#India – Torture Victims of atrocities narrate sordid saga


PLATFORM FOR THE DEPRIVED International Day in Support of Victims of Torture brings the ordeal of the innocent to light during a PVCHR programme

LUCKNOW: Holding her daughter tightly in her lap, Anjum of Tanda cannot forget the night of March 3, when she had to spend an entire night in hiding, to save herself from a mob baying for her blood to avenge the death of a local leader. When she returned home, none of her belongings were left.

In another case, Bhonu of Varanasi had to spend 26 months in jail for a murder he did not commit, all because he was poor and illiterate.

Anjum and Bhonu are just a couple of examples of torture victims, who have to go through atrocities for no fault of their own. Several such sufferers came on one platform for a programme organised by People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on Wednesday. Narrating their tales of woes, the victims explained threadbare how gullible people are trapped in false cases and subjected to torture.

“There was a murder in my locality Aliganj in Tanda district but how was I or my family related to it? The mob conducted loot inside my house in the night while I was scampering for safety. Cops chose to stay away until morning. Those who should protect us, were not seen during the entire loot,” said Anjum, who stayed underneath a tin shade behind some sacks to hide herself and her children when the mob set ablaze several houses in the locality.

Says Niaz Ahmad of Tanda, “Communal tension never allowed me to live peacefully. My children too could never attend school regularly.”

Bhonu says all his life’s savings, which he had collected while working in a band, along with household objects were sold off to fight his case.

“Cops beat me up for the entire night and booked me in a case that I was not even aware of. Though my innocence was proved in the court, all my money and my wife’s jewellery was gone by then,” says Bhonu.

At the event, several other people narrated their ordeal before the panel of experts, including first counselor of European Union Dr Hans Van Villet, chairperson of Shram Salahkar Samiti Vidyawati Rajbhar and national secretary Rastriya Lok Dal Anil Dubey.

Commenting upon atrocities on the suppressed class, Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi of PVCHR said, “Committing atrocities on suppressed people has turned into a practice of sorts. Therefore, the mindset of people, especially those in decisive posts, needs to be changed.”

Other experts addressing the meeting included Prof Ramesh Dixit, Shruti Nagvanshi, Shabana Khan and Anoop Srivastava. They demanded that the bill against torture should be implemented so that cases of police atrocity can be checked.

 

Uttar Pradesh – PUDR statement on the death of Khalid Mujahid in police custody


June 11, 2013

PUDR strongly condemns the death of Khalid Mujahid, an undertrial arrested in 2007 in connection with bomb blasts in UP earlier that year. Mujahid died on 19 May, 2013 when he was being escorted by a team of the Uttar Pradesh state police from a court in Faizabad to Lucknow jail. His death while under police escort in what is a clear case of custodial killing raises several questions – the rights of citizens, especially Muslim youth; the character of the police and state; the truth behind terror cases and arrests.

Khalid Mujahid, together with Tariq Qasmi had been shown as arrested on 22 December 2007 from Barabanki railway station. The ATS accused them of being behind the bomb blasts in Lucknow and Faizabad courts in November 2007, and the blast in Gorakhpur, claiming that explosives and other incriminating material were found on the two. The Bahujan Samaj Party, then in power, set up a Commission of Inquiry in March 2008 following protests against the arrests.

The Justice RD Nimesh Commission of Inquiry constituted by the state government to look into this matter submitted its report in December 2012 almost exactly five years after their arrests.

The inquiry commission examined police records, affidavits and testimonies of witnesses. On this basis, it concluded there was ample evidence to show that Tariq Qasmi and Khalid Mujahid were arrested not on 22 December 2007 as claimed, but on 12 December and 16 December respectively. The Commission reports that when the National Loktantrik Party’s youth leader in UP Choudhary Chadrapal threatened to immolate himself on 22 December if by then the two Muslim youth were not released, that the top brass decided to show their arrest on 22 December from Barabanki railway station. The Commission recommended action against the concerned officers and personnel who could be identified.

Despite the conclusions of the report and evidence cited, the now ruling Samajwadi Party too dragged its feet. By the time the government acted on the report, another six months passed. Finally on the basis of the Commission’s report the state government moved an application to withdraw the case. However the Special Court in Barabanki turned down the application in May 2013, claiming that the charges were much too serious. And then, nine days later, Khalid died in police custody, in circumstances which remain mysterious.

Some light can be shed on the so-called mystery by recalling that Khalid’s story is one that is being played out over and over again. The forms may be different but the essential plot and characters remain the same. Bomb blast/s occur. Muslim youth are picked up. Connections with SIMI etc. are alleged; seizure of explosives and extremist literature produced as evidence. In many cases the accused are found to be innocent, having been wrongly incarcerated for years. They are either released on bail or cases withdrawn or they may still continue to be in jail due to various reasons. This, if they are lucky. It isn’t unusual that some like Khalid never return. Not too long back in November 2012 Quateel Siddiqui (arrested for his alleged involvement in the German Bakery blasts) too died in a high security cell in Yerawada jail in Pune, in judicial custody. Again, under so called ‘mysterious circumstances.’ However generally no one is held accountable for the years lost and lives destroyed.

In this context PUDR welcomes the fact that in this case a rare FIR has been filed against 42 police personnel, including the former DG of Police Uttar Pradesh. Whether the case will be properly investigated, and the guilty prosecuted, remains to be seen.

Khalid Mujahid’s arrest, imprisonment and custodial death exposes the brazenness with which the police and ATS routinely arrest Muslim youth under false charges, force ‘confessions’, torture and kill them in custody. It also reveals the callous attitude of elected governments wary of displeasing the police, ATS or the Hindutva elements; and a compromised judiciary for whom terrorist activity requires no proof; guilt is decided by the magnitude of the alleged crime.

