Posts Tagged ‘Right to life’

56 years of AFSPA: Legalising Rule O’ Flaw

October 3, 2014

The 56 years of AFSPA has a deep impact upon the society of north east India that has now learnt to internalise militarisation and has negotiated life of arbitrariness under RULE O’ FLAW.

56 years of AFSPA: Legalising Rule O’ Flaw

By Anjuman Ara Begum

‘It was on the 11 September 1958 that the President of India signed the Act, and the same day 9/11 is observed as the anti-terrorism day world over, the struggle against state terrorism started on the same day for the inalienable civil, political and cultural rights of the peoples of Northeast India with the imposition of AFSPA 56 years ago…’. this was the reaction of civil society members gathered on September 11, 2014 at Guwahati to ‘celebrate’ the 56 years of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA, in short). AFSPA became law on September 11, 1958 after receiving assent of the president of India. It was promised to be a temporary measure. 56 years on, the Act is still in force despite several calls for its repeal and is still held strong by the armed forces an excuse for legalising repression and impunity calling it a ‘holly book’. Participating in the same gathering renowned human rights activist of the region Babloo Loitongbam, ‘if this is temporary measure then what it the meaning of permanent?’, a thought that provokes human conscience to rethink about AFSPA.

RULE OF LAW, a universally celebrated and adopted concept to counter arbitrariness and unreasonableness in law and practice. The concept dominates the law making process of today’s civilised and democratic countries. Soon after adopting a written constitution in 1950 with implicit guarantee of RULE OF LAW, the state of India continue to resort to repressive policies as well as practices. Following the colonial footsteps, the AFSP bill was passed in the parliament in August, 1958 after a brief seven hours debate. It was in the same year of 1958, India signed Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Geneva Conventions of 1948, Convention against Racial Discrimination and several others. State of India continued to reaffirm its commitment towards the protection and promotion of international human rights standards despite resorting to repressive policies and practices like AFSPA domestically.

Soon after becoming a law, AFSPA started concretising it’s existence. It’s application continued to be extended as well as it’s abuses. Needless to say that the Act has ‘normalised’ routine declaration of disturbed area, encouraged the practice of extrajudicial execution and reinforced the culture of impunity. Let’s us consider these three aspects.

Firstly, the extension ‘disturbed area’ status for north eastern states since 1955 has now attained the status of a mere routine administrative exercise. What constitute ‘disturbances’ is still not codified in legal literature. Even the judiciary ignored this aspect. In Naga People Movement for Human Rights vs. Union of India, AIR 1998 SC 431, it was simply said that the country understands what constructs a ‘disturbed area’. It was further decreed that there is no requirement that the Central Government shall consult the State Government before making the declaration. In fact, there are instances where state’s resolution against such declaration has been ignored. It is reported that Nagaland state assembly passed resolutions against the extension on four occasions and each time these resolutions have been ignored by the centre government. Tripura, a state often claimed as an example of successful counter insurgency measures still remained ‘disturbed’. Tripura hardly had any major armed encounter in recent years. Such back door declarations of emergency situation continued simultaneously when Government of India claimed internationally that there is no situation of armed conflict in the country.

Declaration of ‘disturbed area’ also means additional budget allocations. In a corrupt country like India, this aspect is important in the context of recurring extension of ‘disturbed area’ status. Parliament of India’s record suggests that the Government has been providing financial assistance. During the period of the year 2011- 2012 financial assistance was provided unde

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Supreme Court sets out guidelines to make police accountable for fake encounters

September 23, 2014

From THE CITIZEN

Supreme Court of Inda

Supreme Court of Inda

NEW DELHI: In an environment where fake encounters are increasingly rapidly, as are deaths in police custody, the Supreme Court has sought to restore a level of accountability by issuing a set of directives aimed at ensuring proper investigation and punitive action as and where necessary. In doing so it has sought to take away the power of trial and execution from the forces with the gun and bring it back into the courts and concerned institutions.

The court has directed the police to keep a record—in writing or electronic—of intelligence inputs received about terrorists before going after them, And if the encounter leads to death, the police will now have to file a FIR immediately and ensure a proper, independent enquiry by a valid source that was not involved in the operations.

A bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha has also said that the weapons used in the encounter should be surrendered for ballistic tests. Investigation into these encounters will now have to be investigated by the state criminal investigation department or officers from another area of jurisdiction and not by anyone involved in the raid as has often happened in the past.

