India: Renewed threats and harassment against relatives of Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar

27/04/2016
Urgent Appeal

New information
IND 004 / 1114 / OBS 091.5

Death threats /
Harassment / Impunity
India
April 27, 2016

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.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) of renewed threats and harassment against relatives of Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar, aDistrict Human Rights Monitor for MASUM in Murshidabad district (West Bengal, India). Mr. Sarkar is a renowned human rights defender who has been instrumental in denouncing numerous cases of human rights violations in Murshidabad district.

According to the information received, on March 28, 2016, at around 7 pm, the house of Mr. Abdul Majid Seikh, Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar’s brother, in the village of Bardhanpur Choyapara, Raninagar, Murshidabad, was again surrounded by Mr. Rafikul Islam and seven other accomplices [1], who were all already involved in previous assaults against Mr. Abdul Majid Seikh’s house on March 23 and 24, 2016 (see background information). The assailants gathered in front of the house, heavily armed with firearms and sharp weapons, shouting and uttering threats against Ms. Janera Bibi, Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar’s aunt, who lives in the house neighbouring the one of Mr. Abdul Majid Seikh. The attackers threatened to set fire to the house and burn alive the members of the family if they did not withdraw the Raninagar police station case no 123/2016 [2], which was brought against Mr. Rafikul Islam and his accomplices following the March 23, 2016 attack, based on a complaint submitted by Ms. Janera Bibi.

On March 30, 2016, Mr. Abdul Majid Seikh’s family filed a new complaint before the local Police Superintendent of Murshidabad district.

On April 2, 2016, at about 7 pm, Mr. Rafikul Islam, Mr. Mejarul Sheikh and other accomplices assembled once more in front of the houses of Mr. Abdul Majid Sheikh and Ms. Janera Bibi, heavily armed. They again threatened Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar’s relatives with dire consequences if they did not withdraw the above-mentioned Raninagar police station case. The situation was brought again to the Raninagar police station, which was reluctant to report the case. Therefore they filed another written complaint signed by Ms. Janera Bibi dated April 3, 2016 before the local Police Superintendent of Murshidabad district.

Yet, as of issuing this Urgent Appeal, the Raninagar police had still not arrested any of the accused persons, and Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar’s family remains concerned for their safety. Moreover, on April 23, 2016, at 10.51 am, Police Sub-Inspector Mr. Gautam Dutta, from Raninagar police station, called Mr. Sayeed Hossain, Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar’s elder brother, on his mobile phone, asking him “to compromise the matter mutually” with the accused persons.

The Observatory expresses its deep concern following the renewed threats and acts of harassment against Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar’s relatives, and recalls that these are not isolated incidents. Such recurrent acts of intimidation and harassment, including by the police [3], seem to be retaliation for his work as MASUM District Human Rights Monitor in Murshidabad. In particular, it is noteworthy that one of the assailants, Mr. Amzad Hossian, is the son of Mr. Nasiruddin Sarkar, who is the Pradhan of Malibari I Gram Panchayet, against whom MASUM has made complaints for misappropriation of public money.

Background information:

On November 21, 2014, law enforcement agents from the Raninagar police station arrested Mr. Ajimuddin 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 his arrest six months later, Mr. Sarkar did not receive any information about the status of 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 subsequently referred to BerhamporeNew 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.

On November 23, 2014, Mr. Sarkar’s son filed a complaint to the local Police Superintendent of 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.

On September 22, 2015, Mr. Sarkar was abducted in Sekhpara (Murshidabad, West Bengal) by five to seven police officers from the Islampur police station who were not wearing uniforms. At the time of the incident, Mr. Sarkar was talking with victims of torture and their family members when the police officers arrived in a car and started beating and insulting him. The officers then placed him inside the vehicle and took him away.

On September 23, 2015, Mr. Sarkar was taken before the Additional District and Sessions Judge (2ndCourt) [4] 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 his detention he was slapped, kicked and pounded on the chest as well as verbally abused. He was not given access to his medication and was denied food at night. He was then 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. A Criminal Revision at Calcutta High Court (CRR No. 404/2016) was filed to quash the criminal proceeding against Mr. Sarkar at Islampur police station.

Two other cases against Mr. Sarkar, namely the “Raninagar police station case No. 364/2013” (under section 12 of Passport Act read with section 109 of Indian Penal Code) and the “Domkal police station case No. 1243/2014” (under section 308 of the Indian Penal Code), are also ongoing [5]. A Criminal Revision at Calcutta High Court (CRR No. 2671/2015) was filed to quash the criminal case pending against Mr. Sarkar at Raninagar police station.

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 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 Human Rights Defenders. However, as of issuing this Urgent Appeal,no actions had reportedly been taken over the allegations of police abuse upon Mr. Sarkar.

On November 27, 2015, Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar was granted bail [6] in relation to the first criminal case, but was not released on that day as the other case was still pending against him.

On December 8, 2015, 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.

On March 23, 2016, at midnight, Mr. Rafikul Islam and his accomplices used sharp weapons and firearms to attack the house of Mr. Abdul Majid Seikh. The attack occurred while everyone in the house was asleep. During the attack, the perpetrators shouted threats against Mr. Ripon Seikh, Mr. Masudul Hossain and Mr. Sahidul Islam, Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar’s nephews. The group also loudly insulted the women inside the house. Although the Raninagar police station was phoned and informed of the attack that night, they did not intervene.

The next morning at 6 am, as Mr. Ripon Seikh, Mr. Abdul Majid Seikh’s son, exited his house, Mr. Rafikul Islam and his group attacked him with daggers, pistols and bombs. Mr. Ripon Seikh was hit in the back with a dagger and fell down bleeding. At that moment, Mr. Kabil Seikh and Mr. Habil Seikh, two cousins of Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar, tried to help Mr. Ripon Seikh and were both attacked and severely injured. The attackers then fled and eyewitnesses of the incident brought the injured to Godhanpara Block Primary Centre, who were transferred to the Baharampur New General Hospital due to their serious condition. Messrs. Ripon Seikh, Kabil Seikh and Habil Seikh were subsequently released from the hospital but remain under medical treatment.

On March 24, 2016, Mr. Ripon Seikh’s grandmother registered a complaint with the Raninagar police station, but a copy of the First Information Report (FIR) was only provided to the family on March 25, 2016 evening after several requests were made. Raninagar police registered case no. 123/2016 based on this complaint against Mr. Piarul Islam, Mr. Nijarul Islam, Mr. Rafikul Islam, Mr. Panjatan Sk, Ms. Hema Bibi, Ms. Adora Bibi and Mr. Hamida Bibi.

Moreover, on March 24, 2016, the Raninagar police registered another criminal case [7] based on a complaint lodged by Ms. Hema Bibi (Mr. Rafikul Islam’s wife and one of the accused persons in above-mentioned attack) against Messrs. Abdul Majid Seikh, Ripon Seikh, Sahidul Islam, Masidul Seikh, Alamgir Kabir, Babu Seikh and Makil Islam, who are all close relatives of Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar. On March 30, 2016, they all surrendered in court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Lalbagh, and were released on bail.

It is feared that other fabricated criminal cases may be started by the police against Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar and/or his family members in the future.

Actions requested:

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

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar, his relatives as well as of all members of MASUM and all human rights defenders in India;

ii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into the above-mentioned attacks, threats and acts of harassment against Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar and his relatives, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar, his relatives 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 its Articles 1 and 12.2;

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.

Please also write to the National Human Rights Commission of India, urging it:

i. to undertake an independent and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned attacks, threats and acts of harassment against Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar and his relatives, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

ii. to call upon the Indian authorities:
- to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar, his relatives as well as of all members of MASUM and all human rights defenders in India;
- to put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against themas well as against all human rights defenders in India.

Addresses:

Mr. Nanredra 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, Ministry of Home Affairs of India. Fax: +91 11 2309 2979
Mr. Justice T.S. Thakur, Chief Justice of India. Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: supremecourt@nic.in
Mr. A. K. Parashar, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission, India. Email: hrd-nhrc@nic.in
Mr. Keshari Nath Tripathi, Governor of West Bengal, Kolkata, Fax +91 33 2200 2444. Email : secy-gov-wb@nic.in; governor-wb@nic.in
Miss Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal. Fax: +91 33 2214-3528. E-mail: cm@wb.gov.in
H.E. Mr. Ajit Kumar, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int
Embassy of India in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869

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

***

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