States Round Up Issue-01 July to September 2010 Index Page
Full version of the report

West Bengal


I. Highlight: Accountability for corporal punishment?

Corporal punishment seldom leads to accountability or receives necessary publicity. However, suicide of Rouwanjit Rawla of La Martiniere for Boys School, Kolkata after being subjected to corporal punishment in the school in February 2010 is all set to become a benchmark on the issue. In June 2010, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) intervened and conducted an enquiry following a complaint was filed by Mr. Ajay Rawla, father of late Rouvanjit Rawla, on 20 May 2010. [1]

In its report, the NCPCR recommended, among others, removal of Mr. Sunirmal Chakravarthi, Principal and Mr. L. J. Gunnion, Head of the Middle School for inflicting violence on Rouvanjit Rawla and for allowing the practice of corporal punishment in the school by other teachers as well despite being aware that it is in violation of the law, withholding of two increments, without cumulative effect, of Mr. Partho Datta, Assistant Teacher; Mr. David Royan; Assistant Teacher; and Mr. Brian Gomes, Assistant Teacher, for causing mental and physical harassment to Rouvanjit Rawla and review of school’s teaching practices. [2]

However, the school rejected the recommendation of the NCPCR raising questions about the impartiality of the probe despite finding of clear linkages of harassment and humiliation on Rouwanjit Rawla. In June 2010, Ajay Rawla had filed an FIR against the principal and four teachers. Although, the police were investigating the case, it failed to make any arrest until October 2010. [3] On 4 October 2010, the police arrested the principal and four other teachers of the La Martiniere School. However, the charge of abetment to suicide was not brought against them as the police failed to establish the charge of abetment to suicide despite investigating 82 witnesses. As a result, they were granted bail on security of Rs 500 each. In the charge sheet filed by the police, all four were charged under Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 and other sections of the IPC. [4]

Yet cases continued to be reported from the state.

On 12 August 2010, six students of Class VIII of a government-aided Jadavpur High School were allegedly slapped hard and hit on the back by a teacher identified as Sushanta Naskar for smiling in the class. One of the students Master Souvik Chatterjee vomited and collapsed and had to be hospitalised. [5] Nine days later, another student, Prasun Kumar Panda, a class VIII student of Contai High School, was beaten with a cane by his teacher Anupam Mudi on the back and head after he failed to answer a question correctly. Mr Prasun lost his speech following the beating. [6]

Apart from schools, torture and ill-treatment are also common in the confines of Children Homes in violation of the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. These seldom make news.  On 29 September 2010, 14-year-old tribal boy Rajen Murmu, son of Late Paher Murmu, died due to alleged torture by the officials including Superintendent Mr. Subham Das  of the “Anandashram Home for Juvenile and Child in need of Protection and Shelter” at Berhampore in Murshidabad district. The minor victim was an inmate of the Home from 2007. Rajen Murmu was subjected to torture after he along with other co-inmates protested the torture and other maltreatment by the officials. To protect the accused officials, the authorities of the Home falsely implicated three inmates identified as Raj Murmu, Mangal Mardi and Bhanjan Marjit in the death of Rajen Murmu, who were friends of the deceased. These three inmates were reportedly kept confined in a room of the Home. [7]

II. Violations of civil and political rights

The security forces were responsible for gross human rights violations including right to life in West Bengal. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recorded 175 cases of atrocities in police custody from the state during 2009-2010 (as on 28 February 2010). [8] During July-September 2010, the ACHR documented a number of cases of deaths in police and prison custody.