The court has said that police bravery awards for such encounters should not be rushed into, and that a policeman’s bravery has to be proven before honours can be conferred on him. Several ‘encounter specialists’ as human rights activists describe them have received gallantry awards for the same in the past along with handsome financial rewards.

The court has also made it mandatory for the information of an encounter to be sent to the National Human Rights Commission along with a status report on the investigation undertaken, every six months.

The court also said that police bravery awards for such encounters should not be rushed into, and that a policeman’s bravery has to be proven before honours can be conferred on him. Several ‘encounter specialists’ as human rights activists describe them have received gallantry awards for the same.

The court has intervened following a Public Interest Litigation filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties’ (PUCL) which had said that officers should not be promoted or rewarded for encounter killings until investigations were complete, and that independent enquiries under independent agencies should be instituted. The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of the litigation except that it has made it clear that the National Human Rights Commission should not intervene unless it was absolutely necessary.

In ten years from 2002 till 2014 India reported 1788 encounter deaths although activists insist that the figures are fudged as the police and authorities do not admit to encounter killings in the first place, and hush up the matter more often than not. Even so the National Human Rights Commission taking cognisance of the official statistics found that the highest number of encounters had been reported from Uttar Pradesh, 743, followed by Assam, 273, Andhra Pradesh, 101 and Maharashtra 88. Despite the high profile encounter killings in Gujarat with several cases still in courts the statistics from this state are on the low side, registering just about 12 fake encounter deaths since 2002. The Ishrat Jahan encounter case is still facing trial in the courts. Delhi has a higher number, with 55 encounter deaths to its dubious credit with the Batla House encounter seen as a landmark in the capital’s history.

Human rights activists have been agitating constantly against encounter deaths and about the attitude of the police and state governments that look at these as “justified.” There is an unwritten policy justifying these with the tacit support of not just the police system, but also the politicians and the bureaucrats. Political pressure is seen as one of the causes behind fake encounters with state leaders and others having their own list of ‘criminals’ to be so eliminated by the police.

On the record all agree that fake encounters are “reprehensible” but little has been done at the level of the legislature and the executive to check this practice that has grown over the years. In insurgent prone areas like the Maoist belt, the north eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir these are accepted practice, and are seen as “instant justice” under which the army, police, paramilitary and of course the concerned governments have complete impunity.

This despite the fact that the judiciary sees this, as it has endorsed now, as legally impermissible. Chaman Lal and Savita Bhakhry, the two authors of a 2013 NHRC journal, said: “Fake encounters are considered an operational necessity, legally impermissible, but morally justified by most police personnel. Fake encounters are occurring with such sickening frequency that occasional reports of genuine encounters are viewed with suspicion.”

There is no place in the legal system for exceptions to the rule that everyone is honest until and unless proven guilty. Encounters allow the forces with the gun to become the dispensers of justice without a trial.

Read the full text of the order  here or here

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

Government must heed Manipur panel’s findings and end impunity for fake encounters

July 25, 2013

Government must heed Manipur panel’s findings and end impunity for fake encounters

24 July 2013

Amnesty International India
Bangalore at (080) 49388000
email: contact@amnesty.org.in

An independent panel set up by India’s Supreme Court to investigate six alleged extrajudicial executions in the northeastern state of Manipur has found damning evidence of impunity and abuse of special powers by security forces, resulting in widespread human rights violations.

The panel found that all seven deaths in the six cases they investigated were extrajudicial executions, and not deaths resulting from “encounters” where security forces claimed they had fired in self-defence against members of armed groups.

The panel also said that the continued operation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in Manipur has made “a mockery of the law,” and that security forces have been “transgressing the legal bounds for their counter-insurgency operations in the state of Manipur.”

The Supreme Court appointed the panel in January 2013 in response to a public interest litigation filed by a Manipur-based victims’ group and a local human rights organisation seeking investigation into 1,528 alleged extrajudicial executions committed in the state between 1979 and 2012.

The three-member panel,headed by retired Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde, was tasked to determine whether a sample of six cases raised by the petitioners were “fake encounters,” staged to cover up extrajudicial executions. The panel was also directed to analyze the functioning of the state police and security forces in Manipur.

The panel submitted its report to the Court on 4 April. The petitioners received a copy of the report on 15 July.

