Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Police torture rampant, weaker sections frightened: People’s Watch

Police torture rampant, weaker sections frightened: People’s Watch

By Tariq Anwar, TwoCircles.net

Patna: People’s Watch, the national human rights organization, held a two-day programme here under the project People’s Tribunal on Tortures (PTT) in Bihar. The programme held on July 9-10 was part of the National Project on Preventing Torture in India (NPPTI).

The Bihar PTT was inaugurated on 9th July 2008 at Bharatiya Nritya Mandir in Patna. The jury heard 36 cases and found that each case was different but each sounded a common refrain: torture has lasting effects, and it must stop. The jury also found that most of the victims were from lower and lower-middle sections of society and they were frightened by the police that are supposed to protect citizenry.

At the end of the two-day programme noted social activist Shabnam Hashmi and PTTI’s Bihar chapter director Abhaya Shankar Prasad.

To a question posed by TwoCircles.net about recent torture of some Ulema detained in Lucknow jail, Shabnam Hashmi said the case denotes how much prejudiced the police have become. The case and what happened in a Maharashtra jail with some Muslim inmates who were forcibly transferred to other jail are example of blatant violation of human rights. Abhaya Shankar Prasad said human rights of inmates must be protected.

When TwoCircles.net asked how to combat communalism, Hashmi said the communal lobby has got so strong that it is not easy to take on them. She suggested that Muslims and Muslim organizations should come forward and get involved in social work. This will promote communal harmony and press authorities to be concerned on Muslim issues.

People’s Watch gets support from the European Union and the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, a non-profit organisation that promotes liberalism, democracy, respect for human rights and economic freedom.

The PTTI’s Bihar chapter is working in four districts: Patna, Bhojpur, Nalanda and Nawada. Over two and half years (and still ongoing), human-rights monitors conducted over 600 fact findings in cases of police torture. Legal officers pursued 176 of these cases through 706 legal interventions, which targeted governmental authorities, statutory human rights organisations such as National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and criminal cases filed as private complaints, says a report prepared by the organization.

After hearing 36 police torture cases in Patna, the Bihar PTT jury presented following interim observations. A copy of the report is with TwoCircles.net.

General observations

The victims of torture were from the lower and lower-middle sections of society. In some cases, caste, gender and communal bias on the part of police personnel have been alleged by the victims of torture. The attitude and behaviour of the entire state mechanism has at times been capable of characterization as colonial, feudal, insensitive and inactive. The lack of perpetrator accountability led to frustration on the part of the victims, and to a sense of injustice.

Fear of the police

The ostensible role of a police service is to protect the citizenry. However, when police forget their duty, when they regularize torture and use weapons as a means of control, the citizenry cease to see the police as a shield against abuse, rather perceive them as an obstacle to justice. Individuals develop a long-term fear of interactions with police officers; they lose confidence in the police and thus in their own ability to obtain justice.

Psychological suffering

The jury observed that suffering of torture of victims does not end when the torture itself ceases. In case of rape of a minor girl which is brought before the Tribunal, police refused to take it seriously led to the sapping of her mental strength to survive; instead of psychological support, she was interrogated and denied an opportunity to share her feelings.

Each torture victim deserves rehabilitation, so that they may emerge from fear psychosis and reintegrate themselves into their communities as productive and whole citizen.

Based on their observations, the Bihar chapter of PTTI has made some recommendations. Some of them are as follows:

(i) Include a comprehensive definition of the term “torture” in domestic legislation.

(ii) Ensure that torture is a specific criminal offense under domestic laws.

(iii) Recognize customary international law as informing domestic law.

(iv) Assert jurisdiction over extraterritorial acts of torture committed both by national and non nationals.

(v) Stress the importance of effective witnesses and victim protection regimes to ensure that witnesses and victims are not subject to retaliation of any kind.

(vi) Take steps to ensure that all state actors understand the substance and importance of the DK Basu Guidelines on unlawful arrest – including the requirement for a post-arrest medical examination.

(vii) Take steps to ensure that all police and medical personnel follow evidentiary guidelines, including the regular and timely provisions of post-mortem reports.

(viii) Adequately compensate the victims for illegal detention, for physical, mental, emotional and psychological harm suffered, for loss of livelihood during periods of detentions, for medical expenses incurred, and for any loss of life.

(ix) Rehabilitative victims with assistance for resettlement.

