PUCL Bulletin, January 2002

Two challenging years
PUCL (Delhi) General Secretary's Report for Sept. 1999 to Nov. 2001

-- By Gopa Joshi

The present team started functioning from September 26, 1999, when PUCL-Delhi had its last bi-annual Convention. During the last two years and a few months the organization has been active in raising its voice against the violation of human rights of individuals and the communities, especially the violations of civil liberties of the minority communities. These two years had been very challenging years both for the democratic health of our polity and for the safety of human rights of our people. During this period, the Law Commission in its 170th report suggested sweeping electoral reforms. Rulers also raised the issue of bringing about fundamental changes in the very structure of the government. The PUCL-Delhi tried to mobilize public opinion against this exercise. In this context, the first step was holding of a seminar on Electoral Reforms and Democracy in the light of 170th Report of the Law Commission, on 15th January 2000. Later the government appointed a National Commission to Review the Constitution. PUCL-Delhi organized a seminar on the Fraud of the Review of the Constitution, on 8-4-2000, in the Department of Chinese and Japanese Studies, Delhi University. Prof. S.K. Chaube initiated the discussion. The purpose was to expose government's intensions behind the whole exercise. The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution circulated Law Commission's 170th Report as one of its papers on electoral reforms for public debate. On 7-4-2001, PUCL-Delhi organized a seminar to highlight its apprehensions about this whole exercise.

The issue of civil liberties of Minorities: PUCL-Delhi has been constantly reacting to violation of civil liberties of minorities' communities. The most notable form of violation has been projecting Bangla speaking Muslims as Bangla Desh nationals and harassing them as foreign nationals. PUCL-Delhi has been insisting that the government machinery, in identifying and deporting the foreign nationals, follow the various Acts dealing with the foreigners passed by the Parliament from time to time. The purpose of this insistence is to ensure that civil liberties of foreigners are not violated. In this respect the PUCL-Delhi received an oral complaint about the arrest of 30-35 Bangla Desh nationals in 24-Parganna in West Bengal. They were going from Delhi to Bangla Desh. As they did not possess the necessary papers they were arrested and jailed by the West Bengal police. The matter was discussed in the fortnightly meeting of PUCL- Delhi and it was decided to approach the National PUCL to ensure protection of civil liberties of the arrested persons-- many of whom were women and children. The National PUCL wrote to the concerned authorities in West Bengal. The Delhi-based members of the affected families told us, that the behavior of the authorities changed thereafter. Their attitude towards women and children became more humane.

In the fortnightly meeting of 17-5-2000, Bangla speaking Muslim residents of Bangali Basti of Sanjay Amar Colony, Yamuna Pusta reported police harassment. The area DCP, they said, justified police harassment on the ground of these residents being Bangla- Desh nationals. As Mr. Prasant Bhusan has been looking after their cases in the Supreme Court, it was decided to talk to him about the renewed incidents of harassment. The local people were asked to give a brief account of the incidents of harassment to the PUCL-Delhi. It was also decided to have a public meeting at Bangali Basti of Sanjay Amar Colony on 20-5-2000. The PUCL-Delhi President, ex-President, Mr. Prasant Bhusan, General Secretary, and members of the executive attended the meeting.

In our fortnightly meeting of 21st June, the residents of Sanjay Amar Colony reported the steps taken by Delhi police to deport them. They informed us that they have valid documents to prove their Indian citizenship. But the police were not taking cognigance of those documents. They told that on 20th June the police rounded up about 100 men, women, and children and kept them in the Kotwali at Daryagunj for whole night. Next day the women and children were released. But men were kept in detention. Mr. N.D. Pancholi on behalf of the PUCL-Delhi sent letters to the Home Minister, the Police Commissioner, and the S.H.O. informing them that the Supreme Court was yet to pass its judgment on the issue of their being foreigners or not. As the residents did not come forward with their papers a fresh petition in the High Court could not be filed.

On 23rd June, the Muslim residents of Yamuna Pushta were reported to have assembled at the local Police Chowki because the Police personnel from the Chowki had earlier entered the Madarsa and defiled the holy Koran. There was arson, and police firing in which one youth died. Delhi PUCL's investigative team visited the area on 27th and 28th June and talked to the families of those arrested by the police. The team members also met the father of the deceased youth. On 29th June, 15 residents of Bengali Basti received notices from the DCP's office asking them to produce documents proving their Indian citizenship on 1st July. Mr. Pancholi, on behalf of the PUCL-Delhi represented them at the DCP's office. A PUCL team also went to meet the DCP on 1st July. As he did not come to the office the meeting did not take place. On 2nd July some of the residents decided to file a writ petition in the High Court challenging the validity of the notices sent by the DCP. Accordingly a writ petition was filed on 4th July in Delhi High Court. The Court, however, dismissed the petition. On 19th July, the issue was again discussed in the fortnightly meeting and Mr. S.S. Nehra was given the responsibility of monitoring the instances of police excesses in identifying foreign nationals. A report on all these developments was prepared and submitted to the N.H.R.C. At the N.H.R.C. the matter was placed before the full Commission. But our complaint was dismissed by the full bench on the ground that the matter was before the Court.

