Asian Human Rights Commission - Urgent Appeals
UPDATE (India): Human rights organisation likely to be destroyed by malicious police action
ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Update: AHRC-UAU-004-2008
18 January 2007
[RE: UP-163-2007: INDIA: False charge filed against Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi and colleagues]------------------------------------------------------INDIA: Human rights organisation likely to be destroyed by malicious police action
ISSUES: Threat to human rights work; caste based discrimination; misuse of authority; fabrication of charges ------------------------------------------------------
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding the situation of the human rights activists associated with the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) who were charged with a false case on 9 December 2007. The AHRC has been informed that the local administration led by the District Magistrate Ms. Veena Kumari is likely to approach the court through the local police to obtain a non-bailable warrant against the human rights activists and to proceed against the PVCHR so as to destroy the organisation's property and its office.
The AHRC has reported in the past that the PVCHR and its activists working in Belwa village were charge sheeted by the local police on 9 December 2007 based on a malicious complaint lodged by Mr. Ranjedra Prasad Tripathi, (picture 1) the village head of Belwa village. The series of incidents led to the filing of this complaint are as follows:
Since the past few years, the PVCHR has been working with the Musahar [untouchable caste sub-group in India] community in Belwa village of Varanasi District. The PVCHR has been helping the members of the Musahar community to raise their voice against bonded labour, starvation, malnutrition and caste based discrimination. In several cases the current village head of Blewa, Mr. Rajendra Prasad Tripathi himself was the accused. For further information please see UA-138-2005 and UP-95-2005. In one such case, Mr. Tripathi himself was charged with a case of employing bonded labour in his brick kilns where the members of Musahar community were chained and forced to work.
Mr. Gehru Musahar and Mr. Bothu Musahar were released from bonded labour with the support of the PVCHR. A member of the PVCHR is also the member of the state government sponsored district level committee against bonded labour. Gehru and Bothu were both released after the intervention of this committee initiated by the PVCHR. In this case Mr. Tripathi was sentenced to pay fine for resorting to bonded labour in his brick kilns.
Since then the Musahars were organised by the PVCHR, which indirectly challenged the upper caste domination of the Musahars in Belwa by the Brahmin community led by Mr. Tripathi. Simultaneously the PVCHR also started taking up cases of starvation and malnutrition in the lower caste and other marginalised communities in Uttar Pradesh state, particularly from Varanasi and other neighbouring districts. Dozens of such cases were reported by the AHRC, upon which the United Nations agencies have initiated dialogues with the Government of India. In many cases the facts revealed utter neglect of the district as well as the state administration that led to deaths from starvation of the members of the lower caste in the villages in Uttar Pradesh state. The cases of Mr. Vishambhar: HA-12-2005, nine-month-old Seema Musahar:HA-07-2006, 18-month-old Alina Shahin: HA-011-2007, Mr. Kammal Musahar: HA-013-2007 and three-year-old Pritam: UA-333-2007 are some cases of starvation deaths reported from Varanasi District alone.
When these cases and several other cases of starvation and malnutrition were reported from the state, the former state administration led by Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav did nothing. Whereas, the current state administration took proactive steps to address this issue, as and when cases were reported. The current Chief Minister Ms. Mayawati personally intervened in many cases. In the process several other political parties also started taking interest in these cases. As of now starvation and malnutrition is the subject of political debate within the state.
When cases of starvation and deaths from malnutrition were reported from Uttar Pradesh, the Chief Minister convened a meeting in which strict actions were suggested against the head of the district administration, if a case of starvation death was reported from their jurisdiction. It is at this juncture the deaths of Alina, Kammal and Pritam were reported by the PVCHR and the AHRC issued hunger alerts and statements. The District Magistrate (DM) Ms. Veena Kumari found these reports as a challenge to the Magistrate's authority within the district and also as issues which are likely to bring the DM's office under fire from the state capital.