In its report, the panel said that none of the seven people killed in the cases it examined had any formal criminal charges against them. It stated that security forces appeared to have assumed that the seven individuals had to be eliminated and acted accordingly.

In one case, the panel noted that the victim suffered 16 bullet injuries shot at close range, indicating a clear disproportionate use of force. It said that the medical evidence in the case indicated that the security forces’ intentions were to kill the suspect, not disable and arrest. The panel said, “The incident in question is not an encounter, but an operation by the security forces wherein death of the victims was caused knowingly.”

In another case involving the killing of a 12 year-old boy, security personnel told the panel that they had fired in self-defence. The post-mortem report stated that the victim suffered four bullet injuries, all of which were potentially fat al, while none of the security forces were injured.

The panel concluded, “It is extremely difficult to believe that nearly 20 trained security personnel equipped with sophisticated weapons…could not have overpowered/disabled the victim.” It concluded that “the incident in which the deceased…was killed was not an encounter nor was he killed in exercise of the right of self-defence.”

The report also identified serious investigative lapses committed by investigators and persistent abuse of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). It called for all deaths resulting from encounters to be investigated by senior police officials, and for the Manipur Criminal Investigation Department to be “suitably strengthened” within six months to carry out such duties effectively. It also called for the cases to be monitored regularly by a committee chaired by the head of the state human rights commission, and tried by a special court.

Crucially, the panel pointed to the AFSPA as a key contributor to rights violations by security forces.

The report stated, “The continuous use of the AFSPA for decades in Manipur has evidently had little or no effect on the situation. On the other hand, the six cases, which have been shown to be not real encounters, are egregious examples of the AFSPA’s gross abuse.”

The panel echoed a statement made by the Jeevan Reddy Commission, another government committee formed to review the AFSPA in 2005, which said that the law had become “a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness.”

The panel’s report recorded how security forces in Manipur were disregarding procedural safeguards set out in Supreme Court rulings and Army directives to ensure that AFSPA powers were used with exceptional caution and with the minimum force necessary.

Moreover, the panel found no information to back the central government’s assertions to the Supreme Court that the use of AFSPA powers was being closely monitored. Rather, after repeated requests, they were told that there was no official record of basic information essential to such monitoring such as the number of civilians killed or injured by the police, army or other special forces in Manipur.

However, the panel stopped short of calling for the AFSPA’s repeal, and instead recommended that the law cease to operate in more parts of Manipur progressively.

Soldiers operating in areas where the AFSPA is in place cannot be prosecuted without the permission of the central government. Applications seeking permission to prosecute are almost always rejected, and sometimes remain pending for years. The panel recommended that the central government be given three months to respond to requests for prosecution, failing which it would be presumed to have granted permission to prosecute.

Amnesty International India welcomes the findings of the Supreme Court-appointed panel, but urges authorities to go beyond its recommendations and repeal the AFSPA in Manipur and elsewhere. The AFSPA has provided impunity for perpetrators of grave human rights violations for decades. Its continued operation in any form will allow human rights violations to continue.

In Manipur, impunity is endemic and authorities take little to no action to investigate and prosecute allegations of rights violations by security forces. A special investigation team comprising senior police officers from outside the state should be formed to conduct prompt and full investigations into all 1,528 cases of alleged extrajudicial executions brought before the Supreme Court by local groups.

Where sufficient admissible evidence is found, suspects – including those with command responsibility – should be prosecuted in fair and speedy trials meeting international standards in a civilian court, regardless of the time that has lapsed since the crime occurred. The families of the victims should receive adequate reparation, including compensation.

Amnesty International India urges both state and central authorities to heed the panel’s recommendations to bolster the Manipur police and Criminal Investigation Department in six months time in order to conduct thorough, impartial and effective investigations into all future cases of alleged extrajudicial executions in Manipur.

Authorities must apply procedures laid down by India’s National Human Rights Commission in cases of deaths caused in the course of police, army or other security personnel action, and follow the UN Principles and Manual on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.

The Government of India must also act on the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and set up a credible commission of inquiry intoextrajudicial executions throughout India.

Background

Impunity in cases of extrajudicial killings is a matter of grave concern in Manipur and some other parts of India. In his comments after visiting India in 2012, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christ of Heyns observed that “Impunity for extrajudicial executions is the central problem. This gives perpetrators a free rein, and leaves victims in a situation where they either are left helpless, or have to retaliate.”

