Human rights defender once again receives threats in Uttar Pradesh
Anup srivastava/Bhagat 21/5/2008 3:39:17 PM(IST)
Peoples'' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) convener Dr. Lenin is again receiving life threatening calls over his mobile telephone asking him to stop working for the Dalit communities in the state. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) was informed day before yesterday that Dr. Lenin has received at least 18 telephone calls on his mobile telephone between 25 April 2008 and 18 May 2008. He was asked to stop working for the Dalit communities particularly in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh.
On 19 May 2008, the AHRC was informed by Dr. Lenin of the PVCHR that he is receiving continuous telephone calls from identifiable telephone numbers since April 25 where the callers have either asked him to stop working for the Dalit community or abused him over telephone for PVCHR's work in Dalit hamlets in Uttar Pradesh, and in Varanasi district in particular.
Dr. Lenin is the Convener of the PVCHR, a local non-government human rights organisation working in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. In the past the AHRC has reported similar incidents concerning Dr. Lenin and the PVCHR.
It is reported that Dr. Lenin received 18 calls from the following numbers +919918086996
+919415158550, +919794207227, +919454592038, +919792166784, +919792317547, +919453982577, +919956198171, +919838709973, +919889028806, +919792625583, +919795067828, +919838709937, +919792308119, +919793181915 and +919335985425, +919956816351 and +919919784317 on 25/4/08, 30/4/08, 11/5/2008, 15/5/08, 16/5/08, 17/5/08 and 18/5/08 respectively. All these numbers are registered in India.
On April 26 after the first call Dr. Lenin has registered a complaint, send through registered post, addressed to the Director General of Police, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh informing the officer about the call that he received and urging the officer to take necessary action upon the complaint.
Dr. Lenin informs the AHRC that since his first complaint, his telephone number +91993559933 is being monitored by the state government agencies. However, he continued to receive abusing calls. Dr. Lenin also informs the AHRC that the latest of the calls was from such a dangerous person operating in Uttar Pradesh that the very fact and knowledge that such persons are involved in this matter is good enough for anybody in the state to stop all their activities. This implies that the state police have not taken Dr. Lenin's complaint seriously.
Dr. Lenin also informs the AHRC that while some of the callers did not speak to him at all, but played some music over the telephone when the call was answered, some threatened him asking the PVCHR to stop working for the Dalits, organising them and to stop immediately all activities of the PVCHR which would even inform the Dalits about their basic human rights. Dr. Lenin also informed the AHRC that the mafia man who had called Dr. Lenin on May 18 had specifically threatened that unless the PVCHR stop working for the Musahar community in the state, he and his men are engaged by some upper caste feudal lords in the district to burn down all Musahar ghettos and villages in and around Varanasi where the PVCHR is currently engaged. The mafia man also enquired where the PVCHR obtain its funds from, a question that suggests that unless the PVCHR pays the mafia some sought of protection money, they would keep harassing the PVCHR or try to stop its work in the state.
Threatening, intimidating, insulting and creating annoyance to persons is a crime punishable in India under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Section 503 of the Code reads: "Whoever threatens another with any injury to his person, reputation or property, or to the person or reputation of any one in whom that person is interested, with intent to cause alarm to that person, or to cause that person to do any act which he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do, as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat, commits criminal intimidation."
Section 506 of the Code prescribes punishment for criminal intimidation which could extend to imprisonment up to a period of two years or fine or both. However, if the criminal intimidation is to cause death or grievous hurt or to cause destruction of property by fire, the sentence may extend to a term up to seven years, or with fine or both.
According to an amendment applicable to Uttar Pradesh vide notification number 777/VIII 9-4(2)-87 dated 31 July 1989, a crime punishable under Section 506 is cognizable and non-bailable. This means that on receipt of a complaint, the police could arrest the accused without a warrant of arrest issued by a court of law.
Threat and intimidation is not to be taken lightly in Uttar Pradesh. It is one of those states in India where people are abducted and children kidnapped for settling private and political feuds. In some cases the abducted victims are tortured or even murdered if the demands of the criminals are not met. As far as the PVCHR is concerned, it is an apolitical local human rights organisation with limited resources, but with a large work group, including staff and volunteers.
It is also a mass-based membership organisation, which makes it practically difficult for the PVCHR to make arrangements for self protection of its office, staff and the victims it support all by its own. Without proper support and effective engagement of the state police the staff of the PVCHR and its work is vulnerable to abuses by the criminal elements in the society who are engaged by upper caste landlords to suppress the activities of the PVCHR.
The calls are also a reflection of the PVCHR's success in mobilising and empowering the Dalits in the state. The state administration unfortunately finds PVCHR's work as a slur or trouble to the state's public image. Due to the hunger alerts and urgent appeals issued by the AHRC on the behest of the PVCHR the deplorable state of affairs of the state administration in addressing the immediate needs of the Dalit community like food security, education and has brought to light the corruption in the public food distribution system in the state that deprives the Dalit community in the state from their fundamental right to food and also other discriminatory practices by the upper caste practiced against the Dalit communities in the state.
Due to the sheer number of cases taken up by the PVCHR and its wide coverage and network with other peer groups within the state and the grass root mobilisation that was stirred up by the PVCHR and its other partner organisations have now become an eyesore for the state administration. It appears that the state administration through its passive stance of failing to provide adequate protection to the PVCHR and its activists is in fact expecting the upper caste Hindus and feudal landlords in the state and their criminal henchmen to silence the PVCHR. Dr. Lenin believes that the calls though made to his personal mobile telephone are in fact a method of delivering a message to everyone associated with the PVCHR, cautioning them to stop working in Uttar Pradesh. This must not be allowed.
It is imperative at this juncture that 24 hours police protection to be provided to the Dalit hamlets in Pindra (Musahar child rescued from acute malnutrition in , Belwa and Raup (Ghasia huts in Raup village, so as to ensure that the Dalit families in these villages are safe from the criminals who have threatened the PVCHR from working in these villages. It is also necessary for the state police to immediately discuss these issues with the PVCHR and its staff, to ensure that none of the staff as well as the people for whom the PVCHR work is hurt by the criminals. The state administration must immediately take these steps as otherwise irreparable damages will be caused to not only a well functioning human rights group in Uttar Pradesh and its staff, but also to the Dalits residing in Dalit hamlets in and around Varanasi.
In the past three years, the cases taken up by the PVCHR, whenever brought to the limelight has attracted adequate attention from various corners of the world, including direct intervention by the UN agencies. Such interventions have not only stimulated the activists and volunteers associated with the PVCHR to engage more in human rights work, but has also brought immediate and long-term reliefs to the victims of human rights violations in the state.
Of particular relevance are the cases taken up from Musahar (Dalit subgroup) ghettos in Belwa and Pinda and the Ghasia community in Raup in the state. On an issue that led to the release of bonded labour in Belwa, the village head of Belwa, Mr. Rajendra Tripathi has filed a false criminal charge against the staff of the PVCHR which was also reported by the AHRC. For this illegal act, Mr. Tripathi was also reportedly helped by the then District Magistrate Ms. Veena Kumari. Ms. Kumari was transferred from Varanasi in the past week.
In recognition of the activities of the PVCHR, the Gwangju based human rights group, the May 18 Foundation has awarded Dr. Lenin the Gwangju Price for Human Rights along with Ms. Irom Chanu Sharmila of Manipur in the year 2007.
Please urge to the authorities of UP to ensure that the safety and protection of the PVCHR, its staff and the activists associated with the organisation. The AHRC has also written to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders calling for an immediate intervention in this case.