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Inquire into attack on Gujarat tribal rights activist in government office: National Human Rights Commision told

Henri Tiphagne
By Our Representative
India’s top network of advocacy groups, Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA), has sought National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) intervention for action against those responsible for the assault on Gujarat tribal rights activist Romel Sutariya during his visit to the office of Tapi district, Vyara on February 2 . He had gone to there inquire about his RTI pleas regarding illegal lease to sand and black stone mining mafia.
In a letter to AK Parashar, National Focal Point, Human Rights Defenders, and Joint Registrar, NHRC, Delhi, Henri Tiphagne of HRDA has said that the attackers have not been booked because they are close to the ruling party, and Sutariya was “targeted for filling several RTI pleas exposing illegal mining activities.”
The letter said, things began on November 30, 2015, when Sutariya sent a complaint letter to Gujarat governor OP Kohli regarding mining activities in the Tapi area. It named politicians and government officials’ involvement. Sutariya presented his case to the district collector on January 12. He was again asked to reach the office on February 2.
The letter said, before the hearing, at 11.45 am, Sutariya met the mining officer, who sits on the first floor, and began inquiring about the status of his pending RTI pleas. On reaching the office, he found 30-40 people outside the mining officer’s cabin, yet began talking to the officer about details of stone crushing units, which have been served with notice.
“Romel produced a notice served to a stone-crushing unit, which was located within 200 meters of the national highway. He asked the mining officer why such notices were not served to those units, which are located nearby villages? He also questioned about grazing land being shown as government land and was given to stone crushing units in Pokran village”, the letter said.
“Meanwhile”, the letter said, “the group of people standing outside also came almost inside the cabin. Sutariya asked the mining officer to come to collector office to discuss further. When he came out, he was caught by the group, which started beating him. He moved to the staircase, where he was pushed. He fell down from the stairs and suffered fracture on his left leg and also had internal injuries.”
The letter said, “Sutariya complained to the collector who asked him to call the police. Police came and was taken to Janak Hospital in Vyara, district Tapi for medical treatment. The police have filed an FIR against two persons along with other unidentified persons under sections 143 and 323 of Indian Penal Code. No arrest has been made so far.”
Asking the NHRC to order “an immediate, thorough, transparent, effective, independent and impartial investigation into the physical assault” on Sutariya, the letter insisted, the perpetrators should be booked, and Sutariya be protected as he is “under risk of further reprisals from the perpetrators.”

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