India: Judicial harassment of Hiren Gohain, Akhil Gogoi and Manjit Mahanta

15/01/2019
Urgent Appeal

IND 001 / 0119 / OBS 004
Judicial harassment
India
January 15, 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 reliable sources about the judicial harassment against Messrs. Hiren Gohain, Akhil Gogoi and Manjit Mahanta, in relation to their participation in a peaceful protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Guwahati, Assam State, to oppose the discriminatory character of the proposed legislation.

According to the information received, on January 9, 2019, Latasil police registered a case against Messrs. Hiren Gohain, one of Assam’s most prominent scholar and intellectual, Akhil Gogoi, President of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) [1], and Manjit Mahanta, Convenor of the Forum against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill, under Sections 120(B) (“punishment of criminal conspiracy”), 121 (“waging or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government”), 123 (“concealing with intent to facilitate design to wage war”), and 124(A) (“sedition”) of the Indian Penal Code.

On January 11, 2019, the Gauhati High Court granted bail to Mr. Manjit Mahanta and interim bail to Messrs. Hiren Gohain and Akhil Gogoi against a surety of Rs. 5,000 each (around 61,5 Euros), and fixed January 22, 2019 as the next date of hearing of the case.

The case was filed after Messrs. Hiren Gohain, Akhil Gogoi and Manjit Mahanta attended a public rally organized by the Forum against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill in Latasil, Guwahati, on January 7, 2019, during which they expressed their views against the religion-based Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and strongly opposed the passing of this piece of legislation [2]. Despite their opposition to the Bill, the three human rights defenders have publicly stated that they are not against the Constitution of India, and are solely asking for equal constitutional protection for the people of Assam State.

The Observatory recalls also that in 2017 Mr. Akhil Gogoi had already been charged with sedition for expressing his criticisms against the policies of the Government of Assam State as well as the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill [3].

The Observatory condemns the judicial harassment of Messrs. Hiren Gohain, Akhil Gogoi and Manjit Mahanta, which seem aimed at hindering their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities, and urges Indian authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment against them, including at the judicial level.

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 Messrs. Hiren Gohain, Akhil Gogoi and Manjit Mahanta and of all human rights defenders in India;
 
ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Messrs. Hiren Gohain, Akhil Gogoi and Manjit Mahanta and 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
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, January 15, 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] Founded by Mr. Akhil Gogoi in 2005, KMSS works notably in favour of land rights and since 2009 has also been leading a statewide movement against construction of big dams in the ecologically sensitive regions of Assam State and Arunachal Pradesh State.
[2] Amidst and ahead of the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill at the Lok Sabha (the Lower House of India’s Parliament) on January 8, 2019, there was widespread protest throughout the North Eastern states of India against the said Bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who had entered the State by December 31, 2014 and if they have lived in India for six years. Not only does it violate Article 14 of the Constitution that guarantees right to equality, but it also contradicts the citizenship cut-off date of March 24, 1971 that was decided in the Assam Accord. This also implies that illegal migrants who are Muslims or atheists will not be eligible for a citizenship. People in Assam are against this differential treatment to illegal migrants on the basis of their religion. The Assamese also fear that the Bill will make them a minority in their own homeland.
[3] See Observatory Urgent Appeal IND 005 / 0917 / OBS 106, published on September 29, 2017.

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