On 12 July 2010, Mr. Kauch Seikh (36 years), son of Mr. Muntaj Seikh, was allegedly tortured and killed in the custody of Battalion No.52 of the Border Security Force (BSF) near Outpost No. 4 at Singpara in Murshidabad district. The deceased was apprehended by the BSF personnel while returning through the Outpost after allegedly smuggling some cattle. The deceased was allegedly subjected to torture for failing to pay adequate bribes and later shot at on his right chest from a short distance and left to die. Later, the BSF filed a complaint at the Jalangi police station against the deceased.  However, the penal sections which were charged against the deceased were for rioting, being armed with deadly weapons and assaulting public servant. The deceased’s wife Mrs. Golejan Bibi alleged that her husband was subjected to torture and later killed in the BSF custody. [9]

On 25 July 2010, Mr. Tamirul Haq (42 years), a teacher, died due to alleged torture at Kotar Police Camp under Itahar Police Station in North Dinajpur district. On the night of 24 July 2010, Mr. Tamirul Haq had gone to Bariol market to buy cigarettes where he saw two persons being dragged towards Kotar police camp by five police personnel indentified as Ganesh Sarkar (Assistant Sub Inspector), Koushik Burman, Mir Rajesh Ali, Apurba Roy and Nitish Chandra Das, all constables attached to Kotar police camp. Mr. Haq asked the said police personnel why the two persons were being dragged in such a way. At this, the police personnel got furious and started beating Mr Haq with sticks and rifle butts. Thereafter, Mr Haq was taken to the Kotar police camp where he was further subjected to torture till he lost his consciousness. When Mr Haq’s condition deteriorated, two of the personnel rushed him to Raigunj District Hospital but the doctors declared him brought dead. [10]

On 6 September 2010, Master Subrata Sardar (16 years), a Class XI student of Buniadpur High School, died as a result of police torture at Malda District Hospital. The deceased’s family members alleged Master Subrata Sardar was picked up on 4 September 2010 and subjected to torture at the Bansihari police station in South Dinajpur, resulting in his death. [11]

On 1 September 2010, Mr Jiarul Haque (23 years) and Master Mustakim Seikh (15 years) were allegedly tortured and killed in the custody of BSF of Giridhari BSF Company Head Quarter, Battalion No. 105 at Nirmalchar in Murshidabad district. Both the deceased had gone to Nirmalchar to cut some grasses for house repairing. While cutting grasses they were allegedly forcibly picked up by two BSF personnel in the presence of other villagers. Their bodies were found on 3 September 2010 with bullet injuries and other injury marks. The family member of both the deceased’s alleged that they were tortured and shot dead in cold blood in the BSF custody and later thrown the bodies in the Padma River. [12]

On 6 August 2010, Mr Govinda Mondal (35 years), a scheduled caste, was allegedly tortured by three BSF personnel attached to Char Mourashi Border Outpost at Bathanbari under Raninagar police station in Murshidabad district. The victim was accused of smuggling medicine (Phensidyl). The BSF personnel allegedly took off the cloth he was wearing and forcibly put it into his mouth and started beating him on his feet with the wooden handle of a spade and kicked all over his body including in the chest and face. The torture lasted for 30 minutes till he lost his consciousness. Later, the BSF personnel left the place leaving him unconscious. The victim was admitted to the hospital on the same day and was under treatment at the hospital until 10 August 2010. [13]

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recorded 63 cases of atrocities in judicial custody from West Bengal during 2009-2010 (as on 28 February 2010). [14] There were also reports of deaths in prison custody.

On 8 July 2010, Anwar Mondal (40 years), an undertrial lodged at the Bongaon Subsidiary Jail in North 24 Parganas district, died due alleged torture by the jail officials. The deceased was sent to the jail on 5 July 2010. On 6 July 2010, the deceased’s son visited the jail and was told by his father that the jailor had allegedly demanded Rs 3000 from him and subjected to physical assault by inmates at the behest of the jailor. [15]

On 26 September 2010, Mofik Sk (42 years), son of Late Firoj Sk, an undertrial lodged at the Kandi Correctional Home in Murshidabad district died due to alleged torture in the jail.  The deceased’s family members alleged that he was not suffering from any disease at the time of arrest and he died due to torture. [16]

On 3 September 2010, undertrial prisoner identified as Mohammad Rafiul died under mysterious circumstances at Howrah District Correctional Home. The prison authorities claimed that the deceased sustained injuries after being beaten up by an inmate on 1 September 2010 and succumbed to his injuries after he was admitted to hospital. [17]

