Gujarat PUCL:

Protest meeting on Col. Save's death in Police custody

The Gujarat State branch of the PUCL organised a meeting on April 24 at the St. Xavier's school along with other Human Rights and Civil Liberties groups to protest against the death in custody of Colonel Pratap Save of the Kinara Bachao Samiti. Major Save was in the custody of Umbergaon police. He was taken into custody when local tribals and fishermen were protesting against the implementation of Maroli port project. The project is jointly undertaken by the state Govt. and to US companies. (Police Terror on Peaceful Demonstrators. PUCL Bulletin May 2000)

Shri Dev Vrat Pathak, the President of the State PUCL alleges that it was not the police but the State Govt that should be held responsible for Col. Save's death. He said that by suppressing the Umbergaon fishermen and tribals agitation the Govt. was denying people's rights guaranteed by the constitution. A large number of Human Rights groups and trade union have demanded that the police officers responsible for torture of Col. Save should be suspended immediately and charged for murder of Col. Save.

It may be mentioned here that Col. Save was brutally beaten up by the police inspite of his telling them that he was a heart patient. -Deva Vrat Pathak

Amnesty International concerned about the death of Col. Save

"Human rights defenders are being persecuted for challenging injustices in India. People who stand up for human rights are being subjected to threats, harassment, false criminal cases and in some cases torture, ill-treatment, "disappearances" and even political killings", Amnesty International said in a new report on human rights defenders.

"Human rights activists often pay a high price for their courage and commitment, "Amnesty International said. "The death of an activist in Gujarat six days ago after he was detained and reportedly beaten by police highlights the urgent need for the Indian authorities to protect human rights defenders".

Colonel Save, an activist with the Kinara Bachao Samiti [Save the Coast Committee], which has protested the construction of a port in the coastal zone of Gujarat, was arrested in his home in the early hours of 20 April 2000. He was taken to the local police station, where fellow detainees say he was hit repeatedly by police before being placed in a crowded cell, despite pleading that he had a heart condition. Colonel Save subsequently suffered a brain haemorhage and died in hospital in Mumbai..

Excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies against peaceful protesters is just one concern highlighted by Amnesty International in its report. The report also documents the monitoring of their activities by the state, and restrictions on their freedom of opinion and expression.

False criminal cases are frequently filed against individuals as a means of harassment by politicians, powerful landowners and businessmen, as well as the state.

Although the rights of vulnerable groups including dalits, adivasis, and members of religious minorities are protected in law, attacks on activists defending the rights of these communities demonstrate their continuing vulnerability and the urgent need for the Indian government to take practical steps to protect their rights.

At a recent workshop held in New Delhi to discuss how to protect and support human rights defenders, a series of recommendations was endorsed to put to the government, to armed opposition groups and to economic actors, calling on them in the first instance to support and respect the role of human rights defenders. -Excerpts from message received by E.mail

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