(x) Provide medical treatment to treat injuries suffered during detention and counseling to heal the trauma of torture.

The Bihar PTT jury was chaired by Justice Vikramaditya Prasad (Former Judge, Ranchi High Court). Other jury members were Shabnam Hashmi (Social Activist, New Delhi), Ramasharay Prasad Singh (General Secretary PUCL, Bihar) Dr Md Sharif (HOD, LLM, PG Department of Law, Patna University), Hemant (Senior Journalist), Dr Binda Singh (Psychiatrist), Sudhir Pal (Journalist), Sanjay Kumar Choudhary (Lecturer, Chanakya National Law University, Patna) and Prahlad Sarkar (Former Vice-Chairman, Minority Commission, Bihar).

Apex court court compensates passengers robbed in Ara

Supreme Court has ordered the Indian railways to compensate the train passengers, who were robbed during their journey by some dacoits. The Bench comprising justices GS Singhvi and BN Agarwal while delivering its order, observed that any failure to provide adequate security to passengers during the journey would only be called as dereliction of duty by the railway personnel in-charge for making security arrangements in the train.

The Bench dismissed the appeal of the Centre challenging the order of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, which has ordered the railways to pay Rs 50,000 to Patna resident Alok Kumar. Kumar lost his valuables in a train dacoity, which took place in Sanghmitra Express at Ara in Bihar while he was on his way from Patna to Nagpur in October, 1999.

Monday, July 21, 2008

JD(U) Raises Bihar Flood issue in Lok Sabha

Note: Amid the heat of debate in Lok Sabha on nuclear deal and confidence motion, Prabhunath Singh, MP Janata Dal (United raised the issue of Central government's callousness towards disaster from flood in Bihar.

Floods leave a trail of destruction in Bihar villages

Mon, 21 Jul 2008: Tulsyahi (Bihar), July 21 (ANI): The overflowing river Kosi, following heavy rains, has devastated several villages along its banks in Bihar.

In inundated villages like Tulsyahi in Supaul district, the marooned people are struggling to hold on to whatever little of their belongings remains left with them/p>

Around 150 houses in the village have been washed away by floodwaters ofhe Kosi river.

Villagers lament the alleged apathy of state authorities towards their plight, and said that they are forced to tackle things on their own.

"Nearly 150 houses have been washed away in Kosi river and around 700 people have been affected. Approximately 100 acres of our crops have also been washed away. There are many people who are still in the danger of being washed away. There has been no help forthcoming from the State Government so far," said Shiv Kumar Yadav, a villager.

Several of them have left the village in search of safer places while others are likely to follow suit as the floods have made their lives miserable.

"Everything has been washed away. Our food, clothes, property, crops everything has been washed away by the water. Nothing is left now," said Mrigya Devi, another villager.

The state authorities however claim, they are on the job to help out the people.

"Our officers have conducted a survey in the region. We will distribute basic commodities like, milk, polythene, matchsticks, and food items to the affected villagers," said Jitendra Kumar Singh, Sub Divisional Officer. (ANI)

“More honest debate needed”

NEW DELHI: Noted academicians and intellectuals have appealed to parliamentarians to exert pressure on the government not to rush headlong into the India-U.S. civilian nuclear deal.

In a statement here on Sunday, they favoured a “wider and more honest debate” on all relevant issues of the nuclear deal so that the people could properly decide what was good for the country and its future.

Maintaining that the high rate of inflation was causing great distress to the people, they said: “But while the government urges the nation to have patience with regard to inflation, it rushes impatiently to sign a nuclear deal. Keeping faith with President Bush obviously has greater priority for it than keeping faith with the people of the country.”
Minority support

They said that a major decision affecting the country’s future energy and foreign policies was being pushed through, despite enjoying only minority support, evidently in order to meet U.S. President George Bush’s time frame.

They said even if nuclear energy was to be given high priority, the role of imported technology would need careful examination.

“Indian nuclear scientists and engineers have painstakingly built up an indigenous nuclear industry over the years. Their effort must not be negated and our self-reliance undermined, through a deal that, by emphasising imported technology makes the country vulnerable in the long run,” they said.