The National Human Rights Commission has itself on occasion said “extrajudicial executions have become virtually a part of state policy.”

The AFSPA, which has been in force in parts of Northeastern India since 1958, and a virtually identical law (The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990) in force in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990, provide sweeping powers to soldiers, including the power to use lethal force against any person contravening laws or orders, and to prevent the assembly of five or more persons.

The law has provided impunity for perpetrators of grave human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, rape, torture and other ill-treatment, and excessive use of force.

The AFSPA falls far short of international standards, including provisions of treaties to which India is a state party, and is inconsistent with India’s international legal obligations to respect and protect the rights to life, liberty and security of person, to freedom from torture and other ill-treatment, and to an effective remedy.

Several UN bodies and experts, including the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, have stated that the AFSPA must be repealed.

A number of Indian bodies, including the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, the Jeevan Reddy Committee to review the AFSPA and the Prime Minister’s Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir, have also urged the repeal of the law. The Justice Verma Committee, set up to review laws against sexual assault, said in January 2013 that the AFSPA legitimized impunity for sexual violence.


* This Press Release was sent by Durga Nandini ( Amnesty International India) who can be contacted at Durga(dot)Nandini(at)amnesty(dot)org(dot)in
This PR was posted on July 24, 2013 .

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.

 

 

 

NHRC moved over harassment of activists in Assam

June 20, 2012

Guwahati, 20 June: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken up the case of intimidation of, and police high-handedness on, the members of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and other organisations for their protest against the on-going construction of the lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Power (LSHP) project in Lakhimpur district of Assam. Acting on a complaint filed by the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) the NHRC has a registered a case on the matter assigning case number 198/3/12/2012.

The BHRPC said in the complaint that the KMSS is a peoples’ organisation working for the realisation of democratic and constitutional rights of the people and for protection of the interest of the peasants in the state and claimed that the organisation and its members come within the ambit of the term human rights defender as understood in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders as well as NHRC Declaration on HRDs.

It was alleged that on May 11 2012, a team of police personnel attacked KMSS activists who were demonstrating peacefully at Ghagar in Lakhimpur district, and unleashed “inhuman atrocities” on them while at the time of filing the complaint 27 activists were also kept in detention and their makeshift camp at Ghagar in Lakhimpur district was dismantled by police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

It was also alleged that Lakhimpur district administration deployed around 300 special police officers to prevent activists from staging any protest which is, according to the BHRPC, a serious matter and in clear violations of the Supreme Court ruling in the Nandini Sundar and Others Vs. Union of India and Others.

The BHRPC urged the commission to take appropriate actions including 1. ensuring unconditional and immediate release of the members of the KMSS and other organisation who have been detained in connection with the protest against construction of the LSHP; 2. ensuring that the authorities and police allow the activists to stage peaceful protest against the construction including their stay in makeshift camps as the right to protest is a part of the right to freedom of expression; 3. ensuring initiation of legal actions against those members of both the state police force and the central reserve police force who will be found guilty by a prompt and objective investigation into the allegations of high-handedness against the activists; 4. recommending adequate reparation to the human rights defenders for physical and mental agony as well as financial loss caused due to police high-handedness; 5. ensuring security and safety of the human rights defenders and their families inAssamso as they can work in defence of human rights without fear of any reprisal; and 6. any other actions that is deemed appropriate to the Commission in the matter.

NHRC seeks report on extra-judicial killings in Manipur

June 6, 2012

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to the secretary, ministry of home affairs of the government of India, district magistrate and district superintendent of police of Ukhrul district of North East Indian state Manipur asking for a report on the alleged torture and the extrajudicial killing of three indigenous Meitei people in a staged encounter by the personnel belonging to 23rd Assam Rifles (AR) under the command of Major Hanuman near Maphou Dam, Nongdam village of Ukhrul.

After registering a case on a complaint filed by the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee based on the information received from Manipur based human rights organization Centre for Organisation Research & Education (CORE), the NHRC issued the notice.

The information provided by the CORE reveals that on 8 May 2012, Major Hanuman (then Captain) of 23rd Assam Rifles, a aramilitary force of the central government of India, approached and requested Mr Laishram Shyamkishore, 70 years old village elder of Tunukhong Awang Leikai, Imphal East District, Manipur, to persuade his son, Mr Laishram Nobin (alias Khuman) and his son’s friends to surrender themselves and live in peace. Shyamkishore considered the possibility and secretly made arrangements for his son to surrender himself before the state authorities. It was reported that, at the instruction and arrangement of Maj. Hanuman, Shyamkishore accompanied his son to the meeting place where Nobin was supposed to surrender himself. This meeting did not materialise.