PUCL-Delhi learnt from the newspapers about police brutality on Jamia Millia Islamia students. Instantly an investigation team headed by its President, went to the campus to make an on the spot study of the situation. The team members also met the Vice Chancellor of the University to get his version of the incident. An exhaustive report was compiled and released to the press. On the basis of its findings the PUCL team met the Chairperson of the NHRC Justice J.S. Verma and appealed to him to enquire into the matter. The PUCL also joined hands with other organizations to raise the issue of implicating the students in false cases with the Lt. Governor of Delhi. On 6-5-2000 a public meeting was held in Indian Law Institute to express its concern on Growing Lawlessness of Law Enforcing Authorities. Other organizations like Champa, and Radical Humanist Association joined hands in organizing this public meeting. Representatives of Lawyers Associations, PUDR, Saheli, CPI-ML (New Democracy), students from Jamia Millia, Geetha, of Construction Workers-Tamil Nadu, and many other organizations participated. Mr. N.D. Pancholi read the key paper on behalf of PUCL-Delhi.

In view of mounting attacks on Christians a joint forum named Insani Ekta Muhim has been formed in Delhi. PUCL-Delhi was part of it. Besides conducting enquiries into several violent incidents against Christians, the Muhim also held a seminar on, 'Threat to national unity and integrity and to the democratic rights of the people from the fascist forces', on 10-3 2000.

The Citizenship issue of Chakmas was taken up with the Home Ministry. To generate awareness about human rights poster-exhibition had been an ongoing activity of PUCL-Delhi. During these periods posters depicting the nature of police excesses and legal protection against them were exhibited in Seelampur in October, Nov.'99, Feb. March, April, May, June 2000.

In February 2000, the owner of Amber Garments came forward to help the PUCL team to establish contacts with the local people so that a local unit could be set up. He also offered the room above his factory to PUCL to conduct its activities in the locality. However, in the following months he stopped taking interest in our activities.

PUCL-Delhi decided to take its exhibition to the jhuggi-jhopri colonies of Seelampur. In May- June 2000, PUCL-Delhi had its poster exhibition in one of the slum areas of Seelampur. This is probably one of the dirtiest slums of Delhi. It is situated at the banks of an open drain. There is hardly any place within the colony to exhibit the poster. Hence the posters were hung on the road- side. The people after seeing the posters said that the residents of the colony have frequent brawls with the police. They also indicated that under police protection anti- social elements carry out illegal activities-like flesh trade and drug trafficking there. A case of policemen mercilessly beating up a blue line bus conductor also came to our notice.

On Human Rights Day poster exhibition was held in front of National Human Rights Commission. Poster exhibitions were also held in the GPF on 15-1-2000, 26-6-2000. However, the exercise had to be stopped due to lack of active response from our office bearers and executive members.

Vasant Kunj residents were getting polluted and stinking water in their taps. The PUCL got the water tested in the lab and sent the report to the concerned authorities. After persistent efforts the authorities relented and assured supply of potable water. Mr. R.L Singh was active on this front.

Reactions in the media: Press statements were issued condemning show cause notices issued to Indian Social Institute and other NGOs by the government of India, appealing for help to the victims of Orissa cyclone, protesting against fake encounter killings in A.P., RSS holding the shooting of WATER film etc. etc.

25th June 2000 was observed as 25th anniversary of Emergency in coordination with other organizations. On 26th PUCL-Delhi had its independent meeting on 25 Years of Emergency: Dangers of Hidden Agenda. Mr. Satyendra Ranjan read the key paper on behalf of the PUCL. In this meeting, speakers expressed concern at the imposition of informal emergency by present leaders. On 26,6,2001, PUCL-Delhi joined hands with other organizations to observe anti-Emergency Day.

Harassment of the workers of Apollo Hospital by the management and police also figured in the fortnightly meetings. An enquiry committee was set up to enquire into the incidents of harassments and oppression of the workers. The enquiry committee found that the complaints of the workers were genuine. Its report was released to the press. Later a delegation of PUCL-Delhi met the Chairperson of N.H.R.C. and requested him to initiate an enquiry into the cases of violation of human rights of the workers. The N.H.R.C. has taken up the case and issued letters to the concerned authorities.

