To 12 April 2017
National Human Rights Commission
Manav Adhikar Bhawan
Block-C, G. P. O. Complex, INA
I want to draw your kind attention on following incident where a renowned Human Rights Defender got life threats for sharing her views in a social network forum.
Ms. Bondita Acharya is a Human Rights activist from Jorhat, Assam. She is also North-East Coordinator of Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA) and member of Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS). She is also a member of Women in Governance-Assam (WinG). It is worthy to mention here that she was a member of an independent fact-finding mission carried out in inter-State border regions of upper Assam to enquire into the impact on the rural people’s lives and livelihoods by the continued military and internal security operations. The fact finding mission was held from 1st April, 2017 to 3rd April, 2017. MASUM was also part of the said fact finding mission.
Basing on her knowledge through newspaper report that on 5th April 2017 that three persons were arrested from Jorhat town of Assam for allegedly having cow meat in their possession and hurting religious sentiments, she posted her views/comment on the said reported incident on her ‘facebook’ (a social networking site) account on 6th April, 2017 without having any intention of or knowledge what so ever to hurt anybody’s sentiments or feelings. (http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/NewsDetail/index/3/10355/3-Arrested-for-Beef-in-Jorhat-But-Under-What-Law) From the said date she has been receiving death threats, rape threats, vulgar, sexual, derogatory messages and also threats for acid attack from various individuals on her facebook (a social networking site) account. Reportedly local Bajrang Dal issued a press statement demanding a public apology from her.
Apprehending danger to her life and limb she lodged complaint before the Superintendent of Police, CID Branch, Guwahati on 09.04.2017 attaching the screenshots of the comments made by various persons. Reportedly no action has been taken on her complaint till date.
Ms. Bondita Acharya is a Women’s Human Rights Defender (WHRDs) engaged in promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and also gender equality.
Mrs. Margaret Sekaggya, in her capacity as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, October, 2013 said “WHRDs are at the forefront of social movements that advocate for justice and equality. Their struggle is crucial in widening democracy and redefining economic development models, mainly through their full participation in society and political leadership”. (http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Events/WHRD/OnePagerWHRD.pdf)
The resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on 18th December, 2013 on Promotion of the Declaration on the Rights and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: protecting women human rights defenders inter alia “Calls upon States to ensure that human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, can perform their important role in the context of peaceful protests, in accordance with national legislation consistent with the Charter of the United Nations and international human rights law, and in this regard to ensure that no one is subject to excessive or indiscriminate use of force, arbitrary arrest or detention, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, enforced disappearance, abuse of criminal and civil proceedings or threats of such act”
The attack and threat upon Ms. Bondita Acharya is not single one. By seeing the attacks on meat business as an attack on minorities, we are seeing a very small part of the picture in the media. These attacks are affecting lakhs of people from Dalit and farmer communities also. The Government of India, Assam and in other states where led by BJP trying to destroy the plurality and tolerance of Indian Constitution.
Under the circumstances I urge the Commission to take urgent action in this matter and I hope that the Commission would consider the following demands of justice:-
- The whole matter should be enquired by a neutral investigating agency. In this the Focal Point of the Commission on HRD must take urgent action to secure proper protection of Ms. Bondita Acharya and her team.
- The complaint of Ms. Bondita Acharya made before the Superintendent of Police, CID Branch, Guwahati should be registered under the law followed by appropriate legal action.
- The perpetrators are well known BJP supporters / activists, should be booked in proper penal charges and be apprehended without fail.
- The authorities concerned must be directed to ensure adequate safety and protection of Ms. Bondita Acharya so that she can carry forward her legitimate work in the promotion and protection of human rights.
National Convener, PACTI