INDIA: Human rights activists facing threats in Shillong, Meghalaya state


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-029-2009
ISSUES: Child rights, Human rights defenders, Human trafficking, Women's rights,

Dear friends, 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from Impulse NGO Network, a human rights organisation based in Shillong, Meghalaya, that one of its staff member is been continuously harassed by persons engaged in human trafficking. It is reported that the persons threatening the staff member of Impulse NGO Network could be also connected to drug and human trafficking cartels operating in India and that the local police so far, in spite of filing complaints, have not taken any affirmative action to prevent this abuse and threat. Instead, the human rights activist who was threatened has spent the last two days fighting to cancel a warrant for her own arrest issued on an illegal basis. 


Impulse NGO Network, is a local human rights organisation based in Shillong, Meghalaya state, with network partners, particularly within the north-eastern states of India. Impulse NGO Network works against human trafficking. Ms. Hasina Kharbhih is the team leader of the network. The organisation investigates reported cases of human trafficking, particularly that of women and children brought to its attention and assist victims of human trafficking. 

Since 2007, Impulse NGO Network has been actively following up a series of cases along with its network partners in Mumbai, where women and children were reportedly trafficked to Goa state from north-eastern states of India. It is reported that, the victims were recruited from these states, promising them jobs in private airline companies. After recruitment, the victims are relocated to Goa or other cities where they are used in escort agencies. Human rights organisation based in Mumbai, OASIS (presently merged with Care and Justice), discussed this information to Impulse NGO Network. On the basis of this discussion, it was decided that Impulse NGO Network would carry out an investigation within Meghalaya about this issue. 

Between February and June 2008, Impulse NGO Network started monitoring the activities of recruitment agencies operating in Shillong. Through this process, Impulse NGO Network identified victims who were stationed in Goa. Then, Impulse NGO Network contacted the parents and relatives of some of the victims in Meghalaya, to verify the information. 

Ms. Kharbhih and Ms. Rosanna Lyngdoh from the Impulse NGO Network contacted the parents of Ms. Banri to verify whether Banri was fine and whether she was in fact employed for the job that she is recruited. Banri’s father, Mr. Kharlukhi, spoke with his daughter and during the conversation came to know that his daughter is with yet another girl from Meghalaya, Ms. Bethswa Dympep, in Goa. The inquiry also revealed that Dympep had in fact been in Shillong to recruit more girls for the agency she works for. Impulse NGO Network also came to a reasonable conclusion that Dympep is no more a victim in the racket, but rather a conspirator in the process. 

In June 2008 Kharbhih of Impulse NGO Network started receiving telephone calls from two separate callers, who asked Kharbhih to stop investigating the recruitment of girls recruited for jobs in Goa. The calls continued until October 2008. One among the callers, a male by sound, calling from a mobile telephone number 943 525 4508, informed Kharbhih that he is monitoring Kharbhih’s daily movements and that it is better that Impulse NGO Network stop their investigation involving girls recruited from Meghalaya to Goa. The caller harassed Kharbhih by calling her at after office hours and even late at night informing her that she is been stalked and her movements watched. The number, 943 525 4508, was later identified to be belonging to that of Mr. Steven Dympep. 

In August 2008 a female caller started contacting Kharbhih, with similar message asking Kharbhih to stop looking into the affairs of agencies recruiting girls to work in private airline companies. The caller also asked Kharbhih to call back in a telephone number, 985 699 1961, which Kharbhih never did. However, this number is that of Ms. Bethswa Dympep. 

On 1 September 2008, Kharbhih filed a written complaint to the Sardar Police Station in Shillong complaining about the calls and requesting an immediate investigation. Two days later, Kharbhih also gave a written statement to the police with the incidents narrated above and requested police investigation. The police recorded the statement, which according to the police, bears number OC 9436337226 at the Sardar Police Station. On 23 September 2008, two more staff members of the Impulse NGO Network, Mr. Romeo Myrchiang and Ms. Rosanna Lyngdoh, gave written statements to the police supporting Kharbhih’s complaint. However, the police did not take any further action. 

On 29 September 2008 Dympep filed an affidavit at the District Council Court in Shillong accusing Kharbhih of trying to involve Dympep in a malicious prosecution. Dympep also claimed that she is a student at the St. Mary’s College in Shillong. In the affidavit Dympep requested for a bail. The Court granted conditional bail to Dympep. The Court also directed the police to complete the investigation and to file a formal First Information Report along with the case diary in the court, for the court to frame a charge against Dympep. However, the police failed to do so. Once Dympep was released on bail, the calls also stopped. 

