e – Voice Of Human Rights Watch – e-news weekly
Spreading the light of humanity & freedom
Editor : Nagaraj.M.R…………vol.3…issue.01………….17/03/2007
Editorial : BRUTAL MASSACRE BY POLICE ON FARMERS – S.E.Z NANDIGRAM WEST BENGAL INDIA
WHY MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES ARE INVESTING IN INDIA?
HRW condemns the brutal massacre by police on farmers – who are going to loss all their lands , sources.of livelihood for the sake of special economic zone at nandigram , west Bengal , India.
In every mega projects undertaken by government , both the state government & central government have functioned like REAL ESTATE / COMMISSION AGENTS for the rich & mighty . the government says it is acquiring lands for development of industries , for public good. In reality there is only good of rich & mighty.
For forming S.E.Zs , corporates gets speedy single window approvals from government , lands at concessional rates – lower than market value , soft loans from Indian banks , tax exemptions for years from the government , dedicated power supply , etc , from the government . these corporates are even given free hand to raise share capital in the Indian market. the government has enacted flexible labour laws specifically for S.E.Zs , they can hire & fire without bothering to pay gratuity , etc and they are exempted from providing P.F / E.S.I coverage to their employees ie they need not worry about the occupational health hazards of their employees , they can employ them till they are fit & throw them on streets afterwards. These corporates take our own money, employ our own people , use our own natural resources & finally take away the net profits to their home countries – what they give back ? – environmental pollution , tax evasions , low paid occupational hazardous jobs to locals , stock market scams .
During Previous License Regime foreign, investment was not directly welcome in India. As people at that time perceived it as “Neo colonisation” & detested it. There were various restrictions on foreign investments. The local industrialists under monopolistic
environment thrived, who were no way better than day light robberers, of course with a few exception. Under the political patronage, the cunning industrialists looted public money, cheated the government of tax, cheated lending banks & cheated the investors
too. They easily flouted labour laws & made labourers to work in inhuman conditions.
During 1990’s under the international pressure India signed GATT & slowly started opening it’s economy. Now, from 01/01/05 even product patent has come into force in India. Are MNCs bringing high technology intensive industries to India? No, not at all. They are actually denying sophisticated technologies to India. They are only
bringing the FMCG industries – salt, chips, ketch-up, colas, for which India is a huge home market. They are into services like Hotels, medical care, marketing. In other cases, they are just marketing the products manufactured at their bases in U.S.A. or Europe.
They are not bringing in new production technologies in the areas like space research, nuclear energy, bio-technology, pharmaceuticals or pollution control, to India. Also, some MNCs are relocating their highly polluting industries to India, as they are subjected to stringent environmental protection standards in their own home countries. Whereas, In India the Government is highly corrupt & can be bought for a price. The attractive points for foreign direct investment (FDI) in India are,
1. There is lack of comprehensive environmental norms.
2. The enforcement of environmental norms is lax.
3. The cost of health coverage, social security net to be provided to the workers exposed to the occupational hazards is less.
4. The cost of compensation to be paid to the persons-who died or suffered damages due to occupational hazards/environmental pollution is meager.
5. The enforcement of labour laws are lax.
6. Public money can be easily raised through lending Banks, primary market within India & the public can be easily cheated.
7. The tax can be evaded through various loopholes like transferring money to holding companies situated at Mauritius or countries which have double taxation avoidance agreement with India.
8. The tax can be evaded, company money can be cheated by lending money to sister / holding concerns at low interest rates or by selling shares, materials to their private companies at low rates or by buying shares, materials from their holding/sister concerns at exhorbitant rates, etc.
9. The corporate governance laws are almost absent in India & it’s enforcement nil.
10. Above all, the time can be bought by very slow Indian legal system, if any dispute arise.
11. On top of it, well trained, technically qualified people are available at low rates through contractors.
Just consider the following cases which highlight the apathy, irresponsibility of government of India and emboldened the cunning, MNCs:-
1. The India which boasts of so much scientific/technological advancements, is till date has been unable to provide potable water to it’s people. People of west Bengal , Karnataka , Andrapradesh states are forced to drink Arsenic, Fluoride poisoned water.