In the meanwhile the PVCHR had initiated several activities in Belwa village and several other villages within Uttar Pradesh, with an intention to empower the lower caste communities to make better use of the recent change in the state administration favouring the lower caste communities in the state and in India. The PVCHR, along with the AHRC and other national and local human rights organisations, organised folk-schools in these villages, starting from Belwa. The PVCHR also invited the district administration as well as officials from the Uttar Pradesh State Commission for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe to participate in these sessions. The member of the Commission Mr. Rajbahadur Yadav participated in one of these sessions held at Belwa on 21 May 2007. (Please see picture 2 and picture 2b)
In the meanwhile the PVCHR also promoted establishment of community centers in these villages, of which the community centre in Belwa was inaugurated by the then DM Mr. Nithin Gokarnan. Mr. Gokarnan is currently the Divisional Commissioner of Varanasi.
In December 2007, the PVCHR also planned to erect two monuments in Belwa. One was in the memory of the Musahar and other poor children who died from starvation in Belwa and the other was the solemn oaths the members of the Musahar and other socially marginalised families took in one of the folk school session. The content of the memorial tablet and the oath is in plain and simple language.
This action was considered as yet another challenge by the DM Ms. Veena Kumari. The DM ordered the local police to stop the function. Permission for the function was refused by the DM's office. To prevent the PVCHR and other human rights organisations from conducting the function in Belwa the DM ordered the local police to register a case against the PVCHR activists. For lodging the complaint, they choose the ever-willing Mr. Tripathi, who also found the activities of the PVCHR as to be threatening to his family's Brahmin caste domination in his village. Accordingly, a complaint was filed by Mr. Tripathi at the Phulpur Police Station that entertains jurisdiction over Belwa. The original of the complaint bearing the seal of the police station is available here as picture 3. The verbatim translation of the complaint is as follows:
ToPolice Station OfficerPhulpur, Varanasi
The Applicant Mr. Rajendra Prasad Tripathi, son of Raj Narayan Tripathi is a resident of Blewa village within the jurisdiction of Phulpur Police Station of Varanasi District. He is a peace loving person. In the applicant's village now Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, Ms. Anupam Nagavanshi and Ms. Sriti Nagavanshi of village Pandeypur and Daulatpur and Mr. Prem Nut, son of Mahangu, Ms. Kalawathi, wife of Sherbahadur of Belwa are running various NGOs – Jan Mitra Nyas (funding organsiation), People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, Sawitri Bai Phule Samiti, Bagath Singh Youth Singh Samiti, Voice of People, etc. They are giving fake assurances and attractions to the illiterate and poor people in the name of money, Anthyodaya Anna Yogana Card (AAY card), housing, pension, allotment of land and jobs and they are earning money. They have compelled the villagers into class conflict and are interfering in the village committee politics by agitating the villagers by provocative speeches. It is their work to gather against the administration and other respected people of the village and they regularly conduct gherao in the district head quarter and against other high officials.
The above people and their NGO's work is to create class conflict and lawlessness. If legal action is not taken against the above people, the situation of conflict and disorder will be created. Sir, I urge you to take legal action against the above people so there could be peace in the village.
9 December 2007ApplicantMr. Rajendra Prasad TripathiVillage Belwa
THE AHRC'S COMMENT ON THE COMPLAINT:
The complaint reflects the worry of a Brahmin who finds his family's thus far unchallenged domination upon the lower caste being challenged. The accused persons in the complaint also include members of the Dalit community. The mere fact that the complaint is false and made with malicious intention calls for action against the complainant under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and also under the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
The allegations of 'making promises' are false. Free speech is a fundamental right in India, so is the freedom to associate. The registration of the crime based on this complaint will amount to registering a crime for exercising a person's fundamental right guaranteed in the Constitution. This ground of the complaint has no legal basis whatsoever.
