- Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Hina Jilani
"No one is going to give them their rights to live with dignity on a silver platter. They have to be extracted with force... We will have to strengthen ourselves to stop those who find it profitable to misuse authority and public funds. Perhaps the courts and the NGOs are the only solution", said Justice Venkatachaliah, former Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India and former Chief Justice of India at a workshop on Human Rights of Marginalised and Tribal Communities.
This statement and the hope put in non-governmental organizations come as a surprise if one looks at the recent developments in different states of India. There are various non-governmental human rights organizations active India and many of them recently faced serious threats by the police and the political powers. Activists were arrested and false charges were filed.
The most recent example is that of Subash Mohapatra, the director of the Forum for Fact-finding Documentation and Advocacy. He was arrested from the office of the Chhattisgarh State Human Rights Commission when submitting the reply asked by the Commission regarding a case of Dalit exploitation on July 17, 2007. Human Rights Commissions are meant to protect human rights and are not meant to be the site of its violation. False charges were filed under several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Just a few days before his arrest, Amarnath Pandey, advocate and human rights defender from Chhattisgarh was charged with a false case on atrocities against the tribes (for whom he is providing legal service in courts). His life has been threatened many times by the police and he travels with a sign on the rear of his vehicle saying "Chhattisgarh Government may kill me in a fake encounter (extrajudicial killing)”.
Around the same date, on Saturday, 14 July 2007 Saroj Mohanty, poet and long-time activist with Prakrutik Sampad Surakhya Parishad (PSSP), which has been opposing the entry of large bauxite mining companies in Kashipur for over 15 years, has been arrested. Saroj was taken into custody at a railway station in Rayagada District. He is currently in judicial custody in Rayagada district jail. The charges against him are completely fabricated but serious. They include section 395 of the IPC (Dacoity), section 397 (Robbery or dacoity with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt), and section 450 (House trespass with intention to commit offence that is punishable with imprisonment for life).
Brijesh Bilathare, advocate and human rights defender from Madhya Pradesh, had false charges filed against him on 6 June 2007 stating he was obstructing a public servant discharging his duty.
Dr. Binayak Sen, senior human rights activist, was arrested on May 14, 2007 by Chattisgarh police. He is General Secretary, People's Union for Civil Liberties, Chattisgarh and its national vice president. He was detained under the provisions of two highly controversial laws: The Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004. The allegations are based on assumed connections with Maoist rebels.
In the light of the recent developments, aware of the manifold human rights violations in India, concerned about the future of the human rights and its defenders in India, willing to improve the situation, consistent with the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders.
We, the undersigned, demand you to take the following actions:
1. Initiate talk with Indian Government on the suspension of the officers who were involved in these attacks on human rights defenders pending further inquiries.
2. Gather information on the deteriorating situation of human rights defenders.
3. Lend your voice for the individual cases mentioned.
4. Conduct a country visit to India.
5. Report to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly.
The Stop state repression of human rights defenders in India petition to Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Hina Jilani was written by Subash Mohapatra and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.