2. The people living near the mines of R.E.M.P. in Kerala are suffering due to exposure to the radio active materials, Same is the case with the people of Jadaguda, Jharkhand, living near the U.C.I.L. plant. Both M/S R.E.M.P & M/s U.C.I.L are department of atomic energy enterprises.
3. Few years back, In Mysore railway station containers of radio- active materials were left unattended. The dome of reactor building at construction stage collapsed in nuclear power plant at Kaiga. A fire tragedy occurred in Kakrapar nuclear power plant. In the recent Tsunami waves onslaught, certain important facilities of Koodakulam atomic plant were damaged near Chennai.
4. In 1984, U.S. based MNC union carbide mass murdered nearly 20,000 people, injured lakhs who are still suffering health problems. The polluted poisonous accident site i.e. Union carbide plant in Bhopal is not yet cleared off toxic materials even after 20 years.
This is still further damaging the residents of Bhopal.
5. In the above union carbide disaster, the Government of India didn’t present the case properly before supreme courts of India & U.S.A.. As a result the MNC just paid a pittance as compensation. As per that the cost of Indian lives are just a fraction of cost of
American lives. Just imagine if a same disaster occurred in U.S.A. at the plant of a MNC headquartered in India, what would have been the consequence?
6. In India, hazardous chemicals laced with food additives are passed through the drinks, beverages like pepsi, cola, coco cola very easily.
7. The medicines like nimesulide, paracetamol, etc. with hazardous side effects which are banned in U.S.A.& Europe, are easily marketed by the same U.S.& Europe based MNCs in India.
8. In India spurious drugs, medicines, food stuffs are easily marketed.
9. In India, the clinical trials of new medicines under research are done without proper compensation structure to those being tried upon ie. Virtual guinea pigs.
10. In India, the genetically engineered BT crops are being introduced without paying attention to formers, ecology or eco-system.
11. In India, during setting up of large projects, scant attention is paid to environment, eco-system & the displaced persons.
Most of the times, in government projects itself the displaced persons are cheated by the government in numerous ways.
12. In India, various Government as well as private hospitals dumps hospital wastes with deadly viruses in the open, with scant regard to public health.
13. In India, aged ships belonging to foreign countries are breaked down to scrap in ship breaking yards of Gujarath , Maharashtra & AP. Various toxins like the Asbestos, lead, etc & the hazardous, dirty water, Oil inside the ship are drained into Indian seashore. The labourers here are forced to work without any safety gears.
14. When specific cases of human rights violations were brought before the government & Judiciary by HRW, both of them didn’t respond at all.
All the above cases highlight the fact that, government of India & Indian judiciary treats it’s citizens lives as cheap, dispensable at will. This is the major attracting force for MNCs to India. JAI HIND. VANDE MATARAM.
BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY 1984 –Bhopal, India
At the first instance the Government of India failed to ensure that Union carbide India Limited (U.C.I.L) has installed proper safety measures and fully implemented it in practice, at it’s plant in Bhopal. The Government of Madhyapradesh through it’s labour
department, factory inspectorate & pollution control board failed to enforce safety practices & environmental protection. In turn, the U.C.I.L didn’t install in full, the safety measures being followed by it’s parent company union carbide corporation (U.C.C) at it’s
Various plants in the U.S.A. The U.C.I.L. didn’t give community training to residents of nearby localities, to cope up with emergencies ie. Industrial accidents. U.C.I.L gave a go – by to safety practices, as it treated Indian lives as cheap. The government of Madhya pradesh instead of shifting slum dwellers around U.C.I.L, to other safe place, gave them legal title deeds just months before the tragedy in 1984.
Now, refer the following:-
1. After the accident at it’s U.C.I.L. plant at Bhopal, India in 1984, when the U.C.C. Chairman/C.E.O. came over to Bhopal from U.S.A to visit the accident site, local police arrested him on the charges of manslaughter. However, the Government of India got him released.
