Monday, March 14, 2011

Voice of Human Rights Defenders in UP, India

Uttar Pradesh biggest state of the nation with largest population also carries the distinction of maximum number of cases of torture by the state. The plights of Human Rights Defenders are no less pathetic than other states. Everyday newspaper carries the stories of the struggle faced by the human rights defenders in the remotest part of the state.
There  are many security risks for rights defenders i.e. obstruction in their day-today work, receiving threatening to keep quiet in the cases of corruption, Caste atrocities, gender based violence and communal fascism  from village level goons to government officials, threatening from police to get implicated in false cases and even threatening on their life etc.
In the state of Uttar Pradesh in main land India as cow belt (belt of communal Fascism based heart land of upper caste ruler) where feudal social and economic structure is still prevalent give rise to widespread corruption with violence based on sex, Gender, caste, ethnicity  and rights defenders fighting against corruption, violence and torture often face obstructions and discouragement from village level goons and local administration as both collude to each other in committing corruption as well as violence and an ordinary rights activist can hardly think of any support from police or other existing tools to lessen his security risks by receiving safeguards from the state agencies. This type of security risks are commonly experienced by rights activists working for the poverty alleviation or for ensuring the right to food of marginalised communities, bringing in transparency in Public Distribution System.
The Human rights defenders responds to the threats in many ways; like complaining with the concerned local administrative and police authorities, to file complaint with judiciary, to stage protest before the authorities to draw the attention of concerned authority as well as to draw the attention of public at large.  They also share the incidents of threats or harassments with other human rights organisations within the country or with international rights bases organisations.
The National Human Rights Commission, India 2010 has listed 25 cases related to the human rights defenders, out of which 12 cases are from Uttar Pradesh. The national, regional and political parties have been expressing their concerns on growing attacks on the human rights defender in the state.
Case No. 1
In the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh, the alleged murderer of Lalla Singh, father of Sanjay Singh of Paramarth Samaj Sewi Sansthan in Jalaun, PS Madhogarh, village Mirzapur is still absconding. Before that he gave threat to Sanjay Singh and his brother Anil Singh.[i]
 Sanjay Singh father Lalla was murdered on September 12, 2009. Lalla Singh was a committed social worker and registered medical practitioner. He rendered decades of social service in his village and the surrounding areas. Paramarth, headed by Sanjay Singh, an icon for social activism in Bundelkhand, has rendered decades of social service in Jalaun in particular and Bundelkhand in general. Police and government officials have refused to seriously consider a case of murder of a social worker in a Jaulan village by the son of the corrupt village head.
On September 12 night, when Sanjay and his family, along with other village members went to file an FIR, the circle officer and station-in-charge did not attend to them. After the brutal murder of Lalla Singh, the accused remained in the same village and despite repeated requests of the villagers, police did not arrest him. Rather it repeatedly chose to deny his presence in the village. The alleged murderer killed two more villagers around 6 AM on September 13 [almost 13 hours after the killing of Lalla Singh] and then opened fire in the presence of the police. Almost 15 hours after the murder of Lalla Singh, the murderer dramatically surrendered and was finally arrested by the police.
The police have been colluding with the family of the murderer to weaken the case in every way and also terrorising Sanjay's family to drop the case against him. Vipin (the killer) is the son of the village head. The prime reason behind the murders appears to be the upcoming panchayat elections.  
Case No. 2
Mangal Singh son of Ghasite resident of Vishal Nagar, district Mahoba of Uttar Pradesh. Mangal Singh, a farmer is fighting against the illegal mining & heavy blasting activities near town Kabrai Mahoba district, which has effected the residents of that areas. He has filed PIL in Honb' High Court, Allahabad CIVIL MISC. WRIT PETITION NO 63396 OF 2009 that turned the stone crusher association against him. On which Mangal Singh sought security from Honb' High Court. The Honb' Court ordered but till now he did not get any security.
Case No.3
Hari Lal   MNREGA Fighter and leader of Voice of People (VOP)  of District Kaushambi has been killed in broad day light at 12.00 Noon in his village Lahna, Block Manjhanpur district Kaushambi on independence day, 15 August 2010 at the instance of the corrupt Gram Pradhan Tirath Lal by the contract killers. Thousands of members of the VOP and other organisation gathered in the village and made militant protest, burnt the houses of the killer.  A heavy contingent of armed police lead by District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police, Circle Officers and SHOs of various police stations entered into the village and let loose the reign of terror over the villagers, women and children. Two FIRs has been lodged against the leaders and members of the VOP including the common villagers. 
The leader of VOP Parvez Rizvi has been named in both the FIRs.  One FIR has been lodged u/s 307, 322, 334, 352, 147, 148, 149 IPC and 7 Criminal Amendment Act  in which 5 persons have been named and the second FIR has been lodged u/s 353, 336, 506, 427, 352, 436, 392, 147, 148, 149 IPC and 7 Criminal Amendment Act. Both the FIRs have been lodged by police andin both the FIRs VOP leader Parvez Rizvi has been named. 

