Posts Tagged ‘Violence’

Assam: Heal thy injuries in/ of Bodoland

August 10, 2012

Dr. Prasenjit Biswas*

In the fragmented imagination of a homeland in ethnic territories of Assam, comparatively later migrants are perceived and portrayed as a demographic threat. The issue is whether a majoritarian ethnic ownership over land and territory need to portray the presence of migrants as necessarily illegal. The issue keeps the ethnic pots boiling much after there is a cut-off criterion is drawn out in Assam Accord, 1985 as well as in the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) Accord, 2003. Both these accords emphasized on the protection and preservation of Assam’s indigenous communities against any endangerment; demographic, loss of land to ‘outsiders’ and ‘foreigners’ and above all, assured political power to the governing elites of the indigenous communities. Such Statist concession made middle class Assamese and Bodo Indigenous nationalism aim at a greater share over power and resources by way of protective discrimination and by going to the extent of denial of legitimate package of rights of others. Such significant others include immediate neighbours: Santhals and Minority Bengali Muslims both clubbed as illegitimate migrants in indigenous land, who have to face a continuous othering in the domains of politics, culture and even in employment.

Photo: samaylive.com

Photo: samaylive.com

The logic advanced for the illegitimacy of immigrants’ rights extends from their being latecomers to attribution of conscious demographic invasion by them to a paradoxical exclusivist claim over certain powers and resources with its corresponding denial to any claims-making by the ethnically different and the immigrants only produce irreconcilable fragmentation. Right now three out of four Bodoland Territorial Areas Districts and its adjoining minority dominated Dhubri district are in a state of bloodletting, communal killings and massive displacement of population. Vulnerable segments of both the Bodo and the Bengali Muslim communities are physically and emotionally brutalized, many are internally displaced and many see no hope of ending ethnic hatred and competitive barbs of aggression and victimization. Apparently conflicting members of both the sides are now caught on the point of no return and as long as they cannot return to their homes, the fear of the other could be given a xenophobic hall-of-mirror effect. The fear that indigenous Bodos are outnumbered and endangered cannot be pathologized without keeping the vulnerable indigenous masses in camps. Similarly, for keeping the Bengali Muslims in a pathological state, recurrent incidents of violence would completely demoralize and uproot them from whatever little legitimacy they enjoyed in the shared lived space with Bodos.

Magnification of such fear among the displaced by demonizing them as untrusworthy and treacherous will create a further divisive and communally charged politics and culture of survivorship. Drawing a thick line between survivors of Bodoland clashes with ineffective political and economic rights is an extra-Constitutional means , which is supposed to serve unrestrained group rights. Such a feeling is expressed by some Bodo leaders when they say those who live in Bodoland must accept the leadership of the Bodos, an exercise of dominant identity-based leadership. Indeed such a leadership has been accepted by all the non-Bodos with some amount of reservation. The bone of contention between the Bodo leadership and the Bengali Muslim leadership in presenting the number of camp dwellers assumed a shrill denial of the proportion of displacement by calling it an attempt to rehabilitate those who are not genuine victims from Bodoland area.

If victims lose genuine-ity just because they are displaced and are living in camps in adjoining places such as Dhubri, Bilasipara or Bongaigaon, isn’t the ethnic hatred marring the way of restoration of justice, honour and peace for the victims? Denial of the rights of the internally displaced Bengali Muslim populace in terms of the right to return by targeting them by selective armed violence is totally unacceptable by any human rights standards. The core value of shared citizenship, then, stands completely negated.

Photo: Thehindu.com

Photo: Thehindu.com

Some amount of counter-violence from the victims in such a troubled situation can fuel greater violence and displacement. Indeed varying degrees of such counter-violence, starting from mob killing of four gun wielding Bodo attackers to burning down of Bodo homes in areas dominated by Muslim Bengalis certainly alienated a large scetion of Bodos from Bengali Muslims. Further, such counter-violence created a great opportunity for ex-militants to wield their might, whom the government so far could not tackle with its local police and central paramilitary forces. Such targeted unrestrained attacks on Muslim Bengalis have gone much beyond retribution and retaliation now. Holding on illegal deposit of arms to target victims is another trait of ethnic supremacy apart from legitimate hold over power and resources. BTAD conflict shows the uncanny power of holding small arms and their use in securing advantage in an unequal hit back campaign against the immigrants.

Obviously winners take it all. If land is major concern then occupying land vacated by Muslim villagers and the use of arms in displacing them reveal high profile pecuniary interest of land grab. While one is concerned about saving the tribal land and probably would like to see full land rights under Sixth Schedule be restituted to Bodos, can one agree with the perverse and diabolic designs of land grab by displacing a victim of violence under the pretext of securing land rights for the indigenous? One of the Assam legislative assembly members alleged that demolition work is going on in those plots where burnt down houses of immigrants stand. Are we going to see high-rises in those waving paddy fields, which ironically this year would only reap the harvest of ethnic clashes and no rice of togetherness for Bodos and immigrants.

When does affirmation of group rights under protective discrimination become a license to deny neighbour’s basic human rights, especially in creating adverse conditions of loss of dignity and infliction of humiliation? Group rights based on territoriality, descent and origin cannot form a basis of denial of citizenship rights of the riot displaced vulnerable population of a certain ethnic and religious origin, just because they are not us.

Photo: thenational.ae

Photo: thenational.ae

From the point of view of the displaced victim, the Other is the aggressor and if the victim could be dubbed as an encroacher, it makes them soft targets without any claim to justice and rights even when their rights are flagrantly violated. Those who uphold rights of indigenous groups cannot be disrespectful of the right to life and dignity of even the non-citizen. The question of greater privilege enjoyed by immigrants does not arise as such a situation is completely counter-intuitive with some exception of some prosperous individuals from non-indigenous social groups. Although none of the displaced victims from both Bodo indigenous and immigrant community dare to think of any comparative post-riot advantage to follow from such differential treatment, yet the misconception of a forced eviction of the immigrant is growing in the name of ensuring land rights to Bodos.

By adopting a language-game of difference and othering in the discourse of indigenous rights, greater the offensive against the Other, the greater is the use of mendacity: as if one is experimenting with the possibility of greater victimization going beyond camps, deportation and other non-humanitarian and yet legal means- as if a ranging lawlessness is instituted within the apparatus of the law, as if violence is the law. In such a situation justice for the violated is never an issue, the only issue is Lebensraum for an ethnic homeland. More seriously, is the political and cultural imagination of a separate Bodoland fitting into the notion of a unified Assam? Or Assam’s unequal, asymmetric and uneven ethnic plurality needs to reduce itself to enclaves of ghettoized homogeneity, xenophobia and sameness of identity? Can’t the identity be plural and deterritorialized and can’t it accept an outside political and cultural space that is different from itself? There could be two specific reasons for not accepting such a doctrinaire pluralism: one that the majority, if there is any, is yet not ready to accept that there are others and two, Others are unacceptable because they would demand their legitimate share from what one thinks as one’s sole privilege. Such is the blind, almost bordering on hatred campaign against those who have been there for three generations in today’s Bodo areas. When the constitutional means are available to ensure protective discrimination in terms of full political power with the Bodo community, where is the fear?

