India’s first detention centre is being built in Goalpara district’s Matia.(ANI
In the final list of National Register of Final NRC status: 15 buildings, schools, hospital in India’s first detention centre for those not in Assam NRCCitizens (NRC) published on August 31, more than 19 lakh people were excluded. However, those left out can still apply to the designated Foreigners’ Tribunals within 120 days for their cases to be heard.
“The work on this project started in December 2018, our target is to complete it by December 2019. It will cost around Rs 46 crore. Fifteen four-storey buildings are being built — 13 for men, 2 for women,” Junior Engineer (JE) of the detention centre, Rabin Das told ANI.
Some 1.9 million people found themselves out of the final version of the NRC published last month after years of efforts aimed at ending a four-decade movement against illegal immigrants. The Supreme Court-monitored process of updating the NRC for Assam, last compiled 68 years ago, took four years and 55,000 officials poring over 66.4 million documents.
Fifteen four-storey buildings are being built in the detention centre — 13 for men, 2 for women. ( ANI Photo )
Those left out have been given 120 days to approach the Foreigners’ Tribunals for review. Over 200 new tribunals have been set up across the state for this purpose. To accommodate the disenfranchised persons, temporary detention camps have been set up across the state. The one coming up in West Matia area is the country’s first formal detention centre
The detention centre is being constructed over an area of 2,88,000 square feet and will have separate residential facilities for the security personnel and officials. Das also stated that the centre will have separate toilets, hospital, kitchen, dining area, recreational area and a school.
“There will be buildings for officers grade 4 staff. It will have 2 security barracks. The water system will have a capacity of 50,000 litres,” he added, reports ANI.
London: The UK on Tuesday said any allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir since India revoked the Article 370 of the Constitution must be “thoroughly, promptly and transparently” investigated.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told MPs in the House of Commons in the first parliamentary session after a long summer recess that he had raised the concerns with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during a conversation on August 7 and that the UK will carefully monitor the situation in Kashmir.
“In relation to detentions, potential mistreatment and also the communications blackouts, I raised those issues with the Indian Foreign Minister. The Indian government has made clear that they are only temporaneous, as strictly required. And of course, we would want to hold them to that undertaking,” Raab said while addressing an Oral Questions session which opened with a series of questions related to the Kashmir issue.
“All and any allegations of human rights violations are deeply concerning. They must be investigated thoroughly, promptly and transparently,” he said. India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was an internal matter.
While reiterating the British stance that the Kashmir dispute is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, the minister however stressed that the human rights concerns made it an international issue.
“The issue of human rights is not just a bilateral issue for India or Pakistan or a domestic issue, it is an international issue we expect internationally recognised human rights to be complied with and respected,” he said, addressing a question from Conservative Party MP Steve Baker, who represents a large Kashmiri-origin constituency of Wycombe in south-east England.
MPs from different sides of the Commons raised a series of questions over the Kashmir issue, including demanding an end to the “blockade” in the state as well as independent observers to be deployed to the region.
Conservative MP Bob Blackman spoke up in favour of the revocation of Article 370, which he categorised as discriminatory to women and minorities.
Indian-origin Tory MP Shailesh Vara raised the related violent clashes outside the Indian High Commission in London during Indian Independence Day celebrations on August 15, highlighting that members of the Indian diaspora were attacked by “another community” in a clear reference to Pakistani-origin protesters on the day.
Raab said: “…Any violence is deplorable. It shouldn’t be conducted in this country, or anywhere else for that matter, at any individual communities. What we now need to do is try and reduce those tensions but also, on a positive side, build up confidence building measures to allow proper dialogue between the communities in Kashmir and also between India and Pakistan.
“We want to see a reduction of tensions in Kashmir, respect for internationally recognised human rights and steps from all sides to rebuild confidence.”
