Mr. Narendra Damodardas Modi
Prime Minister’s Office
Government of India
New Delhi 110001
Re: Acts of harassment and intimidation against several members of MASUM
Dear Prime Minister Modi,
I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human rights defender and Freelance journalist.
I am writing to express my profound concern regarding the Acts of harassment and intimidation against several members of MASUM.
I have been informed by World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) about acts of harassment and intimidation by personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF) against several members of Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) in the village of Hatkhola in Chapra, Nadia district, West Bengal State, close to the border with Bangladesh.
According to the information received, on February 2, 2019, Chapra police registered a criminal case against Mr. Kirity Roy, MASUM Secretary, MASUM members Mr. Ramen Moitra, Mr. Subhrangshu Bhaduri and Mr. Sujoy Singh Roy, and the driver of a car hired by MASUM, Mr. Ganesh Sarkar, under Sections 186 (“obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions”), 323 (“punishment for voluntarily causing hurt”), 345 (“wrongful confinement of person for whose liberation writ has been issued”), 506 (“punishment for criminal intimidation”) and 509 (“word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman”) of the Indian Penal Code. The case was filed after the defenders had taken part in a meeting earlier that day with more than 150 villagers who reported acts of torture allegedly committed on a daily basis by members of the ‘A’ Company of the 81st Battalion of the BSF, which is posted at the Mahakhola Border Outpost (BOP) under the jurisdiction of the Chapra police station in Nadia district.
At around 2.15 pm, shortly after the meeting had ended, MASUM members noticed approximately 100 villagers waiting beside the road for the border gates to be opened at 3pm by the BSF so that they could return home. Mr. Roy approached BSF Head Constable Mr. Jay Bhagwan, who was guarding gate number 10 of the Mahakhola BOP and asked him to open the gate. The latter refused and asked Mr. Roy to show his identity card. Another BSF officer, Mr. Sanjay, also refused to open the gate, and both men subsequently tried to confiscate the mobile phones of the MASUM members present at the scene.
After a short period of time, the Commander of the ‘A’ Company, Mr. S N Sharma, arrived and started pushing and shoving the people who had gathered there. He told MASUM members that they had come to the village “to create disorder”, before he and another BSF Company Commander, Mr. Rajveer Singh, started taking video footage of the scene. Company Commander Mr. S N Sharma then called the Chapra police station of Nadia district and complained to the Officer-in-Charge that human rights activists were trying to instigate villagers to commit violence and unrest. Mr. Rajveer Singh subsequently wrote down the names of the four MASUM members who were present, took photographs of their identity cards, and told them that they should have asked for permission to come to the village.
Around 3pm, MASUM members were allowed to leave, after Mr. S N Sharma told them that if they were to come back again without their permission, they would “face dire consequences”. At around 4.30pm, police officers from the Chapra police station came and collected information from villagers.
Two hours later, Messrs. Kirity Roy, Ramen Moitra, Subhrangshu Bhaduri, Sujoy Singh Roy and Ganesh Sarkar were informed that Chapra police had registered a criminal case against them after BSF Commander Mr. S.N Sharma lodged a written complaint to the Chapra police station.
On February 3, 2019, Mr. Roy filed a written complaint with the Officer-in-Charge of Chapra police station to denounce the BSF’s behaviour.
I condemn the above-mentioned acts of harassment and intimidation against MASUM members, which seem to be only aimed at punishing them for documenting and denouncing grave human rights violations allegedly involving members of the police forces and BSF and recall that several members of MASUM have already faced reprisals in the past because of their human rights activities.
I call upon the Indian authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment, intimidation, and criminalization of all MASUM members, as well as of all human rights defenders in India.
- Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all the members of MASUM as well as of all human rights defenders in India;
- Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against all the members of MASUM, as well as against 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;
- 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;
- Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by India.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to learning what steps you have taken to address these important issues.
William Nicholas Gomes
Journalist and Human Rights Activist
York, United Kingdom
Twitter : wnicholasgomes
Email: [email protected]