Photo courtesy: Jagaran.com

Photo courtesy: Jagaran.com

So, Indian Muslims are termed as Bangladeshis with a motive to undermine them. Let a single person killed be proven as a Bangladeshi. Non-Indigenous people in Bodoland are not Bangladeshis, as they have not migrated there after constitution of BTAD. The BTAD was constituted and Bodo leadership accepted the presence of this segment of people and they got also elected by their votes in assembly and parliament. One can understand the apparent rage that was generated after killing of four Bodo ex-cadres of the Bodo Liberation Tigers, erstwhile Bodo armed outfit. Isn’t it possible to understand each other’s agony and pain without taking resort to hatred and violence?

What could be achievements of killing innocent victims? Can we break away from a process of ethnic co-existence and reciprocity just because there are few cases of violence? Can we sacrifice the sense of belonging together? Drawing a line between genuine Indian citizens and illegal immigrants became a provocation to such breakdown of ethnic relations. It is the job of the State, to uphold the rule of law and prevent any attempt to assume due process of law in one’s hand. Quite like the Gujarat riots of 2002, the state machinery is still not able to intervene effectively in terms of restoring confidence in the displaced people. The irresponsible and mindless acts of violence against defenceless indigenous and migrants propelled by violence-countre-violence vicious cycle can only turn Bodoland into a disturbed area and there’s no gainsaying that human security will be its worst fall out.

* The writer is Director, Research, Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), Silchar, Assam.

Advertisements

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.

 

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.

Indian reserve battalion soldiers assault a physician in Assam

April 2, 2012

A convoy of soldiers belonging to 22 Indian Reserve Battalion stationed at Kadamtala camp in Jiribam of Manipur state assaulted a physician at Jirighat market in Cachar district of Assam state on 29 March 2012 causing injuries and mental trauma. The incident led a scuffle between the local people and the soldiers causing some more injuries and a lot of fear and anxiety. The local people later blocked the53 National Highway(NH) forcing the police officers in both the districts to come over to the spot and take control of the situation. No complaint has been registered by the police against the soldiers and the victim is very concerned about his and his family members’ safety and security.

According to the information, the physician Mr. Dulal Biswas (age about 43, son of late N L Biswas) is a resident of Jirighat town under the Jirighat police station (PS) in the district of Cachar. Jirighat is a small town falling in the border ofAssamwith Manipur state. A tributary of the river Barak called Jiri separates Manipur fromAssamhere. On the other bank of the river falls Jiribam town in the Imphal West district of Manipur. Mr. Biswas is a registered medical practitioner and has been practicing medicines for some years. He runs his own private dispensary at Jirighat. He is a very respectable person in the town.

On 29 March he went to the market as usual to buy household stuffs and some vegetables at about 8am in the morning. He was riding a motor bike. Things went wrong when he was crossing the road after two Bolero cars passed him. He had to stop in the middle of the road as the Bolero car ahead of him stopped suddenly. But another Bolero car collided with the bike powerfully from behind. Though Mr Biswas fell down with the bike he did not sustain much injury. After he got up he demanded from the driver of the colliding car an explanation as to why he was driving so rashly in the market place. After exchange of a few words the driver got down from the car brandishing a stick. Some other soldiers in uniform also came out with their guns in hands. One of them put the pointed gun on the chest of Mr. Biswas and others punched and kicked him incessantly for a while. At that time some other soldiers who were buying alcohols from a nearby shop started shouting and hurling verbal abuses at Mr. Biswas and other people. It is these soldiers who suddenly stopped their car ahead of Mr Biswas’ bike and partially responsible for the accident. When they rushed towards Mr. Biswas many other people in the market started running, some to other directions but many towards the spot. It caused a great commotion and confusion and helped Mr. Biwas to go away. Although such disturbances by the military and para-military personnel at public places is a part of life in this part of the country, a section of the public lost their cool and tried to gherao the soldiers. When soldiers threatened to open fire the people started pelting stones here and there missing targets. The stones touched none. On the other hand, it facilitated escape of the soldiers.

Fearing retaliation from the IRB the people decided to seek permanent solution of such disturbances that has become a part of their lives through peaceful means. They blocked the NH 53 that connects Cachar district administrative headquarters Silchar with Imphal, the capital of Manipur. At this point, the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Jirighat PS Mr S C Kaman came out and tried to persuade the people to disperse. However, people demanded talk with the authorities from Manipur as the battalion was stationed in that state. Accordingly he informed administration of Jiribam sub-division. A team led by OC of Jiribam PS Mr L Khagen Singh, an officer of Manipur police commando Mr O K Yumnam and another officer of crime investigation department (CID) of Manipur police was sent from Jiribam. At the arrival of the Manipur delegation the blockade that lasted only half an hour from 9am to 9.30am was lifted to hold talk. As a result of the talk that was held at the office of the local village defence party (VDP) the officers who came from Manipur apologized to Mr Biwas and the public on behalf of the assaulting soldiers. They also promised that some money would be paid to Mr Biswas for repairing his bike and such incident would never be repeated again; but it was on the conditions that Mr Biswas or the people should not complain to any authorities and courts.

Mr Biswas’ bikes’ registration number was AS 11 F 2993 and one of the cars of soldiers borne the registration number MN 02 A 4695.

It is learnt that the soldiers belong to 22 IRB stationed at Kadamtala under Jiribam PS in Manipur. They were returning from Kumbhirgram airport in Silchar where they went escorting Mr Chartolien Amo, member of Manipur legislative assembly (MLA) from Churachandpur constituency.

The local people told the BHRPC that they did not believe the promises made in order to lift the blockade as it came with veiled threats that the victim should not seek redress. Mr. Biswas appeared mentally traumatised and talking incoherently. He was very concerned. The physical injuries that were caused to his body by punching and kicking were by no means negligible, though it appeared lesser than the wound he sustained at his heart by being humiliated at the marked place in front of so many people who revered him so much. He was very concerned that the soldiers may harm his family, particularly his two young children, aged about 7 years and 10 years and were studying at class II and V respectively. He kept repeating that his two kids had to go to school and that is why he did not want to talk with reporters and human rights defenders.

It is clear that the soldiers, prima facie, committed many offences including the crime of attempt to murder and crime against public peace and tranquillity and violations of the right to life with dignity and security of person as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India and many international human rights instruments to which India is a state party.

The police officers also violated his right to seek truth, justice and reparation in case of violations of any rights recognised by either the Indian domestic laws including the constitution or the international human rights laws by not registering a first information report (FIR) and trying to hush it up. The right to truth, justice and reparation is also guaranteed under the constitution as well as many international instruments.

The BHRPC sent a complaint on 2 April to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other authorities including the prime minister of India, chief ministers of both Assam and Manipur, union ministers for home affairs and defence expressing concern over the safety and security of the victim, his family and particularly his school going kids and other witnesses and urged them to take appropriate actions to ensure their physical and psychological integrity and safety, a prompt and impartial inquiry/investigation and registration of first information report (FIR) leading to truth, adequate reparation to the victims and prosecution of the alleged perpetrators in accordance with the criminal law of the land and universally recognised rules of criminal jurisprudence and other appropriate measures to ensure that such incident does not recur in the future.

2 April 2012

Guwahti-6,Assam

For further information please contact:

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

wali.laskar@gmail.com

+91 94019 42234

Submission of BHRPC to the UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions

March 28, 2012

The few representative cases submitted here clearly show the abysmal state of lawlessness which people live in.  Life here is virtually “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” (as was claimed by Thomas Hobbes in his The Leviathan) for some people, particularly those who belong to the vulnerable groups such as minority communities, working class.

The alleged perpetrators in some of the cases belong to the armed forces ofIndiawhether regular military or para-military operating invariably under the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958. The Act empowers members of the armed forces to use lethal force against civilians even to the causing of death on mere suspicion that they may act in breach of any law or any order along with the power to enter into any doweling places by breaking their entrance and search and seize anything without warrant and arrest any person without warrant and keep the arrestees in custody for unspecified times without charge in the valley along with the rest of Assam and parts of some other North East Indian states and Jammu and Kashmir. The AFSPA also places the army above the law, constitution and judiciary for acts claimed to be done under the Act by barring institution of prosecution, suits or any judicial procedure in any court inIndia.

Some other cases of extra-judicial execution noted above were perpetrated by the state police who operate under a state version of the AFSPA titled the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955. Along with these special security laws with draconian provisions and laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the regular law that governs the policing in Assam is the Assam Police Act, 2007, which was enacted apparently to comply with the requirements of the directives issued by the Supreme Court of India in Prakash Singh and Others vs. Union of India (also known as the police reform case), in essence conform more with the colonial-era Police Act of 1861. The colonial police law was not aimed to provide democratic policing. It meant to create a repressive force subservient to ruling class and devoid of any accountability to the law and people.

After decades of public pressure, lack of political will and continued poor policing, a police reform process is finally underway inIndiaas the apex court stepped in. On 22 September 2006, the Supreme Court delivered a historic judgment in Prakash Singh and Others vs. Union of India and Others instructing central and state governments to comply with a set of seven directives laying down practical mechanisms to kick-start reform.

The directives were aimed to ensure functional autonomy of the police and their accountability to the law. For ensuring functional autonomy the Supreme Court directed 1. to establish a State Security Commission to i. ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police; lay down broad policy guidelines aimed at promoting efficient, effective, responsive and accountable policing, in accordance with the law; give directions for the performance of the preventive tasks and service oriented functions of the police; evaluate the performance of the state police and prepare a report on police performance to be placed before the state legislature.

2. The second directive was aimed at ensuring fair selection of Director General of Police (DGP) and guarantee of his tenure.

3. Security of tenure is similarly important for other police officers on operational duties in the field. In order to help them withstand undue political interference, have time to properly understand the needs of their jurisdictions and do justice to their jobs, the Supreme Court provides for a minimum tenure of two years for the following categories of officers:           – Inspector General of Police (in charge of a Zone)

– Deputy Inspector General of Police (in charge of a Range)

– Superintendent of Police (in charge of a District)

– Station House Officer (in charge of a Police Station)

4. To counter the prevailing practice of subjective appointments, transfers and promotions, the Supreme Court provides for the creation of a Police Establishment Board. In effect, the Board brings these crucial service related matters largely under police control. Notably, a trend in international best practice is that government has a role in appointing and managing senior police leadership, but service related matters of other ranks remain internal matters. Experience inIndiashows that this statutory demarcation is absolutely required in order to decrease corruption and undue patronage, given the prevailing illegitimate political interference in decisions regarding police appointments, transfers and promotions.

5. the Supreme Court directed the Central Government to establish a National Security Commission for Central Police Organisations and Central Cara-Military Forces.

For ensuring accountability the Supreme Court directed the governments to set up:

6. Police Complaints Authority and

7. To separate investigation and law and order function of police.

The Commonwealth Initiative for Human Rights (CHRI), a regional human rights organization which was also one of the interveners in the Prakash Shingh case, after an analysis of the newly enacted Assam Police Act says that the Act only partially complies with the directives:

State Security Commission was established but the composition is not as per the Supreme Court directive. The Act has also weakened the mandate of the commission and has made its recommendation non-binding.

The second directive regarding selection process of the DGP and guarantee of his tenure not complied.

Directive regarding guarantee of tenure of the police officers on the field are also not complied. Only one year of tenure is guaranteed to the Superintendent of Police in charge of a district and Officer-in-Charge of a police station with vague grounds for premature removal.

Police Establishment Board was set up but the mandate was not adhered to. DGP has also been given the power to transfer any officer up to the rank of Inspector “as deemed appropriate to meet any contingency”, contrary to the directive.

The Central Government did not establish National Security Commission in utter contempt of the judgment.

The Assam Police Act, 2007 establishes Police Accountability Commission to enquire into public complaints supported by sworn statement against the police personnel for serious misconduct and perform such other functions. But the Chairperson and members of the Commission are appointed directly by the government. This can, at best, be called partial compliance.

Half hearted attempts can also be seen regarding separation of investigation from law and order function of the police. Special Crime Investigation Unit has been set up in urban police stations but there is no specific section on separation of between law and order and crime investigation.

This deliberate attempt to bypass the Supreme Court directives prompted the petitioner in the case formerAssamdirector-general of police Prakash Singh to describe the Assam Police Act, 2007, as a fraud on the people of the state. He was speaking at a seminar  jointly organised by the commission and the Assam State Legal Services Authority at theAssamAdministrativeStaffCollege, Guwahati. According to him, the government had violated the letter and spirit of the apex court guidelines by passing the act without conforming to these guidelines.

The Act needs drastic amendment to be brought in conformity with the Supreme Court guidelines and to be compatible with International Human Rights Standards. More importantly the role of the police needs to be redefined “taking into account the emerging challenges of policing and security of the State, the imperatives of good governance, and respect for human rights”.

The cases cited also highlight another huge challenge to the civil and political rights inAssamwhich is non-adherence and non-implementation of laws and other instruments that are meant to protect such rights. The Supreme Court guidelines in DK Basu case, and NHRPC guidelines regarding arrest, custodial deaths have the potential to drastically reduce the number of extra-judicial executions if implemented properly. The DK Basu guidelines are only implemented in papers. In rural police stations the guidelines are not even hung in a language eligible to the public at a conspicuous place.