2. In 1985, Government of India enacted “Bhopal claims Act” took- away the right of appeal of all the Gas tragedy victims & declared itself as the sole representative of all victims. This said act itself is violative of victim’s fundamental & human rights. The
victims didn’t choose Government of India as it’s representative under will, agreement, trust or pleasure.
3. The paradox of this “Bhopal claims Act” is that, Government of India which is also a party to the crime, tragedy, itself is the appellant. The appellant (Petitioner),defendant are Government of India, Prosecution by Government of India & Judged by Government of
4. In 1989, when an appeal about interim compensation to be paid by the U.C.I.L to all the victims was being heard in the apex court, the supreme court of India without giving a chance to the victims to make their point, without consulting them, without making a proper assessment of damages/losses, gave an arbitrary figure as verdict & dropped all civil, criminal proceedings against U.C.C.&U.C.I.L
5. In the same year 1989, the Government of India without consulting the victims of disaster, without making proper assessment of damages/ losses, negotiated a settlement with the U.C.C. and in turn gave full legal immunity to U.C.C.& U.C.I.L from civil &
6. Even the Government of India didn’t present the case of victim’s-gas tragedy victims, properly before the U.S.courts, where the U.C.C is based. All these premeditated acts only benefited the criminals- U.C.C&UCIL. Are not the supreme court of India & Government of India, here to safeguard Indians and to safeguard Justice?
After all these crimes, the Government of India failed to distribute compensation in time to victims. It has failed even to provide safe drinking water to the residents near the accident site, It has failed to provide comprehensive medical care to the victims, till
date . It has even failed to get the accident site cleared off toxic wastes either by the culprit management or by it self, that too after 20 years. The very presence of these toxic wastes since 20 years is further contaminating, polluting the environment and taking toll of more victims.
Particularly in the case of “Bhopal Gas Tragedy” the supreme court of India & Government of India are deadlier criminals than U.C.I.L&U.C.C.
Just consider a case here, Just a few years back an U.S.based M.N.C ENRON set-up a power project in Maharashtra, India through it’s subsidiary. When Maharashtra state Electricity Board failed to lift power from Enron& pay them monthly guaranteed revenue, Enron threatened to invoke, open the “Eschrew Clause” with the Government
of India & to approach international arbiter U.K. Government of India has stood as conter-guarantee in this case. Finally the Government paid, of course subsequently the parent ENRON collapsed due to other reasons. If in this case if Government of India failed to pay-up as a counter guarantee & refused to comply with the award of International arbiter, definitely Government of U.S.A. would have stepped into the scene to protect it’s MNC. Hypothetically, In the same vein if Enron has caused damages to Indians either through negligence of safe practices or industrial accidents or bank frauds
amounting over and above it’s Capital base & insurance cover, then it would have been the duty of parent Enron & Government of U.S.A. to step in & pay-up.
In the same way, the U.C.I.L has caused massive damages to Indians & refusing to pay commensurate to damages. Dow chemicals which took- over U.C.C. is also refusing to pay. DOW chemicals which is the new owner of U.C.C. naturally inherits both profits, credits lent & liabilities to pay of U.C.C. Still it is refusing to pay. Now it is the turn of Government of U.S.A. to cough-up the sum.
Nowadays, it has become routine for central & State ministers to go- on foreign jaunts, to globe -trott inviting F.D.I/ M.N.Cs to India. They do sign numerous agreements, only favouring MNC. When tragedies occur or when they cheat Indian banks/ investors, it is Indians who suffer. The ministers & bureaucrats thinks themselves as wizards and enters into agreements with MNCs, industrialists in a hush-hush manner, with vast scope for possible corruption. Is it not the duty of government to be transparent ?
CORPORATE CRIMINALS RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL ILLS IN INDIA
In India , a small shop owner to big industrialist have mastered the art of TAX EVASION . their teachers – some corrupt tax officials & auditors. The black money thus created
is causing inflation, feeding the mafia , underworld. Some industrialists lobby ( bribe ) with the government & gets favourable laws enacted. This black money is the main source of funds for political parties , religious bodies & terrorist outfits.
