Torture by a BSF Man
This is an incident of brutal torture and harassment of a marginalised Muslim man named Asidul Miya by Border Security Force personnel associated with Chitrakut BSF BOP. The victim is a resident of Kaiyeterbari village of Sitai Block, Dinhata subdivision in the district of Cooch Behar.

On 09.03.2022, the victim was picked up from his village, where he was allegedly associated with illegal cross-border smuggling and taken near the fencing gate. He was then brutally tortured and forcefully submerged in mud by the perpetrator on duty BSF personnel. The victim was later rescued by the villagers and taken to a doctor at Cooch Behar for treatment. The victim lodged a written complaint to the Superintendent of Police, Cooch Behar district but no action has yet been taken against the perpetrators.

It is a gross violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and also the premise of Article 6, 7 and 9 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights along with Goal 16 of Sustainable Development Goals which has been earmarked by the United Nations and in both of these instruments India is a party and has agreement. The fact that the victim had to engage himself with illegal trade is violating the purpose of Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). This incident legitimises the long-standing demand of civil liberties bodies for immediate ratification of United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment.
Kirity Roy
Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) & National Convener, PACTI

Shiv Sena
The Shiv Sena has always been an issue-based, reactionary congregation. It adopts issues and works on them till these are used up and moves on to the next.

The political situation in Maharashtra is in a state of flux. One of the senior most Shiv Sena leaders and Thane strongman, Eknath Shinde, has defied the party leadership, exposing the vulnerabilities of Uddhav Thackeray’s leadership. If Shinde is a Sainik in the old mould of aggressive, street politics, the rebel camp accuses Thackeray of being a weak administrator, inaccessible to his party legislators except through go-betweens, unable to stand up to allies NCP and Congress, biased towards his son Aaditya, and defensive over the party’s core stand of Hindutva.
Suraj Yengde, Mumbai

Governance by Fear
260 prominent human rights activists, intellectuals, journalists, artists and community leaders from all over the world strongly condemned the arrest of eminent human rights activist Teesta Setalvad and RB Sreekumar , Sanjiv Bhatt (already in prison for over 18 months) as well as journalist and fact checker Mohammed Zubair in India.

June 25, 2022 marked the 47th anniversary of the dark era of an Emergency in India, when a government hijacked the whole edifice of the state. The ruling party and its leader treated the state as their personal estate. It was the imposition of a highly concentrated apparatus of power on a fundamentally free and federal society, and the turning over of this centralised apparatus for personal vengeance and pursuit of raw political power. It was one fell swoop overtaking the whole country, spreading a psychosis of fear and terror.

It was in this era when the Supreme Court of India gave the infamous judgment in Additional Divisional Magistrate (ADM) of Jabalpur vs. Shivkant Shukla case (Habeas Corpus) that during an emergency, the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India to its citizens, including the right to life and personal liberty, shall stand extinguished. This same horror is being repeated with a vengeance now by the government of the day and tragically being endorsed by the Apex Court, the Supreme Court of India.

This is what has happened in the case of Zakia Jafri v/s the State of Gujarat, wherein after dismissing her appeal, the Supreme Court has made totally unwarranted observations against those who worked the case to seek justice. The court went on to assail them for their "audacity" to "question the integrity of every functionary" and their motives were tarred as "ulterior design". The court observed that "all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law."

Within hours of this Emergency-type judgment of the Supreme Court, the Gujarat Police swung into action in Emergency-type ruthlessness. They forcibly entered the house of human rights activist and lawyer, Teesta Setalvad, in Mumbai, assaulted her, and took her into custody on Jun. 25, 2022 (Emergency anniversary day). The action is so cruel that Teesta has, in a written complaint stated, "I fear seriously for my life." The First Information Report (FIR) under which she has been detained accuses the former Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) of Gujarat, R B Sreekumar, and Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Sanjiv Bhatt (already in jail in a concocted case), and activist Teesta Setalvad of conspiring to fabricate evidence, tutor witnesses and abuse the process of law. Soon after, Mr Sreekumar was arrested from his Ahmedabad, Gujarat residence.

