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India: Human Rights Defenders from Murshidabad are at Risk of Arbitrary Arrest and Detention

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(Bangkok/Kathmandu, 26 June 2017) The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is deeply concerned about recent police hostility against human rights defenders in Murshidabad district, West Bengal. Human rights defenders from the respected human rights group Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) have been facing harassment and intimidation and are now at risk of arbitrary arrest and detention. MASUM undertakes research and runs campaigns against torture and killings by security forces in the area.

On the night of 14 June 2017 police personnel from Raninagar Police station surrounded the residence of Sanjit Mondal, MASUM’s District Human Rights Monitor. As Sanjit suspected he would be arrested, he left the premises before the police could get to him. He and other members of MASUM are feared to be at risk and FORUM-ASIA is particularly concerned that repeated calls for investigation and intervention have not been acted upon by the authorities.

Sanjit filed a written complaint to Murshidabad district’s Superintendent of Police but is yet to receive any response. Concerns about the incident and the hostile environment MASUM members are experiencing in Murshidabad have been raised with the authorities, including the National Human Rights Commission of India, on multiple occasions. These have not been acted upon.

It is feared that Sanjit and other members of MASUM may meet the same fate as colleagues Ajimuddin Sarkar and Najrul Islam, who both are also District Human Rights Monitors for MASUM, who were arbitrarily arrested and detained on trumped-up charges.

Similar to Sanjit, Ajimuddin’s home was surrounded and ransacked. His family was later attacked, while Ajimuddin himself was arbitrarily detained and tortured in custody. The authorities need to prevent further injustices and put into place immediate, concrete steps to ensure the safety and security of MASUM’s human rights defenders.

FORUM ASIA urges the Government of India to:

  • Ensure that a thorough, transparent and independent investigation into the arrest and harassment of human rights defenders in Murshidabad district is undertaken without delay.
  • Immediately take measures to ensure that human rights defenders in Murshidabad are able to conduct their human rights work safely and are not be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, harassment and attacks.
  • Commit to its obligation under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments ratified by India.
  • Demonstrate its ability to reign in and hold to account those in Murshidabad that disregard the rule of law and due process, as they are core elements of India’s legal system.
  • Foster a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders, where they can carry on their activities unhindered and liberally express discontent with the State.
  • Guarantee values of free expression, human rights and democracy are enabled.

For a PDF version of the statement, please click here.

For further information, please contact:
South Asia Programme ([email protected])
Human Rights Defenders Programme ([email protected])