India: Acts of harassment and intimidation against Ms. Shila Bewa

08/02/2019
Urgent Appeal

IND 003 / 0219 / OBS 013
Harassment
India
February 8, 2019

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in India.

Brief description of the information:

The Observatory has been informed by Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) [1] about acts of harassment and intimidation by personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF) against Ms. Shila Bewa, a member of MASUM, in Toltoli village, in Ghospara Gram Panchayat, Murshidabad district, West Bengal State, close to the border with Bangladesh.

According to the information received, at around noon on January 25, 2019, Ms. Shila Bewa was verbally harassed and intimidated by Mr. Tejbir, an officer of the BSF 43rd Battalion posted at the Farajipara Border Outpost (BOP)while putting up posters as part of a campaign protesting against violations committed by the BSF [2], around the river bank areas of Toltoli village. Mr. Tejbir also confiscated all posters that were in her bags and tore several posters that had already been pasted on walls.

At 3.30pm on the same day, when Ms. Bewa went to the Jalangi police station, Murshidabad district, to file a complaint, the officer-in-charge initially refused to register her complaint and blamed her for getting herself into trouble, before finally accepting to take her complaint. When she returned the next day to the police station to get a receipt for her complaint, the Officer-in-Charge verbally harassed her, telling her that she “can’t do anything against the BSF. We will not take any step against the BSF” and that “Kirity Roy of MASUM cannot do anything against the police and the BSF”.

Moreover, on January 27, 2019, Mr. Tejbir interrupted a street corner meeting convened by villagers at Raipara, in Ghospara Gram Panchayat, to protest against the BSF’s attacks on freedom of expression of the people living along the border, which specifically denounced Ms. Shila Bewa’s recent harassment. While the gathered villagers asked Mr. Tejbir about his involvement in the removal of posters, he took photographs of Mr. Kirity Roy, MASUM Secretary, who was addressing the crowd at the time. As the gathering was getting restless, the BSF personnel left. However, later, at around 7.30 pm, 15 police and BSF personnel from the Jalangi police station and Farajipara BSF Camp, including Mr. Tejbir, came back to where the meeting had taken place, forcing one villager to remove one of the posters denouncing BSF violations and threatening villagers that any type of protest against the police and the BSF would not be tolerated.

The Observatory condemns the above-mentioned acts of harassment and intimidation against Ms. Shila Bewa, which seem to be only aimed at punishing her for denouncing grave human rights violations allegedly involving members of the BSF, and recalls that several other members of MASUM have been facing reprisals in the past for their human rights activities [3].

The Observatory calls upon the Indian authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment, intimidation, and criminalization of all MASUM members, as well as of all human rights defenders in India.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in India, urging them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all the members of MASUM as well as of all human rights defenders in India;

ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against all the members of MASUM, as well as against all human rights defenders in India, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals in all circumstances;

iii. Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with Articles 1 and 12.2;

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by India.

Addresses:

· Mr. Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in / manmo@sansad.in
· Mr. Raj Nath Singh, Union Minister of Home Affairs of India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979. Email: dirfcra-mha@gov.in
· Mr. Rajiv Gauba, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India, Email: hshso@nic.in
· Justice Dipak Misra, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, of India, Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: supremecourt@nic.in
· Justice Shri H.L. Dattu, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email: chairnhrc@nic.in
· Mr. Khaleel Ahmad, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission of India, Email: hrd-nhrc@nic.in
· Ms. Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister, Government of West Bengal, India, Fax: +91-3322143528
· H.E. Mr. Rajiv Kumar Chander, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int
· H.E. Mr. Manjeev Singh Puri, Embassy of India to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of India located in your country.

***
Geneva-Paris, February 8, 2019

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
• Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

[1] MASUM works for the protection of human rights in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal and is especially engaged in documenting cases of torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings. MASUM is a member of OMCT SOS-Torture Network.
[2] The posters called for the BSF to leave the villages, to stop obstructing the cultivation of the land by villagers, and to stop committing torture, trafficking, murder, and enforced disappearances, as well as for the BSF to be punished for torture and corruption.
[3] See Observatory Urgent Appeals, IND 002 / 0815 / OBS 066, issued on August 14, 2015; IND 002 / 0714 / OBS 067, issued on July 30, 2014; IND 004 / 1114 / OBS 091.1, issued on December 24, 2014; IND 004 / 1114 / OBS 091.3, issued on January 8, 2016; IND 004 / 0816 / OBS 073, issued on August 11, 2016; ​IND 002 / 0617 / OBS 069, issued on June 26, 2017; ​IND 002 / 0617 / OBS 069.1, issued on November 10, 2017; IND 002 / 0219 / OBS 012, issued on February 8, 2019.

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