The Indian government revoked Article 370 of the Constitution last month, withdrawing the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Forty-five-year-old Qasim being dragged in the presence of policemen after a violent mob attacked him. Credit: Twitter
Washington: Mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against minority communities, particularly Muslims, continued in India in 2018, amid rumours that victims had traded or killed cows for beef, an official US report said on Friday.
The report says though India’s Constitution guarantees the right to religious freedom, “this history of religious freedom has come under attack in recent years with the growth of exclusionary extremist narratives”.
The report praised India’s “independent judiciary” for often providing essential protections to religious minority communities through its jurisprudence.
The “exclusionary extremist narratives”, the report says, includes “the government’s allowance and encouragement of mob violence against religious minorities”. The “campaign of violence” says involves intimidation, and harassment against non-Hindu and lower-caste Hindu minorities.
“Mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against minority communities, especially Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumours that victims had traded or killed cows for beef,” it said.
According to some NGOs, the authorities often protected perpetrators from prosecution, it said.
The report said that as of November, there were 18 such attacks, and eight people killed during the year.
On June 22, two Uttar Pradesh police officers were charged with culpable homicide after a Muslim cattle trader died of injuries sustained while being questioned in police custody, the report said.
Mandated by the Congress, the state department in its voluminous report gives its assessment of the status of religious freedom in almost all the countries and territories of the world.
Releasing the report at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the state department, secretary of state Mike Pompeo said the report was like a report card which tracks countries to see how well they have respected this fundamental human right.
Government’s failure to act
In the India section, the state department said that there were reports by non-governmental organisations that the government sometimes failed to act on mob attacks on religious minorities, marginalised communities and critics of the government.
The state department said that the Central and state governments and members of political parties took steps that affected Muslim practices and institutions.
The government continued its challenge in the Supreme Court to the minority status of Muslim educational institutions, which affords them independence in hiring and curriculum decisions, it said.
“Proposals to rename Indian cities with Muslim provenance continued, most notably the renaming of Allahabad to Prayagraj. Activists said these proposals were designed to erase Muslim contributions to Indian history and had led to increased communal tensions,” the state department said.
There were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs and proselytise, the annual report said.
However, noting the positive developments, the report says some government entities made efforts to counter increasing intolerance in the country. Citing Rajanth Singh, previously the home minister, it said there was a 12% decline in communal violence compared to the previous year.
Senior US government officials underscored the importance of respecting religious freedom and promoting tolerance throughout the year with the ruling and opposition parties, civil society and religious freedom activists, and religious leaders belonging to various faith communities, the report said.
India has 1.3 billion population as per July 2018 estimate.
According to the 2011 national census, the most recent year for which disaggregated figures are available, Hindus constitute 79.8% of the population, Muslims 14.2%, Christians 2.3% and Sikhs 1.7%.
Groups that together constitute less than one per cent of the population include Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrians (Parsis), Jews, and Baha’is.
Suggestions to the US government
The document makes recommendations to the US government to improve religious freedom in India. It says the US should press India to allow a USCIRF delegation to visit the country and evaluate the conditions for freedom of religion.
The report says since 2001, USCIRF has attempted to visit India in order to assess religious freedom on the ground. “However, on three different occasions—in 2001, 2009, and 2016—the government of India refused to grant visas for a USCIRF delegation despite requests being supported by the State Department,” it says.
The US government could work with India to “create a multiyear strategy to ebb the flow of hate crimes targeting religious minorities”, the report says. It suggests measures such as pressing state governments to prosecute religious leaders, government officials and media personalities who incite violence against religious minority groups through public speeches or articles.
The US should encourage India to pass the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2018 to establish national and state human rights commissions and human rights courts, the report says.
It also asked the US government to ensure that India’s Central government does not use the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to “target international missionary and human rights groups”.
The CBI recently registered a case against the Lawyers Collective, a NGO run by prominent advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, for alleged misuse of the FCRA. The NGO denies these allegations and said its office bearers were “personally being targeted for speaking up in defence of human rights, secularism and independence of the judiciary in all fora”.