The FIR casts its net very wide and makes the case that the time period of the offense ranged from Jan. 1, 2002 to Jun. 25, 2022. In effect every effort for justice for the victims of 2002, be it petitions filed in the High Court, Supreme Court, or the Magistrates’ Court is sought to be criminalized. The process, which should have made the state accountable in establishing guilt of those accused of serious crimes, is tarred with a criminal brush by criminalising the quest for justice by the victims of the Gujarat pogroms. It also seeks to deter citizens from holding the state accountable for enabling violence in future, and in effect conveys that the state can do no wrong.

Immediately after these 2 arrests, the government also arrested a prominent journalist, Mohammed Zubair, the co- founder of the fact checking website AltNews.In. This too is reminiscent of the crackdown on journalists during the Emergency.

What the present government is doing is “Governance by Fear” in its rawest form. On the anniversary of the Emergency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have the habit of issuing statements condemning the Emergency as a dark chapter in the history of independent India, one imposed to quell dissent and free voice. But both of them are doing much worse now, and the Setalvad case is a typical example.
A Reader

Unpaid NREGA Wages
On 24th June 2022, from 11 in the morning till 4 in the evening, NREGA workers occupied Purulia town in West Bengal. Over 2500 workers, who are members of the Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) took out processions in the town and organised a protest demonstration in front of the District Magistrate’s office. Their demand was immediate payment of their wages that have remained unpaid since December 2021.

A colourful procession with hundreds of women and men workers marching with their union’s flags and festoons was taken out. In a district, where the BJP has repeatedly been winning elections, Purulia town resonated with slogans of “Jaat dharam baad de, khali haate kaaj de” (Stop your politics of caste and religion, give work to empty hands). Workers demanded immediate payment of their pending wages, telling both Central and State Governments to stop victimising them in their spat over procedure and corruption.
The procession took a round of the whole town, before dividing into 3 sub-groups of about 800 workers each. One group went to meet the Zilla Sabhadipati (district chairman), Sujoy Banerjee, who expressed helplessness, and said the Central Government was not cooperating. He suggested that the amounts owed in wages should be transferred directly to workers’ accounts by the Central Government. This would avoid involvement of the State Government and its alleged corruption, he said. He also promised to forward the demands of the workers to the Governor.

A second procession went to meet Shri Jyotirmoy Singh Mahato, the BJP MP from Purulia, so that he would bring up the issue with his own party in the Central Government. They were disappointed. Not only did the MP disappear, but there was no-one in his office to even receive the complaints of the workers. The third procession sat in dharna in front of the DM’s office. It however did not get into much discussion with the DM (Shri Rajat Nanda), who had already on the 10th of June, told a PBKMS delegation that he was helpless in this matter.

The workers and members of PBKMS later received messages of solidarity and support from representatives of various mass organisations and political parties. Prominent among these were Trideb Choudhury, District Secretary, All India Agricultural Workers Union and Ajay Mahato from the Right to Food and Work Campaign West Bengal. Representatives from the Indian National Congress and Party for Democratic Socialism also extended support. BJP and TMC representatives however did not come despite invitations, probably because they would have found it difficult to answer people’s questions.

In the meantime, a delegation of PBKMS and the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (a national platform of non-party unions of NREGA workers) met Director NREGA, Shri Dharamvir Jha. When asked about the stoppage of NREGA funds to West Bengal, Shri Dharamvir Jha stated that the release of funds and labour budget is being withheld by the centre as they state that there are irregularities and corruption within the state. They have been asking the state to correct these issues for the past 3 years with no satisfactory response, so they have been forced to take strict actions.

On delayed payments and workers bearing the brunt, the director responded that the state can release the wages from their own funds and can get it reimbursed.

Back to Home Page

Vol 55, No. 4, Jul 24 - 30, 2022