It may be noted that in many of the cases mentioned no magisterial inquiry was conducted in contravention of the statutory mandate of section 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. In the cases where such inquiries are conducted the magistrates employed were not judicial ones as is mandate of the law. Although even the executive magistrates when found in their inquiries the guilt of the accused police personnel established beyond doubt, neither prosecution has been started nor has any compensation been provided to the kin of the deceased. Apart from legal immunity provided by security legislations such as the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958, the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955 there is a regime of de facto impunity guaranteed to the violators which is responsible for the increase of the cases of extrajudicial killings.

To continue reading please click here

BHRPC submits cases of extra-judicial executions in Barak valley to the Special Rapporteur

March 28, 2012

Guwahati, 28 March: “Ours is a case of doing works of police by the army and using the regular state police by ruling politicians as their personal army” said Waliullah Ahmed Laskar during his oral presentation at the North Eastern regional briefing to the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions held today here at Ashoka Brahmaputra hotel. Mr. Laskar, director of law and legal affairs of the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) added, “although there are no terrorist activities and any home grown insurgent groups in Barak valley that can pose a threat to the national integrity and security the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 is in force in the valley along with the rest of Assam and parts of some other North East Indian states and Jammu and Kashmir. The Act empowers the army personnel to use lethal force against civilians even to the causing of death on mere suspicion that they may act in breach of any law or any order along with the power to enter into any doweling places by breaking their entrance and search and seize anything without warrant and arrest any person without warrant and keep the arrestees in custody for unspecified times without charge. The AFSPA also places the army above the law, constitution and judiciary for acts claimed to be done under the Act by barring institution of prosecution, suits or any judicial procedure in any court inIndia.” He further added that the state police also operate under a similar draconian law called the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955 and showed how the Assam Police Act, 2007 is a fraud on the people as well as on the Supreme Court of India in so far as it claims to conform with requirements of directives issued by the supreme court in Prakash Singh and others Vs. Union of India and others.

He also submitted a report to the special rapporteur professor Christof Heyns, who is on a fact-finding mission inIndiafrom 19 March to 30 March, containing cases of extra-judicial or arbitrary killing of innocent people both by the state police and armed forces of the central government. Cases that were submitted include 1. killing of one Islamul Hoque Choudhury (of Sonai, Cachar) by police because he became to threat to them as he witnessed how they tortured another person to death, 2 extra-judicial killing of Hashmat Ali (Kalain, Cachar) by police after being bribed by another person to teach him a lesson, 3. death of Motahir Ali (Kalain, Cachar) caused by torture in police custody as his family could not pay the amount of bribe demanded by the police for his release, 4. death of Mr. Moyfor Raja (Katlicherra, Hailakandi) in police custody due to torture, 5. fake encounter killing of Jamir Uddin (Katlicherra, Hailakandi) by central reserve police force personnel, 6. death of Iskandar Ali (Dholai, Cachar) caused by indiscriminate firing of  CRF personnel at a market place, 7. killing of a car driver by police apparently for speeding and 8. extra-judicial execution of Iqbal Hussain Laskar (Algapur, Hailakandi) by army after they picked him up and some other cases.

The BHRPC urged the special rapporteur to recommend to the authorities inIndiato 1. to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958; 2. to repeal the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955; 3. to make the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 compatible with international human rights standards by amending the Act; 4. to bring the Assam Police Act, 2007 in conformity with the directives of the Supreme Court of India through amendment; 5. to amend the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 to extend the jurisdiction of both the state and national human rights commissions to conduct independent inquiries into cases of alleged human rights violations by the armed forces and to lengthen the limitation period of one year to five years; 6. to constitute an independent commission headed by a retired chief justice of a high court or the supreme eligible to be appointed as the chief justice of India with adequate numbers of members from the civil society to conduct time-bound inquiries into all allegations of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions leading to the initiation of prosecution and provision of adequate reparation; 7. to constitute special courts to conduct trial of all cases of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions under direct monitoring of the Supreme Court of India; and others.

At the meet presided over by Justice W A Shishak, former chief justice of the Chhattisgarh high court, Mr Babloo Loitongbam of Human Rights Alert (Manipur), Ms. Bubumoni Goswami, chairperson of the Manabadhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS, Assam), Ms Rosanna Lyngdoh of the Impulse NGO Network (Mehgalaya), Taring Mama of the Association for Civil Rights (Arunachal Pradesh), Neingulo Krome of the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (Nagaland), Anthony Debbarma of the Borok Peoples Human Rights Organisation (Tripura) and others also made both oral and written submissions.

The special rapporteur who is accompanied by the UN human rights officer Irina Tabirta and other staff said in his concluding remark that he was thankful to the government of India for extending invitation to his mandate to the country and he assured the participants that he would take up the issues raised here with the government of India and is going to have a press conference in Delhi on 30 March where he would share his preliminary recommendations. He is expected to submit his report on the situation of extra-judicial execution inIndiato the UN human rights council and the General Assembly of the UN at the end of this year.  (Submission of BHRPC to the SR on Summary Execution)

Neharul Ahmed Mazumder

Secretary General,

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee

Forest dwellers deprived of livelihood and facing forcible eviction in Assam

March 22, 2012

Summary of BHRPC fact-finding report into the Patharia land-grabbing case[1]

Introduction:

The Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) has learnt that around 300 families of traditional forest dwellers in and around Patharia forest reserve in Karimganj district of the North East Indian state of Assam 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 allegedly in connivance with the local politician Minister of state for co-operation and border areas development in the government of Assam Mr Siddeque Ahmed. The accused persons grabbed the land measuring approximately 130 hectares (330 acres) reportedly 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. The forest dwellers were asked to leave the areas soon and threatened with murders, rape and jail. The BHRPC is deeply concerned over the situation of the poor forest dwellers.

The BHRPC first learnt about the situation from newspaper reports (See 14 March, 2012 issue of the Dainik Prantojyoti, a Bengali daily newspaper published from Silchar, Assam) on 14 March, 2012 and formed a fact-finding group of 1. Mr. Neharul Ahmed Mazumder, 2. Mr. Sadique Mohammed Laskar, 3. Mr. Nirmal Kumar Das and 4. Mr. Sams Uddin Laskar to study the situation and prepare a report. The team visited the Patharia area on 17 March and met with the forest dwellers and other local people. This preliminary report is based on the findings of the team during the visit.

The area where the situation has developed is known as Satkoragul, Mokkergul and Bhitorgul and falls in the village of Pecharpar under the Patharkandi Police Stattion in the district of Karimganj that has about 100 kilometres long international border with Bangladesh. The village is situated along the border. A part of the village land comes under the Bilbari forest beat of the Patharia reserve forest. It is at a distance of about 30km towards south west from Karimganj town, the administrative headquarters of the district.