            Hari Lal, A dalit was active in organising the labourers and the marginalised people against the corruption in MNREGA in all 3 blocks namely Manjhanpur, Kaushambi and Sarsawan of district Kaushambi and on several occasions, he alongwith other leaders lead thousands of labourers to the district Head quarters against the loot of contractors, gram pradhan and officers in the implementation of welfare scheme. At one occasion, DM, Kaushambi was compelled to come to the Rally of the labourers and promise to distribute the unpaid wages and on many occasions, BDOs were gheraod for hours and compelled to distribute the wages. Hari Lal was also active with the other leaders of VOP to build a strong trade union of Bidi Workers under the banner of "Kaushambi Bidi Mazdoor Manch" and on 01.07.2010 about 4000 Bidi Workers and their supporters held a massive rally in district head quarter Manjhanpur under the leadership of Parvez Rizvi, Hari Lal and others.

            The constant fight of VOP and Hari Lal had infuriated the Mafia elements in which the Kaushambi police played an active role. It is to be noted that the Kaushambi Police was informed in advance that the life of Hari Lal is in danger and the Mafia elements had threatened to kill him but the Kaushambi Police kept misterious silent and after the brutal murder of Hari Lal, in the garb of maintaining law and order, the Kaushambi police harassed and arrested the VOP leaders and the common villagers.[ii]
Case No. 4
Shri Govind Saran, Sanchetna NGO, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh the activists of his organization who are raising the issue of 4th grade malnutrition among children of village Village Kaanti, Tahsil Bara, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh were being misbehaved by C.D.O. Allahabad, who is hushing up the matter and one of the activist namely Manoj Kumar was illegally detained at the instance of the CDO.
Case No. 5
Ms. Manju Pathak, Secretary, Jagriti Mahila Sewa Sansthan, Allahabad that on 28.9.2010 about 06.30 pm she was abused, assaulted and beaten up by Meraj Khan, Constable under Sabji Mandi Police Chowki, Khuldabad, Allahabad, UP when she took up the grievances of a victim lady against him. 

Case No. 6
Shri Ram Niwas Yadav, Etah, Uttar Pradesh is being harassed by accused policemen because he has filed a case against them of human rights violation. The policemen also got him implicated in a false case.
Case No. 7
Shri Rajiv Kumar Sharma, General Secretary of Bhartiya Manav Adhikar Sanrakshan Sangh & Crime Reporter of NAI News, Ghazibad, UP in his complaint dated 12.10.2010 alleged that he has reported the acts of black marketing by the accused to the authorities, due to which, the accused has given false complaint against him to the police just to harass him. 
Case No. 8
Rehana Adeeb, founder of ASTITWA (Action Social team for Women) Social Organization in Purkoji Street, District Muzaffarnager of Uttar Pradesh. Her organization starts having friendly relation with Muslims and dalits women and share their high and lows faces in their life and experience how they individually struggled in their life and run their families.
Astitwa is making effort with this aim and some people or some group is strictly opposing it because they are in the fear of seat and they are playing politics in the name of religion and women. They are raising their voice and doing against Astitwa because they are feared of political game will be ruined. For example provoking with worker, forcefully taking money by entering in office, showing vulgar picture and mentioning it on the piece of paper to women worker, communicating on the mobile etc. several times it was complained in the police station but police respected people of the society unite for doing harassment. Administration entirely oppositely behaving with us "they are already in trouble and we also came to troubled them". In this situation it is very challenging to work. Entire day she work in the field because her house is 90 Km far from my work place. It is very dangerous to sleep alone in the office. Female colleagues help her in day during her work but she is alone in the night.[iii]
Case No. 9
Shjri Nand Lal Shukla, a Human Rights Defender, has apprehended that the Additional Superintendent of Police, Sant Ravidas Nagar, may implicate him in some false cases or kill him in a fake encounter as he showed his reluctance to withdraw his statement made against some police officials of Police Station Gopiganj in his case before the Commission (case No. 224/24/73/09-10).  He has requested immediate intervention of the Commission and to render justice.