The recent raids by C.B.I & KARNATAKA LOKAYUKTHA have proved how the tax officials have become multi-millionaires. The sad part is that some of the police officials who are on deputation to C.B.I & LOKAYUKTHA themselves are utterly corrupt.
This scourge can only be cured by corporate accountability intoto. However , all the industrialists , traders who are demanding for more flexible labour reforms , economic reforms , infrastructure , etc are not at all concerned about their own accountability with respect to tax , environment , other laws. The MNCs coming to India are not coming here for best Indian talents or infrastructure alone. In their own countries they are feeling the
heat of strict environment laws , consumer laws , share holder disclosures , corporate accountability. Some of these MNCs are being kicked out of their countries , by it’s own people .These MNCs are aware that in India , by greasing the palms environment laws , labour laws , tax laws , etc everything can be flouted , cases in courts can be dragged on for years . share holder disclosures , corporate transparency is minimum.
Bottomline : development is a must , it must be all around . but not at the cost of majority to make a few richer.
INDIA: Nandigram, the latest outcome of a failing justice system
The central and state governments of India ruling 1.2 billion people in the world’s largest democracy boasts of economic and industrial growth, surpassing almost all nations except China. Ideally, this growth should trickle down to every citizen of the country both rich and poor, so all could reap the benefits.
However, it is the deeper understanding of these two catchwords ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ as understood in India that gives an insight into the contradiction between what India actually is and what its government wishes to be projected outside. That is, India‘s democratically elected government would go to almost any extent to ‘promote’ economic growth, even at the cost of the life and livelihood of its people. Nandigram and the killing of dozens of people (and probably many more) in police firing is the latest episode.
It is said, Indians have most of what they need. Food, access to information, some of the most modern communication infrastructure, transportation facilities, rich housing estates, deeper pockets and an ever increasing appetite to spend and earn. But if this is what India is all about, the discussion is limited to less than 20 percent of its population.
If one cares to look around even within city limits or travel out of the metros and towards the villages the picture becomes clearer, but one of stark contrast. People living in slums, without clean drinking water and even basic sanitation facilities. They are illiterate – to such an extent that even reading a movie poster is not possible. Money is such a problem that they are unable to afford a meal a day costing not more than 20 cents, thus they habitually suffer from starvation and malnourishment. This is the story of the ‘rest’ of India. As years pass by little consideration is given to bridge the gap between the classical haves and have-nots and as a result the gap is widening rapidly.
The million dollar question is how such a massive population in a politically active environment could be restrained in conditions that pose fair competition to conditions found in some Sub-Saharan Africa countries? Maybe a deeper look into the justice system in India could provide a credible answer.
Unfortunately, the justice dispensation system in India is in an equally pathetic situation as the poor in India. The justice mechanisms in India are lacking in practically all aspects including an inadequate number of judges in courts, to enable courts to function properly. This situation is not limited to the courts, but also to the police and prosecution.
For example what is going on in Nandigram? Ideally, the state ruled by the world’s longest-running democratically elected communist government must be a heaven for everyone, but for an exploiting capitalist. Unfortunately the government in that state is murdering its own people who hinder the setting up of exclusive business zones for multinational business concerns.
But why does the government kill its people? It is because they decided to exercise their democratic right and protest against extortion and injustice. In Nandigram they were protesting the forceful eviction from their lands without adequate compensation and sensible alternatives. Then again, incidents in Narmada, Assam and other North-Eastern states, the Muthanga incident in Kerala as well as in Singur in West Bengal are all recent examples of a similar nature.
But why should people protest? After all there are adequate laws in India that would ensure the evictees receive adequate compensation. For anyone who wants to complain about the quantum of compensation, there are courts in India that could adjudicate upon the fairness of compensation in a land acquisition reference. So why this big noise?
