An appeal, floated for signature by Henri Tiphagne of Human Rights Defenders’ Alert (HRDA), India, has sought to ask Justice (retired) HL Dattu, chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), strongly opposed the West Bengal government's “violent repression” of Banglar Manabadhikar Surakksha Mancha (MASUM), a well-known, non-foreign funded human rights organisation.
Tiphagne says, MASUM is a “platform of human rights defenders (HRDs), engaging on the issues of torture and extra-judicial killings through its district human right monitors in different districts in West Bengal, particularly in Murshidabad, North 24 Parganas, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri districts.”
It is also involved in “systematically documenting data and information related to torture and extra-judicial killing based on observation, questionnaires, and interviews with victim family, eyewitnesses, and relevant officials”, he adds.
This, says Tiphagne -- whose appeal has been put for signature to be sent to Dattu -- has led to a situation where “human rights activists associated with MASUM have been facing continuous and systematic harassment, physical intimidation, illegal arrest, detention and persecution due to their human rights work.”
“Such acts by the state police alleged to be motivated by the state administration sends strong warning messages to other human rights organisations in the country”, he says, adding, this has happened because MASUM has “exposed atrocities committed by the West Bengal state police and the Border Security Force (BSF) deployed along the Indo-Bangladesh border.”
Giving instances, Tiphagne says, “Kirity Roy, present secretary of MASUM, was arrested by the Anti-Terrorist Cell of Kolkata Police on April 7, 2010 for coordinating a People’s Tribunal on Torture on June 9-10, 2008. The police started a case against MASUM claiming the tribunal to be illegal.”
“The case”, he says, “is pending in the Supreme Court of India, after the Calcutta High Court rejected to quash it. The NHRC also has let down MASUM when it approached them with a complaint in this case. The Government of India has refused to grant Foreign Contribution and Regulation Certification/ license to MASUM.”
Then, Tiphagne says, “Ajimuddin Sarkar, District Human Rights Monitor, has been implicated in several false and concocted criminal charges by Murshidabad district police. He was behind bars for 70 days. In the month of September 2015, Sarkar was implicated in two criminal cases by Islampur Police Station.”
Criminal cases have also been insituted against other activists of MASUM such as Kirity Roy, Mohor Mondal, Durbadal Majumdar, Ajijul Haque, and Tilak Barman, Tiphagne says.
According to him, MASUM has been “actively engaged in reporting and intervening in human rights cases, particularly concerning the violence committed by the law enforcement agencies in West Bengal.”
He adds, “MASUM so far has conducted more than 3000 fact findings, lodged 3200 complaints before the human rights institutions, government offices, and UN bodies”, even as providing “medical and psychological supports to 8500 victims of torture, their families.”
Asking the NHRC to take urgent and special notice of MASUM’s series of cases and send a special high level team under Special Rapporteurs to look into “all their cases of harassment, ill-treatment, intimidation, illegal detention, police accesses and torture of the HRDs associated with MASUM and present a detailed report to the NHRC”, Tiphagne says, NHRC should also “hold the perpetrators of the recorded violations against MASUM accountable.”
At the same time, Tiphagne says, the West Bengal government and the Boarder Security force (BSF) should be “made to provide remedies to MASUM and its activists such as apology, re assurance of non-repetition and sufficient compensation to make up for all the loss of reputation and other loses suffered over all these past years.”