The statement was signed, among others, by the former Rajya Sabha member Ashok Mitra; the former Planning Commission member S.P. Shukla; the former Union Power Secretary E.A.S. Sarma; Aruna Roy of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan; Professor Amiya Kumar Bagchi of the Institute for Development Studies; Professor Utsa Patnaik; Professor Prabhat Patnaik; Professor Kamal Chenoy; Professor Jayati Ghosh; Professor Anuradha Chenoy, Professor Mohan Rao, all from Jawahar Lal Nehru University, and Professor T. Jayaraman, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Dr. Archana Prasad of the Jamia Millia Islamia, and Dr. Tanmoy Bhattacharya of the Delhi University.

Nitish says govt's fall imminent, Lalu & Paswan disagree

The last speaker in today's Lok Sabha debate Prabhunath Singh of the Janata Dal (United) raised stark questions about Prime Minister's personality and his deeds rattled the Congress led United Progressive members. He alleged that central government is discriminating against Bihar.

Earlier taking part in the trust vote debate on behalf of the CPI(M), Lok Sabha member Mohammad Salim accused the UPA government and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of betraying the Left parties who had supported the government for over four years. He even accused the PM of being a dealer and not a leader who was only concerned about the nuclear deal with the US.

A dealer only looks at the deal, whereas a leader looks at the deal, its history as well as its future implications and other consequences, Salim said, adding the deal should not be between two people, but between two countries.

Rebutting the UPA's charge of Left betraying the government, Salim said it was infact the PM who had betrayed the Left parties. Referring to the Prime Minister thanking Left leaders Jyoti Basu and Harkishen Surjeet in his opening speech while moving the confidence motion, Salim said the Left did not support the government for appreciation.

We didn't support the UPA to be conferred with a certificate of patriotism after four years. We supported the government based on the Common Minimum Programme (CMP), he told the House.

Accusing the government of not following the CMP, Salim said the Left parties had constantly been warning the Congress and its allies not to divert from the principles on which the UPA was put together. �The CMP wasn�t prepared by Left parties, but by UPA allies; we only endorsed them,� he said.

And the nuclear deal and firming up of relations with the US were not part of the CMP, the CPI(M) MP from the Calcutta-Northeast (West Bengal) constituency noted further.

We gave them a debit card but they kept on overdrawing. Probably (US President George) Bush asked them to do so. The CMP wasn't prepared in consultation with Bush, it was done with UPA constituents, Salim said.

Reminding the Congress that it came to power with the outside support of Left parties after failing to get two-thirds majority, Salim said that the UPA should remember that the NDA was defeated because people were not happy with the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and its policies.

Claiming that several leaders of the Congress had no link with the party's past, Salim recalled speeches made by former PMs Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi in which they clearly stated India's pro-NAM stand.

Referring to those who have been claiming that the nuclear deal with the US is in national interest, Salim sought to ask why should India�s interest be decided on the basis of what the US dictates.

The government earlier said the deal was important as the PM had made a personal commitment. It later said the deal was in national interest; now it is about who will get which post in the government. Is this what national interest is?. I don't buy this. The nation is watching, an angry Salim said.

He further accused the government of ignoring all pressing problems the country was facing in the wake of the nuke deal controversy.

The Prime Minister met regional newspaper editors recently and he was asked why inflation is going up. The PM candidly told the editors that the government was busy sorting out the political problems related to the nuke deal and the IAEA safeguards agreement that it couldn't focus on other issues, the CPI(M) member informed the House.

He accused the Prime Minister of having another CMP and added the House, Left parties and the country were not bound by that CMP.

Turning to Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who is the president of the BCCI, Salim said that after the IPL got over, a dope test conducted by WADA revealed that a player had tested positive for drugs. He then asked the minister to get the government's dope test done before going to Vienna to find out why it was running so fast� (on the nuclear deal).

Taking a shot at LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, Salim said the former minister was first part of the NDA government and then joined the UPA. But why he is bringing the BJP policy (of looking up to the US) to UPA, he asked.

He also noted that the scientists who had made India self-reliant in nuclear energy had asked the Prime Minister not to proceed with the deal.

He further accused the US of trying to sell nuclear energy to India, which the world was not embracing. To back his claim, Salim referred to the projection made in the Annual Energy Outlook 2008 that by 2030, the world�s nuclear energy will stand at 7.8%, compared to 9.6% in 2005.

The CPI(M) MP claimed that the government had outsourced diplomacy work to the US whose officials like William Burns were taking decisions on behalf of India at the IAEA.