It is said, experience is the best teacher. In practice land acquisition works as follows. The acquiring officer — often a revenue officer — sits in his office and uses his authority to award compensation in proportion to the ‘compensation’ he receives from the affected party. How is this possible? Accepting and offering bribe is an offence in India. But who investigates an allegation of bribery but the local police who themselves demand bribes even to answer a telephone call or register a complaint.
So are there no alternatives? Of course a person could approach the courts. But the situation in Indian courts is that it takes decades for a case to be decided. This is not merely an opinion of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). This is an acknowledged fact by even senior judges in India including former Chief Justices.
Therefore, there is little alternative available to the people but to take to the streets. This is what happened in Nandigram. But exercising one’s right to peaceful protest could be deadly because one could get shot at and killed. By whom? The police of course, who are supposed to be the guardians of the people. The current trend of the courts including the Supreme Court is to justify evictions by the use of force. Such interpretations are often exploited by political parties whose one aim is to get back into power or remain in power and governments.
If such incidents — like the indiscriminate firing in Nandigram — happen in a reasonably functioning state, serious inquiries would immediately be conducted as to why such a firing took place and also every possible measures would be taken to preserve the evidence in the scene of the crime. In India however the police is employed with the support of political party activists to remove ‘obstructions’ and to ‘clean-up’ the scene. This has been witnessed in a much higher proportion in Gujarat during the communal riots. When it happened in Gujarat the blame was that the communal carnage was promoted by a fundamentalist government, but then if the same is possible in West Bengal, one need to rethink about the defining rationales of fundamentalism and communism as it is experienced in West Bengal today.
If only one hundredth of the effort put in to create special economic zones that cater to the greed of multinational industries was channelled to modernising the justice dispensation mechanism it would go a long way to establish rule of law in India — made available equally to both the rich and poor. The government of India headed by Mr. Manmohan Singh, a world renowned economist, must know this if not anything else.
Another pertinent question that requires to be asked is, how many of the police officers responsible for the firing will be inquired into and brought to justice? Will there be an independent inquiry into the entire incident and will the findings of such an inquiry be published in any recent future? Will there be any evidence remaining to help the investigation? It is alleged that the CPI (M) activists are cleaning up the ‘mess’ in Nandigram to remove all evidences from the scene. In these circumstances it is quite legitimate to wonder whether India is a democracy or a dictatorship.
Who benefits from this mess? The 20 percent that was mentioned above. When things get so bad that a safe living in India is no more possible this 20 percent will have enough resources to leave the country and settle elsewhere. This has already started.
Some 60 years before the slogan was ‘quit India‘. The slogan still is the same. The only difference however is that at the first instance it was used against the British but now this is what all Indians say to themselves.
INDIA: Bastar and Nandigram, where next?
Unity in diversity is the catchphrase often used in reference to India. People of various cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds united to form a nation. However, today India is a strange twist of this paradigm. In the state of West Bengal people get murdered by state agents while in neighbouring Chhattisgarh, state agents get killed by armed militant groups. During all these, the government of India claims India is heading for a bright future.
In Nandigram, what was reflected, unfortunately at the expense of the lives of 41 persons (and probably many more), is how ordinary people could be exploited to cater to the interests of political parties. It is also a sad reflection of the state administration’s failure to understand the situation and react sensibly to its people’s most pressing problems.
The killing of 54 persons, including 15 personnel of the Chhattisgarh Armed Forces, in an attack allegedly by 300 to 350 CPI (Maoist) cadres and carried out on a police base camp in the Bastar region in the early hours of March 15 is an example of how a failed state can be a fertile ground for armed insurgency. The growth in the strength and number of the Maoist cadres in that state is not a sporadic event. Years of neglect, from much before the formation of the state, caste based discrimination, rampant poverty, killings, rape and torture perpetrated on the ordinary people by state sponsored agents served prolific ground for Maoists to spread their wings.
Thirty-nine of the dead in Chhattisgarh are members of Salva Judum, a private armed group formed by the state, consisting mainly of tribal youth, to help the police contain the Maoist insurgency in that state. Chhattisgarh is not the only state facing this problem. Many states are witnessing a growing number of Maoist sponsored attacks and killings. Massive numbers are also injured including both state officials and ordinary civilians.
