[AHRC Open Letter] INDIA: Inquiring officer of Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission must inquire impartially into cases rather than trying to broker for respondents
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 15, 2006
An Open Letter to the Uttar Pradesh State Human Rights Commission from the Asian Human Rights Commission (Hong Kong) & People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (India)
Justice A P Mishra
Uttar Pradesh State Human Rights Commission
6-A Kalidass Marg
Lucknow Uttar Pradesh
Fax: + 91 532-2726743
Dear Justice Mishra
INDIA: Inquiring officer of Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission must inquire impartially into cases rather than trying to broker for respondents
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and People’s Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR) appreciate the concern of the Uttar Pradesh State Human Rights Commission about the hunger deaths, acute starvation and fabrication of cases against human rights defenders reported from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. The two organisations also appreciate the deputing of Additional Superintendent of Police Vijay Kumar Dixit to investigate these cases, but regret to inform you that he is not conducting his duties as required.
On 14 August 2006 the inquiry officer met a group of human rights defenders at the office of the Senior Superintendent of Police in Varanasi. Those present were Santhosh Patel, a human rights defender working in Belwa village; Lenin Raghuvanshi, convenor of the PVCHR; and S N Giri, a social activist. Among the respondents, Rajendar Thiwari, head of Belwa, and Mohan Ram, the Tahasildar from Pindara Tahasil, were also present at the meeting. However, the participants were shocked when instead of investigating the allegations the officer instead tried to have the complainants reconcile with the respondents unconditionally.
There is no question of reconciliation here. The AHRC and PVCHR have through their work reached specific conclusions about why people in the Mushahar and Nut communities are starving to death.
As the Additional Superintendent of Police appears to be confused about his role, we request that you give him further instructions. You may offer him the following questionnaire as a guide for his work, so that he will not waste any more time attempting pointless negotiations:
1. What action has the District Magistrate (DM) of Varanasi taken on the starvation death of Seema Musahar (aged nine months) in Belwa, which was brought to his notice on 29 July 2006? [AHRC HA-07-2006]
2. Did the DM take any action on the letter dated 11 July 2006 written by Laxmina Musahar asking for help to save her child? If the DM did not take any action, what prevented him from doing so?
3. What action did the DM take on the starvation death of Phoolchand Musahar from Belwa, which was reported to his office on 18 June 2006?
4. What action did the DM take after being informed about the death of Muneeb Musahar of Belwa on 29 May 2006?
5. The DM has categorically stated that all these deaths were from various ailments. What is the basis of this statement and which medical record can the DM produce to support it?
6. Since the reported deaths of Mrs. Jigna and Ms. Soni on 16 and 21 April 2005, what action did the DM take to prevent similar deaths in Sankarpur village?
7. Since the reported death of Mr. Kanhaiya from starvation-related illness on 18 September 2005 also in Sankarpur what action has the DM taken to give relief to his family? [AHRC HU-08-2005]
8. Why are starvation deaths and hunger in Varanasi most often reported from among the lower-caste community?
9. Do government public distribution shops function in all places in Varanasi?
10. How many persons living in Belwa, Oura, Sankarpur and Bagvanalla have been listed to receive free or subsided rations and join food for work programmes?
11. At what point have Musahars and other lower-caste residents of Belwa started to receive free or subsidised rations?
12. Why did the DM order the detention of Santhosh Patel when he tried to lodge a complaint with him on 10 May 2006 in connection with a case pending before the National Human Rights Commission? (Case No. 41875/24/2005-2006) [AHRC UA-156-2006]
13. Has there been a complaint against Mohan Ram alleging forceful collection of thumb impressions on empty papers from villagers in the Musahar part of Belwa in order to forge documents for the National Human Rights Commission? If so, what action has the DM taken against whoever in his staff made this groundless complaint?
14. How many persons from lower castes have their names included in the voters list in Varanasi, specifically from Belwa, Oura, Sankarpur and Bagvanalla? If the number of names is far less than the populations of lower-caste persons in these villages, why are there so many names missing?
15. Have any complaints been lodged with the DM against the Public Distribution Shop licensees (Kotedars) who are licensed to sell rationed articles in Varanasi? If so, what action has been taken on these complaints?
16. Are there any proper records of stock and sale kept at the local cooperative store in Belwa run by Ramesh Singh? Has the DM received any complaints regarding this shop? If so what action has been taken to inquire into these complaints?
17. What has the Varanasi district administration--and the DM in particular--done to prevent any further needless starvation deaths?
Answers to these and like questions would help the Uttar Pradesh State Human Rights Commission to reach a better understanding of conditions in the affected villages, and the need for appropriate action. The AHRC and PVCHR suggest that the Additional Superintendent of Police refrain from further compromising his integrity and impartiality and instead stick to this line of inquiry, looking into the details and surrounding circumstances of each case as he has been instructed. If he proves unable to do the same, it would lead us to suggest that he should be withdrawn from his duties and a more appropriate person be appointed.
We remain only too happy to provide any further assistance in this regard.
South Asia Desk Officer
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong
People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India