A village committee is a body selected by the villagers for the villagers. The villagers are the supreme authority over this committee, and they have every right to voice their concerns against this committee. In the past this committee was dominated by Tripathi and his men. In fact in August 2005 the PVCHR promoted a contest against the candidature of Tripathi as the village head in the village election. Tripathi immediately responded by ordering Mr. Ramasray Singh, a local criminal to call the candidate Mr. S. N. Giri and Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi of the PVCHR over telephone informing them that he has been asked by Mr. Tripathi to kill both Mr. Giri and Dr. Lenin for promoting a competition in the village election, which thus far was never contested. Against this the AHRC issued an Urgent Appeal, which was responded to by three Rapporteurs from the UN, who wrote to the Government of India to provide protection to Mr. Giri and Dr. Lenin. The Election Commission of India also responded to the appeal by sending their representative to monitor the election and ordering the then DM to provide every security to Mr. Giri and also to the Dalit voters during the election. A crime was registered against Mr. Ramasray Singh and he was arrested and detained by the police. The DM also issued a shoot at sight order against the criminals sponsored by Tripathi, if they tried to prevent the Dalits from participating in the election process. Due to this for the first time after independence the Dalits in Belwa exercised their right to vote. For further information regarding this case please see UA-138-2005.
After issuing Urgent Appeals and Hunger Alerts on cases reported by the PVCHR through the AHRC, the people in Blewa has in fact received ration cards. In fact in the past Mr. Tripathi was keeping the ration cards issued in the name of the Mushars in his custody and selling the rationed articles in black market. After reporting several cases, Tripathi was forced to release the cards to the persons to whom these cards were issued. Such inappropriate handling of ration cards and dealing with rationed articles in black market is a crime under the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
The later part of the complaint is in fact the complaint of the district administration, dictated through the words of Tripathi. Right to organise and expression are also fundamental rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. What is worrying the administration however is the fact that more and more cases of utter neglect by the district administration are being increasingly exposed. Additionally the central government is also initiating actions against the district administration, which puts the DM in trouble.
Last but not least a complaint of the above nature alone cannot be based upon to initiate a crime to be registered against any person in India. Upon receipt of the complaint, and after an investigation by the police or other law enforcement agency, if a crime or fraud is made out based upon the statements of witnesses and other documentary evidence, the police may register a case. In this case nothing of this nature has happened.
The immediate purpose of the complaint was to prevent the function of erecting the tablets in Belwa village in December. Since the DM refused to provide permission for the function, the PVCHR along with the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) organised a meeting on 17 December 2007 at the district headquarters. (Please see picture 4, picture 5 & picture 6) The General Secretary of the NCDHR Mr. Vincent Manoharan also attended the function. All the PVCHR activists were present along with a few hundred Dalit during the meeting. Among those who gave interviews to the press and other electronic media on that day were also persons against whom the Phulpur police have registered a crime based on the complaint filed by Tripathi.
Since this meeting the PVCHR and its activists are working openly and continuously in Uttar Pradesh, specifically in Varanasi. Since the crime was registered against the PVCHR activists the accused in the case has taken all necessary precaution to find out the charges leveled against them. The first step was to approach the local court by way of a petition requesting the court to call for a report from the Phulpur Police Station regarding the facts of the complaint and also asking the actions thus far taken by the police regarding the complaint. In the meanwhile the AHRC issued an Urgent Appeal, calling for an immediate inquiry in this case. This appeal could be read at UA-335-2007. An update regarding this case could be read at UP-163-2007. Once this update was issued the Governor of Uttar Pradesh state issued a letter to the Chief Secretary of the state calling for an immediate action in this case wide letter dated 14 December 2007.
In spite of repeated reminders the Phulpur police refused to produce anything in the court. Even though the law mandates a report to be filed by the police in court within 48 hours, the police filed a report after 10 days informing the court that a crime has been registered. In the meanwhile the PVCHR activists against whom the crime was registered also appeared in the court informing the court that they are present within the jurisdiction of the police and in public in case if the police wanted them to be arrested. The police however refused to arrest them. Lately, the PVCHR has also been requested by the state police department to address their senior officers on human rights principles in a meeting organised by the state police department to be held in Varanasi on 28 January 2008. In December 2007 the PVCHR staff and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh state even had a live discussion broadcast over television regarding the issues of starvation and hunger of the Dalits in the state.