On 9 May 2012 at 7.30am, Shyamkishore, his son and two friends met Maj. Hanuman at Hidalok, which was approximately half a kilometer away from the bus stop at Loupheng village near Maphou Dam under Litan Police Station. They were wearing track suits (civilian clothing). Shyamkishore witnessed the three men hand over an M-16 rifle, one Lethode gun, 50 live rounds of ammunition and three Lethode bombs as a symbol of formal surrender to the 23rd AR. Maj. Hanuman expressed happiness at their peaceful surrender and asked Shyamkishore to return home in peace and Shyamkishore returned home that same morning.

On 10 May 2012, local dailies reported that three underground suspects had been shot to death in an encounter with 23rd AR personnel. The conflict was stated to have lasted an hour and to have been near Chadong Tangkhul village under Litan Police Station around 11am. The 23rd AR personnel were reported to have found the three dead bodies in the aftermath of the encounter. The force also recovered an M-16 with a grenade launcher, magazine and 55 live rounds, one 9mm carbine, magazine with three live rounds, one Lethode gun with three rounds and one fire case, one carry bag and one ammunition pouch. The 23rd AR also issued a statement claiming the deceased had been active in and around Maphou Dam, engaging in extortion and deliberately interfering with the construction of the Dam. The three bodies were handed over to the Litan Police Station.

According to the information, Shyamkishore became suspicious and anxious when he received news of the “encounter”. He immediately went to the Regional Institute of Medical Science (RIMS) Imphal morgue and was shocked to discover the bodies of his son and the two other men he had convinced to surrender to the 23rd AR the previous day. He was further surprised to find that the bodies were not in the dress the three men had been in just the previous morning. Instead of the track suits (civilian clothing), the three men were fitted out in camouflage fatigues. An examination of the bodies further revealed evidence of severe torture. Mr Irengbam Roshan’s body had been badly mutilated; his genitals had been crudely removed. One of Mr Ningthoujam Ingocha’s eyeballs had also been gouged out.

Manipur

North east Indian state of Manipur

The CORE further stated that “Shyamkishore believed he was doing the right thing for the sake of the community, for justice and peace and for his son’s future when he reasoned with the three men to turn themselves in. He probably prevailed on them to do so out of their trust in and respect for Shyamkishore. The three men were ready to submit themselves to the law, to surrender also their weapons and to be held in custody; this also required respect for and immense faith in the judicial system. What was so particularly perverse was that Shyamkishore was instead unknowingly made complicit in his own son’s torture and murder, and the murder of his son’s friends. This utter betrayal by the very people who should be moral exemplars to civil society should trouble and grieve the Central Government over and beyond the dubious methods employed by the AR personnel, because the motivation, means and ends of law enforcement have been polluted by impunity and fear of such.”

After registering the complaint as case No. 66/14/13/2012-PF, the NHRC considered the matter on 24 May 2012 and passed an order saying “Transmit the complaint to Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India and DM and SP, Ukhrul district, Imphal calling for an action taken report within two weeks.”

 

6 June 2012

Guwahati, Assam

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.

Human Rights in India: Status Report 2012

June 3, 2012

Human Rights in India: Status Report 2012

This brief status report of human rights in India gives a general overview of the most critical human rights issues in India today. It has been drafted by the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR), a platform of some of Inida’s important human rights groups, as a background document to assist in the preparation of India’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that took place in Geneva on 24 May, 2012.

The UPR is a unique process conducted by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC), involving a review of the human rights record of all 192 UN Member States once every four and a half years.

The WGHR submitted a stakeholders’ report to Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) in November 2011. The present report is a more detailed and comprehensive version of WGHR’s stakeholders’ report that includes:

Information gathered from five regional and one national consultation held with civil society across India from August to October 2011;

Case studies that illustrate the text of the report;

WGHR’s initial response to the Government of India’s national report to the second UPR;

An up-to-date analysis of the status of implementation of the 18 recommendations made to India during the first UPR.

