PUCL Bulletin, Jan 2001
Amnesty International's concerns in India
A human rights defender in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh has been killed and others have received threatening phone calls. Amnesty International is concerned that human rights defenders in the state may be in grave danger.
T. Purushottam was attacked by a group of men wielding knives on the morning of 23 November. His throat was slit and he died instantly. T. Purushottam was Joint Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), which has investigated and condemned hundreds of alleged human rights violations by police, including torture and extra judicial executions of suspected members of armed groups. The Andhra Pradesh government and police have consistently condemned members of the APCLC and other human rights organizations in the state as acting as a "wing" of the left-wing armed group, the People's War Group (PWG).
At around the time that Purushottam was killed, several human rights defenders reportedly received threatening phone calls. The callers claimed to be from the "Green Tigers", reportedly an organisation of former PWG members who have now turned on their former comrades. The Green Tigers are apparently targeting alleged PWG sympathisers, including human rights defenders. On 26 November, an article supposedly written by the Green Tigers reportedly appeared in the English-language newspaper, The Deccan Chronicle, claiming responsibility for the killing of Purushottam and threatening further violence against human rights defenders. The police have apparently taken no action to investigate these threats.
Police reportedly today arrested four former PWG members in connection with the killing of Purushottam. Human rights activists claim that these people had been operating with the tacit and sometimes active support of police for many months and were regularly seen in the company of armed police in plain clothes.
Several human rights defenders were killed in Andhra Pradesh in the 1980s and early 1990s. T. Purushottam spoke of the continuing dangers they faced at a December 1999 meeting in Bangalore.
Human rights defenders are often branded as members of armed groups in areas of armed conflict in India. This has stigmatised many human rights groups, and has led to false charges being filed and often to violence. Human rights defenders in Andhra Pradesh claim that police in the state keep armed opposition groups in check by sponsoring former members of these groups who attack their former colleagues, in a similar manner to security forces in Jammu and Kashmir and Assam. These serious allegations have never been independently investigated.
Soldiers arrested brothers Farman Ali and Farooq on 10 November in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Soldiers from the same battalion have been accused of raping their sister and mother. Neither brother is known to have been charged with any offence.
Soldiers of the 10th battalion of the Rashtriya Rifles and the ADA-322 battalion arrested the two on 10 November in Mermat, in the district of Doda. Police and soldiers have continually harassed their family since March 1999, when their sister and mother lodged a complaint that soldiers of ADA-322 battalion had raped them.
The brothers were held for around 10 days at a temporary army camp at Goha Mermat, and then moved to a joint police and army interrogation centre (JIC) in Doda, though it is not clear where they are held now. Accordingly to a relative who was allowed to see the brothers in the JIC, they had been severely beaten and repeatedly asked why their mother and sister had lodged the rape complaint.
On 12 November the brothers' family went to the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) in Doda to seek their release. The SSP wrote to the commanding officer of the security forces in Doda to ask about the case against the brothers, but when their mother, Raja Begum, went to see the officer herself he reportedly asked her why she had previously filed a complaint of rape and took no further action. After Raja Begum filed an application for her sons' release before the District and Session Judge in Doda, a magistrate ordered Doda Police Station to disclose the men's whereabouts and ensure that they were produced before a court. The police are not known to have taken any action.
On 14 March 1999 soldiers of the ADA-322 battalion as suspected militants detained Raja Begum and her daughter Gulsham Bano, after a landmine exploded near their village. When they were released without charge on 19 March they alleged that in custody they had been raped repeatedly, and they filed a complaint against several soldiers of the battalion at Doda police station.
On 31 May 1999, soldiers from ADA-322 battalion, who reportedly threatened to bring false charges against them, in an attempt to force the women to drop the complaint, detained Gulsham Bano and their father, Muhammad Shafi Wani, for several hours. Soldiers and police have repeatedly pressured the women to drop the complaint and threatened to harm their male relatives if they do not comply. The case against the soldiers accused of raping the women is now being heard by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Jabeda Khatoon, whose son died in police custody in 1995, has been harassed and threatened by police officers. On 15 November she received a message ordering her to report to a police officer. She was advised not to go by a local NGO for fear of further threats and harassment. Amnesty International believes she is in danger.
Her son Mohammad Alam, 25, was arrested in March 1995. The police said they would release him if she paid Rs. 4000 (US$86). Jabeda Khatoon earns Rs.150 (US$3) a month, and could not afford to pay. The police allegedly called her to the station several times, where they beat her son in Front of her and abused her physically and verbally.
Mohammad Alam died of his injuries on 10 April in Presidency Jail Hospital, Kolkatta (formerly known as Calcutta).
She has filed charges against the officers, and a lower court has issued warrants for their arrest, but they are still at liberty and have not been suspended from duty. They have reportedly made repeated offers to settle out of court for Rs. 50,000 (US$1,500). Jabeda Khatoon has refused to accept the money and drop the case.
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