These acts of omission and commission expose a disturbing synchronicity between various agencies in terrorizing ordinary citizens, particularly Muslim youth, in the alleged fight against terrorism. The fact that a person could remain incarcerated for years after being abducted illegally and implicated in a fabricated case raises the issue of institutionalization of bias against Muslim youth in the name of fighting ‘terrorism’. Not only does ‘let law takes its course’ approach means years can elapse before those falsely implicated, mostly Muslim youth, win back their freedom. But their struggle to do so through the legal system is now coming under attack from Hindutva forces in an organized way amounting to a violation of the right to legal defense. While protests against Khalid’s custodial death were expressed in several cities in UP including Faizabad immediately afterwards, the local Bar Association passed a resolution expelling Khalid Mujahid’s lawyer Jamal Ahmad. His assistant Mohammad Shakeel was grievously injured. Indeed local bar associations have been issuing diktats that those accused of terror attacks will not be defended by their members and anyone who defies this ban will face expulsion and threat to life. Their recurrent diktats and attacks on lawyers who defy their ban has not persuaded either the High Court/Supreme Court or the Bar Council of India to show any concern over this subversion of the ‘rule of law’.

The death of Khalid Mujahid, raises questions about the police, lower judiciary and legal profession and their commitment to uphold, without discrimination, the constitutionally mandated protection of life and liberty of every citizen. PUDR calls upon all democratically minded people to protest against this attack on democratic rights and violation of the laws of natural justice and demands that:

1. Criminal responsibility be fixed in the in death of Khalid Mujahid and the guilty punished.

2. The Bar Associations expel lawyers obstructing legal aid to the accused, and lawyers guilty of attacking Khalid’s defense counsels be immediately disbarred.

3. Arbitrary picking up and illegal detention of Muslim youth be stopped and officials guilty of their wrongful confinement and fabrication of cases against be prosecuted and punished.

D. Manjit
Asish Gupta
(Secretaries)

 

#India – Custodial Torture – Tailor, Farmer, Bootlegger, and many young men #mustread


The Hell Of Living Souls

A tailor. A farmer. A bootlegger. Often just young men going about their day. brutally tortured, then acquitted. G Vishnu captures the impunity with which this happens. And why society needs to react
G Vishnu

G VISHNU , Tehelka

1-06-2013, Issue 22 Volume 10

If the protector becomes (the) predator, civilised society will cease to exist… Policemen who commit criminal acts deserve harsher punishment than other persons who commit such acts, because it is the duty of the policemen to protect the people and not break the law themselves

- Supreme Court of India, 2010

Marked man Harak Chandra Chakma, who was arrested and tortured by the police for taking part in a tribal celebration in Tripura, ended up in hospital for 10 days

Marked man Harak Chandra Chakma, who was arrested and tortured by the police for taking part in a tribal celebration in Tripura, ended up in hospital for 10 days

On 14 May, police rounded up four men in Etah district of Uttar Pradesh, 260 km west of the state capital, Lucknow, in connection with a month-old case of murder. Three days later, one of them, a 33-year-old farmer named Balbir Singh, lay dead in a hospital in Lucknow. “The police gave him electric shocks and injected acid and petrol in his body,” says his brother- in-law, Sunul Kumar. “They forced him to sit on an electric heater that burnt his body horribly.” According to Kumar, Singh told him before dying that the police wanted him to confess his involvement in the murder.

So critical was his condition that Singh was moved to three hospitals in as many cities before he died. He named the policemen who tortured him in a dying declaration before a magistrate. The police were forced to register a case of murder. Five lowly policemen were suspended. No arrests are yet made. A sub-inspector is on the run. Devendra Pandey, who heads the police station of the alleged perpetrators, was merely transferred, though, according to Kumar, it was Pandey who gave Singh the electric shocks. Singh has left behind a one-year-old son and a pregnant wife.

The scourge of torture by police and prison officials is routine, random and vicious across India. On 18 May, Khalid Mujahid, 32, fell dead on his way back to a prison in Lucknow from a court in Faizabad. His death has generated unusual focus and political attention on the issue of police torture and custodial deaths. For the most part though, police torture hardly ever features as a red-button issue for Indians. First, there is a sense that torture only happens to the deserving. Second, there is a common perception that torture is the only — even if illegal — way of extracting crucial information from deadly terror suspects or mafia gangsters. Both these assumptions are false. Torture almost never yields accurate information. In fact, it is a security hazard as victims often confess in utter desperation to crimes they have not committed, while the real perpetrators roam free. Equally, torture is not restricted to rare cases. Often, it is perpetrated on those caught on trivial charges. According to the NHRC, over 14,000 people have died in police custody and in prisons in the decade ending 2010. This translates to a rate of more than four deaths a day. In the past three years, the NHRC has recorded 417 deaths in police custody and 4,285 deaths in judicial custody.

The story of Ratanji Vaghela is symptomatic of the sheer randomness of this brutality. On 27 April, Gujarat Police arrested Vaghela, a patient of depression and amnesia, for crossing the path of an official convoy in Gandhinagar. The family alleges torture, due to which he had to be hospitalised with severe wounds. “There are very few countries in the world where torture is as systematic and endemic as in India,” says New Delhi based campaigner Suhas Chakma. Rights activist Teesta Setalvad of Mumbai agrees: “Torture is not the exception, but the norm in jails as well as prisons across India.”

 Sarfaraz
‘At the station, the inspector forced my penis into my mother’s private parts. He kept shouting ‘rape her’ the whole time’
Sarfaraz A Mumbai domestic worker who was arrested when he went to report his wife’s suicide

Vaghela may still turn out lucky. On a plea from Chakma, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), an autonomous statutory watchdog, has ordered the state government to pay him an interim compensation of Rs 3 lakh and probe the allegation that he was tortured. But for the tens of thousands of citizens subjected to brutal torture across police stations and prisons in India, there is virtually no end to the tunnel.

“I have seen people beaten until they collapsed. I heard a prisoner was beaten until he died,” says Binayak Sen, a rights campaigner in Chhattisgarh, who spent two years in prison and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010 for sedition. “There is no question of natural justice. It is done with impunity. This is the everyday reality of torture in Indian jails.” Sen, whose incarceration became a global cause and who is on bail having appealed his conviction, says he was called crazy when he protested the torture of fellow prisoners. He says he never saw a victim of torture try to seek justice.