The deaths are not surprising considering that torture is a common practice. On 23 August 2010, nine prisoners lodged at Dum Dum Central Jail in Koltaka were subjected to torture and forced to parade naked for about an hour for alleged misconduct. Following criticism, the state government ordered the ADG (prisons) B D Sharma to probe the incident. In its report, the ADG (Prisons) the stated that it was becoming a practice in the jail to punish prisoners by physically assaulting them in gross violation of human rights.  However, the jail officials claimed that they had to use force in order to control the prisoners from fighting among themselves. While the prisoners alleged that they were tortured for protesting against corrupt practices by jail staff. The prisoners further alleged that food meant for them is sold outside and they did not get their due. Following the torture on 23 August, two prisoners were left with fractured hands. But, the injured prisoners were allegedly left untreated and their relatives had complained that they were not even allowed to meet the inmates. [18] The state government had suspended five officials of the jail identified as Biplab Dasgupta (Superintendent), Kripamoy Nandi (Chief Controller), Sarbeshwar Tudu (Chief Head Warden), Biswajit Bhowmick (Head Warden) and Debananda Orano (Warden) after an investigation found the allegations genuine. [19]

In a significant development, on 27 September 2010, the Supreme Court issued notice to the state government of West Bengal to explain in two weeks why the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) should not start criminal cases against police officers and personnel responsible for Nandigram firing which killed 14 persons and injured 126 others in March 2007. The victims were protesting against a proposed special economic zone (SEZ) project in East Midnapore district. [20]

III. Abuses by the AOGs

The Maoists or the Naxalites were responsible for serious human rights violations in the state. The Maoists targeted the political parties, CPM in particular, teachers and alleged police informers.

The Asian Centre for Human Rights documented a number of cases of illegal mining during July and September 2010.

a. Killing of alleged police informers

The Maoists targeted a number of civilians accusing them of being police informers.

On the night of 19 July 2010, suspected Maoists shot dead Hrishikesh Kumar (55 years) and his son Kashinath (32 years), both CPM members, on the charge of being police informers at Sindurpur village in Arsa area of Puralia district. [21]

On the night of 14 July 2010, suspected Maoists abducted Mrs Nilmoni Tudu (a singer with Akashvani Radio and member of Kendubari Gram panchayat) from her house at Patharnasha village under Gopiballavpur in west Midnapore district on the charges of being a police informer. Before abducting the deceased, the suspected Maoists stated that she was a police informer and would be tired in a people’s court. The deceased dead body was found on the next day and she was hacked several times before being shot behind the neck. [22]

On 6 July 2010, suspected Maoists shot dead two persons identified as Mohar Ali (50 years) and Saidul Sheikh (45 years) on the charge of being police informers at Dudhsar village in Naoda area in Mursidabad district. This was reportedly the first killing by the Maoists in the district. [23]

On 11 July 2010, suspected Maoists kidnapped two panchayat members identified as Saumen Bhakat (Head of Chhutia village panchayat) and Kamal Mahato from their houses and later shot dead in the Jamboni area of Paschim Medinipur district. [24]

b. Killing of political activists

The Maoists also targeted the members of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist).

On 20 September 2010, suspected Maoists disguised as students shot dead Ananta Mukherjee (35 years), a CPM leader at his office at Shilda in West Midnapore district.[25]

On 13 September 2010, suspected Maoists shot dead five members of a family, including four brothers, at Nayagram in West Midnapore district. The four brothers identified as Rahim Aguan (40 years), Samaresh (34 years), Swapan (28 years) and Prasanta (23 years), were killed for participating in a CPM rally to protest the Maoists atrocities. While their uncle Amrita (46 years) was killed for refusing to reveal the addresses of local CPM leaders. [26]

