The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received further information from the Social Development Foundation, Delhi, India, about the desperate conditions faced by a family that has been forced into hunger and abject poverty due to persecution by authorities conducting operations against communist militants. The authorities have hounded the family of five, headed by Dashrath and Shyama Devi, because a sixth member is allegedly one of the militants. They have now had their meagre possessions confiscated, supposedly under a judicial order, and are living on the streets with nothing. The confiscated items included the family’s food stocks.
The family consists of tribal people, or Adivasis, living in Sonebhadra district of eastern Uttar Pradesh. There are reports that many other Adivsasi families in the region are facing similar calamities for a number of reasons. One is the strong discrimination they face from the majority population, and their vulnerable position before local authorities. Another is that many have allegedly been forced into militant activities because of decades of persecution and inconclusive land disputes with the state government forest department. The families of those who allegedly become involved with such activities are easy targets for police and military harassment.
The AHRC urges you to write to the authorities in Uttar Pradesh and bring to their notice the plight of Dashrath’s family and many others like them, in order that they cease persecuting the families of alleged militants, restore to them their possessions and otherwise compensates them for their losses. Please also urge them to uphold the right to food under any circumstances in conducting state security operations.
Urgent Appeals Desk — Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
Location: Madhupur village, Sonebhadra district, eastern Uttar-Pradesh
Persons affected: One family of five: 1. Dasrath (father, 60); 2. Shyama Devi (mother, approximately 47); 3. Anil (son, 14); 4. Manju (daughter, 13); 5. Rinky (daughter, 6)
Reason for hunger: Forced confiscation of property by police and personnel of Provincial Armed Constabulary Battalion 34
Dasrath, Shyama Devi and their three children had their few meagre possessions confiscated by the authorities during a house raid on 2 December 2004 over allegations that their other son, Sanjay Kol, is a communist militant. The order to confiscate the possessions was supposedly given by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mirzapur. Police and personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary Battalion 34 carried out the raid. The confiscated items were already barely enough for the family to survive, consisting of little more than a cot, cooking pans, buckets, 40kgs of paddy, 2kgs of flour, and a blanket. The family is now living on the streets with nothing, and is facing starvation as a result.
The authorities have frequently persecuted the family as a way to try to get at the son. Dasrath was himself arrested twice in 2002 and once in 2003. Due to continuous harassment, the family moved from their Jhariyava village under Naugarh police station to Madhupur village, to try to escape the constant problems. At their new place, they worked as labourers in the fields. However, their attempt to escape from the constant threats by the authorities appears to have been unsuccessful, as the family has now been brutally forced onto the streets with no way to survive.
In some rural areas of Uttar Pradesh armed communist militants are still active due largely to the continued gross inequalities of wealth and land distribution and extreme poverty that large numbers of people experience in the state. The Adivasi peoples face multiple forms of persecution and marginalisation, and are therefore also perceived by the authorities as more likely to have connections with the militant groups. In particular, the Adivasis have special rights under national laws to land and forest areas; however, the state and local authorities deny these using various pretexts and ruses, or simply stalling land settlement claims in never-ending circles of bureaucracy. The AHRC has earlier this year described in detail the plight of another group of Adivasis in the same district, which captures these issues (HA-01-2004 and HU-01-2004).
In dealing with the militants, the police and military units resort to gross human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and torture, illegal arrest, and the types of attacks on vulnerable relatives of alleged militants as experienced by Sanjay Kol’s family. They act without regard to the circumstances of the families or their basic human dignity, and without thought to proper methods of investigation. These types of practices are employed by law-enforcement authorities throughout India, as numerous Urgent Appeals released by the AHRC indicate (see most recently UA-171-2004, UA-172-2004). However, the rural tribal and low-caste groups affected in areas like Sonebhadra are among the most vulnerable to these abuses, and those least likely to be able to do anything in response.
There are also very few attempts to analyse the reasons for the continued militancy and connect it to the state policies, mismanagement, corruption and gross abuses of human rights that cause popular dissatisfaction.
Please write to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and demand that he intervene in this case. A sample letter follows.
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Dear Mr Yadav
Re: Family in Sonebhadra district facing starvation due to actions of security forces
I am deeply disturbed to hear that a family of five, including three children, has been forced onto the streets in Sonebadhra district and is facing starvation due to the actions of state security officers.
According to the information that I have received, the family, consisting of Dasrath (father, 60), Shyama Devi (mother, approximately 47), Anil (son, 14), Manju (daughter, 13), Rinky (daughter, 6), had their few possessions -including food- confiscated on 2 December 2004 at Madhupur village. The order to confiscate the possessions was supposedly given by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mirzapur, because the other son of the family, one Sanjay Kol, is alleged to be a communist militant. Police and personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary 34 Battalion carried out the order. The confiscated items were already barely enough for the family to survive, consisting of little more than a cot, cooking pans, buckets, 40kgs of paddy, 2kgs of flour, and a blanket. The family is now living on the streets with nothing, and is facing starvation as a result.
I am informed that the family had already been repeatedly persecuted and had moved from their Jhariyava village under Naugarh police station to Madhupur village, to try to escape the constant problems. However, their attempt to escape from the constant threats by the authorities appears to have been unsuccessful, as the family has now been brutally forced onto the streets with no way to survive.
I understand that there are many other cases of persecution of Adivasis in Sonebhadra district and surrounding regions similar to this case. I urge you to ensure that the authorities in your state do not use the vulnerable families of alleged militants as tools to capture the accused persons, which amounts to a gross violation of fundamental human rights and all international norms. Above all else I urge you to ensure that under any circumstances the most basic human right to food not be affected by any actions undertaken by state personnel, as it has been in this case.
In particular, I also ask you to consider that the reasons that militancy has persisted in some areas of your state is due largely to the continued gross inequalities of wealth and land distribution, and denial of land and forest rights to Adivasis as provided under national laws. These conditions, combined with the gross abuses of human rights perpetrated by security forces dealing with militants -as demonstrated in this case- are the causes of widespread dissatisfaction that allow the militancy to persist.
I call upon you to take immediate steps to address the situation of the family of Dasrath and Shyama Devi by restoring to them their confiscated possessions, otherwise compensating them for their losses, and ordering that their persecution by the local authorities be ceased at once. I also call upon you to take the necessary steps to ensure that other families of alleged militants do not face similar maltreatment. Finally, I would like to remind you that your government has obligations under international and national law to respect, protect and fulfil the right to food. I trust that you will endeavour to ensure that in all undertakings agencies of your government will uphold this right, and will take all necessary steps to this end, including putting in place guidelines and monitoring mechanisms.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister’s Secretariat
Fax: + 91-522-2230002/2239234
PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:
1. Mr Alok Kumar
2. Justice A. S. Anand
National Human Rights Commission
Sardar Patel Bhaven, Sansad Marg,
New Delhi 110 001
Tel: + 91 11 23346244
Fax: + 91 11 23366537
E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Justice Ramesh Chandra Lahoti
Chief Justice of India
Supreme Court of India
New Delhi 110001
Fax: +91 11 2 3383792/3381508
4. Justice A P Mishra
Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission
6-A Kalidass Marg
27 Park Road
Tel: + 91 532-2726742
Fax: + 91 532-2726743
5. Mr. Jean Ziegler
Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
c/o Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Rue des Paquis 52, Geneva
Fax: +41 22 9179010
6. Professor Arjun K Sengupta
Independent Expert on human rights and extreme poverty
c/o Mr Renaud Detalle
Rue des Paquis 52
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41-22-917 9831
Fax: +41-22-917 9010
Urgent Appeals Programme — Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)