Masum: Rights activists at risk along India-Bangladesh border

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Masum's pro-bono advocate Rana Mahanta has been repeatedly threatened

Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (Masum) activists have been targeted by the state; now the victims of rights violations and their lawyer are also under threat, reports Kirity Roy.

Masum, a human rights organisation in India, provides medical, legal and psychological support to the victims of human rights violation and works with border enclave dwellerss.

Masum filed a writ petition on the situation of the enclave dwellers before the Supreme Court of India.

It also filed a writ petition before the court in the matter of torture and extra-judicial killing by the Border Security Force (BSF) and took the fight for justice for Felani Khatun, who was killed by the BSF, before the same Supreme Court in another petition.

Masum has been providing legal assistance to the victims of torture who have filed court complaints against alleged uniformed perpetrators. The human rights organisation has also taken up the livelihood issue of a vast number of people living near the India-Bangladesh border in Murshidabad district who were affected by the erosion of Padma River.

All those actions could not be possible without the assistance of our members, our district human rights monitors. Because of for our work, Masum and the victims of these human rights violations are under continual threat from state agencies.

Our present district human rights monitor in Murshidabad district, Ajimuddin Sarkar, has been implicated in several false and concocted criminal charges by the Murshidabad district police. He was behind bars for 70 days last year.

He was particularly targeted by the officer-in-charge of the Islampur Police Station, because a woman, Reba Bewa, brought before the High Court the matter of the custodial death of her husband at Raninagar Police Station.

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This officer-in-charge was in charge of Raninagar Police Station when the custodial death took place. Masum and Ajimuddin Sarkar have been helping the woman to fight the legal battle in court.

Masum lodged a complaint before the National Human Rights Commission over the custodial death of the victim, Rajib Molla, but the commission transferred the complaint to the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, which has not yet taken any action. It is clear that the state human rights commission in West Bengal is at present inactive.

In September 2015, Ajimuddin Sarkar was implicated in two criminal cases by the Islampur Police Station under the same officer-in-charge.

Kirity Roy is also an accused in two criminal cases initiated by the police in Murshidabad district. It seems that the police and administration in Murshidabad district lose sleep to monitor our activity in the district. Our district human rights monitors in other districts also face the wrath of the state agencies.

The National Human Rights Commission has failed to take suitable measures in spite of the repeated complaints filed by Masum in the matter of Ajimuddin Sarkar and other district human rights monitors of Masum, who are under threat.

Even Masum’s pro-bono advocate, Rana Mahanta, who has been acting in the case of Reba Bewa, widow of Rajib Molla, and in the cases of other victims who came under repeated threats from unknown police personnel, is put under pressure to withdraw the complaint filed by Reba Bewa against the accused police personnel over the custodial death of her husband Rajib Molla.

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The victims of torture in the hands of state agencies are also not safe. They are under continual threats to withdraw their complaints filed against the perpetrators.

At regular intervals, Masum receives information that the victims for whom complaints are lodged by Masum before the human rights institution have come under threat. Either police or BSF personnel visit their homes and put them under pressure, with threats, to withdraw their complaints or agree to a compromise.

There is no protection for the victims and witnesses as the national human rights commission and the state commission are oblivious to the need to protect the victims and the witnesses whenever complaints are filed against state agencies.

Recently, on 4 January 2016 at 10.30am, five BSF personnel, with the driver of the BSF vehicle, visited the house of Panchanan Mondal at his residence in the village of Char Borderpara (police station – Raninagar) in Murshidabad district. His two sons, namely Susanta Mondal and Dhananjoy Monda,l had been allegedly killed by BSF personnel.

The complaints filed by Panchanan Mondal and Masum about the alleged killing of Dhananjoy Mondal by the BSF are still pending before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC Case no.1533/25/13/2012-PF).

Against this backdrop, BSF personnel came and threatened Panchanan Mondal to withdraw his complaint against BSF.

We, members of Masum and the victims for whom Masum took initiatives to support in seeking justice, are not safe. All are under constant threats from the state agencies.

The above is only a glimpse of the ongoing situation. We need strong support from all corners of society so that we can carry out our human rights work and protect the victims of human rights violations.

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Kirity Roy is secretary of Masum.

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