The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in India.
The Observatory has been informed by Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) of the release on bail and ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar, a District Human Rights Monitor (DHRM) for MASUM in Murshidabad district (West Bengal, India). Mr. Sarkar is a renowned human rights defender who has investigated cases of human rights violations perpetrated by the police and Border Security Forces (BSF), and who has been instrumental in denouncing several other human rights violations in Murshidabad district.
According to the information received, Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar was arbitrarily arrested on September 22, 2015  (see background information). Shortly after his arrest, two criminal cases were filed against him: the first on September 23, 2015 , and the second on September 29, 2015, on allegations of rape .
On November 27, 2015, Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar was granted bail  in relation to the first criminal case, but was not released on that day as the other case was still pending against him.
It is only on December 8, 2015 that Mr. Sarkar was finally released on bail pursuant to the second case, since the de facto complainant filed an affidavit stating that she did not bring any allegation of rape against Mr. Sarkar and she had no knowledge of the related criminal case against him.
Mr. Sarkar is currently receiving medical treatment, both physical and psychological, as his mental and physical health conditions deteriorated significantly during the past months in detention.
The Observatory welcomes the release on bail of Mr. Sarkar, but condemns the ongoing judicial harassment by the Islampur Police against him, as well as against other members of MASUM, which seems to be aimed only at punishing them for their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities. In fact, the Islamur Police abducted and filed charges against Mr. Sarkar just days after he and MASUM had filed a case against the head of the Islampur Police Station for torture and custodial death .
The Observatory recalls that it is not the first time Mr. Sarkar has been intimidated, judicially harassed and ill-treated by the police (see background information).
More generally, the Observatory expresses its deepest concern for the widespread judicial harassment suffered by MASUM’s personnel, including its Secretary, Mr. Kirity Roy, as well as other District Human Rights Monitors (DHRM) in several West Bengal districts. For instance, Mr. Mohar Ali Mondal, DHRM in District-North 24 Parganas, was detained in Swarupnagar Police Station in the month of July 2014 without any lawful reason . Furthermore, on August 6, 2015, Mr. Durbadal Majumdar, DHRM in Jalpaiguri District, was also detained in New Jalpaiguri Police Out Post from 3.30 p.m. to 10.30 a.m. of the following day, without any lawful reason . In addition, MASUM’s pro-bono lawyer Mr. Rana Mahanta, who was defending among others the case of the widowed Ms. Bewa, has also been repeatedly threatened by unknown police personnel to withdraw the complaint regarding the custodial death of her husband against the accused police personnel.
Accordingly, the Observatory calls on the Indian authorities to put an end to the ongoing and persistent attempts to criminalise members of MASUM, in contravention of their international engagements regarding the protection of human rights defenders.
On November 21, 2014, law enforcement agents from the Raninagar Police Station arrested Mr. Sarkar at his place of residence and transferred him to the ACJM Court, Lalbagh. Mr. Sarkar was reportedly arrested pursuant to an arrest warrant for a pending criminal case under the Passport Act .
On May 20, 2014, Mr. Sarkar had filed an application before the ACJM Court, Lalbagh, expressing his concern that he had been falsely implicated in an unknown criminal case by the police and the BSF, and requesting more details about such case. However, until the arrest, Mr. Sarkar did not receive any information about the status of the said criminal case, neither did he receive any summons from the police nor the court.
Mr. Sarkar was reportedly assaulted, abused and mistreated by the police during his arrest as well as in custody.
On November 22, 2014, Mr. Sarkar was admitted to Lalbagh Sub-Divisional Hospital and referred to Berhampore New General Hospital on November 27, 2014, for medical treatment following the injuries suffered in custody. On November 28, 2014, he was taken to Kolkata for advanced medical treatment. On November 29, 2014, he underwent psychiatric counselling; the medical report stated that he had several injuries such as a suspected fractured rib, as well as post traumatic stress, a tear on a ligament on his left leg, a feeling of humiliation, intense anxiety, fear and a feeling of sadness and helplessness. He suffered from insomnia and his doctors expressed their concern that the attack could have long-term effects on his psychological health. Mr. Sarkar went to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital for further treatment on December 3, 2014. To this date, Mr. Sarkar is still undergoing physiotherapy sessions.
