India: Arbitrary detention and torture of journalist Kanishk Tiwari

28/04/2022
Urgent Appeal
Shajankumar / Creative Commons

IND 002 / 0422 / OBS 031
Torture and ill-treatment /
Arbitrary arrest /
Release / Criminalisation
Excessive use of force
India
April 28, 2022

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.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and acts of torture and ill-treatment while in custody of journalist Mr. Kanishk Tiwari in the town of Sidhi, Madhya Pradesh State. Mr. Tiwari reports on local issues through his YouTube news channel MP Sandesh News 24, where he scrutinises the activities of local politicians and the police department and reports on human rights violations and social issues.

In the evening of April 2, 2022, Kanishk Tiwari went to the Kotwali Police Station, Sidhi, Madhya Pradesh State, to cover a peaceful protest for the release of Mr. Neeraj Kunder, a theatre artist who had been arrested earlier that day for allegedly running a fake Facebook profile of the nephew of a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Kedar Nath Shukla.

The police violently dispersed the 40 people who had gathered in front of the police station, beating them with sticks. Nine individuals were arbitrarily arrested, including Mr. Tiwari, who was reporting on the excessive use of force by the police against the protesters, and forcefully brought inside the Kotwali police station, where they were detained overnight.

Throughout the night, Mr. Tiwari and the eight peaceful protesters were verbally and physically tortured. According to them, Mr. Amar Singh Kallu, a close associate of Mr. Shukla, arrived at the site and started beating Mr. Tiwari with a pipe, while the policemen stood by and watched. Mr. Tiwari reported that the eight peaceful protesters and himself were taken one by one to a room where they were beaten with sticks, plastic pipes, punched, kicked and slapped by the policemen. While they were being beaten, Mr. Kallu, also present in the room, was making video calls to show the beatings to an unknown person. Then, the nine were regrouped, beaten once more and stripped of their clothes. The policemen ripped off from some of the men’s chests their janeu, a sacred thread worn primarily by men of the Brahmin caste.

They were left in their undergarments all night and paraded around the police station. A police officer from the Amiliya Police Station threatened Mr. Tiwari that he would be paraded naked through the whole town of Sidhi if he did not stop publishing critical information about the local police and Mr. Shukla.

On April 3, 2022, the nine men were formally arrested under Sections 151, 152, 153, 186, 341, 504 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code (“knowingly continuing in assembly of five or more persons after it has been commanded to disperse”, “obstructing a public servant when suppressing a riot”, “provocation with intent to cause riot”, “obstructing a public servant in discharge of public functions”, “wrongful restraint”, “intentional insult intended to provoke breach of peace” and “acts by persons with a common intention”, respectively). They were kept in their undergarments until almost 2pm, when they were produced before a magistrate and released on bail pending investigation at around 7pm on the same day.

On April 7, 2022, a video went viral on social media, showing the victims standing half naked in the Kotwali police station. After the video triggered public outcry, two policemen, Mr. Soni and Mr. Parihar, from Kotwali Police Station and Amiliya Police Station, respectively, were suspended. According to the media, when asked about the video, senior police officials termed this as a normal police process to prevent unwanted measures by the detainees. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, no criminal complaint has been registered against the police officials involved into the above-mentioned acts of torture and ill-treatment against Mr. Tiwari and the eight peaceful protesters.

The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest, criminalisation, and acts of torture and ill-treatment against Mr. Tiwari and the eight peaceful protesters and urges the Indian authorities to carry out a transparent, impartial, immediate, and thorough investigation into the allegations of torture against them, in order to hold those responsible accountable. The Observatory further urges the authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Kanishk Tiwari and to guarantee his right to freedom of expression.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in India, urging them to:
- guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Kanishk Tiwari and all other human rights defenders in India;
- conduct an immediate, thorough, transparent and independent investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of torture and ill-treatment against Kanishk Tiwari and the eight peaceful protesters, in order to hold those responsible accountable;
- put an end to all act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Kanish Tiwari and all other 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;
- ensure an enabling legal, institutional and administrative environment that effectively guarantees the right to freedom of expression, as enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
- ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture that India signed in 1997.

Addresses:

• Mr. Narendra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in, Twitter: @narendramodi
• Mr. Amit Shah, Union Minister of Home Affairs of India, Email: dirfcra-mha@gov.in
• Mr. Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India, Email: hshso@nic.in
• Mr. N.V. Ramana, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court of India, Email: supremecourt@nic.in
• Mr. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Email : mp.mygov@mp.gov.in, Twitter : @ChouhanShivraj
• Secretary General Chief Executive Officer
of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Email: sgnhrc@nic.in, Twitter: @India_NHRC
• Mr. Indrajeet Kumar, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission of India, Email: hrd-nhrc@nic.in
• H.E. Mr. Rajiv Kumar Chander, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int

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

***
Geneva-Paris, April 28, 2021

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.

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