On the night of 31 August 2010, two CPM leaders Abinash Mahato (45 years), and Nirmal Bag (42 years) were abducted by suspected Maoists from their houses at Beliabera and Kharbandhi villages in West Midnapore district and later killed after a kangaroo court found them guilty of torturing villagers, corruption and acting as police informers. [27]

On 14 August 2010, suspected Maoists kidnapped five persons and later shot dead two of them identified as Shankar Jana and Nishikanta Nayek at Nayagaram village in West Midnapore district. The Maoists accused them of joining the CPM “Harmad Bahini” (armed cadres). [28]

On 4 August 2010, suspected Maoists killed Tapan Das (30 years), a founder member of Adivasi Mulbasi Janasadharaner Committee on the charges of passing information to the CPM in Balarampur area of Puralia distirct. [29]

On 12 July 2010, Srikanta Hansda, a leader of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), was abducted from his house and shot dead at Bandwan in Purulia district. The police claimed that the deceased was killed by the Maoists. [30]

c. Killing of teachers

The Maoists had targeted teachers in West Bengal. As many as 19 teaching and non-teaching staff were killed in Naxal-affected three districts of West Midnapore, Puralia and Bankura from 2008 till September 2010. Of these, 10 teachers were killed in West Midnapore district alone between January and September 2010. The authorities claimed that in majority of the cases the teachers were targeted for resisting forcible recruitment of students as soldiers by the Maoists. [31]

On 4 September 2010, Dibakar Mahato (52 years), Headmaster of the primary school at Salboni in West Midnapore district, was dragged out from the school and shot dead by suspected Maoists in front of students and teachers in Midnapore district. The police claimed that Dibakar Mahato was killed for being a member of the CPM. [32]

IV. Violations of women’s rights

There were numerous reports of violence against women.

West Bengal remains a source, transit and destination of trafficking. However, the police do not have any statistics. On 17 September 2010, the police stated that over 2500 girls went missing from the state in 2009 following the directions of the Kolkata High Court. The Calcutta High Court had sought the information after a mother of a missing girl moved the court in 2009. According to the police, the number of disappearances was high in the two 24-Parganas, Howrah, the two Midnapore districts and Purulia. In majority of the cases, the girls were abducted and sent to other states, especially Mumbai. [33]

Apart from trafficking, women have been victims of torture, ill-treatment and sexual abuse at the hands of the security forces, village councils and political activists in the state.

On 11 August 2010, Miss Maman Das (19 years), a Class XII student, committed suicide after being allegedly forced by police to file an attempt to rape case in Burdwan. The girl went to the Burdwan Town police station to file a case after she was molested by a person on 10 august 2010. However, the police allegedly forced her to file a rape case and sent for a medical test against her wish. The girl’s relatives alleged that unable to bear the humiliation by the police, she took the extreme step. [34]

On 8 July 2010, a medical examination was conducted on six women from Jungalmahal area who were allegedly raped by security forces on 30 June 2010. The six victims, aged between 25 to 50 years, alleged that the security forces raped them during a raid at their houses at Jungalmahal area under Jhargram Sub-division in West Midnapore district following an encounter with Maoists. [35]

ACHR also documented a number of cases of torture and ill-treatment perpetrated on the orders of the village councils as part of their “traditional” justice delivery system.

In August 2010, the West Bengal Commission for Women conducted an investigation on the torture and molestation of a tribal girl at Battala village in Birbhum district. In May 2010, the victim was beaten up and paraded naked for 8 kms through the village for having an affair with a boy of different community. However, the incident came to light only on 8 August 2010 after a private television channel aired MMS footage. In its report to the Chief Minister, the Commission, among others, recommended an inquiry into the role of the police as the incident took place three months ago and rehabilitation of the victim. The victim had identified 12 persons but the police could arrest only six. [36]

On 11 August 2010, a woman identified as Rina Biwi was fined, tortured, her hair torn off and her hut burnt down because her son allegedly stole a goat at Nijpara village under Ratua police station in Malda district. One Firdous Sheikh in a complaint to the Panchayat (Village Council) alleged that the victim’s son had stolen his goat. The panchayat held the victim’s son guilty and decided to punish the victim by imposing a fine of Rs. 10,000 apart from the torture.  The entire incident allegedly happened in the presence of policemen. [37]