Case No. 10
Shri A. K. Tripathi, Chairman Bhrashtachar Anveshan Evam Unmulan Sanstha, Lucknow, alleged an activist of his organization along with the victim went with a complaint to meet Superintendent of Police, Ambedkarnagar, Uttar Pradesh where the SP and other police officials assaulted the victim and his family members.

Case No. 11

Shri Narendra Pratap Singh, Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh  vide complaint dated 5/4/2010 alleged that he is a social worker  fighting for the rights of vulnerable persons. He espoused the cause of a lady belonging to Scheduled Caste who had a property dispute with the opponents.  At the instance of the opponents, the Circle Officer of the area misbehaved, abused, manhandled and threatened the complainant for taking up the case of the poor lady.  The Commission transmitted the complaint to the concerned authority to investigate and report to the Commission within four weeks.

Case No. 12
Shri Vinod Prakash Pindara, Member, Amnesty International, Etah, Uttar Pradesh vide complaint dated 8/2/2010 alleged that he being a Human Rights Defender takes up cases of human rights violations and therefore is being threatened by the perpetrators.  Inaction on the part of the police authorities of Etah is alleged.

Case No. 13
Mr. Mahesanand, Secretary, Gramya Swaraj Samiti organized protest march Dudhi tehsil to Robersganj district head quarter of Sonbhadra by five thousand tribal and cover 100 km starting from March 10th – 15th   on the resolution taken by villager's sundari on 15th January, 2011 after the re-inauguration of Kanhar Dam. He faced threat from the local contractor, police, state and political parties.

Case No. 14
There are many kinds of threats being faced by the PVCHR's activists. Dr. Lenin of Varanasi, who is executive director of PVCHR, has received repeated threatening for his conversion from Hinduism to Buddhism. He has received intimidations, death threats many times. He is also demoralised by making false allegations against him and making false complaint against him. He also receives obstruction by false calls on his mobile phone. Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, Shruti Nagvanshi with other five colleges was charged under 505 B of Indian Penal code

          Dalit activists associated with PVCHR are often attacked, assaulted and humiliated for his human rights work and for cooperating with PVCHR in her struggle against caste based violence and other organised violence.

                   Women activists of PVCHR are very often sexually harassed and threatened with the intention of demoralising them and to break up with the activities of the organisation.[iv]  

Case No. 14.a
Human rights defender Mr Aftab Alam received death threats and was the subject of harassment and intimidation on 9 February 2010. Aftab Alam is a weaver by trade and is associated with the Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR). Since 2004, Aftab Alam has been working on the issue of hand-loom weavers rights in the Lohta Panchayat region of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, an area where hand-loom weaving is a common occupation. He has reported on the issue of malnutrition, tuberculosis, starvation and the general situation of hand-loom weavers in Lohta following the downturn in the hand-loom weaving industry as a result of the introduction of power looms into India which left many hand-loom weavers without work.
While Aftab Alam was discussing the case with Mukhtar Ahmad, Sujeet Yadav and a group of influential villagers approached them and threatened Aftab Alam, verbally abusing him and warning him not to return to their village. When Aftab Alam asked what he had done wrong the group tried to physically force him onto his motorbike. Fearing for his safety, Aftab Alam quickly left the village on his motorbike.[v]
Case No. 14.b
Mr. Manoj Kumar Singh of Ambedkar Nagar, field activist of PVCHR is threatened by the local authorities for reporting a case of death from starvation. Pritam, three-year-old son of Mr. Ram Karan starved to death in Arkhapur (Alhadapur) on 25 November, 2007. Manoj Kumar was helping Pritam's parents to pursue the local authorities to save Pritam's life.
Manoj was trying to alert the district administration regarding Pritam's situation. Manoj, through the PVCHR contacted the District Magistrate (DM) Mr. Ajay Kumar Upadhyay seeking help from the district administration to help Pritam's family. The response of the district administration however was not positive. The officers at the DM's office threatened Manoj for taking up the cases, particularly those of the Dalit communities in the village. Being insensitive to the plight of the poor people within his jurisdiction, the DM who came to the village the next day after Pritam's death threatened Pritam's father, Raj Karan, intimidating him and shouting at Raj that some of their children would die if a poor person like Raj had several children.[vi]
Case No. 14 c
Human rights activists and villagers were beaten by an organised gang in a village hall after they complained that a social audit was being fabricated, and that many of their names were being misused. The audit was to look into the operation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NREGA), which is operated by the Village Panchayat. We have also learned that although the office of the village head was reserved for a female candidate and was won by the wife of a local landlord, it is her husband who runs the village.