On November 23, 2014, Mr. Sarkar’s son filed a complaint to the local Police Superintendent Murshidabad urging the police to carry out an investigation into the beatings his father had been subjected to while in police custody. However, to this date, no information could be obtained regarding any enquiry or investigation following the complaint .
Two other cases against Mr. Sarkar, namely the “Raninagar Police Station Case No. 354/2013” and the “Domkal Police Station Case No. 1243/2014”, are also ongoing. A Criminal Revision at Calcutta High Court was filed to quash the criminal case pending against Mr. Sarkar at Raninagar Police Station.
Furthermore, on September 22, 2015 at 10.27 a.m., Mr. Sarkar was abducted in Sekhpara (Murshidabad, West Bengal) by five to seven police officers from the Islampur Police Station who were not wearing their uniform. At the time of the incident, Mr. Sarkar was talking with victims of torture and their family members when, all of a sudden, the police officers arrived in a car and started beating and insulting him after which they lifted him, placed him inside the vehicle and took him away.
On September 23, 2015, at 1.38 p.m., Mr. Sarkar was taken before the Additional District and Sessions Judge (2nd Court)  in Berhampore-Murshidabad and a criminal case was opened against him under Sections 376, 511, 323, 506 and 400 of the Indian Criminal Code and under Sections 8 and 12 of the Act for Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. During the arrest he was slapped, kicked and pounced on the chest as well as verbally abused. He was not permitted to have his medicine and he was not given food at night.
Furthermore he was obliged to walk barefoot and was brought before the Court in this condition. At 6.15 p.m. on the same day, a petition for bail was rejected and Mr. Sarkar was then transferred to the prison Berhampore Central Correctional Home.
MASUM has filed several complaints regarding the harassment of its members and has been regularly sharing information with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Regarding previous incidents with Mr. Sarkar and other MASUM members, the Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) at the NHRC called MASUM and informed them that they had taken up the case and sought a report from the relevant police and civil administration, but up to this date no documents have been shared with MASUM and no appropriate action has reportedly been taken.
On September 22, 2015, immediately following Mr. Sarkar’s abduction, MASUM filed a brief complaint with a request for urgent measures from the NHRC and contacted the Focal Point of the NHRC on HRDs. However, as of issuing this Urgent Appeal, no actions have reportedly been taken over the allegations of police abuse upon Mr. Sarkar.
Please write to the authorities in India, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar as well as of all members of MASUM and all human rights defenders in India;
ii. Drop immediately and unconditionally all charges against Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar, as they only seem to be aimed at sanctioning his legitimate human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar and all members of MASUM as well as against all human rights defenders in India so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrances;
iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:
Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”; and
Article 12.2, which provides that “"the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”; and
v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by India.
· Mr. Shri Nanredra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, Prime Minister’s Office, Room number 152, South Block, New Delhi, India. Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
· Mr. Raj Nath Singh, Union Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, 104-107 North Block, New Delhi 110 001 India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979
· Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, Tilak Marg, New Delhi -1, India. Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Manav Adhikar Bhawan Block-C, GPO Complex, INA, New Delhi - 110023, India. Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
· Mr. A. K. Parashar, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission, Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110 001, India. Email: email@example.com
· Miss Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister, Chief Minister of West Bengal, 325, Sarat Chatterjee Rd, Shibpur, Howrah, West Bengal 711102, Telephone: +91 33 2214-5555, 2214-3101. Fax: +91 33 2214-3528. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
· H.E. Mr. Dilip Sinha, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations (Geneva), Rue du Valais 9, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: email@example.com
· Embassy of India in Brussels, 217 Chaussée de Vleurgat, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of India in your respective country.
|Geneva-Paris, January 8, 2016|
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.
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