On 17 August 2010, a tribal woman Rukmini, 25 years, (name changed) and her brother-in-law Subal (name changed) were tortured after a kangaroo court held them guilty for having an alleged illicit relationship at Madarpara village in Burdwan district. A group of villagers barged into the house when Subal had come to the house to invite the family for a programme. The two were allegedly taken to the house of a CPM leader at Jadabgunj village where they were locked up for two days until the kangaroo court held them guilty of illicit relationship. They were tied to a tree, beaten up and both them were fined Rs.25,000. The victims were released after a police complaint filed by the father of the woman. [38]

On 12 September 2010, a kangaroo court forced a married woman identified as Selima Bibi (name changed) to do sit-up holding her ears in front of clapping villagers at Rajnagar village in Hariharpara in Murshidabad district. The so-called court declared that her divorce from her husband had not happened according to Islamic laws. The kangaroo court also imposed on her current husband and ordered the couple to leave the village of Rajnagar in Hariharpara in Mursidabad district. [39]

V. Violations of ESCRs

a. Violations of the right to work

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) provides that if a registered worker within 15 days of the receipt of the job application is not provided jobs, the government must pay the daily unemployment allowance. Majority of the States failed to provide the unemployment allowance to the workers registered under the NREGA over the past four years. Only few states including West Bengal provided the allowance that too only a fraction of the time they went jobless and the number of beneficiaries is too less. In West Bengal, only nine persons received the allowance. [40]

Further, the NREGA funds were embezzled in the state. In August 2010, a Block Development Officer (BDO) from South Dinajpur district was arrested while escaping with Rs 1 crore embezzled from funds under the NREGA. The BDO was fleeing after the fraud was exposed by Rafiqul Islam, the Karmadhyakshya of Panchayat Samiti, Harirampur, after an application under the right to information (RTI) Act seeking information on the projects. The BDO had allegedly embezzled funds under the NREGA by issuing 20 bearer cheques against false vouchers that showed records of development projects such as road repairs and digging of tanks that were never implemented. The BDO is the executive officer of the development schemes in his block and he is responsible for planning the projects and implements them through the local panchayats. [41]

b. Violations of the right to food

There were numerous cases of farmers’ suicide, among others, due to the lack of access to food. The state government had declared 11 districts drought affected in West Bengal. On 23 August 2010, State’s Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta visited Malda and announced Rs 10-crore package for the farmers but the benefit allegedly failed to reach the affected farmers. [42]

On 21 August 2010, Yunus Sheikh (45 years) committed suicide at Basantapur village in Ausgarm in Burdwan district. He took the extreme step allegedly due to the low paddy yield as a result of scanty rainfall, paucity of proper irrigation facilities and huge debt. [43]

On 22 August 2010, Jitu Bagdi (28 years), a sharecropper, committed suicide at Karotia village in Burdwan district. The deceased had failed to repay Rs. 10,000 borrowed from a moneylender in 2009 after suffering losses due to crop failure. The local administration refuted that the deceased died due to debt or scanty rainfall but because he was a drunkard. [44]

On 1 September 2010, Gosain Patra (32 years) committed suicide at Purbatotipara village in Ausgram in Burdwan district. The deceased’s relatives stated that the deceased committed suicide due to drought and debt. [45]

On 3 September 2010, the body of a farmer identified as Sushil Soren (22 years) was found after he went missing for the past 10 days from his home at Marali village in Malda district. The deceased’s family stated that the deceased committed suicide due to debt after his crops failed due to the drought. [46]