While the rest of the world is no stranger to torture by State agencies, India has the dubious distinction of sticking out as a sore thumb in the comity of nations. Along with half-a-dozen tiny nations such as Comoros and Guinea-Bissau, India is the only big country that has failed to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture, by outlawing torture and legislating punishment, despite signing it. An attempt to legislate to outlaw torture went into deep freeze in 2010 after rights campaigners pointed out howlers in the draft Bill and a parliamentary committee began to sift through it.

As a result, an architecture of torture dominates India’s law enforcement, and the judiciary turns a blind eye. “We have seen the courts demand action against the police, but in most cases, torture invokes only a verbal outrage on the part of the judiciary,” says Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover, a long-time campaigner against torture. “It does not necessarily lead to effective prosecution of the perpetrators of torture.”

If ever a stink stirs judicial and quasi-judicial agencies, compensations are paid out, but any prosecution of the guilty drags forever. Stunningly, data from the National Crime Records Bureau, a government agency, shows there have been no convictions despite numerous cases filed against policemen and prison staff.

Activists reckon that most deaths emanate from torture, though, of course, officials always deny that. Most deaths are written off as suicides; very many are put down to illnesses and diseases. And the number of those who survive is exponentially larger and highly underreported. For most victims, torture begins a never-ending nightmare.

Mukesh Kumar, 21, was arrested on 24 January in Sheikhpura, a district in Bihar 120 km south of state capital, Patna, for bootlegging. According to a complaint he later filed with the State Human Rights Commission, Kumar was taken to the official residence of the city’s Superintendent of Police (SP) Babu Ram and thrashed. A baton was pushed into his rectum. (The police deny the charge.) Doctors at a hospital where he was brought four days later found his intestines had ruptured. He was told they might never heal.

 Naresh
‘When the policemen caned my soles, the pain shot up here (head). Three days later, I confessed that I had planted the bomb’
Naresh Sank Kujuri A tribal who was accused of planting a bomb in Gadchiroli that killed 12 CRPF personnel

Kumar’s relatives admit that, desperate to feed his family of five, he had taken to plugging moonshine. They were forced to bring him to the State-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi for surgeries that have already cost Rs 2 lakh. “He passes stool through a pipe and can’t walk to the toilet,” says Kumar’s uncle, Dhiraj Singh. “What do you do when the guardians of law commit such a crime?” After newspapers wrote of the torture, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered the SP transferred out. “All the policemen involved in the case, including the SP, have been transferred,” says Sheikhpura’s new SP, Meenu Kumari. “I cannot comment further.”

With 11 crore people, Maharashtra has just over half the population of Uttar Pradesh. Yet, it tops the country in the number of cases of custodial deaths and torture by police and in prisons, beating even India’s most populous state. Recurrent bombings, supposedly by homegrown Islamic fundamentalists, and a Maoist rebellion in the state’s east have stoked the appetite for torture among the law enforcement agencies.

On 26 March 2012, a bomb exploded in Gadchiroli district, killing 12 members of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force. It responded by raiding surrounding villages with the police, who arrested 11 men. “Every morning and evening, we were hung upside down and our feet, ankles and back caned,” Nanaji Chambrupadha Bapra, 28, told this reporter on a visit to his village. “After four days, the police stopped the torture but still won’t release us,” adds Shatrugan Rajnaitham, 18. The men were instead charged with waging war against the State. They were bailed after three months.

“There is no evidence against them but they were picked up because it was convenient,” says their lawyer, Jagdish Mishram. And fruitful. “When they caned the soles, the pain shot up here,” says Naresh Sank Kujuri, 26, pointing at his head. “Three days later, I told them I had planted the bomb.” The families of these men, all poor farmers, have run up debts of lakhs of rupees on legal and health expenses. Of course, the police reject the charge. “None of the men were tortured,” Gadchiroli SP Suvez Haque told TEHELKA. “We arrested them on the basis of evidence.”

Kujuri’s story illustrates how torture is entirely self-defeating. Bandhu Mishram, 46, a tailor in Nagpur district and a veteran of torture, describes how the police set about implementing their regime of torture. He has been arrested thrice in a short life: in 1984, 1996 and 2010. In his early years he was targeted, he says, for his trade unionism and activism to demand a separate state of Vidarbha in the east of Maharashtra. In 2010, the police named him a Maoist rebel and arrested him.

“They break you down scientifically when they want a confession,” he says. “They know how to make you feel hurt and anxious.” Mishram was hung upside down between a tyre and his feet were caned for an hour. They made him believe his wife and mother were being raped in the next room. For hours he heard screams as the policemen laughed. A fellow inmate told him his wife had been raped and killed, and her body chopped and dumped. “I wanted to kill myself. Thankfully, I saw my wife in the court the next day.” Mishram spent three months in jail before being bailed. In 2012, he was acquitted of all charges. He has filed a petition against his tormentors.

Does Indian law allow torture? Actually, no. Activist Arun Ferreira, who spent four years in Nagpur prison until January 2012 and was charged under the Unlawful Activity Prevention Act (UAPA), witnessed many fellow inmates suffer torture. “Even solitary confinement is illegal but every prison in India has cells for solitary confinement,” he says. “The State uses torture as a weapon. It is systemic for a reason.” He points to the hypocrisy of the State in an anti-torture Bill that the government rushed through Lok Sabha in 2008 and that, activists found, actually exempted torture in some cases.