Such incidents indicate that something is drastically going wrong or already gone terribly wrong in India. These homicides, in large numbers, manifest symptoms of something horrid. A cancerous growth of callousness towards rule of law and justice.
Unfortunately the judiciary, formerly known for its activism, responds way too late. For example the West Bengal High Court has ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to immediately inquire into the circumstances leading to police firing and submit a report. It has also ordered the state government to submit a separate report. But how can the courts of India be expected to prevent and find solutions to such problems? Indeed the courts have a definite role to play but it is beset with its own problems. Bitter experiences like the delay in courts have taken away the ordinary person’s confidence in the judicial systems in the country.
Had people not lost confidence in their court system, they probably would have approached the courts when faced with serious issues rather than allowing the political parties to exploit them.
The recent eviction of residents from Belilious Park, Bagbazar and Cossipore in West Bengal was sanctioned by the same Court which has now ordered the CBI investigation into the killing in Nandigram. In the former cases the Court did not show much concern regarding the ‘unconstitutionality’ of the evictions – notwithstanding that similar force was used. The difference probably was because the eviction was of ‘untouchables’ staying within the city limits.
Persons like Lakhichand Paswan, father of Bhikari Paswan had to wait for more than ten years to find out whether the police officers allegedly responsible for murdering his son would face a prosecution, thanks to the time taken by the High Court of West Bengal to decide whether official sanction was required to prosecute a police officer for an alleged charge of murder. By the time the prosecution was allowed, Lakhichand was dead. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is certain that this is not an isolated case, but a common phenomenon in India. The Supreme Court of India is also not immune to this evil.
The Narmada Dam issue decided by the Supreme Court is a down fall from the jurisprudence the Court has set while deciding the Bombay Municipal Corporation Case. The Court, in this judgment justified the use of force for eviction. The result of such delays and attitudes is blatant impunity. A law enforcement agency that enjoys impunity is one that will go to any extent to be exploited and to exploit.
The Supreme Court of India has of course stepped out of the box in several occasions. Recently the Court has observed that those responsible for corruption must be hanged publicly. The remark was made while hearing the bail applications of the accused in the fodder scams reported from Bihar state — yet another state suffering from Maoist upsurge. The judgments in the D. K. Basu case, the Prakash Singh case and the Best Bakery case are a few other examples.
Since the judgment in D. K. Basu 11 years ago, it would be interesting to see whether there has been even a single case where the Court has initiated contempt of court proceedings against any policemen for flouting its directives. The AHRC had brought to the Court’s notice at least a dozen cases where the guidelines issued by the Court in the D. K. Basu case were violated.
Also, regarding the Prakash Singh case had the state governments complied with the directions of the Court? Will there be any compliance within the next two decade?
But the same Court, while deciding the constitutionality of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, upheld the validity of the law allowing the killings to continue in the North-Eastern state of Manipur. The Court lacked the minimum commonsense to appreciate that peace cannot be attained through the firing of guns.
Compared to what is going on in Manipur, Nandigram is the tip of the iceberg. The government of India is so scared that it will not allow journalists from foreign media to visit Manipur. What is the government afraid of? If a young man decided to take revenge from an army officer who killed his parents and raped his sisters, who is to be blamed? The person or the system that allowed the murder and rape to happen and yet permitted the officer to continue in service?
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India is yet another institution that is responsible for addressing human rights abuses in India. With the experience of filing more than 70 cases before the Commission within the past one year, the AHRC could say that when it comes to investigating cases of human rights violations the Commission does not have any teeth. For instance, the NHRC does not have enough facilities to impartially investigate a case. It is not the manner in which the NHRC deals with a few high profile cases like the Best Bakery case that defines the role of a body like the Commission. What really proves the metal of the NHRC of India is how it deals with the normal day to day incidents that are brought before it. In the Nandigram incident instead of launching its own investigation the NHRC has asked the Government of West Bengal to submit a report. What does the Commission expect from this report? If the Commission expects a true picture of the Nandigram incident from a state report, well then, the Commission is yet to understand why it was constituted.