Facts on the Ground:

Logs and roots of feeled trees in a hillock at the village

Logs and roots of feeled trees in a hillock at the village

The BHRPC team, even though accompanied by a resident of nearby Patharkandi (name withheld), have been greeted with an eerie silence. Fear and disbelief were visibly writ large in the faces of the people. When the team met a person after entering the village and asked about the situation, another person came out running from a house and told that nothing happened there. With fear and terror-stricken face he told that there was no land grab and threat of eviction. Then the team met a woman resident (name withheld) who took them to her house. The team were aware that many people gathered around her house and were whispering trying to remain unseen and unheard. They suddenly came out looking agitated. They asked if the BHRPC team were ‘people of the minister’. After the team introduced themselves as human rights defenders and explained the purpose of the visit they calmed down and told their story one by one.

The team met around 30 persons of 18 families of the forest dwellers (names withheld). It is learnt from the villagers that they have been living in the area for generations and at the least for more than 75 years using approximately 130 hectares (330 acres) land for both dwelling and livelihood purposes. Almost all of the residents are Bengalis; either Hindus or Muslims by religion. It is very heartening to see that both the communities have been leading a simple and idyllic life in perfect harmony with each other on the one hand and with the nature on the other. Religion does not come in their sense of communitarianism.

According to them, a part of the land held by them for generations comes under the Patharia reserve forest, another part is government khas land (un-allotted government land) and the remaining part is farag land (land once held by the (Zamindars) feudal lords but later given to the tenants under contract). The villagers primarily live on forest produces, farming of cultivable land and cattle rearing. Among the forest produces, they usually only collect dried up and felled branches of trees and sell them as fire woods, which does not affect the forest in any way. In arable land they grow paddy, ginger, turmeric, taro along with growing bamboo and betel nut tress in high land.  They also rear hen, duck, goat, cow and buffalo etc. in the forest land for livelihood support.

According to the villagers, some people started to fell trees in the forest land falling under Pecharpar village in November, 2011. When the villagers inquired why they were felling the trees, they were told that the tree cutters were ‘people of minister’ Siddeque Ahmed and he bought the land from the forest department for rubber plantation. This piece of news shocked and terrified the villagers so much that they could not decide the course of actions for months. The labourers employed for felling the trees were supervised by one Mr Mahibur Rahman (also known as Bolu Mia) of Choudhury Tilla, a person known to be close to the minister and dreaded by the local people, according to the villagers. The villagers also did not have any idea how much land would be grabbed in this way. They kept mum as they were asked.

Log of a tree cut down in the village

Log of a tree cut down in the village

Meanwhile, the tree cutters continued their work and almost all of the land held by the villagers were cleared within about a month. They felled almost all the big trees and burnt down small trees, vegetables, bushes and grass. This clearing of the land destroyed everything which the villagers live on. They had nothing to eat and feed their cattle. In this situation, some villagers met the minister at his residence in Nilambazar (Karimganj district). He told them that he had already procured title deeds of the land and now he owned it. He also told that if they still had any grievances he would provide them with some relief in terms of money. The villagers returned with empty hand.

However, the BHRPC failed to get a confirmation or denial from the minister of the claim made by the villagers about his direct involvement in the land grab as several efforts to contact him over his mobile number that is available with the BHRPC failed. Though most of the time the phone was found switched off he received one of the calls but did not talk about the matter. Later it was learnt that he told the local news reporters that the land in question was not bought by him. It is a non-government village organization named Asalkandi Gramin Bikash Kendra that took the land from the forest department on lease for rubber plantation and he has nothing to do with the organization, he added. But the organization is yet to confirm or deny the claim of the minister. The name of the organization suggests that it is based in Asalkandi, a village adjacent to Pecharpar.

After failure at the door of the minister, when the villagers tried to organize themselves to protest against the illegal land grab and illegal felling of trees, some people who identified themselves as persons working for the minister including Mr Bolu Mia, Mr. Abdul Hannan of Raghurtuk and Mr Manik told the villagers that it would not serve anything to try to fight against the minister. According to them, the minister is a powerful person and in case of opposition to him the villagers would have to face dire consequences including facing serious police cases, serving jail terms for long period and other dangers. They further asked the villagers to stop construction of any houses and leave the place as soon as possible, the BHRPC team was informed by the villagers.

One villager (name withheld) stated that he was residing in Pecharpar since he was born and his father told that he had also been born there. He had approximately 1.60 acres of land including his house. He used to grow betel nut, fruit trees and vegetables including taro and ginger etc. in the land, which were all cut down and taken away and which could not be taken away were burnt down. He was left with no source of livelihood and he was worried how to feed his family of 12 members (6 children, 3 adult female and 3 adult male). More worryingly, he has no place to live with the family if he is forced to leave the village.

When the BHRPC team met a woman resident of the village (name withheld) she broke down with emotion and wiping her tears told that she was worried about the personal security of her daughter (name and other details withheld) and female member of her family.  She told that when the people who were cutting the trees and clearing the land did not respond to her protest as she was old she sent her daughter. They abused her daughter and threatened that they would abduct, rape and kill her and other female members of her family. The woman also told that she had about 2 hectares of land including her house. The trees and vegetables that she had grown in the land were cut down and burnt down. She had now nothing to support her family of 7 persons.

Another resident of Satkoragul (name withheld) told that he held nearly 4 hectares of land under farag contract. This land was also cleared out. He used to grow bamboos in high land and paddy in low land and vegetables and fruit trees in other parts. According to him, he and his family of 12 persons were leading a happy and very contented life. But, now he even lost words to express his anxiety and worries. He had nothing to provide for the family and nowhere to go in case of forcible eviction.

All other residents talked with by the BHRPC team told more less the same story. They held land ranging from half a hectare to 3 hectares per family, which has now been grabbed by the minister and his people. The villagers have nothing to eat and nowhere to go in case of eviction. If the situation continues they may have to live under conditions of starvation and may also be subjected to forcible displacement.

Some villagers (names withheld) accompanied the BHRPC team and showed the land, logs and roots of felled trees and ashes of the burnt out vegetables, bushes and grass. He uttered some chilling words as an aside. He said that he did not accompany any politicians from the opposition who came to inspect the area for fear of life, but he was accompanying the BHRPC team as they were human rights defenders. He did not know what would happen to him after the BHRPC team leaves.

Cattle looking for grass in a burnt out hillock

Cattle looking for grass in a burnt out hillock

On the other hand, it is reported that after one opposition politician issued a statement demanding resignation of the minister inquiries were initiated by the forest department. However, it is said that the forest department officials who visited the village were some times accompanied by ‘the people of the minister’. Therefore, the villagers have questioned the impartiality and objectivity of the officials. It is also learnt that a case was filed at the Patahrkandi police station against some unknown persons by ranger of Patharkandi forest range for illegal felling of trees in the land of forest reserve. According to the villagers, this is a move by the department to subvert the process of law as the accused have not been named and there is none who would dare to name them. It is further learnt that the District Magistrate (Deputy Commissioner) of Karimganj has also ordered a magisterial inquiry into the felling of trees and land grabbing. But the villagers are of the opinion that an executive magistrate who works under the minister can not conduct an impartial and objective inquiry against the minister and his people.