(With PTI inputs)
Forty-five-year-old Qasim being dragged in the presence of policemen after a violent mob attacked him. Credit: Twitter
Rohingya Muslims, who have illegally entered India, are trying to obtain certificate of refugee status from United Nations. This has come to light on Tuesday when Railway police arrested five Rohingyas from Guwahati Railway Station here.
Police officials said the Government Railway Police (GRP) staff arrested them from platform no. 1 of the railway station.
At first, GRP staff had apprehended two boys and a girl when they were not able to provide valid identity proofs. After interrogation, two boys were also arrested along with the other three persons.
As per reports, the arrested persons are originally from Myanmar and were trying to go to Delhi. The arrested persons have been identified as Makakmyayum Sahenas, MD Zubar, Mohammad Kamal Hussain, Nurul Hakim and Mohammad Kalimula.
They had earlier been arrested by the Manipur police in 2018.
The GRP sleuths found Myanmar made preserved fruit packets, sweets , white coffee and various kinds of edibles in their possession.
Mizoram police had recently arrested 12 suspected Rohingya refugees—eight women and four boys—for illegally entering the state from Bangladesh.
The suspected Rohingyas entered Mizoram from Bangladesh sans valid travel documents. They were found in the residence of a woman in Bawngkwan area of Mizoram.
They had claimed that her cousin, who lives at Tahan in Myanmar, had asked her for a favour for keeping the “guests” before being taken to the neighbouring country.
Earlier in April, eight Rohingya women were detained at Vairengte along India-Myanmar border for trying to enter Mizoram illegally and were pushed back.
More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine state to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017 after a military crackdown, triggering a massive refugee crisis. (Source: NE Now)
At the first international indigenous film festival in Bhubaneswar last month, two young women who lived an ocean apart and barely knew each other euphorically embraced, much to the amusement of the audience. Emmanuela Shinta, 26, an independent filmmaker from Indonesia’s Kalimantan rainforest, and Dinja Jakasika, a 30-year-old village sarpanch from the foothills of Odisha’s picturesque Niyamgiri Hills, had nothing in common — nationality, attire or language. What united them were their indigenous roots and a long history of struggle.
Shinta, who belongs to Indonesia’s Dayak community, which is being rapidly marginalised by the local government’s policy on transmigration and by expansive oil companies, could instantly relate to Jakasika’s struggle. Jakasika belongs to the Dongria Kondh community, one of Odisha’s few remaining tribal groups. Ever since the community turned down a proposal from Vedanta Aluminium to mine the Niyamgiri hills for bauxite in 2013, it has found itself in the cross hairs of the State government.
Shinta first met Jakasika two years ago, at an indigenous film festival in Kalimantan. “When I met Dinja and got to know about their struggle, I was stunned. Wherever I go, I meet indigenous people and find connections even though we don’t know each other or each other’s language. It is very important for us to assert our rights and to be strong. We should stay connected. We will fight together,” said Shinta. Jakasika agreed.
The film festival, which travelled from Bhubaneswar to Puri and ended in Kurli, a Dongria Kondh village in Rayagada district, showcased the anguish and struggle of indigenous communities in India and around the world. A small group of indigenous filmmakers and tribal communities exchanged notes and drew inspiration from each other at the festival.
For the Dongria Kondhs, the film festival was an important occasion to recount the community’s travails over the last decade, and debate what the ‘correct’ model of development could be.
Till the early 2000s, Dongria Kondhs lived peacefully in quiet and inaccessible hamlets on the slopes of the Niyamgiri range, in the Bissam Cuttack, Muniguda and Kalyansingpur blocks of Rayagada district and in the Lanjigarh block of Kalahandi district. Trouble began to brew when in 2004 Vedanta set up a pit-head alumina refinery at Lanjigarh, a nondescript village on the foothills of Niyamgiri.