It is amply evident from the report that much remains to be done to improve the human rights situation inIndia. The scope of the UPR is enormous as it covers all recognised international human rights. If we take almost any of these human rights, the situation inIndiaremains challenging; yet the scope for improvement is immense. If the required positive changes are to take place, however, a radical change in national and regional actions by governments at all levels is necessary. The report highlights some of these required changes.

The opportunity offered byIndia’s second UPR at the HRC should not be underestimated. The clear direction that can emanate from the second UPR’s recommendations largely depend, however, on the approach adopted by the Indian delegation during the UPR in May 2012. We all look forward to a shift away from the defensive posture adopted byIndiain the first UPR to a constructive engagement with the HRC. Such an engagement can only prove fruitful if the deliberations during the UPR debate and the resulting recommendations are placed within the space of the recognition of human rights (through laws, policies, administrative actions and budgetary allocations) and their implementation.

We hope this report will contribute to such a debate at the HRC.Indiamust meet the human rights accountability challenge posed by the contents of its own Constitution and the international human rights instruments it had ratified. To meet this enormous challenge, nothing but a radical shift in economic, security and social policy is needed. It is hoped thatIndia’s second UPR will provide solid recommendations to make such a radical change possible, which is urgently required to reverse the adverse human rights situation faced by a significant part of the people ofIndia.

The Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC, though is not a formal member of the WGHR, participated in the preparation of the report. Dr Prasenjit Biswas and Mr Waliullah Ahmed Laskar took part in the North East regional consultation held in Shillong and the former represented the BHRPC in the national consultation in New Delhi. Along with reports on starvation deaths of tea labourers in Assam the BHRPC also provided inputs in other subjects.

The report can be downloaded from here and from the WGHR website.

Constructive engagement elusive at India’s Second UPR at the UN

May 31, 2012

India dodged recommendation for repeal of AFSPA

New Delhi, May 29, 2012 – India’s human rights record was reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) under the mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 24 May 2012 in Geneva. The review 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 by the Government of India (GoI). Regrettably, the answers of the government did not address critical issues related to gaps in implementation of laws and enjoyment of rights, with India’s Attorney General (who led the government delegation) stating in his opening address that, “India has the ability to self-correct”. According to Miloon Kothari, Convenor of the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR): “By employing a defensive and largely selfrighteous position at the HRC, GoI has, at least in its initial response at the HRC, once again lost the opportunity to constructively engage with the UN human rights system and in accepting the enormous human rights challenges it is faced with.”

Of the eighty countries which participated in India’s UPR – a peer-review process of the human rights record of all UN member states – many reiterated the recommendations made during India’s first UPR in 2008 to ratify the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) and the Convention against Enforced Disappearances (CED). GoI accepted both recommendations four years ago but they have remained unfulfilled. On the question of torture, GoI referred to the Prevention of Torture Bill (PTB), which is pending before Parliament, without commenting on the non-compliance of the PTB with CAT’s definition of torture. WGHR regrets that GoI left many questions unanswered, including desisting from commenting on the ratification of CED.

WGHR is also disturbed thatIndiadodged the recommendations for repeal and review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) by referring to the Supreme Court’s upholding of its constitutionality and by citing Army’s human rights cell as a redressal mechanism. Ms. Vrinda Grover, human rights lawyer and member of WGHR, expressed serious concerns at GoI’s misleading response to the HRC, which camouflaged the systematic impunity enjoyed by armed forces for human rights abuse in the Northeast of the country and Kashmir: “The refusal and reluctance of GoI to squarely address the issue of impunity under AFSPA, in spite of numerous recommendations by international bodies, government appointed committees and UN Special Rapporteurs is unacceptable in a country that proclaims to be the largest democracy in the world.”

Strong recommendations were made toIndiaon the need to impose a de jure moratorium on the death penalty. The government’s response, that simply cited its de facto policy of awarding death penalty in the ‘rarest of rare cases’, is also deeply unsatisfactory in light of statistics that show an increase in the number of death sentences awarded by the courts.

There were recurring concerns by many states on the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion and belief, anti-conversion laws and targeting of religious minorities. Surprisingly, while GoI has initiated a Communal Violence Bill to address the issue of violence against religious minorities, it expressed uncertainty before the HRC for the need for such a law. The Indian government’s insistence at the international level that existing laws and judicial decisions are sufficient to deal with egregious violations such as torture and attacks on religious minorities is very disappointing, when new laws on these issues are being debated at the national level.