In the meantime, destruction of forest and other land produces continue as well as the ominous threat of displacement keeps coming nearer to an infernal reality. And it is clearly written in the wrinkles that are getting deeper in the faces of the hapless villagers.

Legal Comments:

As revealed by the facts stated by the villagers it is prima facie a case of diversion of forest land for non-forest commercial purpose of rubber plantation as well as a case of criminal trespass and taking illegal possession of land held by both the department of environment and forest in Patharia reserve forest and the villagers of Pecharpar under titles of farag and uninterrupted possession for generations that are good against the whole world violating the community rights of protection of environment and ecological balance and individual right to lead a life with dignity.

A hillock in the village cleared and being prepared for rubber plantation

A hillock in the village cleared and being prepared for rubber plantation

Aforestation for diversion of forest land for non forest activities without prior permission of the central government of India is a clear violation of the provisions and purpose of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 as interpreted and applied by the Supreme Court of India in orders passed from time to time in T N Godavarman Thirumuilpad Vs Union of India and Others (WP (C) No 202 of 1995). The court directed the authorities in order dated 12-5-2001 in the case that “(f)elling of trees from forests shall be only in accordance with working plans/schemes or felling schemes approved by Ministry of Environment & Forests as per this Court’s Order dated 15.01.1998. ………….. . Court’s order dated 12.12.1996. (states) while implementing the working plans/schemes approved by the Central Government, State Government, or the concerned authority, as the case may be, shall ensure that no felling is done unless and until sufficient financial provisions exist for regeneration of such areas as per this Court’s directions dated 22.9.2000.”  The alleged land-grabbers have shown gross contempt of the highest court of the land by blatant violation of its clear direction since it is obvious that they did not feel it necessary to seek permission from anybody. Their reported claim of taking the land from the forest department on lease is a falsehood calculated to mislead the public.

 More importantly the people who have been living in and holding the forest land for generations are “other traditional forest dwellers” within the meaning of clause (o) of section 2 of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (known as Forest Rights Act– FRA). They are entitled to all the rights enumerated in sub-section (1) of section 3 of the FRA namely: “(a) right to hold and live in the forest land under the individual or common occupation for habitation or for self-cultivation for livelihood by a member or members of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dwellers;

 

(b) community rights such as nistar, by whatever name called, including those used in erstwhile Princely States, Zamindari or such intermediary regimes;

 

(c) right of ownership, access to collect, use, and dispose of minor forest produce which has been traditionally collected within or outside village boundaries;

 

(d) other community rights of uses or entitlements such as fish and other products of water bodies, grazing (both settled or transhumant) and traditional seasonal resource access of nomadic or pastoralist communities;

 

(e) rights including community tenures of habitat and habitation for primitive tribal groups and pre-agricultural communities;

(f) rights in or over disputed lands under any nomenclature in any State where claims are disputed;

 

(g) rights for conversion of Pattas or leases or grants issued by any local authority or any State Government on forest lands to titles;

 

(h) rights of settlement and conversion of all forest villages, old habitation, unsurveyed villages and other villages in forests, whether recorded, notified or not into revenue villages;

 

(i) right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use;

 

(j) rights which are recognised under any State law or laws of any Autonomous District Council or Autonomous Regional Council or which are accepted as rights of tribals under any traditional or customary law of the concerned tribes of any State;

 

(k) right of access to biodiversity and community right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge related to biodiversity and cultural diversity;

 

(l) any other traditional right customarily enjoyed by the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes or other traditional forest dwellers, as the case may be, which are not mentioned in clauses (a) to (k) but excluding the traditional right of hunting or trapping or extracting a part of the body of any species of wild animal;

 

(m) right to in situ rehabilitation including alternative land in cases where the Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers have been illegally evicted or displaced from forest land of any description without receiving their legal entitlement to rehabilitation prior to the 13th day of December, 2005.

The fact that these statutory rights of the villagers have not yet been formally recognized shows disrespect of the government to the law duly passed by the parliament.

Some of the land held by the villagers is khas land (unsettled government land) and falls within the domain of the state land and revenue department. This land is possessed by the villagers uninterrupted for generations and as per the government policy the land should have been settled in the names of the possessors decades ago as they were otherwise landless. It is also a case of the government apathy towards implementation of its own policy.

The other part of the land held by the villagers is locally known as farag land. In the Birtish colonial period feudal land lords (locally known as Zamindars) used to temporarily transfer the right to possession and user of some land to their subjects (known as Rayats) under certain conditions including payment of revenues. The land that has been transferred under this system is called farag land. In independent India after abolition of Zamindari system the contract of farag gives the land holder a legal title that is good against the whole world. The acts of entering this part of the villagers’ land and destruction of vegetables and other crops by the alleged land-grabbers coupled with threat of murder, rape and filing of false cases constitute serious offences such as criminal trespass, mischief causing damage to property and mischief with preparation for causing death or hurt punishable under sections 447, 427 and 440 respectively of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

These violations of laws, commitment of crimes resulting in deprivation of livelihood and dispossession of legitimately held properties coupled with threat of forcible eviction from their houses and the village with the support of the minister constitute gross violations of the rights of the villagers to equality and to lead a life with human dignity under the condition of adequate standard of living as enshrined in Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India. In the case of UP Avas Evam Vikas Parishad Vs. Friends Coop. Housing Society Ltd [(1996) AIR 114 1995 SCC] the Supreme Court observed that ‘the right to shelter is a fundamental right, which springs from the right to residence under Article 19 (1) (e) and the right to life under Article 21.’ 

The Supreme Court has also defended the right to livelihood and pronounced it as inviolable from the right to shelter. This was established in the case Olga Tellis Vs. Bombay Municipal Corporation: ‘Eviction of the petitioners from their dwellings would result in the deprivation of their livelihood. Article 21 includes livelihood and so if the deprivation of livelihood were not affected by reasonable procedure established by law, the same would be violative of Article 2. … … The right under Article 21 is the right to livelihood because no person can live without the means of living, i.e. the means of livelihood. If the right to livelihood were not to be recognized as part of the constitutional right to life, the easiest way of depriving a person of his right to life would be to deprive him of his mens of livelihood to the point of abrogation. … . There is thus a close nexus between life and means of livelihood. And as such that which alone makes it possible to live, leave aside what makes life liveable, must be deemed to be an integral component of the right to life.’