‘At the 2008 UN Human Rights Convention, many countries asked India why it still hadn’t ratified the convention on prevention of torture. Then India had said it would legislate a domestic law. Five years later, there’s no law yet’

Vrinda Grover Human Rights Lawyer

‘Doctors ought to provide relief and recourse but medical services available to prisoners are inadequate. The medical staff treats them with disdain. By and large, doctors reinforce the messages imposed by jail authorities’

Binayak Sen Pediatrician and Public Health Specialist

‘Torture needs to be defined under the IPC. An amendment is pending in Parliament and that needs to be enacted. There is a proper definition of torture that is universally accepted, and it should be brought in as an offence’

Teesta Setalvad Civil rights activist

‘The worst thing is that courts don’t take notice of complaints. When undertrials are presented before them, they invariably complain about custodial torture. Courts brush aside these claims. They don’t pay any heed to such grievances’

SR Darapuri Former IG, Uttar Pradesh

 

Former Indian Police Service officer-turned-activist, SR Darapuri of Lucknow, has a rare insider’s perspective on torture. “The worst thing is that the courts do not take notice of the complaints. When these victims appear before the courts, invariably they make these complaints and the courts just brush them aside. Our whole system is infested.” As for the courts, although they have begun to take greater cognisance of torture by police and prison staff, they are still far from being in an overdrive to end the practice. A public lawsuit against custodial torture filed by lawyers Rebecca Gonsalves and Vijay Hiremath is gathering dust at the Bombay High Court since 2003. Over six years ago, the Supreme Court directed all states to set up a Security Commission as a watchdog for law enforcement to free it of political control. That is yet to happen.

“We must recognise that our criminal justice system has all but collapsed,” says the petitioner in that case, former Uttar Pradesh Director-General of Police Prakash Singh. “Even simple cases take three to five years.” Then, the society expects quick results. “Decent people have asked me why don’t we just take out criminals and terrorists. Torture is easy closure because they know justice won’t be delivered otherwise.”

Singh says reforms alone would make the police democratic and accountable and not dance to political masters. But says Supreme Court lawyer Grover: “More than reforms, we need accountability. The police have an institutional bias against minorities, the Dalits, the poor and the women. And the political class uses the desensitised police to push its agenda.” Mumbai lawyer Yug Mohit Chowdhry, who has represented several victims of custodial torture, says the police are understaffed, under-equipped, underpaid and stretched. “They have to manage everything from law and order to domestic disputes,” he says. “When we make them work like animals, they behave like animals.”

Actually, animals behave better.

When Naushad Sheikh, 45, accused of being a thief, died in custody in Navi Mumbai on 16 March, police said he had banged his head on an iron grill. The autopsy showed wounds across the body. A co-accused told the Maharashtra Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) that Sheikh was subjected to “bhajirao”, a severe lashing with police uniform belts whose buckles caused deep wounds on his head. The co-accused also said Sheikh was hung upside down and beaten with a cricket bat.

“Custodial death is inhuman. Nobody should be subjected to torture,” Additional Commissioner of Police Qaiser Khalid told TEHELKA. “Let us wait for the CID findings.” But will a probe be impartial? Not in the experience of the family of Rafiq Sheikh, 35, a cosmetic company executive in Mumbai, who was arrested on 28 November 2012 in a fake currency racket. When his brother, Majhal, went to meet him on 2 December, Sheikh was dead. “The deepest wounds were on his legs. The soles of his feet had blackened from the beating,” says Majhal. “I want those cops to pay for what they did.”

In this case, too, a co-accused testified that policemen belted and caned Sheikh for hours. A judge of the Bombay High Court noted that the wounds appeared inflicted by others. When Sheikh’s family filed a criminal case, the police assigned the probe to a CID team that includes an officer who was himself once charged with the killing of an accused named Khwaja Younus in January 2003. Now Assistant Commissioner of Police, Praful Bhosale was known as an “encounter specialist”, who had killed 74 alleged criminals. Bhosale was suspended for four years and reinstated in 2010.

On 15 April 2011, police in the northeastern state of Tripura arrested Harak Chandra Chakma, a 32-year-old tribal, for taking part in a tribal celebration. He claimed the police attacked him with a blunt object. Photographs showed injuries on his thighs, back and below the knees. He was hospitalised for 10 days. Four days after the torture, the Asian Indigenous and Tribal People’s Network, an NGO, moved the NHRC. An inquiry proved Chakma’s torture by the police. What happened then to the guilty? One of the three named in the report was suspended. No action was taken against the others.

A hair-raising account of torture has come from a Bengaluru journalist, Muthi-ur- Rahman Siddique, who was released in February after being in prison for six months allegedly for a terror plot. In all, there were 14 accused in the case. “One was beaten, hung upside down, and had petrol poured into his private parts,” Siddique told TEHELKA. Another accused, Obaid-ur-Rehman of Hyderabad, had his finger broken. “Most were given electric shocks on their genitals.” The police deny the allegations.

Justice typically eludes victims of torture for decades. In 1989, a domestic worker named Sarfaraz went to the police in Navi Mumbai to report that his wife had hanged herself and died. Instead, the police accused him of being responsible for his wife’s death. They allegedly called his mother to the police station, stripped both of them, and forced them into sexual positions. “After some time, a constable took me into a room where my mother was being held,” reads Sarfaraz’ shocking statement to the court. “She was in the nude. I was forced to strip naked even as I begged them to let us go. An inspector took me to my mother and put my hands on her breasts. After making her lie down on a bench, he asked one of the constables to shake my penis. They tied me up and beat me again. I was untied after a point and they pushed me on my mother. The inspector was forcing my chest to her breasts and my penis into her private parts. The inspector kept shouting ‘rape her’ the whole time.” It is a narrative that Sarfaraz reproduces with a kind of clarity as though it happened yesterday. He was then paraded naked in his neighbourhood. After he was acquitted in 1991 of trumped up charges, he filed cases against the three policemen who were instrumental in making him suffer. It was only last year that the case was finally taken up by a fast-track court.

 
‘Every morning And evening, We were hung upside down and our feet, Ankles and back caned. The torture continued for four days’
Shatrugan RajnaithamA tribal from Gadchiroli who was charged with waging war against the State

Policemen long enjoyed impunity from prosecution because the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), a set of rules coded in 1973 to administer criminal jurisprudence, stipulates that officials cannot be prosecuted for acts committed in the discharge of their duties. The Indian Penal Code of 1860 had allowed sentences of up to seven years for a range of acts that can be considered as torture. But to prosecute cops under these laws has traditionally been next to impossible. Few victims are forensically examined. A lack of a witness protection mechanism deters the victims from taking on the guilty. Compensation is yet not a fundamental right. The courts have taken a minimalistic view on claims for compensation from acts of torture. As such, awards vary across India.