Tribal elder Dadhi Pushika, in a traditional Dongria shawl |
Bauxite is the raw material for alumina and aluminum, and Odisha has 700 million tonnes of known bauxite reserves, of which 88 million tonnes are estimated to be found in Niyamgiri. In the rush to acquire mining rights, stringent environmental laws were violated, and the Dongria’s consent was not sought. Court cases and local opposition did not deter the company. Then, on April 18, 2013, the Supreme Court gave a clear direction that mining clearance can only be given if gram sabhas, comprising Dongrias, agreed to the project. In what is perhaps India’s first environmental referendum, all 12 villages selected by the government voted against the project.
Activists say the Dongria’s opposition to mining has led to them being perceived as a ‘roadblock’ to development in a region known for grinding poverty and starvation deaths. “The government has not forgotten its defeat by a tribal group. It wants to dominate the discourse of development in the region and muzzle local voices,” said Lingaraj Azad, convenor of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS), which has been spearheading agitation against mining in Niyamgiri.
Today a huge gulf in trust has emerged between the government and the Dongria Kondhs.
Nobody exemplifies this deep divide better than Lada Sikaka, NSS president and once an important voice of the Dongrias. Today, he is distraught. Sikaka’s call for 5 ft roads to the villages rather than the government-prescribed 30 ft roads, primary schools that teach in the Dongria tongue rather than large residential schools, and Indira Awas Yojana houses that incorporate tribal traditions have either been laughed off or ignored by government officials.
Dongria women in traditional attire in Lanjigarh | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout
On the sidelines of the annual Niyamraja Festival held recently on the hills, 5,000 ft above sea level, Sikaka vented his anguish. “The government is offering us a 30 ft road under the pretext that it will be useful during a health emergency. But we don’t want forests razed to the ground for a wide road. The government insists on concrete houses. This for the Dongrias means that all building material will have to be laboriously transported to the hilltops.”
The Dongrias say that the process of selecting beneficiaries for old age, widow and disability pensions is a farce. “How many government officials have ever visited our villages? How do they identify the beneficiaries? They have no idea how many of our people live in the forest,” said Dadhi Pushika, a Dongria elder.
Sikaka said: “Once we convened a meeting at Trilochanpur in the foothills of Niyamgiri. Members of each village gathered and a charter of demands was finalised. But no government official turned up. When the government is not ready to listen to us, why should we care for them?”
The State government’s first attempt at development in this region was in the 80s when it came up with three micro-projects: two Dongria Kondh Development Agencies, in Chatikona and Parsali, and the Kutia Kondh Development Agency.
But, like all well-meaning projects that find little resonance on ground, they could not lift the literacy rate, an abysmal 33% among a population of 11,551. The community said there are barely any schools or anganwadis in the 100-odd hamlets scattered across the Niyamgiri slopes, though the government claims otherwise.
“Crèches were opened in partnership with non-government organisations. Efforts were made to propagate the Kui language in 30 centres. The topography of the area made it impossible to reach each village. Committees from each village were roped in to carry supplementary food to the children. I hope the programme continues,” said Guha Poonam Tapas Kumar, until recently the collector of Rayagada.
A group of women on their way to the Niyamraja festival | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout
There are four government health centres in Trilochanpur, Muniguda and Bissamcuttack, to reach which the Dongrias have to trek three hours. Apart from this, Vedanta Alumina Refinery runs a private hospital as CSR activity. Several deaths have taken place, although there is no mention of this in any government records.
Dongria Kondhs also feel persecuted by security forces. They are suspected of being ‘sympathetic’ to Maoists in the area. “I was abruptly bundled into a police jeep last October and beaten up in custody. I was asked a volley of questions on my alleged links with left-wing extremists. When their egos were satisfied, I was let go,” said Sikaka. In the same month, Dadhi Pushika was subjected to physical assault after Rayagada police picked him up from the village. There was no concrete allegation against him. Jamu Gauda, another villager, faced similar police action.
“Allegations of police intimidation and ill-treatment of the community are deeply disturbing. Innocent tribals are being branded as Maoists,” said Manohar Chauhan, a forest rights activist and former campaigner of Amnesty International.