The N.H.R.C. was also requested to order an independent enquiry into unnatural death of Nepali domestic servant Shri Vishnu Prasad Pande.

On 20-9-2000, Ms. Sudarshan Kaur complained, that the area police had arrested her husband under the Narcotics Act. She told that as her husband had been reporting the incidents of drug trafficking in his locality to all the concerned authorities he had become inconvenient to the local police who was hands and gloves with the drug traffickers. She also showed the photocopies of the letters sent by him to various authorities. A committee was formed to enquire into the matter. We are glad to inform that our report was one of the factors in getting Sardar Ranjit Singh released.

Taking note of the press reports of police killing of Md. Irshad of Seelampur and Ashwani Kumar Gandhi of Sadar Bazar, two teams were formed to enquire into these incidents. Both the teams have submitted their reports. On the basis of these reports N.H.R.C. has been approached for necessary action. As N.H.R.C. had already taken up these cases, it has decided to include PUCL report in its proceedings. NHRC had asked the government to pay compensation to Md. Irshad's family. Reacted to the issues of sexual harassment in Ramjas College Delhi University. On the complaint of Joint Action Committee of the College, approached the National Commission for Women to enquire into the complaint of sexual harassment in the College. The President and General Secretary personally met the Chairperson of the NCW on 24-5-2000 had a long talk with her. The Chairperson Ms. Vibha Parsharthy did promise to put the matter before the full-Commission and get a Committee set up to enquire into the matter. However, in spite of repeated telephonic reminders the Commission has not yet moved a step in the case. Later the victim and the accused compromised and the case got formally closed.

Ms. Nupur's case was discussed in several meetings. She is a victim of domestic violence. As her case is in the court in Jamshedpur it was felt that the PUCL-Delhi does not have an effective role in it.

Renewed attempts to establish Delhi University branch of PUCL were made by calling an informal meeting of sympathetic teachers and students in Delhi University on 1-3-2000. Eight teachers and students attended. The meeting decided to organize a seminar on the Fraud of the Review of the Constitution, in Delhi University. The seminar was held in the Department of Chinese and Japanese Studies on 8-4-2000.Prof. Chaube initiated the discussion. Thereafter due to lack of response we could not take up any independent activity in Delhi University. However matters pertaining to Delhi University have been taken up.

Delhi University: A complaint signed by 60 old students studying in various colleges of Delhi University was received by PUCL-Delhi. These students have Hindi as a medium of instruction. While they are permitted to write their answers in Hindi, they are not provided suitable reading material and classroom lectures in Hindi. This lack of proper class- room guidance and standard reading material is a major hindrance in the way of their academic advancement and puts them in disadvantageous position in competing with English medium students. We sent this complaint to the NHRC for necessary action. From NHRC, it was sent back to Delhi University for necessary action. Delhi University is yet to take note of this letter from the NHRC. We did write to the Vice-Chancellor about the NHRC circular a copy of which had been sent to us and requested for appointment. Our letters were not even acknowledged by the Vice-Chancellor's office. In the meantime, we kept on briefing the NHRC about Delhi University's insensitivity towards these students. We were suggested that we meet the Minister for Human Resource. We approached the Ministers' office. Our letters, phones and faxes were not acknowledged by the Minister's Office. We also approached the visitor of the University - the President of India, the Vice-President, the UGC-Chairperson. And failed to awaken them to the plight of these students. The matter is still hanging.

Besides the Hindi medium students, Delhi University is also insensitive to the problems faced by students with disability. There are quite a few visually impaired students who have earned gold medals and positions in their academic career. While the University cannot deprive them of these laurels, it does fight shy of acknowledging their merit and rejects them in the interviews held for selecting candidates for teaching job. It is pertinent to add that University in 1994 passed a resolution making three percent reservation for the disabled in teaching posts. In 1995, Persons with Disabilities Act (PWD) was passed. In this Act too there is provision for 3 percent reservation. In addition on 30-1-2001, Delhi High Court gave its judgement supporting 3 percent reservation for the disabled. We wrote to the Vice Chancellor about this problem. The Vice-Chancellor's office as usual ignored it. On 8,11,2001 these students sat on a day long dharna to highlight their demand to implement three percent reservation in employment. PUCL-Delhi was instrumental in organizing this dharna. Later we learnt that the matter was discussed in the Academic Council and the consensus was that the three percent reservation should be implemented. Besides Delhi University, the Delhi Government and the Central Government are also insensitive to the problems of persons with disability. A large number of visually disabled graduates, both men and women, are teaching in Delhi Government schools thanks to three percent reservation in jobs. Before 1997, they could easily get government accommodation on priority basis. The new guidelines framed by Ministry of Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation, in 1997, have, however, ignored the provisions of P.W.D. The result is quite a large number of visually impaired men and women are running from pillar to post for a house on rent. PUCL-Delhi tried to meet first Mr. Jag Mohan later Mr. Annant Kumar, the Ministers to explain to them the utility of pre-1997 guidelines, but failed. At last with great efforts Mr. Rahul O.S.D. in Ministers office met PUCL delegation. He promised to talk to concerned officials. Now we have got a copy of 1997 circular of the Ministry on the basis of which we had framed our letter to the concerned Ministers, seeking appointment, so that we could explain the anomalies in the new guidelines. The plight of the visually impaired women is much worse. The Delhi government runs a hostel for visually impaired male students, but does not provide similar facility to women students. Majority of the visually impaired students studying in Delhi do not have family base here. Hence, hostel accommodation is a must for visually impaired girl students studying in the colleges. We wrote a letter explaining the problems faced by visually impaired girl students to the Chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women. The response was conspicuous by its absence. Our Vice-President's personal attempts to draw her attention also failed to get a positive response. In the month of July 2001 [10th & 11th] two women students of a blind school hostel in Vikas Puri died due to carelessness of the hostel authorities. PUCL team investigated the matter. Later, we came to know about similar deaths of blind boys of Panchquiyan Road hostel and investigated the working of hostel and prepared a report. We met the Chairperson of the NHRC and submitted the report. The NHRC has taken up the case. The results are awaited. One visually impaired school teacher Leela Gupta died under suspicious circumstances. Her parents doubted foul play. But, the police was not lodging their F.I.R. PUCL decided to investigate the matter. A committee has been formed under of Dr. Pal. The report is awaited. Recently we have received complaints of discrimination on the grounds of caste from an Engineer. A team headed by Dr. Pal is investigating the matter.

Activities in Joint forums: (a) Against communalism: -Mr. Pancholi represented PUCL-Delhi in joint action programmes of 6th Dec. (b) To oppose imposition of restrictions on civil liberties and on trade union rights participated in the activities of Delhi Janwadi Adhikar Manch. (c) Regularly participating in the activities of Sanjha Manch on the issue of slum clearance and rehabilitation of displaced slum dwellers. PUCL-Delhi's report on homeless residents of Delhi was read at the meeting of Sanjha Manch. Sponsored National Convention for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace held in Delhi from 11 to 13 November 2000. Joined hands with other organizations to provide local support including financial to workers of Kolar Gold Mines who had come to Delhi under KGF banner to resist closure of the mines.

A group of women residing in Rajiv Camp Mayur Vihar Phase-I, approached PUCL-Delhi. They wanted their electricity connection restored and the camp Pradhan be given full account of money he had taken from them to supply electricity to them. As PUCL does not have enough human power to deal with such problems, Jagriti Mahila Samiti was contacted. Mrs. Nirmala Sharma, has visited the camp and talked to the Pradhan. PUCL-Delhi along with Mahila Jagriti Samiti are trying to get these women's grievances redressed. Besides electricity and water problems there are quite a few cases of sexual harassment too. On 22-11-2001, PUCL-PUDR are jointly organising a public meeting against POTO at Constitution club. On 17-10-2001 PUCL-DR became 25 years old. The National Council, in its meeting in Allahabad decided to observe the day through out the country. PUCL (National) and PUCL-Delhi decided to have a joint programme at Constitution club on 17-10-2001 and invited its first President, Justice V.M. Tarkude to preside and first General Secretary Shri Krishna Kant (now Vice-President of India) to be the Chief Guest. As justice Tarkunde was not well, he could not come. Vice President graced the occasion. One of the problems faced by PUCL-Delhi is the problem of lack of commitment and responsibility to the organization. Its office bearers and members of executive are so busy that they find it difficult to attend its fortnightly meetings. If they attend the meetings, the commitments they make are not fulfilled. Many office-bearers and members of executive do not to attend even the various seminars and public meetings organised by PUCL-Delhi. This hampers the functioning of the organization. As threats to human rights are increasing, the need of the hour is to tighten the organisation. I hope new executive would take steps to ensure regular attendance and fulfillment of the commitments made in the fortnightly meetings. Contrary to this, some members, without being office-bearers, sincerely helped in making PUCL programmes successful. In this context I would like to thank Shri N.D. Pancholi and his office staff member Shri Pramod Mishra for their sincere help and support in making PUCL programmes successful. In the end I thank everybody for their generous help and cooperation. --

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