In 2005, an amendment to the CrPC mandated a judicial probe on the death or disappearance of a person or rape of a woman in custody. But it has hardly lessened the use of torture. Deaths from torture are almost always passed off as suicides. “What led them to the extreme act and how they commit suicide with strange objects like shoe laces, blankets, jeans, etc are (questions) never answered,” says a report by Asian Centre for Human Rights, an NGO that activist Chakma heads. “How the victims had access to the means like poisons, drugs, electric cables, etc in custody remain(s) unknown.” Many victims, who are healthy prior to their arrest, develop medical complications once in custody. “They are subjected to torture and murdered. With the acquiescence of the medical fraternity, the police are able to describe the death as medical complications.”

Internationally, it is becoming hard for India to escape censure. As early as 1997, the UN Human Rights Committee voiced anguish over the extensive use of torture by India’s law enforcement agencies. The Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2007 and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2008 expressed serious concern over the impunity that India afforded to its men in uniform who tortured citizens in custody. In March, Henri Tiphagne, a leading global activist from the Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture, joined a public hearing against torture at Madurai city in Tamil Nadu. “Torture is inflicted not only on the accused but also on petitioners and complainants,” he told the gathering. Of course, the government has long turned a deaf ear to domestic and international voices against the culture of torture. And unless it is shaken out of its complacence, tens of thousands more will continue to be brutalised by the men in uniform.

vishnu@tehelka.com

With inputs from Virendra Nath Bhatt, Nupur Sonar, Imran Khan and Ratnadip Choudhury

Dubious role of police exposed in custodial death of terror accused in Uttar Pradesh


Khalid Mujahid‘s tragic story is a litany of irreconcilable facts, right from the day he was arrested by the anti-terrorism Special Task Force of the UP Police in December 2007
Ajit Sahi

Ajit Sahie

FalseTerror1If we accept the official explanation for the death on 18 May of Khalid Mujahid, an under-trial prisoner in Uttar Pradesh accused of terrorism, then India may have just lost a superman. More likely, the police have made up facts and may soon be exposed.

According to the official explanation, Mujahid, 32, was taken ill at 3.40 pm in the eastern district of Barabanki and admitted to a government hospital where he was pronounced dead. This claim was made by none other than the district magistrate of Barabanki, S Minisati, when she visited the hospital. But Mujahid’s lawyer says he had minutes earlier been in another city 65 km away to attend the hearing in one of the terror cases in which he is an accused. “Mujahid left that courtroom at 3.30 pm,” says Randhir Singh Suman, his lawyer. “How did he cover 65 km in 10 minutes?”

Good question. But then, Mujahid’s tragic story is a litany of such irreconcilable facts right from the day he was arrested by the anti-terrorism Special Task Force of the Uttar Pradesh Police in December 2007. Indeed, the police have been thoroughly exposed as lying about him right from the beginning. Yet, it confounds common sense and offends judicial propriety that successive judges not only did not throw out the case against Mujahid as wholly spurious but also refused to grant him bail that he deserved.

Worse, a trial judge ignored his repeated pleas, including written, that the policemen that ferried him between the prison and the court had explicitly threatened to kill him in an “encounter”, a euphemism for extrajudicial killings by the police. Two months ago, a second lawyer who represented Mujahid in another terror case being prosecuted in Lucknow, Mohammad Shoib, told the state’s jail minister that the several Muslim youths, including Mujahid, being tried for terrorism faced threats to their lives. Shoib was also among the last to see Mujahid alive. “We were together in the court until 3.20 pm,” he says. “Ten minutes later, I saw the police van carrying him leave the court premises.”

And now Mujahid is dead. Here is how the state, its police and the judiciary combined to first frame him and then deny him justice.

On 22 December 2007 police announced the arrest of two “terrorists” from a location 20 km east of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. They were apprehended, police said, from a railway station in the town of Barabanki that is a satellite of the capital. One of the two arrested men was Mujahid, a madrassa teacher in Jaunpur district, 250 km east of Lucknow. The other was Tariq Kasmi, a practitioner of the Unani medicine system in the district of Azamgarh, which is adjacent to Jaunpur.

The police claimed that Mujahid and Kasmi were responsible for simultaneous bombings in the district courts of Lucknow and Faizabad, which is 120 km east of the capital, on 22 November 2007. They said the two men had been arrested with explosives. Subsequently, the two were implicated in three different cases: one each in Lucknow and Faizabad for the bombings, and one in Barabanki for carrying explosives. They were charged with sedition and waging war against the state, both colonial era constructs, as also under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Explosives Act.

Instantly, Mujahid’s family members and well-wishers as well as human rights activists jumped in and demolished the police story. They claimed Mujahid was arrested in broad daylight from a crowded market six days previously, on 16 December 2007. His arrest had sparked protests in his town, Madiyahu, in Jaunpur district. Newspapers had reported both. Local police, civil officials and even the courts were given representations against his arrest. Yet, a judicial magistrate bought the police version that it arrested Mujahid and Kasmi from Barabanki railway station on 22 December 2007.

Could this be dismissed as partisan bickering? If yes, then consider this. In response to a plea filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the police station in Mujahid’s township, too, acknowledged that he had been arrested from the market near his house on 16 December 2007. This evidence directly contradicted what the police had told the Barabanki magistrate, before whom the two men had been presented and who had remanded them to a police custody. Mujahid quickly sought to file the RTI reply with various trial courts in Barabanki, Lucknow and Faizabad and press for justice.