On 6 October 2008, Kharbhih filed an affidavit in Court seeking the cancellation of the bail. However, the Court refused to take action. On 25 October when Kharbhih was at Laitumkhrah Police Station, Kharbhih received a call from the number 943 525 4508, threatening Kharbhih to stop her work. The police officers at the station were witnesses to this call. Yet, the police failed to take any further action upon Kharbhih’s complaint. Since then, in spite of repeated requests, the local police failed to take any action upon Kharbhih’s complaint. In January 2009 Impulse NGO Network came to know that Dympep had left Meghalaya. Coming to know about this Kharbhih again filed a follow up reminder letter to the police, informing the police officially that Dympep had left the state. 

On February 22, the Indian Customs arrested Mr. Betrent Tochekwu Ikwaka, a Nigerian national, and his partner Ms. Dalphira Wahlang of Shillong in Bangalore on a charge of involving in illegal dealing of narcotic drugs. Impulse NGO Network is informed that Wahlang is a close associate of Dympep and is also involved in trafficking of girls from Meghalaya to Goa. 

On March 16, Kharbhih, received another telephone call at about midnight. The caller a male, threatened Kharbhih that unless Kharbhih drop her investigation of the cases of girls recruited from Meghalaya to Goa, Kharbhih will have to face dire consequences. The caller also informed that if Impulse NGO Network cooperated, he could ensure that Impulse NGO Network continues receiving support from the government for their work. On March 19 Kharbhih received a second call asking whether Kharbhih had considered the suggestion, for which Kharbhih informed the caller that she would not drop her work. The caller at that point threatened Kharbhih that unless Impulse NGO Network cooperates ‘things will not work fine for Kharbhih’. 

On March 23, at about 11:30am, an officer from Lumdeingjri Police Station called Impulse NGO Network and informed they wanted to talk to Kharbhih. The officer informed that a warrant of arrest issued against Kharbhih by the District Council Court is pending and that the case is registered under Sections 500 (defamation) and 501 (engraving or publishing defamatory material) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The officer however refused to divulge any further information concerning the case. 

Kharbhih went immediately to the District Council Court in Shillong, where the case was registered, to contest the legality of the warrant, as defamation is not an arrestable offence in India. However, all the magistrates had taken a leave of absence for the day. After some time, Kharbhih got sight of the case, and discovered that it was lodged by Ms. Bethswa Dympep. Despite being a case for defamation, the complaint made by Dympep actually acknowledges her involvement in the harassment, stating: ‘During investigation it transpired that the complainant [that is, Ms Bethswa Dympep] was involved with the said alleged harassment.’ It appears that the magistrate responsible for the case did not read the papers in full before authorising an arrest warrant based on it. On 24 March the warrant was dismissed by the court. 

The facts of the case illuminates the manner in which the inaction by the police and incorrect action by the court results in miscarriage of justice and further exposes human rights activists to threats and intimidation. As narrated above, in spite of repeated requests providing specific details, the police failed to investigate the persons involved in threatening Kharbhih and her organisation, Impulse NGO Network. The failure of the police to file a proper investigation report in the court in time resulted in one of the accused Ms. Bethswa Dympep absconding from the state, and further let her free to come and go as she pleased, as is demonstrated by her recent activity in filing the so-called defamation case. The police inaction also encouraged the perpetrators to continue with their threats. 

Additionally, the fact that the police were prompt to act upon the complaint filed by an absconding accused suggests the possibility that the police are interested in protecting the criminals rather than the victims or those who support the victims. As of now, Kharbhih is left with no protection, continue to face the threat posed by her callers and adversaries who are opposed to the work of Impulse NGO Network. 

A threat to life and security is a serious concern in India. In states like Bihar and Manipur children could be kidnapped for sums as small as Rupees 100 (USD 2). Due to widespread corruption within the police and other law enforcement agencies, often there are accusations against the law enforcement agencies that they act in favour of the criminals, rather than safeguarding the safety of the citizens. Additionally, it is the legal duty of the police to ensure the safety of individuals and property, particularly when there is a specific complaint. 

Acts of intimidation and threat is a crime in India under Section 503 (criminal intimidation) and Section 507 (criminal intimidation by anonymous communication) of the Indian Penal Code 1860. These offenses, if proven in a court of law could attract punishment of imprisonment for a period of two years. 