The Dongria’s simmering anger against the government was stoked further this month when the Supreme Court directed all State governments to evict from the forests all those whose applications for regularisation of occupation had been rejected. As per official records on regularisation of titles under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006, only 252 applications were not approved in Kutia Kondh Development Agency, Lanjigarh jurisdiction. Though the administration has promised to review all applications, confusion prevails in the community. Not all members of the tribe even know what the FRA is.
“Forest dwellers across the country got temporary relief when the Supreme Court stayed its eviction order. But the community continues to feel threatened,” said Chauhan.
The NSS sees a larger conspiracy. “What we are hearing from other activists is that the Supreme Court order has presented a golden opportunity for the government to reject applications regarding individual forest rights, community forest rights and habitat rights and wrest control of Niyamgiri. It will open the doors for bauxite mining in the hills,” said Azad, who was recently arrested for leading protests against Vedanta and later released on bail.
A woman painting a traditional house ahead of a national fair in Bhubaneswar. | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout
At the annual festival, Dongria Kondhs resolved not to yield an inch if the government resorts to forced eviction. “No force on earth can drive us from Niyamgiri. Where will we go? Where will we grow pineapples, banana, oranges, turmeric, cereals and pulses? We would rather die than think of leading a life outside the hills,” raged Kunuji Kutruga, 60, from Khambesi village.
Red, gold and greenA woman in traditional attire | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout
The Dongrias have largely stayed secluded. Their distinctive Kapadaganda shawl, however, has captured the attention of art lovers worldwide. The embroidery involves some very intricate needlework, and the shawl has a special place in Dongria tradition.
The fabric for the shawl is a handwoven cloth made by Dalit families. The traditional green, yellow and red embroidery threads are bought from the market. “Green symbolises the endless chain of mountains and fields. Yellow invokes turmeric and peace, a smile, togetherness, health and happiness of the community. And red is the colour of blood, energy, power, revenge, aggression,” said Purusottam Pattanaik, a researcher with SC & ST Research and Training Institute. The embroidery on a shawl can take months to complete.
Dongria women love ornaments, hair accessories and flowers. “But the shawl gives us prestige when we go to fairs or social events,” said Lakmi Sikaka, a Dongria woman. The Rayagada district administration has tried to improve the quality of the base fabric and the embroidery threads, and also to get a GI tag for the unique garment.
Assam liquor tragedy: Among the survivors, many have lost their vision 17 dead at the Woka tea estate alone.
In Assam, which faced its worst liquor tragedy in which 160 people died and more than 500 were affected, many of those who survived have lost their eyesight and are dealing with major health complications. Those affected are largely from the tea garden areas of Golaghat and neighbouring Jorhat districts.
The lush green tea gardens of Assam are famous across the world for their strong, black tea. But the the workers at these gardens still live a life of isolation and neglect.
14-year old Manisha Tanti and her two elder sisters, from a tea estate in Golaghat have lost their father. They had lost their mother nearly 13 years ago.
“In the tea gardens, we earn very little. Our everyday life is a saga of struggle. To top it all, the way the country liquor, known as chulai, destroying us. Our students and women have fought against this menace. But most people did not support. Thus, we are seeing this day today,” said Rajen Tanti.
What makes the tea garden worker so vulnerable? Assam has more than 800 tea gardens; the workers are mostly descendants of migrant tribals from central India and are known as Tea tribe in Assam.
They number 60 lakh, make up 17 per cent of Assam’s population and their votes decide the fate of at least four of Assam’s 14 Lok Sabha seats. But the isolated community has no easy access to education.
“During every elections, whether for the Lok Sabha polls or state assembly polls, the leaders try to win votes by giving them free booze. In reality, no political parties wants to improve the condition of the tea garden workers,” said Balinder Ojha, a worker at the Halmira tea estate where at least 47 people have died.