But the courts told him that they can’t accept the RTI document until the prosecution had finished its arguments. That was in 2009. It is 2013 now and the prosecution hasn’t yet finished its arguments. So the defence lawyers decided to try their luck with the high court to at least get him bail. They believed that the discordance in the two versions of police should make it an open-and-shut case in their favour. But the High Court said he was accused of a “heinous crime” and could not be bailed.

In fact, eyebrows are also raised at the role of the then Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) of Barabanki, Anupama Gopal Nigam, who first remanded Mujahid (and Kasmi) in police custody. As per the procedure, the police needed to file an application before the CJM informing of the arrests of the two men and then asking the magistrate to come down to the prison to hear Mujahid and Kasmi’s remand plea because they did not want to bring them to the court for security reasons. “But no such document exists in the court records,” Mujahid’s lawyer, Suman, told TEHELKA from Barabanki. “Did the CJM go to the jail on her own?”

There is more. Suman cross-examined a police officer named Dayaram Saroj when the prosecution called him to depose. As the investigating officer in the case, Saroj should have made that formal request before the CJM. On being cross-examined, Saroj claimed that he himself had handed such an application to the CJM when she visited the prison after the arrests. But in response to an RTI application, prison authorities told Mujahid’s family that Saroj did not visit the prison that day. “This is a serious lapse,” Suman said.

On 19 May, Mujahid’s uncle, Zahir Alam Falahi, filed a First Information Report (FIR) with the Barabanki police alleging that Mujahid had been murdered as a result of a conspiracy. The FIR directly named a total of 42 officers, including a former director-general of police, the highest-ranking police officer in the state, as responsible for it. The question is: why would these police officers want to eliminate Mujahid?

The answer ironically lies in the first real spark of hope for Mujahid. After sustained pressure from human rights groups and various organisations of the Muslims, UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s government moved the local court in Barabanki on 3 May 2013 seeking to withdraw its charges against Mujahid and Kasmi. A week later, Additional Sessions Judge Kalpana Mishra of Barabanki rejected the state’s request on a plea from some local lawyers. “These lawyers are from the RSS,” says Suman, referring to the Hindu supremacist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. “She heard them in her chamber and passed the order without the defence being present.”

But the battle may already be tilting in favour of the accused. For three years, a rights platform named Rihaee Manch has vigorously exposed police falsehoods in cases of terrorism in UP and campaigned to seek the release of the accused. The issue picked up steam last year when leading political figures such as Prakash Karat of the CPM, AB Bardhan of the CPI, Bihar politicians Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan, and Congress Rajya Sabha MP Mani Shankar Aiyar came together and demanded an end to what they called the politics of terror against Muslims.

In 2008, then UP Chief Minister Mayawati had asked retired district judge RD Nimesh to probe the allegation that the police had illegally arrested the two men. He finally submitted his report last August. Although Chief Minister Yadav’s government has stonewalled the demands to release that report, it is widely believed that the commission has damned the police for arresting Mujahid and Kasmi and ruled their arrest as illegal.

“The police officers involved in Mujahid’s illegal arrest are obviously worried,” Shahnawaz Hussain, an activist with Rihaee Manch, told TEHELKA over phone from Jaunpur where he had gone to attend Mujahid’s funeral. “Had Mujahid lived, he would have been a prime witness in the case against them and they couldn’t afford that.”

The defence lawyers and rights activists are now worried for the safety of the remaining accused, who include Kasmi and two Kashmiri men, Sajjadur Rahman and Akhtar who were arrested from Jammu and Kashmir on 22 December 2007 and handed over to UP Police a week later. Strangely, the Jammu and Kashmir Police dropped the original charges on which it had arrested the two men before turning them over to UP Police.

The next hearing in the original case in Barabanki will be held on 31 May 2013. The defence lawyers say they would move the court to ensure that the lives of the other accused are not endangered. “Ironically though, greater security would mean a greater threat to their lives as it is the police who want them eliminated,” Suman said.

 

Order CBI enquiry into the Custodial Killing of Khalid Mujahid


Arrest the guilty Police Officers without delay

Khalid Mujahid, proclaimed by the police as one of the executors of the serial blasts that rocked UP courts in November 2007, died in police custody yesterday (18th May 2013). This young man, with no past medical record, the police claim died of sudden medical complications, on his way back to Lucknow prison, having made his appearance in court in Barabanki in connection with the serial blasts case. In 2011, a report, Torture in India, had documented how custodial killings were rampantly passed off as sudden medical complications and natural deaths (ACHR, p. 8).

Foul Play Obvious:

-       The DIG, Faizabad, Dharmendra Singh Yadav, first announced that his death had been caused by ‘heat wave’ and then the story quickly changed to ‘heart attack’.

-       His lawyer, Md. Shoaib, who met Khalid in the court, and in fact was with him till 3 in the afternoon, had found him to be normal, healthy and in high spirits. Eyewitnesses who saw the body before it was sent for autopsy found signs of bleeding from his mouth and ear.

-       Moreover, Advocate Md. Shoaib has pointed out that whilst he was wearing a kurta pyajama in the court appearance earlier in the day, the dead body wore lowers and T-shirt, clearly indicating foul play.

-       Why was the inquest conducted in such a hurried manner without the presence of Mujahid’s family and lawyer? Indeed, had it not been for the large public mobilization, the police and local administration were planning to conduct the autopsy quickly and secretively.

It may be recalled that while the UP STF had claimed to have arrested Mujahid and Qasmi from the Lucknow Charbagh railway station 22 December 2007, the two has actually been picked up days before in full public view, triggering fears of abduction. There had been demonstrations at the local administration demanding for their release as well as filing of a missing persons complaint before the sensational press conference by the STF announcing their arrests.

The long struggle by the democratic forces in UP against the blatant framing of Khalid Mujahid and Tariq Qasmi in the serial court blasts case, which led to the institution of R.D. Nimesh Commission, and the subsequent dismissal of the police claims about the timing and place of arrest of Mujahid and Qasmi, had made the police establishment in UP very nervous. It was obvious that the public pressure was not simply to release the duo but also to seek the prosecution of those policemen, then in the STF, who had falsely framed them.

