PVCHR initiative supported by EU

Reducing police torture against Muslim at Grass root level by engaging and strengthening Human Rights institutions in India

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Declare 9 December as human rights defenders day and strengthen complaint system against the violation of rights of human rights defenders

Since the Declaration on the rights of human rights defenders, there has been growing concern of human rights defenders as well as civil societies across the globe to fix the responsibilities and duties of the state to protect the human rights defenders so that they could be able to work in free and fearless environment.

In India for last few years there are increasing incidents of killing and illegal detention of human rights activists. Now it is commonly realised by the human rights defenders community as well as by general intelligentsia within the country that impunity and break down of rule of law is making more difficult for the  human rights defenders to work for the capacity building, awareness and mobilisation of the masses to ensure rule of law within the country.

In such background PVCHR took initiative to organise a meeting on situation of human rights defenders on 16 March, 2011 at Paradkar Bhawan in Varanasi city. Total 260 human rights defenders from 45 human rights organisations, across the country, attended the meeting.

 Among distinguished human rights defenders and personalities present at the meeting were Mr. Chitaranjan Singh, National Secretary of Peoples Union for Civil Liberty (PUCL), Mr. Anil Parashar, Joint Secretary and focal point-Human Rights defenders  of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Dr. Lenin, Executive Director of Peoples Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), Dr. Mohan Lal Panda, Advisor communication & advocacy for the PVCHR project, Mr. Sunil Sahasrabuddhe from Vidya Ashram, Mr. Parvez Rizvi from Kaushambhi, Sanjay Singh from Parmarth-Jalaun, Mangal Singh from Mahoba, Mr. Govidsharan from Allahabad, Gyan Bhai from Dynamic Action Group, Mr. Buddhi Narayan Toppo from Sonbhadra. The meeting was organised by PVCHR with the support of European Union, Research and Rehabilitation Centre on Torture victims and Human Rights Defenders Alert.
                                                                        Dr. Lenin
Dr. Lenin, organiser of the meeting, welcomed the participants at the meeting and presented his detailed view on the situation of human rights defenders in India, particularly about the threats faced by the rights activists in the state of Uttar Pradesh. He called on the participants and human rights defenders present at the meeting to share their experiences about the nature of their human rights works and threats faced by them in course of their activities while working on the protection of human rights of the people in their locality.

Dr. Mohan Lal Panda, a human rights defender from Delhi and Advisor of PVCHR, expressed his concern regarding new trends developing in the field of human rights. He remarked that earlier mostly those human rights defenders had to face threats from Mafias or administrative authorities or from police while working on the issue of civil and political rights. But, according to Mr. Panda, new trends suggest that at present even those human rights defenders who are working on the issues of economic rights are facing serious threats from the state authorities as well as from private actors like local land and mines mafias, contractors, corrupt officials, etc. He drew the attention of participants towards the plight of those human rights activists, who are working for the transparency in the functioning of bureaucracy and using Right to Information Act as a tool for this end. He emphasised that NHRIs should prevail upon the Government of India to ratify the International Convention for the protection of All persons from enforced Disappearance and the Convention against Torture and other Inhuman and Degrading treatment[i].
                                                             Dr. Sunil Sahasrabuddhe
Dr. Sunil Sahasrabuddhe viewed that human rights activists draw inspiration for their work in protection of fundamental rights of the people, touched by human sensitivity, not for any political end. According to Dr. Sunil, human rights defenders play an important role in the society. He lamented as unfortunate that human rights defenders had been getting implicated in false criminal cases deliberately with collusion with political leaders and police administration for a long time as to harass and discourage them for their work of human rights. 

Testimonies of Human rights defenders working at gross root level
Conducting the meeting, Dr. Lenin called on all those human rights defenders present at the meeting to come forward and to tell their stories of sufferings, who had to face police atrocities, administrative hostilities, harassed by getting implicated in false criminal cases, threatened by local mafias for their human rights activism. Following human rights defenders, victimised for their human rights work at gross root level, shared their experiences at the meeting.

Mr. Budhiram Toppo

Mr. Buddhi Narayan Toppo is a young human rights activist from Sonbhadra district. He belongs to a tribal community. He is member of district committee formed under Forest Act. As a member of district committee formed under Forest Act, 2009, his work is to identify those families who have been deprived of their land rights and to give them possession over the land snatched away from them illegally. Mr. Toppo has been also working for the rights of the fellow forest dwellers so that they could live a dignified life.
                                                        Mr. Buddhi Narayan Toppo     
In the course of his work for the rights of clean water of the forest dwellers, for opposing environmental degradation in the mining areas and working for the land rights of the poor tribal community, Mr. Toppo faced stiff resistance from not only local mafias but also from the police and administration. He told how the collusion of mafias, police and administration making it almost impossible for the rights activists to raise the issue of violation of human rights of the tribal community in the district of Sonebhadra.
As Mr. Toppo narrated his sufferings, he was implicated in number of criminal cases by the Forest Department; he was thrown in the jail, tortured by local mafias, beaten by tying him up. He was forced to leave his house to save his life. He complained with concerned state authorities from district level to state level, with National Human Rights Commission and State Human Rights Commission but he has not yet been able to receive any help from either police or from any other authorities. Mr. Toppo, further, harassed not only physically but his family also suffered heavy financial loss.

