Asian Centre for Human Rights

Dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia



I. Overview

The Communist Party of India (Marxists) has ruled West Bengal since 1977. The hanging of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, the rapist and killer of 14-year-old school girl Hetal Parikh at Alipore Central Jail on 14 August 2004 and the right to collective bargaining - the right to call bandh, general strike, that struck the political parties across the spectrum sought to eclipse other major human rights violations in the State.

The year 2004 started with the arrest of a member of Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR). Satyajit Banerjee, a police officer whose actions as the Officer-in-Charge of Karaya police station were described as “a blot on the police force” and his behaviour as “barbaric” by West Bengal State Human Rights Commission, was recommended to the President of India for the Indian Police Medal. [1] Although compensation was recommended in a few cases, most human rights violations went unpunished. Access to justice has been obstructed through technicalities at courts, doctoring of post mortem reports and intimidation and harassment of the victims, their relatives and human rights defenders.

Hunger and starvation deaths in Amlasole, West Midnapore that captured the news headlines in June and July 2004 were sought to be brushed aside by the proletariat government. Long years of neglect resulted in deep social discontent which in turn has become the breeding grounds of the Naxalites - the Maoists Communist Centre (MCC) and Peoples War Group (PWG). In the beginning of the year approximately 350 Border Security Personnel deployed in the Maoists’ heartland of Purulia, West Midnapore and Bankura were reportedly withdrawn in September 2004 for deployment in Manipur. [2]

The Maoists offered conditional talks [3] while the Left Front government reiterated that no talks would be held till they give up the path of violence. In July 2004, the state government launched a special operation against the Naxalites. On 23 September 2004, State Home Secretary claimed that 30 Naxalites had been arrested during the special operations. The State government also set up 27 camps of the security forces along the border with Jharkhand to counter the Naxalites. The Central government had sanctioned funds for raising two battalions of the India Reserve Battalion (IRB) Force with Rs 13 crore for each battalion to assist anti-militancy operations. One battalion is almost ready for deployment. [4] As an indication to the shape of atrocities to come, on 14 and 15 November 2004, West Bengal Police arrested six of these IRB trainees for violence against the civilians at Bidhan Nagar Government Housing area in Durgapur on the night of 13 November 2004. [5]

The State government continued its crackdown on the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) which reportedly recruited its first batch of armed cadres in December 2002 to espouse the cause of the Rajbangshi tribal community in North Bengal. According to Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee out of 166 KLO activists identified by the government, all except 35 had not been arrested. [6] Human rights organisations in the past reported that most suspected members of the armed opposition groups are charged with the most severe provisions of the Indian Penal Code such as sections 121, 121A, 122, 123 and 124A pertaining to ‘waging war against the state’, ‘gathering arms to wage war against the state’, ‘conspiring with foreign countries to wage war against the Indian state’, etc. These offences are punishable with life imprisonment and even the death penalty. [7]

The rights of the vulnerable groups continued to be violated. While children were caned despite the High Court ban on corporal punishment, women became victims of violence including rape by State Police, Central Security Forces and the Railway Protection Force. Human rights defenders, especially the members of the APDR faced the repression of the State government.

The armed opposition groups too committed abuses including violation of the right to life.

[1] . Police shock, The Statesman, 25 February 2004

[2] . BSF quit call in Naxalite belt, The Telegraph, 2 September 2004

[3] . Naxalites’ surprise talks offer catches CPM off guard, The Pioneer, 30 September 2004

[4] . Time not ripe for talks with naxals, says West Bengal, The Hindu, 24 September 2004

[5] . Lewd soldiers arrested, The Telegraph, 16 November 2004

[6] . Buddha to press for Dhaka rebel swoop, The Telegraph, 9 July 2004

[7] .