From Our Members – Press Release – State Failing to Protect Human Rights Defenders Intervening in Human Rights Violation Cases by Security Forces in West Bengal
4 November 2016 3:28 pm

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(Kolkata, 3 November 2016) A national high level fact finding team comprising of members of superior judiciary, police and civil society undertook a mission during the period October 31 – November 3, 2016, in the wake of alarming instances with regard to attacks on human rights defenders (HRDs) intervening in the issues of torture, killings and disappearances by security forces along the Indo-Bangladesh border in the state of West Bengal. The fact finding mission was led by Justice (Retd.) H. Suresh – former judge of Bombay High Court, Dr. K.S. Subramanian – former Director General of Police and Prof. Miratun Nahar – academician and writer. During the mission, the fact finding team met a range of HRDs from the districts of North 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Coochbehar and Jalpaiguri engaged in interventions in cases of human rights violations by security forces. These HRDs are associated with the organisation Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM). The team also met victims of human rights violations on whose behalf these HRDs initiated actions before commissions and courts. The team also met doctors, lawyers, social activists, Inspector General of Border Security Force (BSF), Director General of police of West Bengal Police, commissioners at West Bengal Human Rights Commission and West Bengal Commission for Women and other state officials. The fact finding mission was organised by Human Rights Defenders Alert – India (HRDA).

Based on meetings with a series of people concerned with the scope of the fact finding mission, the fact finding team has come to the following prima facie interim observations –

  • HRDs in these districts along the India-Bangladesh border are coming under repeated attacks from security agencies due to their interventions in cases of torture, killings and disappearances. These HRDs are charged with fabricated cases, tortured, threatened and their family members also threatened because of HRDs’ work. In the democratic framework where rule of law is guaranteed by the Constitution of India, the work of HRDs is crucial and of utmost importance. Testimonies of HRDs Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar and Mr. Ajijul Haque testifies the extreme difficult circumstances they now face because of their quest for justice. Under the blanket of national security, human security is grossly compromised.
  • In cases of human rights abuses by security forces, it is often found that the victims and HRDs are deliberately made the accused in these cases and the crime committed by security forces go unaccounted for and they enjoy impunity under Section 197 of CrPC. There seems a clear nexus between security forces, politicians and anti-social elements in the modus operandi of human rights abuses and illegal activities. It was shocking to see the use of pellet guns on people in these areas. IG BSF confirmed the use of pellet guns.
  • MASUM as an organisation is under risk with most of its workers facing some or the other criminal charges which appears vindictively imposed by the State because of their human rights work. In this era of technology, it appears that MASUM is under surveillance as their emails and mobile phones are being tapped to the extent that they are unable to or limitedly access them.
  • More than 600 complaints only in the last five years were brought to the notice of the National Human Rights Commission and West Bengal Human Rights Commission. In complete apathy, these human rights bodies, have never undertaken independent investigations despite the nature of cases involving killings and torture. All the cases are referred to the same authority who are accused of human rights violations thus denying the principles of natural justice. There are several cases pending before Calcutta High Court and Supreme Court for several years. West Bengal Human Rights Commission has no Chairperson and a human rights commission currently led by a retired police official holds no confidence for justice in such cases. Other human rights institutions including the women commission chose to remain silent and didn’t initiate any proceedings into the gross human rights violation by security forces.

The fact finding team will be submitting to the concerned departments and officials the detailed interim report for comments before coming out with the final report. The final report will be brought to the notice of Supreme Court, Calcutta High Court, National Human Rights Commission and West Bengal Human Rights Commission.

For further information, please contact –

Mr. Mathew Jacob – +91-8860110520, hrda.mathew@gmail.com