Concluding his speech, Salim asked the government not to depend on Bush, but instead on the Indian people.

Terming the Indo-US nuclear deal as anti-people, noted social activists today asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to scrap it with immediate effect.

"The Indo-US nuclear deal is patently anti-people and will make India a strategic ally of American Imperialism in South Asia to impose its hegemony over Asia," they said in an open letter to the Prime Minister.

The signing of the Henry Hyde Act in December 2006 is logical interference of the content of the Act legally making India a junior ally of the US Imperialism, "confiscating and trunacating our hard earned sovereignty", they added.

"We therefore demand that the Indo-US nuclear deal be scrapped with immediate effect and the ongoing talks between IAEA should be called off immediately," the letter said.

Terming the deal "an outrageous instrument of recolonisation of India and Third world", they said when the deal comes through, it will grievously undermine the current global regime of the nuclear non-proliferation in gross violation of underlying principles of nuclear peace, workers, environment and women's movement.

They also rejected the proposition that the deal will enhance India's energy security and said nuclear energy is "prohibitively costly and intrinsically hazardous" and will distort India's effort towards cheaper renewable energy sources.

They suggested Singh that since India stands very low on human development index, instead of spending on costly nuclear power it should invest in the field of health, education, food security, rural and urban development.

Even though the outcome of numbers game during the July 22 trust vote appears too close to predict, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said the the UPA government's defeat in the floor test is imminent.

"The Manmohan Singh government's defeat in the trial of strength is imminent and the stony silence being maintained by usually-blustering union ministers from the state points in that direction," he said.

Kumar returned here after attending a meeting of NDA chief ministers in Delhi where they mulled over the strategy to pull down the UPA government.

"Now that it is clear that the government will not survive, the 'bayan bahadurs' (leaders thriving on statements) RJD ministers from Bihar have suddenly stopped making unsavoury remarks aginst me and my government."

He charged the UPA ministers, particularly those from RJD, with not cooperating with the state government in execution of several development schemes and said the NDA will make it an election issue.

"We will go the electorate with facts and figures and seek their support to bring the NDA to power at the Centre if they want their problems to be solved," he said.

Referring to the Indo-US nuclear deal, Kumar said the Centre should suspend and keep in abeyance all further action till it has proved its majority in the Lok Sabha.

Lok Janshakti Party leader and Central Minister Ramvilas Paswan has given a vote of confidence to the Congress-led government saying it was sure to win the trust motion in Parliament and that the India-US nuclear deal was "essential for development".

After Railway Minister Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal verbalised his confidence that the Manmohan Singh government would survive the trust vote. Paswan has been doing the same in public functions in Bihar.

Paswan, a key member of the United Progressive Alliance with four MPs in the Lok Sabha, said the UPA would win the confidence vote as it has the support of "old and new allies".

The Steel, Chemical and Fertilisers Minister, who has been addressing gatherings in Jehanabad, Bhojpur and Patna districts said: "The nuclear deal agreement is essential for the development of the country. All those opposing it are not interested in the country's development."

Without naming the Left parties, which withdrew support to the UPA, or the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, Paswan said: "It is baseless that India will become a slave of America after the nuclear deal."

He said it would pave the way for electricity in every household across the country, similar to the cell phone revolution.

Nationalist Congress Party general secretary Tariq Anwar echoed Paswan.

Expressing confidence that the UPA would pull through July 22, he said new allies like the Samajwadi Party and other smaller parties would fill the gap caused by the Left withdrawal.

"The nuclear deal has got the support of a majority of people in the country," said Anwar, whose party has 11 MPs in the Lok Sabha.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

12 feared drowned in boat mishap in Bihar

Ara: At least 12 people are reported missing ever since a a boat carrying them capsized mid-stream in Dharmavati river near Chamarpur village under Shahpur block in Bhojpur district on 10th July. Such occurances are a regular feature but administration's response is consistently knee jerk.

Police said the incident took place when the ill-fated boat, ferrying 30 people from nearby villages to Shahpur, capsized mid-stream owing to strong current in the river. At least 12 people were feared drowned in the incident while 18 swam ashore, police added.

''Divers have been pressed into service to rescue the people swept away by the strong current of the river,'' police said, adding two bodies had been recovered so far.

District Magistrate Safina A N and a host of senior civil and police officers had reached the spot to monitor the rescue and relief operations.