Mr. Toppo lamented that on certain point of time he was thinking to join the rank of Naxal movement as finding no other way to live a peaceful and dignified life. But now he has hope finding himself among the great community of human rights defenders and urged for immediate help.

Mr. Govid Sharan

Mr. Govid Sharan is a human rights activist working in the area of Shankargarh, Allahabad. He had to face hostilities even working on the rights of the children. He told that during his work on the issue of the health of the children, he came to know about the children in mining areas suffering from acute malnutrition. His mistake was that he took the children and admitted them in a government hospital for medical treatment.
                                                                  Mr. Govid Sharan
He narrated his appalling experience about the incident that whole administration including District Magistrate, Chief Development Officer accompanied by police officers came to the hospital and asked the doctor why he had admitted the children in the hospital. Mr. Govind Sharan and his colleagues were taken to the police station and tortured and implicated in false cases for extending help to the malnourished children.

Mr. Sharan complained about the incident with NHRC. NHRC took cognisance of the case.

Mr. Mangal Singh

The name of Mangal Singh has become synonym of the struggle against mines mafias in the area of Mahoba, Bundelshand, Uttar Pradesh. Mangal that mines mafias were involved in land grabbing of poor peasants in the area. It has caused serious threat to the environment in the area and has given rise to health problems. It is alleged that the mines in the area have been dug up to 300 feet deep and it has polluted the ground water which is used for drinking by the local community. Mr. Singh warned that the time is not far away when there might be acute shortage of clean drinking water in the area because of illegal mining activities.
                                                                            Mangal Singh
It is also alleged that some mines are situated nearby a primary school and some children have lost their lives by drowning in the water filled in the deep mines. Communities residing in the area are trapped in different diseases and have been deprived of their right to life and liberty.

Mr. Singh narrated that he had been raising all these issues of serious violation of human rights of local communities, but he never received any cooperation from the local administration. Contrary to that, administration is with mines mafias not only in ignoring the genuine human rights demands of the local community but it has also colluded with Mafias to harass the human rights activists in the area. Mr. Singh has been charged in a number of cases falsely and has been receiving threatening to his life continuously for to leave the area. Mr. Singh requested with High Court, Allahabad for his security and the Court taking into account the serious threats to the life of Mangal Singh passed order to provide him gunner for his security. However, even the order of the Court has not been complied till the date.

Mr. Parvez Rizvi

Mr. Parvez Rizvi is a human rights defender from Kaushambi and working basically for rights of unorganised workers in countryside areas. He has been working for the betterment of Bidi workers, labourers working under National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme and for other poor and marginalised communities. Mr. Rizvi’s work also concentrates on health issues of the children of these communities.
                                                                Mr. Parvez Rizvi 
Mr. Rizvi narrated that his colleague Late Harilal, who himself was a dalit, was a popular workers’ leader in the area. He was raising awareness among the workers working under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and fighting against the corruption in the scheme. He also demanded for the payment of proper and regular wages of the labourers and went on fast unto death for the compliance of the genuine demands of the NAREGA workers. Harilal was killed for his activism by local goons in collusion with local administration.

Mr. Rizvi further narrated that the atrocities on human rights defenders in the area did not stop after the killing of their leader Harilal. After the killing of Harilal, the reactions of the workers were met with further atrocities on workers by the police and administration. Mr. Rizvi and other human rights defenders were implicated in a number of false cases, harassed and tortured. He lamented that NHRC, State Government did nothing substantial for their protection and they are still facing threats to their lives.

 Mr. Sanjay Singh
Mr. Sanjay Singh, associated with the organisation “Parmarth”, has been working as a human rights defender in the district of Jalaun, Uttar Pradesh for last 17 years. His father Late Lalla Singh, a popular human rights defender in the area was killed for his human rights work on September 12, 2009.

Mr. Sanjay while narrating his grievances about the killing of his father stressed to understand the nature of state sponsored violence, hostilities and threats in the path of a human rights defender. He opined that in the wake of present time globalisation there is squarely rush for making money base on the loot of resources. It has increased the gap between rich and the poor. Further he clarified that in such a situation administrative violence against the human rights defenders working for the rights of the poor is increased. Human rights defenders are forced either to leave the place or to face consequences.  