Now it is known that the police is planning to file yet another fabricated report in court stating that the accused are absconding and avoiding arrest and are planning to request the court to issue process directing the local police and the district administration to proceed against the properties of the PVCHR activists, meaning the PVCHR office. The intention is to raid the PVCHR office as if in compliance of the court's order and to destroy whatever that is maintained at the office in the form of records and other working equipments like computers and other office equipment. The accused in the case, the activists of the PVCHR, are now planning to move the Uttar Pradesh High Court seeking the entire proceeding to be quashed.
The staff of the PVCHR has been internationally recognised as being engaged in excellent human rights work. The Asoka Foundation of the USA and the Kwangju Human Rights Award has recognised the PVCHR by awarding the members of its staff human rights fellowships and awards. PVCHR is widely quoted in electronic and the print media
SUGGESTED ACTION:Please send a letter to the relevant authorities mentioned below urging for an immediate and thorough investigation into this case and to stop all proceedings against the PVCHR. The Phulpur police may be directed to file the complete case diary at the Varanasi court and let the court decide what is to be done regarding the crime and the charge. The AHRC is also writing to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders calling for an immediate intervention in this case.
To support this appeal, please click here:
INDIA: Please prevent the District Magistrate of Varanasi from destroying a human rights organisation
Name of organisation: The People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, SA 4/2A, Daulatpur, Varanasi, Uttar PradeshName of alleged perpetrators: 1) Office of the District Magistrate, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh2) Station Officer, Phulpur Police Station, Phulpur, Varanasi, Uttar PradeshDate of incident: From 9 December 2007
I am writing to express my concern, regarding the case of the human rights activists associated with the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR). I am informed that, based on a fabricated charge filed by the village head Mr. Ranjedra Prasad Tripathi, the local police of Phulpur police station has registered a case against Ms. Kalawahi, Mr. Prem Nut, Ms. Anupam Nagavanshi, Ms. Sruti Nagavanshi and Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi of the PVCHR.
I am also informed that the District Magistrate (DM) Ms. Veena Kumari is personally responsible behind this complaint, for which the DM has used Mr. Tripathi as a pawn. I am also informed that the DM has now instructed the Phulpur police to record that the accused are absconding so far and to move the local court to proceed against the properties of the PVCHR. It is suspected that the DM wants to cause damage the office of the PVCHR to wreck vengeance against the PVCHR for reporting cases of starvation and malnutrition from the district.
I am worried that the PVCHR and its work will be adversely affected if such a police action is initiated against the PVCHR office. I am concerned that such an action will not only hurt the work of the PVCHR but also other human rights organisations in Varanasi, who could also face similar threats from the district administration.
I therefore urge you to take immediate actions so that the entire case records concerning the PVCHR activists are produced in the local court without any further delay so that the court could take appropriate actions on the case. I also urge you to ensure that an enquiry is ordered into the activities of the DM Ms. Veena Kumari's involvement in registration of the case. I am aware that in the recent past the DM has been inimical against the activities of the PVCHR, particularly because the PVCHR has been reporting cases of human rights abuses exposing the utter neglect of the district administration in discharging their duties.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Honorable T. V. RajeswarGovernor of Uttar PradeshRaj Bhavan, Lucknow, Uttar PradeshINDIAE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Mr. Justice Hemant Laxman GokhaleChief Justice Allahabad High CourtAllahabad, Uttar PradeshINDIAE-mail: email@example.com
3. Ms. MayawatiChief MinisterChief Minister's SecretariatLucknow, Uttar PradeshINDIAFax: + 91 522 223 0002 / 223 9234E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Secretary to the GovernmentUttar Pradesh State Government5th Floor – Lal Bahadur Sastri BhavanLucknow, Uttar PradeshINDIA
5. Dr. Kashmir SinghInspector General of PoliceVaranasi ZoneVaranasi District, Uttar PradeshINDIAE-mail: email@example.com
6. Mr. Vikram SinghDirector General of Police1-Tilak Marg, LucknowUttar PradeshINDIAFax: + 91 522 220 6120 / 220 6174E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
7. Mr. Shripad SirodakarSenior Superintendent of Police Varanasi, SSP Office, Kachahari, Uttar PradeshINDIAE-mail: email@example.com
Urgent Appeals ProgrammeAsian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Posted on 2008-01-18
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