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INDIA: Yet another person shot dead at the Indo-Bangladesh border

September 6, 2007

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal

6 September 2007
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UA-272-2007: INDIA: Yet another person shot dead at the Indo-Bangladesh border

INDIA: Extrajudicial killing; lack of police investigation; cross-border smuggling
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from MASUM, a local human rights organisation based in West Bengal regarding the death of yet another person at the Indo-Bangladesh border in West Bengal. In the past year, the AHRC has reported 10 cases of extrajudicial killing by the Border Security Force [BSF] stationed at the Indo-Bangladesh border. None of these cases were enquired into by the local police.

CASE DETAILS:

Mr. Jahangir Gazi, son of Mr. Harez Gazi was a villager aged about 45 years living in Bemglani village in 24 North Parganas district of West Bengal. On June 8, 2007 at about 5:00pm Jahangir left home to visit his brother's in-laws. They live about 3.5 kilometers away from Jahangir's house. Jahangir was expected to return on the same day by night.

Finding that her husband had not returned even after midnight Jahangir's wife informed her husband's brother that Jahangir has not returned home, though he had promised so. Mr. Kabir, Jahangir's brother informed Jahangir's wife that Jahangir might have stayed back for the night. The next day Kabir visited his in-law's house and was informed by them that Jahangir had not visited them at all. Finding that his brother was missing Kabir lodged a complaint at the Swarup Nagar Police Station stating that his brother was missing.

Later that day Kabir came to know that a person was shot at by the BSF in a place called Hathisigria. Hathisigria is about 1.5 kilometers away from the house which Jahangir was supposed to visit the previous night. Kabir also came to know that the local police have visited the place. Kabir rushed to the scene and came to know that the person killed was his brother.

Kabir was informed by his brother was shot at while he was engaged in smuggling across the Indo-Bangladesh border. Kabir returned home and informed his family and the sister-in-law what had happened. He later went to the Swarup Nagar Police Station to lodge a complaint against the BSF. The police however refused to register the complaint.

On June 9, 2007 Mr. S. C. Gangaur, the Deputy Commandant of the BSF battalion lodged a complaint at the Swarup Nagar Police Station that on the same day during the early hours his troops had to return fire at the Bangladesh Rifles [BDR - is the Bangladesh paramilitary unit] since they fired at the BSF to cover an unknown person who was trying to smuggle materials across the border into Bangladesh from India. The officer also stated that the unknown person, now suspected to be the smuggler, and a bull was killed in the crossfire.

Based on this complaint a First Information Report (FIR) was registered at the Swarup Nagar Police Station regarding the firing incident and yet another case for un-natural death regarding the death of Jahangir.

MASUM's fact finding however reveals that it is very difficult as of now to say how Jahangir died. MASUM alleges that unless the projectiles from Jahangir's body are recovered and examined by a ballistic expert one could not ensure whether Jahangir was in fact killed by a shot fired by the BSF or the BDR. In either case as of now there is only evidence to show that Jahangir was killed in the early hours of June 9, 2007. It is yet to be known whether Jahangir was in fact involved in smuggling or whether he was killed under any other circumstances.

The AHRC has in the past brought to the attention of the Indian authorities several instances of atrocities committed by the BSF in the Indo-Bangladesh border area. Jahangir's killing is yet another incident that adds to the death toll.
 
SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please send a letter to the relevant authorities in India requesting them to inquire into this case to find out the facts behind Jahangir's death. We also urge you to request the Indian authorities to ensure that several other cases brought to their notice regarding the atrocities committed by the BSF is also enquired into without any further delay. The AHRC is also writing separate letters to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Mr. Philip Alston, requesting an intervention in this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

Sample letter:

Dear __________,

INDIA: Please ensure an impartial and immediate enquiry into the killing of a person in Indo-Bangladesh border

Name and address of the victim: Mr. Jahangir Gazi, aged about 45 years, son of Mr. Harez Gazi, resident of Bemglani village, Hatas Gunj post, 24 North Parganas district, West Bengal
Alleged perpetrators: The members of the Border Security Force, 'G' Company, Battalion number 193, West Bengal
Date and place of the incident: About 3:10am on June 9, 2007 near Indian border post number 13/4, R-15 Arshikary Border Out Post, 24 North Parganas district, West Bengal

I am concerned to know about yet another case of extrajudicial killing reported from the Indo-Bangladesh border region in west Bengal state. I am informed that the victim name above, Mr. Jahangir, was killed on June 9, 2007 at the Indo-Bangladesh border near the R-15 Arshikary Border out post, allegedly in crossfire between the Border Security Force and the Bangladesh Rifles. However, Jahangir had left his home late in the evening the previous day informing his wife that he was going to visit his relatives.

I am concerned to know that even though the brother of the deceased Mr. Kabir tried to lodge a complaint against the BSF at the Swarup Nagar Police Station, the police have thus far refused to register a case, but have instead registered only a case of unnatural death based on the complaint of the BSF officers.

I am concerned to know about the increasing number of instances of rights violation and extrajudicial killing reported from the Indo-Bangladesh border, particularly those committed against innocent civilians in the name of cross-border smuggling. I am worried whether Jahangir was also murdered by the BSF in yet another fake encounter, which has now become alarmingly common in the area.

I therefore request you to immediately order an impartial investigation into the case and bring to light the circumstances under which Jahangir was murdered. In case the BSF officers are found to be guilty of murdering Jahangir, the concerned officers must be punished and the family must receive compensation for Jahangir's death.
 
I also urge you to order similar inquires that has been brought to your notice by the Asian Human Rights Commission or MASUM regarding incidents involving the BSF stationed at the Indo-Bangladesh border.

I trust that you will take action in this case.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
Chief Minister/ Minister of Home Department
Government of West Bengal
Writer's Building
Kolkata - 700 001
West Bengal
INDIA
Fax: +91 33 22145480/ 22141341

2. Mr. Ajay Raj Sharma
Director General BSF
Block 10, CGO Complex
Lodhi Road
New Delhi -03.
Fax: +91 11 24360016
Email: bsfhq@hub.nic.in

3. Chief Secretary
Government of West Bengal
Writers' Buildings, Kolkata - 700001
West Bengal
INDIA
Fax: +91 33 22144328

4. Home Secretary
Government of West Bengal
Writers' Buildings, Kolkata - 700001
West Bengal
INDIA
Fax: +91 33 22143001
Email: sechome@wb.gov.in

5. Director General & Inspector General of Police
Government of West Bengal
Writers Buildings
Kolkata-1
West Bengal
INDIA
Fax: +91 33 2214 4498 / 2214 5486
 
Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
UA-272-2007
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.