It is also a case of violations of rights to life with dignity under adequate standard of living set out in international human rights norms including Article 25.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 (UDHR) and a number of legally binding international instruments to which India is a state party such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966 (ICESCR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 (ICCPR), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child, 1989 (CRC), the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979 (CEDAW) and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms Racial Discrimination, 1965 (CERD) and others.[2]

Recommendations:

Under the circumstances, the BHRPC recommends to the authorities of the central government in New Delhi and of the state government in Dispur, Assam:

  1. To take urgent actions to stop immediately felling of trees and destruction of vegetables and other crops grown by the villagers;
  1. To take urgent actions to restore immediately possession of the land to the villagers;
  1. To provide the villagers with adequate monetary compensation for loss of property and mental agony caused by destruction of forest and vegetables and corps grown by them, dispossession of land and threat of imminent danger to life and limb;
  1. To provide adequate security to the victims and witnesses;
  1. To conduct promptly a fair and objective inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation particularly into the alleged crimes and involvement of the minister therein;
  1. To recognize immediately the rights of the traditional forest dwellers under the FRA, 2006 of the villagers who have been living there for generations;
  1. To settle the khas land that are possessed by the villagers uninterruptedly for generations and who are otherwise landless in their names as per government policy; and
  1. To take all other actions and measures necessary to ensure full enjoyment of the rights to life with dignity under adequate standard of living by the villagers.

 

See photographs at http://wp.me/phKmE-fR

(Read update 1)

For more information please contact:

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Email: wali.laskar@gmail.com

Mobile: 0 94019 42234


 [1]    The identity of the victims and witnesses is not disclosed in view of the threat they are facing. Disclosure may endanger their life. Concerned readers are requested to contact the BHRPC for names and addresses of the victims and other relevant information if they are required for taking actions on their behalf. The details may be provided under an assurance of confidentiality.

[2]           Article 25.1 of the UDHRC states that: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

            Article 11.1 of the ICESCR states that: “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international cooperation based on free consent.”

            Article 17 of ICCPR states that: “1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation. 2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

            Articles 16.1 and 27.3 of the CRC respectively states that: “No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.” “States Parties, in accordance with national conditions and within their means, shall take appropriate measures to assist parents and others responsible for the child to implement this right and shall in the case of need provide material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.”

            Article 14.2 (h) of the CEDAW states that: “States Parties shall undertake all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, that they participate in and benefit from rural development and, in particular, shall ensure to such women the right … (h) to enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications.”

            Article 5 (e) (iii) of CERD obliges States “to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in all of its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of … (e) … (iii) the right to housing”.

Survivors of TOV felicitated as a part of therapeutic intervention at Silchar, Assam

January 2, 2012
Survivors of TOV felicitated as a part of therapeutic intervention at Silchar, Assam

Survivors of TOV felicitated as a part of therapeutic intervention at Silchar, Assam

On the International Human Rights Day on 10 December, 2011 Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) conducted a programme to felicitate the survivors of torture and organized violence (TOV) at Banga Bhawan, Silchar (Assam) as a part of the therapeutic intervention. The felicitation programme was a joint event with a public discussion on the human rights situation in Barak valley and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights conducted to observe the International Human Rights Day. 14 survivors were ceremonially honored by the eminent persons of the valley. The event was chaired by Mr. Manindra Sankar Gupta, chairperson of BHRPC.

 At the outset Mr. Sadique Mohammed Laskar, joint secretary of BHRPC introduced the audience with the concept and methodology of testimonial therapy and its effectiveness in the fight against torture.

Survivors of TOV felicitated as a part of therapeutic intervention at Silchar, Assam

Survivors of TOV felicitated as a part of therapeutic intervention at Silchar, Assam

 A printed booklet containing the Bengali translation of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was distributed among the audience. Mr. Neharul Ahmed Mazumder (Secretary General of BHRPC) elaborated some parts of the UDHR and informed the audience about various laws against torture. He added that democracy is possible only in a torture free environment. Mr. Imad Uddin Bulbul emphasized on the fact that BHRPC was working to makeBarakValleyfree from all forms of torture and ill treatment.

 Mr. Faruk Ahmed Barbhuiya, member of BHRPC read the testimony of Mr. Ranjit Roy who was the victim of torture by the personnel of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Mr. Ranjit Roy is a shopkeeper who survived from the jaws of death. Mr. Roy was called upon the stage and honored with garlands and Uttaria (Shawl), at the same time slogans against torture as well as slogans hailing Mr. Roy’s struggle for justice raised in the hall. Mr. Imad Uddin Bulbul handed over the beautifully printed testimony to Mr. Ranjit Roy. The hall was filled with claps and slogans. Ranjit also delivered a short speech.

 Mr. Nehar Uddin’s testimony was read by Mr. Mrinal Kanti Shome. He was tortured by his neighbours and lost his mental and physical strength. His wife was also raped. He was a day labourer and a very poor person. However, the police was allegedly negligent to their complaint. His wife’s testimony was read earlier in private. Both of them were honoured with garlands and Shawls. Their testimonies were handed over by Mr. Manindra Sankar Gupta and Ms Bithika Acharya. The hall filled with the loud sounds of claps and slogans.

 Mr. Hussain Ahmed Laskar, a poor mason apprentice, was tortured by the personnel of the Indian Army in front of his family members and in Army camp. Hussain lost his physical and mental strength. His testimony was read by Asab Uddin Barlaskar and thereafter he was called upon on the stage and honored. His testimony was handed over by Mr. Abid Raja Majumder.

Survivors of TOV felicitated as a part of therapeutic intervention at Silchar, Assam

Survivors of TOV felicitated as a part of therapeutic intervention at Silchar, Assam

 Mr. Choudhury Charan Gorh, an activist who was tortured by an organized group of miscreants for protesting against corruption. His testimony was read by Aftabur Rahman and was handed over by Mr Abid Raja Majumder.

 Mr. Nurul Alom Laskar, a driver by work, was tortured by the CRPF personnel. His testimony was read by Miss Sarmila Singha and was handed over by Mr Mujammil Ali Laskar.

 Mr. Ataur Rahman Majumder, a teacher, was tortured by the Indian Army personnel. His testimony was read by Miss Nasim Akhtar Majumder and was handed over by Mr Mujammil Ali Laskar.

 Mr. Surman Ali Laskar, a farmer, was tortured by the Indian Army personnel. His testimony was read by Miss Perbin Sultana and was handed over by Mr. Makabbir Ali Barbhuiya.

 Mr. Riaz Uddin Choudhury was tortured by the Indian Army personnel. His testimony was read by Mr. Najir Hussain Laskar and was handed over by Ms Bithika Acharya.

 Mr. Raju Kar was tortured by the Indian Army personnel. His testimony was read by Mr. Biswajit Das and was handed over by Mr Imad Uddin Bulbul.

Survivors of TOV felicitated as a part of therapeutic intervention at Silchar, Assam on 10 December, 2011

Survivors of TOV felicitated as a part of therapeutic intervention at Silchar, Assam on 10 December, 2011

Mr. Alom Hussain Barbhuiya, a businessman, was tortured by the Indian Army personnel. His testimony was read by Mr. Abdul Wakil and was handed over by Mr Shourindra Kumar Bhattacharya.

 Mr. Sams Uddin Laskar, a student, was tortured by the Indian Army personnel. His testimony was read by Mr. Snigdha Nath and was handed over by Mr Manindra Sankar Gupta.

 Mrs. Kimati Rani Das a housewife and a victim of domestic violence by her in-laws. Her testimony was handed over by Ms Bithika Acharya.

