 (2004), 1617 (2005), 1735 (2006) and 1822 (2008). But ignored the dictum of the resolution 1535 (2004) adopted by the Security Council at its 4936th meeting, on 26 March 2004 which reminded the “States that they must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, and should adopt such measures in accordance with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law”. More over, there are many international instruments acceded or ratified by India which put the state under obligation to adhere to the human rights norms in all its activities including counter terrorism.

When POTA was repealed by the government most of the resolutions cited were in existence. Citation of these resolution and invoking international obligations are nothing but taking recourse to false plea. A look into the jurisprudence of the united nations and regional organizations on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism would show the hypocrisy of the Indian State so far its invocation of the international obligations is concerned.

In this background the digest on terror jurisprudence complied by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights of the United Nations is a necessary tool for the human rights defenders, lawyers, academics, law-enforcement officials. law-makers, policy makers etc. The digest can be downloaded from here.

UN recommends repeal of AFSPA

June 4, 2012

The Working Group of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (HRC) on 30 May 2012 adopted the draft report on India’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Among their various recommendations, the 80 UN member states also recommended the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Power Act, 1958 (AFSPA).

UPR, a peer review process of human rights records of all UN member states, took place on May 24, 2012 in Geneva where India’s entire human rights record was examined thoroughly by other UN member states.

The government of India’s oral response during the UPR session was marked by a general lack of acceptance of human rights challenges in the country and a mere reiteration of domestic laws, policies and constitutional provisions. Eighty countries participated in India’s UPR and made a total of 169 recommendations on a whole range of critical human rights issues. Recommendations made to India include: prompt ratification of the UN convention against torture and the UN convention on enforced disappearances, repeal or review of the AFSPA, the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill, comprehensive reforms to address sexual violence and all acts of violence against women, improve human rights training to police officers, abolishing death penalty, banning all forms of child labour, etc. India declined to comment on any of these 169 recommendations at the HRC review meet.

The government of India decided to examine all the recommendations back in the capital and respond to them prior to the plenary session of the HRC in Geneva in September 2012, when it will take a stand on recommendations. Miloon Kothari, convener of Working Group on Human Rights (WGHR), said: “We look forward to a constructive response from India as it formulates responses to the many useful suggestions that are contained in the document adopted by the UN on May 30, 2012. These responses from India should be formulated after thorough consultations with the Parliament, human rights institutions, civil society and independent institutions”.

The WGHR is a platform of human rights groups and individual experts working with the UN human rights mechanism form India. The group took active part in the UPR process with a separate stakeholders’ report on human rights situation India that was prepared through consultations with several human rights organisation and independent experts. The Barak Human Rights Protection Committee also participated in the process.

NHRC to hear starvation deaths and rights violation cases in North East India

May 27, 2012


Guwahati, 27 May 2012: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will hear cases of human rights violations concerning Assam and Meghalaya including the cases of starvation deaths of the tea workers in Cachar district in camp sitting in Guwahati and Shillong from 28 May to 30 May 2012.

In the Assam sitting at North-Eastern Development Finance Corporation (NEDFi) house,G.S. Road, Guwahati on 28 May about 50 pending cases will be heard and disposed of. Alongside the hunger deaths in the Bhuvan valley tea estate, other important cases to be considered include land-grabbing and deprivation of sources of livelihood of 300 families who face eviction in Karimganj district, alleged eviction of about 6000 adivasis by forest officials from Lungsun forest area in Kokrajhar district, rehabilitation of children rendered orphan or destitute in communal riots in upper Assam districts, denial of basic facilities to the residents of 22 villages in Kamrup district, witch hunting, sexual exploitation of women, illegal coal mining in Tinsukia district, deaths in encounter and custody.

The starvation deaths case and the case of land-grabbing have been filed by the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC).

In the former case the BHRPC has alleged that so far 15 people died in the Bhuvan valley tea estate, a tea garden owned by a Kolkata-based private company, due to starvation, malnutrition and lack of proper health care since 8 October 2011.

In the case of land-grabbing it has been alleged that around 300 families of traditional forest dwellers in and around Patharia forest reserve in Karimganj district have forcibly been deprived of their sources of livelihood and now living under severe threat of imminent eviction from their dwelling houses by some businessmen who reportedly grabbed lands measuring approximately 130 hectares (330 acres) allegedly for rubber plantation in a village where the families of the forest dwellers have been living for generations depending on the forest produces for livelihood.

In both the cases the NHRC has already issued notices to the chief secretary ofAssamcalling for action taken reports.

In a release to the press the NHRC said that a delegation headed by its chairperson Mr. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and comprising of members, director general (nvestigation), registrar (law) and other senior officers will be in Guwahati, Assam from 28 to 29 May, 2012 and on 30 May, 2012 in Shillong, Meghalaya for its camp sittings.

The cases of Assam will be considered for disposal with necessary directions to the public authorities during the camp sitting at in NEDFi house. Out of the 50 cases, 17 cases will be heard at the full commission sitting chaired by Mr. Justice K G Balakrishnan. 12 cases will be taken up by the division bench comprising of Mr. Justice G.P. Mathur and Mr. P.C. Sharma. 21 cases will be taken up by the division bench comprising of Mr. Justice B.C. Patel and Mr. Satyabrata Pal.

The NHRC in the brief further stated that on 29 May, 2012 the commission will hold discussions with the chief secretary, district magistrates and concerned officers on the progress made by the state government on its recommendations relating to different human rights issues. These will include silicosis, mental health, manual scavenging, prison matters, labour issues, child marriage, prenatal sex selection, population policy etc. A meeting with local NGOs on human rights issues will also be held later in the day.

Cases relating to Meghalaya will be heard in the camp sitting at Hotel Pinewood, Shillong from on 30 May, 2012. The commission will take up nine pending cases, which will be heard by the full fommission and the two division benches respectively. These will include issues of child labour in coalmines, dead male foetus found in several parts in the state, deaths in police firing, torture of labourers at West Garo Hills by Border Security Force (BSF) personnel and ostracization of 17 families facing denial of food grains for 72 months.

In the afternoon session the commission will hold discussions, with senior officers on the progress made by the state government on its recommendations relating to different human rights issues. These issues will include mental health, 28 district programmes, labour issues, manual scavenging, child marriage, prenatal sex selection, population policy and custodial death cases among others.