Lalji and Mr. Magala Rajbhar, an activist associated with the PVCHR, tried to intervene and keep the peace, but were beaten by Singh. The BDO called off the meeting and made moves to leave. When asked to call the police by two female PVCHR staff members (Ms. Shruti and her sister Ms. Anupam), he claimed that he would rather report it personally. Shruti requested that she and Lajli go with him and the three tried to leave, but a mob of upper caste men led by Singh reportedly surrounded the vehicle and demanded that Lalji get out. At this point Mishra allegedly pushed Lalji out of his vehicle, and Shruti followed, fearing for his safety. The two were beaten, and one man, Guddu Dubey, known for his links to the underworld, struck Shruti to the ground. Villagers were able to intervene and the two victims were taken to Phulpur Police Station to make a report.[vii]
Case No. 14 d
Mangala is a resident of Ahirani village and is a permanent staff of the PVCHR. Mangala's field work covers Hamirpur village of Badagaon block in Varanasi district. In September 2007, Mangala had organised protests at the Badagaon and Pindra Block Offices along with the members of the Nut and Musahar communities living in the area against the village and block officers who were demanding bribes for distributing government sponsored aid equipments to the poor.
In addition to the protest in front of the offices, Mangala had also encouraged the villagers to file written complaints against the corrupt officers to the Block Development Officer (BDO) of the neighbouring Pindra Block. In the complaint the villagers had accused that the BDO of Badagaon Block, Mr. Satendra Singh, the head of Badagaon Block and Mr. Lolarak Singh, the village head of Nathaipur village had demanded bribes from the villagers for distributing trolleys.
It is reported that Ajay and Sanjay who threatened Mangala are dreaded criminals in the locality who have several allegations against them for being behind assaulting and murdering people in and around the region. It is also reported that Ajay and Sanjay are engaged by the village and block officers who now find their corrupt practices exposed and threatened due to the human rights activities and solidarity movements initiated by the PVCHR in the region through their staff Mr. Mangala Prasad.
When Mangala was threatened he ran away from the place where he was stopped and got a lift from a passerby on his scooter. That night Mangala stayed at his relative's house at Babatpur. In the meanwhile Mangala also informed the matter to his office. The next day, on October 21, 2007 Mangala went to the Phulpur Police Station to lodge a complaint regarding the incident. The Station Officer informed Mangala that he had already received information about the incident over telephone from the PVCHR the previous night and had dispatched a Sub-Inspector to the site. The officer also informed Mangala that the Sub-Inspector had returned after a while and had reported that noting like what was alleged by Mangala in his complaint had happened.[viii]
Case No. 14 e
Dalit activist Rajesh Kumar S/o Jamuna Prasad resident of Koraw Town Area (Ward No. 3 Chamanganj) Allahabad. Rajesh Kumar is working as district Human Rights monitor in the partnership of Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, Varanasi & Peoples' Watch, Tamil Nadu. He helped dalit in the case against the Ram Sandehi Patel.
On 11th February, 2011 morning around 10 am Rajesh Kumar was reading the newspaper at the Sunder Lal Kushwaha C/O Prem Shanker Shukla ward no 2 Goving Nagar Koraw meanwhile the relative of perpetrator Bhanu Patel S/o Surya Lal Patel village Semhariya, Hall Mukam Ward No. 2 Govind Nagar Koraw started to abuse me by using filthy word like Chamar & Siyar. When Rajesh protest than he given threat him and come forward to beat him. Bhanu is agitated with him and he is insulting Rajesh in the area and also planning to beat him.
 Case no. 15
 Guria received threats for their work against human trafficking. Guria is a human rights organisation working against child prostitution and human trafficking in Varanasi city of Uttar Pradesh state. This is not the first occasion where the staff members of Guria have received threats and intimidation. On each occasion, they have complained to the local authorities, including the local police. They threatened the staff members that they must inform Mr. Ajeet Singh, the President of Guria Swayam Sevi Sansthan, that he must not enter the Shivdaspur red-light area should he wish to live.

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Other cases are taken from the NHRC 2010 report on human rights defender.

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