Regarding the CBI’s mandate to investigate the Nandigram incident, the AHRC is really doubtful whether it will be of any use. What can the CBI do as investigation into the incident? For example will anyone in Nandigram speak to the agency about what had really happened? If there is anyone willing to speak could the agency provide protection to the witnesses – at least until the perpetrators are finally prosecuted? And will such a prosecution happen in any near future considering the woeful lack of facilities like those for conducting autopsies in West Bengal?
At least regarding the forensic facilities available in West Bengal, the AHRC is certain that the CBI will find real problems since even today hundreds of bodies are rotting in ill-fated mortuaries in West Bengal. In fact the bodies, by the time they are examined by an inexperienced ‘Dom’ [cleaner employed in mortuaries in West Bengal from the Dom community which is considered as untouchables by caste Hindus in India], only the skeletons remain. How can the CBI conduct a proper investigation of the case with such facilities?
It is the fundamental failure of the justice systems in India, particularly the police, prosecution and the judiciary that has resulted in Nandigram and Bastar. It is for those who have let this evil happen to make sure that it is not repeated. But that requires an acknowledgment that Nandigram and Bastar should not have happened, not a pointless white washing of a rotten system.
AN APPEAL TO HONOURABLE CHAIRMAN N.H.R.C INDIA
INDIA: Please urge the National Human Rights Commission of India to immediately send its fact-finding team to inquire about Nandigram massacre
I am shocked to learn about the massacre of villagers in Nandigram in East Midnapur district, West Bengal, India on 14 March 2007. They have been protesting against the proposed land acquisition by the West Bengal state government for the past several months.
I am informed that the police party, Rapid Action Forces and Eastern Rifles attacked two villages of Nandigram; Sonachura and Bhangaberia from two sides and began indiscriminate firing in the early hours of 14 March 2007. A lot of villagers were allegedly killed and injured in the police firing. I am deeply concerned that most of the killed and injured persons are unarmed children and women, who were in front of the human shield to resist the entry of the police.
According to the West Bengal state government, 11 persons were killed from Sonachura village. However, the number of the killed persons in Bhangaberia village was not ascertained at all. I worry that the actual number of the killed might be much higher. I am informed that according to one activist attached to Krishi Jami Uchhed Birodhi Mancha (Agrarian Land Eviction Protest Committee) leading the villagers’ protests at least 47 persons were killed in Nandigram. I am also informed that there are unconfirmed reports coming in from West Bengal and New Delhi that the actual death toll might be around 300 and that the police as well as the CPI (M) activists were engaged in murdering persons and raping women in the villages.
I am also informed that about 70 persons with bullet injuries were brought to Nandigram Block Primary Health Centre, while the state government claims only 38 persons were injured in the incident. The injured are therefore not getting proper medical treatment and the death toll may be high due to improper and untimely medical attention. I am also informed that the political party activists attached to the CPI (M) along with the local police has quarantined the area preventing access to media and other activists to the place and also allegedly involved in cleaning up the evidence.
Considering the urgency of the matter, I strongly request your Commission to immediately send a fact finding team to Nandigram to investigate the details of the massacre and the actual number of the casualties before most of the evidence is destroyed by the police and the CPI (M).
I want to draw you attention that no detailed information of the massacre is available at the moment as the cadres of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the ruling party of West Bengal, has blocked all entries to Nandigram with the help of the police forces and do not allow any persons outside to enter the villages.
I am also worried that if the NHRC does not respond to this incident in time, most of the evidence of the massacre would be destroyed by the police and state government. I am informed that the police have been allegedly carrying the dead bodies to unknown places to hide the actual number of the killed and are allegedly burying the bodies in unknown places and has even tried disposing threw some bodies into the adjoining river.
I also request that representatives of civil society to be included into the NHRC fact finding team to ensure the transparency of the fact finding mission. Please take appropriate actions to ensure that the injured victims can receive proper medical treatment.
I look for your immediate intervention into this matter.
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