What tea garden workers get for sustenance is a pittance. Rs. 167 rupees a day.
Their demand of a minimum wage of Rs. 350 has not been met. In 2017, the government launched a scheme for financial inclusion. By January 2018, seven lakh tea garden workers did get Rs. 2500 through Direct Benefit Transfer. COMMENT
“After 70 years of Independence, in tea garden, you will hardly find a someone who has high school-level education. We get basic facility from the tea garden management but there are about 800 gardens in Assam. About 80 per cent of them don’t have doctor,” said Jagadish Barai. president of the Golaghat unit of the All Assam Tea Tribe Students’ Association.
Lakhimpur: Lakhimpur district administration on Wednesday carried out a massive eviction drive in Sauldhowa-Thekeraguri area. Around 120 families have been affected by the eviction drive that cleared a few bighas of government land. The BJP led state government came into power with electoral promise to protect people land and home.
The families had lived in the area for years after being displaced by flood and erosion in Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Majuli. Earlier, the administration had sent notice to the families to evict the government land that belonged to Soil Conservation Department.
“We have been living in the area for years now. Though the government has declared us landless, it has not yet allotted us any houses to live in,” said a local after administration bulldozed her house. “I don’t know where we will go now,” added another local.
On the otherhand on last December BJP illegally took over a prime land belonging to the State Water resource Department to construct its state headquarter at Basistha Chariali, Guwahati.
According to the employees of the State Water resource Department, the land was acquired from farmers in 1967 by paying money by the state water resource department ad the river research office was functioning from a sprawling 80 bigha campus.
The BJP arm twisted the revenue officials following an order from the Kamrup (M) Deputy Commissioner who cited precedent of the AGP, who got prime government land to build their own party office, to justify his own order for the allotment.
Bokakhat : Iillagers living on the fringe areas of forests in Assam are in a state of panic following the Supreme Court (SC) order to evict forest dwellers whose claims over traditional forestlands have been rejected under law.
A three-judge bench, comrising Justice Arun Mishra, Justice Navin Sinha and Justice Indira Banerjee, ordered forced eviction of an estimated 10 lakh Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest-dwelling families from forestlands in the country after the Centre failed to defend their rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
The affidavit filed by Assam said 22,398 claims out of 74,364 filed by the ST people, were rejected while 5,136 claims of the 19,966 claims made by other traditional forest dwellers (OTFD) were rejected. Altogether 10,128 hectares of land were claimed by ST people and 561.4 hectares by OTFD.
The Kaziranga National Park (KNP) has been extended with six additions since 1984, a year after it was declared a world heritage site.
But the lands have not been cleared till date. In the addition process, 43.79 square km in Burahpahar, 6.47 square km in Kohora, 0.69 square km in Paanbari, 0.89 square km in Kanchanjuri, 1.15 square km in Sildubi and 376.50 square km in riverside areas were added. But only in Burahpahar and Kanchanjuri, the lands were handed over to the KNP authority.
In Kohora, 745 households are residing while the number is 129 in Paanbari and 127 in Sildubi.
The court’s orders came on February 13 in a case filed by Wildlife First and other wildlife groups, questioning the validity of the act. The written order was released on Wednesday.
The court asked the state governments to “ensure that where the rejection orders have been passed, eviction will be carried out on or before the next date of hearing”.
The next date of hearing is set for July 27 – the effective date by when 19 states will have to evict tribals to comply with the court orders.
“In case the eviction is not carried out, as aforesaid, the matter will be viewed seriously by this court,” the order said.
The act, which was passed during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s first tenure in 2006, requires the government to hand back traditional forestlands to indigenous and other forest-dwellers against the laid down criteria.
Two Reuters journalists were sentenced to seven years in prison by a Myanmar judge on Monday.
Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, have been jailed since December. They were convicted of violating the Official Secrets Act when they obtained confidential documents while reporting about the persecutions of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine, Reuters reported. The reporters said they were given the documents by two police officers at a restaurant in Yangon right before other officers arrested them, according to Reuters.