In these circumstances the ‘heart attack’ theory looks implausible and a brazen attempt to hide a blatant case of custodial killing.

We reject the UP Chief Minister’s announcement of a High powered enquiry committee packed with senior bureaucrats and high ranking UP police officers. We demand that:

1)   Khalid Mujahid’s death be treated as a case of custodial killing and a case of murder be booked against those police officers escorting him;

2)   Those policemen named in the FIR filed by Khalid Mujahid’s family in the early hours today, should be arrested without delay

3)   A CBI enquiry be ordered into the incident;

4)   The post mortem report and the videography of the postmortem be made public;

5)   The Chief Minister should assure the safety and protection of Tariq Qasmi and other accused in the case;

6)   The Chief Minister should immediately order compensation to the family of Khalid Mujahid.

Sd/-

Teesta Setalavad (activist, Mumbai); Shabnam Hashmi (ANHAD), Kavita Srivastava (PUCL); Ahmed Sohaib (JTSA); Mansi Sharma (activist, Delhi); Mahtab Alam (activist, Delhi); Manisha Sethi (JTSA), Kamayani Bali Mahbaal, Human righst activist , Mumbai

 

UP murder suspect allegedly injected with acid by police dies, 3 suspended #WTFnews


IANS,  LUCKNOW, MAY 18, 2013 | UPDATED 18:29 IST

UP Police
UP Police

A murder suspect was given injections of acid and kerosene during police questioning in Uttar Pradesh, following which he fell sick and died in a hospital. Three errant policemen were suspended, an official said on Saturday.

Accused Balbir was brought to Avagarh police station in Etah district on Thursday and allegedly made to sit on a hot plate and given injections of acid and kerosene.

He died of infection and lacerations at a hospital in Lucknow on Friday evening, police said.

Family members of Balbir alleged that police tortured him to force him to confess to the crime.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, Aligarh, Prakash D. said that Etah‘s Senior Superintendent of Police Ajay Mohan Sharma suspended sub-inspector Shailendra Singh and two others.

A case has been registered against the errant policemen and a magisterial probe ordered into the incident, a police official said.

 

UIDAI Lucknow office under Supreme Court panel lens for ‘casteism’ #Aadhaar


Arunav Sinha , TNN | May 12, 2013, 03.48 AM
LUCKNOW: Taking cognizance of complaints of ‘ casteism’ practised allegedly within the precincts of the Lucknow regional office of Unique Identification Authority of India, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes has asked UIDAI’s regional office, Lucknow to submit a probe report and action it intends to take by May 21.
The May 7 letter issued by the NCSC state office for UP and Uttarakhand seeks the response of the UIDAI Lucknow office by May 21, 2013. TOI has a copy of the letter issued by the NCSC.
The letter’s footnote reads further, “National Commission for Scheduled Castes is a constitutional authority. You are expected to respond within stipulated time, failing which the commission will be constrained to invoke constitutional powers to deal with the matter.”
In his 13-point complaint (a copy of which is with TOI) submitted before the NCSC, a former quality control operator at UIDAI, Vijay Kumar, has alleged he was “harassed” as he is a dalit. In one of the 13 points, he states, “Abhishek Mishra, Assistant, had on a number of occasions prevented me from drinking water before others as I am a dalit. Once when I told Abhishek Mishra about the water cooler not functioning properly, he snubbed me saying if the water cooler is not working properly, I should not complain and instead find some other source for drinking water.”
When contacted, ADG CS Mishra confirmed having received a letter from NCSC, and said, “A probe would be conducted and stringent action would be taken against anyone who is found guilty.”
Vijay also claims that nepotism is rampant in UIDAI. “The blue-eyed boys of assistant director generals (ADGs) CS Mishra and Ashutosh Ojha enjoy a comfortable position in office.” He adds, “The two ADGs and Abhishek Mishra call the shots in this office and routinely harass the staffers. It was precisely the reason I did not dare to open my mouth against them, as I was in an extremely defenceless position.”
Expressing his fear, Vijay says, “I fear threat to life from these senior officials at UIDAI’s Lucknow regional office and they may frame false charges against me. Sadly, my tormentor has been asked to investigate and take action. I hope I get justice.”
Adding weight to the claims of Vijay, four other former staffers of UIDAI Lucknow, who were “sacked”, have lodged a complaint before the National Human Rights Commission alleging harassment by the two ADGs and the assistant. TOI has a copy of the NHRC complaint as well. All the complaints are currently under consideration of the NHRC.
Debashish Gargory, one of the five complainants, says, “We have been made to suffer as we did not follow the diktats of these officials, especially Abhishek Mishra, who works at the behest of the two ADGs.” Gargory adds, “We even tried to raise our concerns before the senior officials of UIDAI Headquarter but we did not get any response to our emails. Finally, on April 13, we decided to move the National Human Rights Commission.” He also alleged manipulating of attendance in the office, and ADGs turning blind eye to it.
As if the complaints of alleged harassment were not enough to highlight a seemingly sad facet of the UIDAI, a number of RTIs addressed to the UID headquarters Delhi and Lucknow regional office also indicate that all is certainly not well.
In one of the RTI applications, the applicant has sought information regarding the justification of providing high-end mobile phones and staff cars to officers who are not eligible for the same. Several other questions in the RTI applications (copy with TOI) hint at rules being possibly tweaked in the name of running a “project”.

 

 

India’s shame: mother demanding justice for dead daughter beaten #Vaw


Reported by Anant Zanane, Edited by Mala Das | Updated: April 18, 2013 23:28 IST

PLAYClick to Expand & Play

AligarhOn camera, a group of policemen are seen manhandling a woman in a pink salwar kameez and a man near her.

One cop then drags the woman along the ground.

This is how the police in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh responded to a distraught couple whose six-year-old daughter had been found dead this morning in a garbage dump.

Aligarh is 330 kms from Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar Pradesh.

The child’s body was found this morning and in a few hours, nearly a hundred protestors gathered in the neighbourhood shouting slogans against the police. Officers used batons on the crowd, and attacked the girl’s parents.