 Gyan Bhai
Gyan Bhai is associated with the organisation “Dynamic Action Group” based in Uttar Pradesh. Gyan Bhai is working for the rights of Dalit communities. He shared his experiences at the meeting with other human rights defenders regarding repercussions of influential persons like local legislature in the area. He narrated his story about the incident of a rape with 5 years old Dalit girl. It is alleged by the people in the area that when they staged protest and demanded to arrest the perpetrators with the help of human rights defenders in the area, many of them were harassed and implicated in heinous offences.

Honour of the human rights defenders victimised for their activism
                                                        Jan Mitra Samman to Sanjay Singh
At the meeting many human rights defenders were honoured for their human rights work amid threats to their lives. Mr. Sanjay Singh from Jalaun was awarded with ‘Jan Mitra Samman’ in the pursuance of his struggle for the rights of the poor people and for the sacrifices he and his family members had to face through.
                                                        Mr. Harishchandra alias Bhothu
Mr. Harishchandra alias Bhothu of Dalit community was also honoured at this occasion. Bhothu had been a survivor of police torture for a long time. He supported by the PVCHR. After support he became active in the human rights work of PVCHR. He had to face a false and fabricated criminal cases alleged against him. He never gave up until proven innocent. For his patience and belief in human rights, PVCHR honoured him by offering Rs. 5000 and a Shawl.

Chanda Devi is permanent resident of Ahirani Village, Block – Badagaon of Varanasi district. On 14th September, 2009 social audit was arranged at the Ahirani Community Centre in Nathaipur village by the Badagaon Block Development Officer (BDO) Shri Atul Mishra. Mean while Mahendra Singh from Kuwar kot reached and started to shout and tried to close the door. There stampede occurs she saw Arun Singh alias Lolark Singh was pressing the neck of her husband brother with both hands. Immediately she cried for help and rushed to save him. She tried to save him but they pushed and torn her blouse. After waking six km they reach to Phulpur police station but officer did not lodge the FIR however on the pressure of villagers they filed NCR.
Lolarak Singh is making planning to beat and due to fear she is not coming out of my house. She is continuously striving for the justice.

Prema is permanent resident of village Aswari, block – Pindra of Varanasi district. She cannot forget the evening of 16th September, 2010 when her daughter Asha (changed name) went to toilet in the field. Two persons on the motorbike abducted her. Hearing this she fainted and fall on the ground and got injury on her head. Whole night she was searching her and she cannot cry due to social concerns. In the dark night she fined the body of her daughter in the field. She heard from the shivering voice of her daughter that she was raped by the Chote Lal Patel and other man. She went to Phulpur police station to lodge FIR but policemen laughed at her. Instead of rape they showed molestation.

NHRC is aware of the situation of human rights defenders

                                          Mr. Anil Parashar
Mr. Anil Parashar, joint registrar and focal piont-Human Rights Defenders at NHRC was also present at the meeting. He assured the rights defenders present at the meeting that NHRC was aware of the rights of them and it sends its recommendation to the Central and State governments to take appropriate measures for the protection of human rights of the ordinary people as well as for the protection of the rights of human rights defenders. He said that NHRC took steps against the violation of the human rights both ways; by means of compensation or by taking action against the perpetrators. He also said that the annual reports of NHRC are sent to the Parliament as to discuss on the issue of human rights violations.

Presidential address
Mr. Chitaranjan Singh, National Secretary and state President of Peoples Union for Civil Liberty was also present at the meeting and presided over the meeting on the situation of human rights defenders. In his presidential address raised the issue of illegal of arrest of Ms. Seema Azad, the then Uttar Pradesh state secretary of PUCL. Mr. Singh informed that Ms. Seema published a booklet on the horrible effect of proposed scheme of Ganga Expressway and some other issues of extra judicial killings in her magazine named “ Dastak”. Mr. Singh reiterated that the only mistake of Ms. Seema was to question the relevance of Ganga Expressway and she drew the attention of peasants affected by this scheme.
                                                             Mr. Chitaranjan Singh
Further, he questioned the role of judiciary as an independent institution for not granting bail to Seema for a long time. Mr. Singh demanded that National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) should strive for its independent investigating mechanism so that it could be able to conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigation into a case of rights violation. He shared his experiences at the meeting regarding his personal involvement into strenuous movement conducted for the establishment of State Human Rights Commission in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Conducting the meeting on the situation of human rights defenders Dr. Lenin reiterated his demands for strengthening the complaint system regarding violation of rights human rights defenders. He called on the human rights defenders from all parts of the country to develop more efficient and sustainable complaint mechanism so that prompt action should be taken on the part of NHRC. He also stated to form more live and compact alliance between human rights organisations and individuals so that they could be able communicate with others easily and could be informed of the risks of human rights defenders community. He also reiterated to raise awareness for the work of human rights in the country as well as among international community.

He demanded to declare 9 December (the Declaration on human rights defenders was adopted by United Nations on 9 December 1998) as human rights defenders day.[ii]

At the meeting it was decided to convene a national level meeting on coming 9 December in Varanasi order to celebrate human rights defenders day.

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