 Mr. Shyamendra Malakar, a victim of torture by organized group of miscreants nurtured by the political bigwigs and hence allegedly backed by the police, was also felicitated.

 Each of them was called upon the stage and honoured with garland and Shawl. The audience loaded the hall with the sounds of claps and slogans.

 Miss Mina Begum a victim already honoured delivered a short speech describing how she came out of trauma by testimony therapy. Some eminent persons and activists   delivered speeches on various aspects of human rights and the works of BHRPC.

Survivors of TOV felicitated as a part of therapeutic intervention at Silchar, Assam on 10 December, 2011

Survivors of TOV felicitated as a part of therapeutic intervention at Silchar, Assam on 10 December, 2011

The World Human Rights Day observed in a unique way

December 11, 2011
The World Human Rights Day observed in a unique way

The World Human Rights Day observed in a unique way

Survivors of torture honoured as a therapeutic intervention

October 4, 2011

A ten-days long workshop on Testimonial Therapy of the survivors of torture and organized violence was comducted at Silchar, Cachar, Assam. As a part of the workshop a ceremony to honour the survivors of torture and organized violence, who are struggling for justice was held at Banga Bhavan, Silchar on the 13th September, 2011. The program was organized by the joint endeavors of Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), Peoples Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), Rehabilitation and Research Center for Torture Victims (RCT) and National Alliance on Testimony Therapy (NATT). Eminent personalities of the locality attended the Honor Ceremony. The meeting was presided over by Mr. Manindra Sankar Gupta (Retd. ACS), the Chairperson of BHRPC.

 At the outset Mr. Sadique Mohammed Laskar , the Joint Secretary of BHRPC, delivered the welcome address, and also gave a brief idea on Testimony Therapy. The president took chair and thereafter Mr. Lenin Raghubanshi, Secretary General and Director of PVCHR, Ms Sirin Sabana Khan of PVCHR, and Mr. Imad Uddin Bulbul took chairs at the dais.

 Mr. Neharul Ahmed Mazumder, Secretary General of BHRPC, delivered his speech on the purpose of Testimony Therapy and the Honor Ceremony. He dwelt on the need of psychological rehabilitation of the traumatized survivors of torture and organsed violence which aspect is neglected in human rights works. Hence, there was an urgent need for such type of trainings to serve the victims in a better way.

 Ms. Shirin Sabana Khan in her very brief speech told about the experiences of working with BHRPC, and about the pattern of torture and human rights violation in the valley. She also added that there remained a lot to work with BHRPC. Ms. Khan further told about various aspects of testimony therapy.

 Mr. Nirmal Kumar Das, member of BHRPC, read out the testimony of Mr. Kalam Uddin Choudhury, who is a survivor of torture by the personnel of the Indian Army. Though all the doors are shut by the human rights institutions of India, still Kalam is fighting for justice in legal forum and trying to attract the helping hands of the organizations and individuals. Mr. Kalam is a poor mason apprentice and lost his mental and physical strength to a large extent after the excruciating experience of torture. Kalam was called upon on the stage and honored with garlands and Uttaria (shawl), at the same time slogans against torture as well as slogans hailing Kalam’s struggle for justice raised in the hall. Mr. Lenin Raghubanshi handed over the beautifully printed testimony to Mr. Kalam Uddin Choudhury, The hall was filled with claps and slogans.

 The testimony of Miss Mina Begum Choudhury, a secondary victim of organized violence was read by Miss Chaya Kumari, a member of PVCHR. Mina lost her brother in this incident, and her parents alongwith her uncle also faced inhuman torture. She lost her property and shelter. Still she is facing hard as her opponents are very close to the heavyweight political leaders of the locality. Mina got warm welcome when she appeared on the stage with loud slogans, claps, garlands and uttaria. Miss Sirin Sabana Khan handed over the testimony to Mina, which was beautifully printed.

 The testimony of Mrs. Alimun Nessa, another survivor of torture, was read out by Sadique mohammed Laskar. Alimun Nessa lost her husband due to cruel inhuman torture in police custody. The torture to which her husband was subjected was witnessed by her. The human rights institutions has never paid heed to her complaints seriously, though all the enquiries conducted into the incident found the involved policemen guilty. Alimun, in spite of, all limitations such poverty and ignorance is still fighting for justice.

 Mr. Parvez Khasru Laskar read out the testimony of Mr. Fariz Uddin Barbhuiya, who was tortured by the personnel of 147 Battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) with his family members. Fariz is a retired CRPF personnel himself and runs his business near his house situated opposite to the CRPF camp. Fariz got warm welcome with slogan against torture and praising his bravery. He was honored with garlands and uttaria (shawl). The Chairperson then handed over the beautifully printed testimony to Mr. Fariz. He then delivered a speech thanking the organizers. He added that he has got half justice after being able to express his feelings in such a forum, and that he has got energy to expedite his fight for justice.

 Mr. Waliullah Ahmed Laskar, a member of BHRPC, delivered his short speech on various provisions of national and international laws against torture. He also added that the impact of torture on individuals and in society is very serious, it creates trauma in individual and mass mind.

 After that Mr. Dholu Mia Choudhury, father of Mr. Kalam Uddin Choudhury was escorted to the stage by Mr. Abdul Rahman Laskar and Mr. Abul Hussain Barlaskar, members of BHRPC. He was welcomed with garlands, Uttaria (shawl) and loud claps and slogans from the audience. Mr. Dholu Mia, a secondary victim of torture had the bitter experience of torture, when he saw his son, the only earning member of his family paralyzed after torture by the personnel of Indian Army. He received his beautifully printed and decorated testimony from Mr. Imad Uddin Bulbul.

 Mrs. Aftarun Nessa Barbhuiya, wife of Mr. Fariz Uddin Barbhuiya, a secondary victim was escorted to the stage by N. Kamalini and Sarmila Singha, members of BHRPC. She received warm welcome with garlands, Uttaria, claps and slogans. She received her testimony from Ms. Shirin Sabana Khan, which was beautifully printed and decorated.

 Mr. Imad Uddin Bulbul, advocate and Legal Advisor of BHRPC delivered his speech. He told that torture victims must raise their voices and testimony therapy will help to uphold the suppressed voices. He also added that BHRPC has crossed many hurdles, and it will do a lot with PVCHR and RCT.

 Mr. Anup Kumar Choudhury (Advocate) and Mr. Shyamal Dey (social activist) delivered their speeches and appreciated the organizers for arranging such a unique program in the valley.

 Mr. Lenin Raghubanshi delivered a pithy speech where he expressed the experiences of working with BHRPC. He cited various examples of victims becoming activists after testimony therapy, and encouraged the survivors to raise their voice against torture. He also brought to light the various issues and problems in Barak Valley.

 The meeting ended after the address from the chair and vote of thanks.

Sadique Mohammed Laskar

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC)

Silchar, Assam

18 September, 2011