The policeman who dragged the mother on the ground has been transferred while two others, who manhandled the protesters, have been suspended. Deputy Inspector General of Aligarh Division, D Prakash, acknowledged that “unnecessary force was used on protesters”.

The police have said an enquiry will be completed in three days.

Meanwhile, medical tests have confirmed the girl was sexually assaulted.

 

Condolence Meeting- Young revolutionary and cultural organiser Shalini passes away #RIP



Announcements – 4 April 2013

Condolence meeting in memory of Shalini, president of Janchetna Books Society, 5 PM, Janchetna, D-68, Nirala Nagar, Lucknow. Organised by: Janchetna and Rahul Foundation. 

Delhi. Shalini, a young revolutionary and a strong piller of several
important projects of publication and distribution of progressive, left and
revolutionary literature, passed away yesterday here at late night. She was
admitted to Delhi’s Dharmshila hospital on the evening of 27 March where
she was being treated since last January. On the morning of 28 March, as
her blood pressure dipped very low, she was shifted to ICU where she
breathed her last on the 29 March at around 11:25 pm.

Apart from being an enthusiastic social organiser, Shalini was also the
president of the society of the ‘Janchetna’ Bookshop, member of the Board
of Trustees of ‘Anurag Trust’, executive member of ‘ Rahul Foundation’ and
director of Parikalpna publication. Shalini’s 18 years of revolutionary
life was an example of a life full of sacrifices, combativeness,
uncompromising and principled attitude.

Her comrade and famous poetess Katyayani said that like a true communist,
Shalini faced all the pain valiantly till her last breath and was committed
to her life goal and communist values till the end. She wanted to donate
her body for the medical reusearch but could not get opportunity to
complete the legal formalities for this. As per her wish, her body was
wrapped with the red flag and and in the presence of her fellow travellers
of struggle, she was cremated in the electric crematorium at Lodhi Road on
the evening of 30th March.

A Revolutionary Life

Comrade Shalini’s political life began in her teens. She devoted her life
for revolution since 1995. She was active on student, woman and cultual
front in this duration. She was a strong piller of several important
projects of publication and distribution of progressive, left and
revolutionary literature.

Apart from participating in the publication of Marxist literature and
other activities in Rahul Foundation, Shalini took up the responsibility of
being the incharge of the Janchetna centre in Gorakhpur and Allahabad.
Since 2004, she had been looking after the responsibilities of the central
office and book shop of Janchetna in Lucknow. Apart from this, she had also
been assisting in the publication activities of Parikalpana, Rahul
Foundation and Anurag Trust. She also looked after the activities at the
main offices of Anurag Trust (library, reading room, children’s workshops
etc.). Shalini also took up the responsibility of the management of the
central library of ‘Arvind Memorial Trust’.

Shalini was a hard-working, young communist organiser with a rich
experience of eighteen years of difficult and turbulent political life full
of ups and downs. With an unwavering faith in communism, she did political
work like a labourer. She never looked back or compromised once she decided
her goal in life. Even when her father degenerated due to his vested
interests and class arrogance and started a campaign of slandering and
character-assassination, Shalini completely broke her relations with him
without a second’s delay.

It was in the second week of January that she was diagnosed with cancer in
Lucknow after which her treatment began in Delhi’s Dharmshila Hospital
Delhi. During the last three months, despite unbearable pain,she never lost
her morale and till the end she was hopeful of rejoining her front of the
people’s emancipation after getting well. She was a foundation stone of the
attempts of the revolutionary social change in India in the true sense of
the term and her life will continue to be an eternal source of inspiration
for her fellow travellers.

(Katyayani)

Secretary, Janchetna

(Rambabu)

President,AnuragTrust Secretary,

(Satyam)

Rahul Foundation

 

Uttar Pradesh IAS officer faces arrest in NRHM scam


, TNN | Mar 30, 2013, 01.23 AM IST

LUCKNOW: Senior IAS officer Pradeep Shukla faces arrest as a CBI court in Ghaziabad on Thursday dismissed his appeal against a non-bailable arrest warrant issued against him in connection with his alleged role in the Rs 5,700-crore National Rural Health Mission (NHRM) scam.

The politically influential bureaucrat, who would have to appear before the court on April 5, had moved an application before the court through his counsel seeking to quash the warrant issued on March 22 on medical grounds.

Special CBI additional district judge Shyam Lal had issued the warrant after Shukla failed to appear before the court till March 19. The Allahabad high court had set the deadline for him to appear before the CBI court a month earlier.

The high court directives came after it dismissed Shukla’s petition challenging a chargesheet filed against him before the special CBI court in Ghaziabad, saying it was filed on the basis of the statements of his co-accused. He had pleaded for the quashing of the chargesheet as statements of the co-accused were not admissible under the Evidence Act.

The CBI opposed the petition, insisting the statements of the co-accused could not be ignored as they were involved as agents. It sought the petition’s rejection, saying the statements of the agents “cannot be overlooked”, as they are admissible evidence.

The agency had arrested Shukla in May 2012 for his alleged role in the scam after the Allahabad high court admonished the agency “for not touching the big guns” named in the scam.

He was granted bail three months later after the CBI failed to submit a chargesheet against him.

A 1981 batch officer, Shukla was principal secretary, health and family welfare, and NRHM director between 2009 and 2011 when the scam took place. He is accused of bungling upgradation of 89 district hospitals, causing a loss of over Rs 18 crore to the exchequer.

Shukla was a powerful bureaucrat during previous CM Mayawati’s government.

Senior minister in CM Akhilesh Yadav‘s cabinet Shiv Pal Yadav had met Shukla in Jail in July 2012. Shukla’s wife, also an IAS officer, comes from a politically influential family.

The scam came to light after the murder of two chief medical officers in Lucknow.

The CBI had arrested former family welfare minister Babu Singh Kushwaha in the same case. He had accused Shukla of signing forged documents to make fictitious payments.