This is not the first case that the AHRC has come across from India concerning police inaction in cases involving human trafficking and further their eagerness to take adverse actions against human rights activists working against human trafficking in India. For further details regarding the most recent case taken up by the AHRC from India concerning this aspect please see AHRC-UAC-022-2009

Please write letters to the authorities listed below, urging them to take immediate steps to provide protection to Kharbhih. 

The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children calling for intervention in this case.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear _________, 

INDIA: Police must act to ensure the safety of a human rights defender 

Name of victim: Ms. Hasina Kharbhih, Team Leader, Impulse NGO Network, Ranee’s Abode 
Near Horse Shoe Building, Lower Lachumiere, Shillong–793001, Meghalaya state 
Alleged perpetrators
1. Ms. Bethswa Dympep, accused in case number OC 9436337226 of Sardar Police Station, Shillong, Meghalaya 
2. Mr. Steven Dympep, accused in case number OC 9436337226 of Sardar Police Station, Shillong, Meghalaya 
Date of incident: Since June 2008 

I am writing to express my concern about the case of Ms. Hasina Kharbhih, a human rights defender in Meghalaya. I am aware that Kharbhih is the team leader of Impulse NGO Network, a local human rights organisation based in Shillong, working against human trafficking. Kharbhih is also the complainant in case number OC 9436337226 of Sardar Police Station, Shillong, Meghalaya. 

I am informed that Kharbhih and the Impulse NGO Network has been investigating cases of human trafficking in Meghalaya and that the investigation has exposed the possible links of some fake recruitment agencies operating in Meghalaya and drug and human trafficking cartels operating in the country. I am informed that since June 2008, Kharbhih has been receiving threatening and intimidating calls asking Kharbhih and the Impulse NGO Network stops its activities, particularly the investigation it is conducting into the cases of girls faked into human trafficking on the pretext of recruitment for private airline companies. Kharbhih not only refused to comply, but filed a complaint at Sardar Police Station, Shillong, informing the police the details regarding the threats that she received. This complaint is registered as case number OC 9436337226 of Sardar Police Station. 

I am informed that in spite of repeated requests, the police not only failed to properly investigate the case and further let the prime accused abscond and continue threatening Kharbhih over telephone. In the meanwhile the police required Kharbhih to be arrested on the basis of a false complaint filed by one of the accused in case number OC 9436337226 of Sardar Police Station, Shillong, Meghalaya. This warrant has been withdrawn after contest. 

I am aware that threatening and intimidating a person is a crime in India. Yet, I am surprised to know that the local police have refused to take sensible and appropriate action upon the complaints filed by Kharbhih. I am also aware that due to this the threat against Kharbhih continues and her life is still at the risk of criminals who fear that Kharbhih’s work as a human rights defender would expose their criminal acts. I am informed that threats to life in India have to be taken seriously, owing to the relative inability of the local police to provide protection to ordinary citizen. 

I therefore urge you to take immediate steps to ensure that appropriate protection is provided to Kharbhih and the work of Impulse NGO Network in Meghalaya. I also request you to take appropriate actions to guarantee that the investigation of case number OC 9436337226 of Sardar Police Station, Shillong, Meghalaya is completed as early as possible. 

Yours sincerely, 


1. Mr. Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary 
Governor of Meghalaya 
Government of Meghalaya 
Main Secretariat Building 
Shillong – 793001, Meghalaya 
E-mail: (for Secretary to Governor) 

2. Mr. R. Chatterjee 
Chief Secretary 
Government of Meghalaya 
Main Secretariat Building 
Shillong – 793001, Meghalaya 
Fax: +91 364 2225978 

3. P. Chidambaram 
Home Minister 
Ministry of Home Affairs 
Government of India, North Block 
Central Secretariat, New Delhi – 110 001 
Fax: +91 11 23093289 

4. Mr. Akhil Kumar Jain 
Chief Executive Officer 
National Human Rights Commission 
Faridkot House,Copernicus Marg, 
New Delhi-110001 

5. Mr. Kulbir Krishan, IPS 
Director General of Police 
Shillong, Meghalaya 
Fax: + 91 364 2220839 

6. Ms. Meira Kumar 
Minister, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment 
Sardar Patel Bhawan 
Sansad Marg, New Delhi – 110 001 
Fax: + 91 11 23742133 

7. Chairperson 
National Commission for Scheduled Caste 
5th Floor, Lok Nayak Bhavan 
Khan Market, New Delhi 110003 
Fax: + 91 11 24625378 

Thank you. 

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-029-2009
Countries : India,
Issues : Child rights, Human rights defenders, Human trafficking, Women's rights,