PUDR statement on the arrest of Naba Dutta
PUDR is outraged at the arrest of Naba Dutta of Nagarik Manch, an organization that has been working for over two decades, devoted to environmental and labour issues. The trumped up charges against him is yet another instance of the West Bengal state government deliberately targeting activists, civil liberties groups, media representatives…in order that truth about the actual happenings on the ground in Lalgarh area remain suppressed.
Naba Dutta along with his 3 companions; Progna Paromita Dutta Roy Chowdhury, Gautam Ghosh and Dipankar Mazumdar, are all members of Nagarik Mancha, an organization mainly focused on environmental and labor issues, attended a sit in, in front of the Block Development Officer’s office at Narayangarh block of West Midnapur. The programme was organized by Lodha Shabar Vumij Kalyan Smiti, whose patron is Mahashweta Devi. After the program when they were returning to Kolkata they were all detained by the police.
While driver of the vehicle and Naba Dutta’s three colleagues were later released the police proceeded to arrest Naba Datta and charge him among other things under Arms Act, S 307 (attempt to murder) 120 B of IPC, pretending that he was the mastermind of the incident in Jhargram where vehicles belonging to an illegal sponge iron mill were burnt on December 18, 2009. Significantly, in the past eight months, since the incident occurred, not once did the Jhargram police summon Naba Dutta, if they indeed have evidence in their possession to link him to the crime. Naba Dutta was not in Jhargam when the incident took place. And it is the CPI(Maoist) which carried out the act of arson, which they publicly declared to be a result of state government’s failure to take action against the owners of the illegal plant and its contractors. Nagrik Manch had filed a PIL in Kolkata high court against the illegal operations of the plant.
Although the magistrate has given him bail and also implied that the case looked implausible, we are alarmed that for West Bengal authorities filing a PIL against an illegal plant is akin to commission of a crime. We, therefore, appeal to saner elements in the administration to think of the consequences of suppressing dissent and legitimate activities in the name of emergency like situation.
Asish Gupta and Moushumi Basu
New Delhi 18 August, 2010
India: Authorities in Tamil Nadu must release five activists campaigning against torture and drop false charges against them
Authorities in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu must release five arrested human rights defenders, drop the false charges against them and hold the state police accountable for harassment and intimidation, Amnesty International said today.
The five human rights defenders – Bharathi Pillai, Niharga Priya, Sudha, Gnana Diraviam and Anandan – who were part of a human rights training programme conducted by People’s Watch, Madurai, were arrested on the night of 15 August on false charges. They had gone to Veeravanallur police station for a fact-finding exercise as part of the field training programme to inquire about the lack of investigation in the torture of a Dalit youth, Suresh, allegedly by a police officer there. Earlier, they were detained at the police station for six hours.
The five activists have been charged with section 170 of the Indian Penal Code (impersonating a public servant), section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his or her duty), section 416 (cheating by impersonation) and section 506 (criminal intimidation) and lodged in prison. The police also declared Henri Tiphagne, Director of People’s Watch, Madurai, as an “absconding offender” in the case. This was on the basis of a complaint from one of the police officials that the five activists, claiming to be public officials, had apparently tried to threaten them.
Fact-finding exercises are commonly held globally and in India, as a way of probing allegations of human rights violations and seeking accountability. There was no attempt by the fact-finding team to impersonate public officials and the team had informed the Veeravanallur police in advance about the purpose of its visit.
Amnesty International is concerned that the arrests and the filing of charges appear to be politically motivated, as a result of their work as defenders of human rights raising issues of torture and impunity. The police charges of impersonation against Henri Tiphagne and the five arrested human rights defenders appear to be an attempt to silence the victims of police torture by criminalizing a legitimate form of protest by human rights defenders.
Amnesty International calls on the Tamil Nadu government to:
· drop the false charges against the six human rights defenders and immediately release the five persons.
· hold the State police accountable for such harassment and intimidation and ensure an independent investigation into the allegations of torture by the police of the Dalit youth.
The Tamil Nadu authorities should also create an enabling environment and ensure respect for the rights of individuals in Tamil Nadu engaged in the peaceful promotion of respect for human rights, including the right to seek, obtain, receive and hold information about respect for human rights.
For more information please call Amnesty International’s press office in London, UK, on
+44 20 7413 5566 or email: press
International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK