UPDATE (India): Human rights defender assaulted for pursuing a case


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-009-2009
ISSUES: Human rights defenders, Human trafficking, Police negligence, Police violence, Women's rights,

Dear friends, 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received additional information concerning the case of Ms. Hasina Kharbhih, a human rights defender working against human trafficking in India. We have been informed that on May 27 Kharbhih, while on her way to the court for the hearing of her case, was stopped, threatened and manhandled by Ms. Bethswa Dympep, the accused in a human trafficking case. Kharbhih was injured in the incident and had to be taken to the local hospital for treatment. It is also reported that the perpetrators are receiving clandestine support from the police. 

UPDATED INFORMATION: (According to the victim and other local rights activists) 

Hasina Kharbhih is a human rights defender leading the Impulse NGO Network, a local human rights organisation based in Shillong, Meghalaya. On 25 March 2009, the AHRC reported concerns for Kharbhih’s security (AHRC-UAC-029-2009). 

On May 27, Kharbhih and her colleague were on their way to the District Council Court to give their statement concerning a case involving death threats to Kharbhih. Since there was a traffic block, Kharbhih had to get out from their vehicle and walk towards the court. Not far from the court compound, the accused in the case, Ms. Bethswa Dympep, stopped her and started threatening her and her colleague, claiming that if they continued with the case, Kharbhih would face terrible consequences, including the closure of the Impulse NGO Network. When Kharbhih replied that such matters were for the court to decide, Dympep assaulted her. Dympep was accompanied by her mother who also shouted abuse. 

The victim immediately went to the Lumbiengri Police Station to report the matter. A First Information Report (FIR) was registered and since she was injured, the police asked Kharbhih to seek medical treatment, which she did. Three police officers searched the court compound for Dympep, but finding she was inside the court, didn’t arrest her. The officers later told Kharbhih and her lawyer that Dympep had escaped from their view. 

Later Kharbhih was contacted by the Press Trust of India, telling her that Dympep has called a press conference at the Shillong Press Club. In the press meeting Dympep reportedly accused Kharbhih of assaulting her, while claiming that she is being backed by a business group in the country and that she will ensure the closure of the Impulse NGO Network soon. 

The AHRC and several other civil society organisations inside and outside of India are worried for Kharbhih, and have been calling on the state administration of Meghalaya, particularly the state police, to ensure her protection–and that of others involved in the case. 

From the start of the case Kharbhih and her colleagues have been receiving life threatening telephone calls, demanding their legal withdrawal and that they stop investigating all cases of human trafficking involving Dympep and her alleged employer, a private airline company in India chaired by Mr. Vijay Mallya. While the factual basis of claims by Dympep are yet to be verified, it is a known fact that Kharbhih continues to receive death threats, and that the local police have thus far refused to take any appropriate action against the assailant. A few days before the assault, Kharbhih’s website was hacked into and the contents destroyed. 

Dympep’s act of assaulting and threatening Kharbhih and her colleague is also a direct violation of her bail conditions. The AHRC wonders why the District Council Court has not simply recalled Dympep’s bail order and had her taken into judicial custody. In spite of repeated requests the local police have also refused to take any affirmative action on Kharbhih’s behalf. 


Please support Kharbhih and her investigation into human trafficking by writing to the Indian authorities, requesting that all necessary action be taken to guarantee her safety, and that Dympep be thoroughly investigated and charged accordingly. 

The AHRC is also writing separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders, and on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, calling for their intervention in this case. 

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


Dear _________, 

INDIA: Police must guarantee the safety of human rights defender facing threats to life 

Name of victim: Ms. Hasina Kharbhih, Team Leader, Impulse NGO Network, Ranee’s Abode, near Horse Shoe Building, Lower Lachumiere, Shillong–793001, Meghalaya state 
Name of alleged perpetrators: 
1. Ms. Bethswa Dympep, accused in case number OC 9436337226 of Sardar Police Station, Shillong, Meghalaya 
Date of incident: 27 May 2009 
Place of incident: Shillong, Meghalaya 

I am writing to express my concern about the threat to the life and security of Ms. Hasina Kharbhih, a noted human rights defender working against human trafficking. I am informed that Kharbhih has been contesting a criminal case against Ms. Bethswa Dympep at the local courts in Shillong and that since the beginning of the case Dympep has been threatening Kharbhih and her colleagues with personal harm and the closure of her office, demanding the withdrawal of the case from the court. However the police have not taken any action upon the complaint and have allowed Dympep to continue with her threats in private, and in the public eye. 

I am informed that on May 27 in particular, Kharbhih was verbally abused and assaulted by Dympep in front of the local court, and has filed a complaint at the Lumbiengri Police Station. The police failed to arrest Dympep on the excuse that they could not locate her, yet I am informed that after the incident the assailant had convened a press conference at the local press club, a public event which the local police were aware of. 

The lack of police action suggests that Dympep is using her influence to prevent the due process of law from taking its own course. In these circumstances, I request that you immediately take swift assertive action to ensure that Kharbhih remains safe throughout this trial and after, and that an investigation is ordered into the entire incident. I also request that if required, Dympep be taken into custody on the basis of the complaint filed by Kharbhih against her at Lumbiengri Police Station. Human rights defenders carry out a valuable and necessary service, often at the expense of their lives. Any government should give their safety utmost priority. 

Yours sincerely, 


1. Governor of Meghalaya 
Government of Meghalaya 
Main Secretariat Building 
Shillong – 793001, Meghalaya 
E-mail: hector.marwein@nic.in (for Secretary to Governor) 

2. Chief Secretary 
Government of Meghalaya 
Main Secretariat Building 
Shillong – 793001, Meghalaya 
Fax: +91 364 2225978 
E-mail: ranjanchatterjee@hotmail.com 

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

4. Chief Executive Officer 
National Human Rights Commission 
Faridkot House,Copernicus Marg, 
New Delhi-110001 
E-mail: sgnhrc@nic.in 

5. Director General of Police 
Shillong, Meghalaya 
Fax: + 91 364 2220839 

6. Minister, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment 
Sardar Patel Bhawan 
Sansad Marg, New Delhi – 110 001 
Fax: + 91 11 23742133 
E-mail: ddpg2-arpg@nic.in 

7. Chairperson 
National Commission for Scheduled Caste 
5th Floor, Lok Nayak Bhavan 
Khan Market, New Delhi 110003 
Fax: + 91 11 24625378 
E-mail: jointsecretary-ncsc@nic.in 

Thank you. 

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia) 

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : AHRC-UAU-009-2009
Countries : India,
Issues : Human rights defenders, Human trafficking, Police negligence, Police violence, Women's rights,