NHRC Moved Over Custodial Death and Communal Clash in Assam

The Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) has moved the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) over custodial death of Ajijur Rahman of Kalain in the district of Cachar in Assam. A complaint has been filed at the NHRC based on the report of a fact-finding study conducted by the BHRPC on 19 July 2012. The study found that Ajijur Rahman, an old man of about 60 years, was picked up on 7 July from his home by a police team led by a probationary Indian Police Service officer Mr Y T Gyatsu and he was tortured to death at the police lock-up of Kalain patrol post.

The report released on 19 July (available at http://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/custodial-death-of-ajijur-rahman/) has also dwelt on the communal clash on 4 July at Kalain bazaar that led to the illegal arrest and brutal killing of Ajijur Rahman. The report categorically says that negligent and inefficient handling of the situation by the authorities including executive magistrate Ms Khaleda Sultana Ahmed, Deputy Superintendent of Police (probationary) Mr Iftikar Ali and in-charge of Kalain police patrol post Mr Anowar Hussain Choudhury were mostly responsible for the clash. They failed to handle the mob frenzy. It is claimed that they could take measures including lathi charge and tear gas fire. These measures could disperse the mob. Due to the negligence and inefficiency of the authorities about 18 people were injured in the clash. Six of them sustained serious injuries. It amounts to violation of human rights within the meaning of section 12 (a) (ii) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.

It is also found that efforts of forcible enforcement of strikes on 4 July by supporters of the Hindu Jagaran Mancha and communal mass hysteria of some Muslim youths of Kalain were also responsible for the communal clash. The BHRPC maintained that every citizen and group of citizens has the right to protest and call strike provided that it is peaceful and the organizers do not force others to take part in the protest. The Mancha broke the conditions for legitimacy of the strike by forcing others.

The fact-finding report further dwelt on the efforts of effecting communal divisions in Barak valley over the controversial conversion and second marriage of Dr. Rumee Nath, Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Assam. It is stated that the right to get converted into any religion is a part of the freedom of conscience and free profession of religion guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution of India. Per se inter-religious and inter-caste marriages are also recognised by the Special Marriage Act, 1955 and such marriage should be encouraged as they can promote harmonious communal co-existence and secularism. However, in case of Dr. Nath the things are a little different. She was a married woman with a two years old child. Bigamy or living with another person as man and wife during the subsistence of earlier marriage prima facie amount to offence against the institution of marriage. Abandoning a 2 year old child is cruelty on the child and violation of child rights. These grievances against her could be legitimately vented through legal means and judicial process and which was what her first husband resorted to.

It is further alleged that some groups conjured up spectre of ‘love jihad’ and started campaign against inter-religious and inter-caste marriages, friendship between girls and boys belonging to different communities. These activities are assault on the rule of law.

The report stated that a very influential politician of the ruling congress party in Assam Mr Gautom Roy, Minister for Public Health and Engineering (PHE), at a public function organised to mark 3 years of Assam government issued a call to the public to beat up any boy who marries a girl from a different community and to hand over the girl to her guardians. Provoked and encouraged by this call a mob of more than one hundred youths attacked Dr Nath and her ‘second husband’ at about 10pm on 29 June 2012 at Hotel Nakshatra in Karimganj where she was staying for the night after visiting her constituency.

The BHRPC could not confirm any direct links of the minister with the attack on Dr Nath and the mob that attacked her. But it is obvious that his call to beat up such couples definitely encouraged the mob. The comment of the minister is not only against the established constitutional canons of the land and principles of human rights but also a provocation to breach the public order and a call towards further lawlessness and jungle raj. Any person including a minister may disagree with any law and in such cases he should propose repeal or amendment of the law if he is sincere in his opinions. A minister who is part of the party that rules at the central and state governments should have proposed amendment of Article 14, 21 and 25 of the constitution and the Special Marriage Act, 1955 if he sincerely thought that conversion and inter-religious marriages are undesirable. By provoking youths he betrayed his motives.

The attack on Dr Nath is a manifestation of desperate reactions of patriarchy and its interests against the empowerment of women and empowered women. These are attacks on expression of moral agency in women. She was abused and attacked only because she was a woman.

Apart from the brutality of police personnel, Ajijur Rahman was a victim of the situation that was thus created.