But Lone and Oo are only two of hundreds of journalists imprisoned around the world.
Reuters journalists Wa Lone (L) and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are based in Myanmar, pose for a picture at the Reuters office in Yangon, Myanmar, on December 11, 2017. The two journalists were sentenced to seven years in prison on Monday for obtaining confidential documents while reporting on the killings of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine
The Committee to Protect Journalists said 262 journalists were behind bars, according to an annual prison census released in December 2017. According to CPJ data, Turkey, China and Egypt remained the top three jailers of reporters worldwide. Reuters journalists Wa Lone (L) and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are based in Myanmar, pose for a picture at the Reuters office in Yangon, Myanmar, on December 11, 2017. The two journalists were sentenced to seven years in prison on Monday for obtaining confidential documents while reporting on the killings of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine.REUTERS/ANTONI SLODKOWSKI/FILE PHOTO
Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on Tuesday directed the Senior Superintendent of Police of (SSP) of Budgam to submit the final report in the case against Major Leetul Gogoi, who is facing criminal charges of illegally confining a Kashmiri youth in April last year. The case is related to the “human shield” incident, wherein the army officer had tied a shawl maker, Farooq Ahmad Dar, to a vehicle — allegedly as a shield against stone pelters — and paraded him on different streets during the Srinagar parliamentary bypolls.
The order came even as the police said the video featuring Dar being paraded around in Budgam could have been even morphed. Sub-Divisional Police Officer of Magam, Showkat Ahmad, said the police were waiting for the forensic report to check the authenticity of the clip.
Farooq Ahmad Dar was used as a human shield by Major Leetul Gogoi. Firstpost/Suhail Bhat
“We are waiting for the report from the Forensic Science Laboratory in Chandigarh. We have reminded them to submit the report on priority and have to see whether the video is morphed,” he said.
The commission issued the order on a plea Dar filed in the case through the International Forum for Justice and Human Rights. The bench of the human rights panel, comprising Justice Bilal Nazki and Justice Jang Bahadur, issued the direction, ordering the SSP of Budgam to file the final status report. It also directed the Jammu and Kashmir government to submit its report on action taken in the case within four weeks.
While the police have been asked to file a report on the criminal charges filed against Gogoi, the state government has been directed to apprise the rights body in detail about its reasons for denying the “human shield” victim compensation of Rs 10 lakh for wrongful confinement. The government had earlier told the SHRC that there is no policy to provide such a compensation.
On 10 July last year, two months after Gogoi used Dar as a “human shield” against stone pelters, the rights commission had called his actions illegal and directed the Jammu and Kashmir government to compensate him. It had given the state six weeks to comply with its order.
On 29 April this year, the Jammu and Kashmir SHRC had reserved its verdict in the case. But as the police submitted before the panel that the investigation was still on, the commission asked the investigators to file the final report in the case within four weeks.
The chairman of the International Forum for Justice and Human Rights, Mohammad Ahsan Untoo, said: “The army has not been cooperating in the case. Instead, it gave the Chief of Army Staff’s (COAS) Commendation Card to Major Gogoi. Major Gogoi tied a voter to the front of a vehicle and endangered his life. The COAS commendation should be withdrawn.”
Untoo said it was unbecoming of the army to hail Gogoi’s actions and award him the commendation, when both the human rights commission and the local police had described his methods as illegal.
He also said that the Court of Inquiry report, which held the army officer guilty after he was caught with a local Kashmiri woman at a hotel in Srinagar, should be made public.
On 23 May, Gogoi was detained with a local woman at a hotel near Dal Lake in Srinagar, after which the forum filed a case against him before the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate. It alleged that the police had exhibited laxity and let the officer off without filing an FIR against him. The magistrate has also reserved the verdict in the case, which was deferred on Tuesday. In the application Untoo filed before the magistrate, he had also noted that Major Gogoi had “intention to carry out an immoral act” with the woman.