On the multiple recommendations it received on the need to ratify the Optional Protocol (complaint mechanism) to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), India once again stated that its domestic legal remedies were adequate to address gender-based discrimination. Many states also recommended withdrawal of GoI’s reservation to Article 16 of CEDAW – which guarantees non-discrimination in all matters relating to marriage and family life – and emphasized the need to enact a comprehensive anti-discrimination law. WGHR deeply regrets the fact that GoI did not engage substantially with recommendations made on issues relating to women, including maternal mortality, prenatal sex selection, infanticide, sexual and gender-based violence, political participation of women, sexual harassment at the workplace, early/child marriage, harmful traditional practices, honour crimes, and trafficking.

Sadly, GoI failed to use the UPR as an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to bridge the gap between the law and the grim statistics on various forms of gender-based violence. Its tendency to rely upon domestic law repeatedly to explain the multiple challenges to the attainment of gender equality is disquieting, especially when access to justice remains a barrier for many, and several domestic laws are inconsistent with the universal standards on sex equality.

WGHR, however, welcomes GoI’s positive shift on the issue of homosexuality, which was raised by many countries. The government affirmed its support of the High Court of Delhi judgment decriminalizing homosexuality and stated that it would take a sensitive view of the matter that has been appealed in the Supreme Court.

The human rights of children received significant attention at the HRC. States repeatedly raised issues related to child mortality, child labour, child sexual abuse and trafficking. Many governments stressed the need for a reduction of the excessively high rates of maternal and child mortality and urged the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals in that regard. It was also recommended thatIndiaratify the Third Optional Protocol (establishing a communications procedure) to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A notable number of states also reiterated the need to ban all forms of child labour. The GoI stated that it was “fully conscious of issues pertaining to child labour” but that there was “no magic wand to address it”. This stand is oblivious to the fact that the legal scenario in the country has changed as being at school and not at work is now a fundamental right for all children from 6 to 14 backed by a powerful Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. The logical corollary of this change is for GoI to revisit its stand and amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act.

Given the scale of poverty and large-scale denial of socio-economic rights in India, the insufficient attention given to economic, social and cultural rights at the UPR – with the exception of health and education – was disturbing. WGHR hopes, however, that references by member states to the need for more attention to housing for low-income groups and reduction of slums; more focus on poverty alleviation; removal of rural and urban inequities; and improvement of access to water and sanitation, will be turned into recommendations by the HRC before the adoption of the outcome document on Wednesday 30 May, 2012

On the critical issue of the right to adequate and nutritious food, it is disturbing that GoI has dismissed the need to universalise the Public Distribution System, which operates on the basis of an unrealistic poverty line and excludes genuinely poor rural households due to targeting errors, corruption, inefficiency and discrimination in distribution. GoI has also failed to respond to concerns about the rights of peasants and farmers, the issue of unprecedented numbers of farmers’ suicides and the endemic malnourishment that still persists in the country, as recently acknowledged by the Prime Minister himself.

Overall, WGHR regrets that GoI desisted from responding to most of the substantial comments, questions and recommendations by states. According to Miloon Kothari: “It remains to be seen whether GoI will take a constructive view and accept the many recommendations it will receive from the Human Rights Council on 30 May and engage in a genuine dialogue, including cooperation, with the UN between the second and third UPR. The opportunity also still exists, prior to the final adoption ofIndia’s report in September 2012, for GoI to begin a process of serious consultations with civil society and independent actors – including human rights institutions – at home. It is only when such steps, consistent with a democratic mode of governance, are taken that the UN will be convinced that GoI is serious about fostering an atmosphere that will contribute to an improvement in the adverse human rights situation on the ground.” 

For more information, contact:

 Miloon Kothari, Convenor, Working Group on Human Rights inIndiaand the UN (WGHR) phone (Geneva): +41 792020679; email: miloon.kothari@gmail.com

 Vrinda Grover, Lawyer – phone: +91 9810806181; email: vrindagrover@gmail.com

 Madhu Mehra, Director, Partners for Law in Development (PLD) phone: +91 9810737686; email: programmes@pldindia.org

[The Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN – a national coalition of fourteen human rights organizations and independent experts – works towards the realisation of all civil, cultural, economic, political and social human rights in India, and towards holding the Indian government accountable to its national and international human rights obligations. For information on WGHR, please visit: http://www.wghr.org]

See the original statement here.