Endnotes:
1. NCPCR Letter No. F.No. WB-18013/15208/2010-Comp dated 14 July 2010
2. Ibid
3. I had nearly given up hope: Rouvanjit’s father, IBN Live, 4 October 2010 
4. La Martiniere Principal arrested, The Hindu, 5 October 2010
5. Boy smiles, teacher slaps, The Telegraph, 14 August 2010
6. Caned schoolboy loses his speech - Stress blamed for 12-year-old’s silence, The Telegraph, 1 September 2010
7. Joint complaint of Asian Centre for Human Rights and Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) to National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, 29 October 2010
8. Figures of Police Atrocities against prisoners reported to NHRC from 1 April 2006 to 28 February 2010, Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No 2001 Answered on 09.03.2010 
9. Joint complaint of Asian Centre for Human Rights and Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha to National Human Rights Commission, 4 August 2010
10. Joint complaint of Asian Centre for Human Rights and Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha to National Human Rights Commission, 29 September 2010
11. Complaint of Asian Centre for Human Rights to National Human Rights Commission,  13 September 2010
12. Joint complaint of  Asian Centre for Human Rights and Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha to National Human Rights Commission, 26 October 2010
13. Communication received from Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha
14. Figures of Police Atrocities against prisoners reported to NHRC from 1 April 2006 to 28 February 2010, Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No 2001 Answered on 09.03.2010
15. Communication received from Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha
16. Joint complaint of Asian Centre for Human Rights and Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha to National Human Rights Commission, 10 November 2010
17. Complaint of Asian Centre for Human Rights to National Human Rights Commission, 6 September 2010
18. Five jail staffers suspended for prison torture, The Times of India, 16 September 2010
19. 5 jail officials suspended for Dum Dum prisoner abuse, The Telegraph, 16 September 2010
20. SC notice to Bengal on Nandi cops, The Telegraph, 28 September 2010 
21. Maoists shoot dead father, son, The Telegraph, 21 July 2010
22. Rebels kill radio singer, The Telegraph, 16 July 2010
23. Maoists widen killing field, The Telegraph, 7 July 2010
24. Suspected Maoists kill pradhan, associate, The Hindu, 13 July 2010
25. Maoists in disguise kill leader tied to EFR shift, The Telegraph, 21 September 2010
26. Maoists execute 5 of family - Brothers shot for refusing to reveal CPM leaders’ addresses, The Telegraph, 14 September 2010 
27. 2 CPM leaders killed, The Telegraph, 2 September 2010
28. Rebel killings, The Telegraph, 17 August 2010 
29 . Rebel attack, The Telegraph, 5 August 2010
30. JMM leader killed by suspected Maoists, The Hindu, 14 July 2010 
31. Heavy rush of applications despite killings of teachers by Maoists, The Hindu, 30 September 2010 
32. Teacher killed in front of pupils ‘Maoist’ bullet for CPM link, The Telegraph, 5 September 2010 
33. Missing: 2500 girls in a year - Bengal data coaxed out by mom looking for daughter, The Telegraph, 18 September 2010
34. Suicide after cop ‘harassment’, The Telegraph, 12 August 2010 
35. Medical exam conducted on 6 women ‘raped’ by forces, The Indian Express, 9 July 2010
36. Women’s panel puts cops in the dock for tribal girl’s harassment, The Indian Express, 26 August 2010 
37. Woman thrashed, hut burnt after kangaroo court order, The Times of India, 12 August 2010
38. Tribal lady harassed after illicit affair slur, The Telegraph, 21 August 2010
39. Village ‘court’ forces sit-ups on lady, The Telegraph, 18 September 2010 
40. States fail on dole for jobless-Unemployment allowance to handful, The Telegraph, 28 September 2010
41. Babu caught with NREGS crores, The Telegraph, 14 August 2010
42. ‘Suicide’ by Malda farmer, The Telegraph, 4 September 2010
43. Drought-hit farmer kills self, The Telegraph, 22 August 2010 
44. Second farmer suicide in drought belt, The Telegraph, 24 August 2010
45. Farmer suicide after drought, girl birth, The Telegraph, 2 September 2010
46. ‘Suicide’ by Malda farmer, The Telegraph, 4 September 2010
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