The State of Human Rights Defenders
Human rights defenders in India continued to face persecution from State and non-State actors. The risk has become more acute.
Many of the State Governments have been misusing the national security laws against the human rights defenders. They were arbitrarily arrested and detained on the charges of being involved in anti-national activities. Even after their release by the courts, the State governments filed fresh cases to detain them further.
On 26 October 2006, Habel Koloi, Chairman of Borok Peoples Human Rights Organization of Tripura was arrested and charged with terrorism under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967 as amended in 2005 and waging war against the State, among others. After having been granted bail by the courts in all these charges, the authorities slapped him with detention notice under the National Security Act. He was not released by the end of 2006.
Earlier, in August 2006, Yengkokpam Langamba Meitei alias Thabi, the Publicity Secretary of the Threatened Indigenous People's Society (TIPS) and Mr Leitangthem Umakanta Meitei, General Secretary of TIPS were arrested without warrant and later on charged under sections 38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967. They were accused of being members of the banned AOG, Kanglei Yawol Kana Lup (KYKL). Both the activists were tortured in custody. They were given bail which they refused to accept stating that they were innocent and should be released unconditionally. On 4 October 2006, both of them were released and all charges against them were dropped.
In Maharashtra, the State Government continued to harass human rights defenders. On 3 January 2006, anti-slum demolition activist Rajkumar Kishanlal Awasthi was arrested in Mumbai under the Maharashtra Prevention of Slumlords, Bootleggers, Drug Offenders and Dangerous Persons Order, 1981 for demanding proper rehabilitation of the oustees due to the Mumbai Urban Transport Project funded by the World Bank. He was earlier arrested on 14 October 2005 under a false charge of “accepting money” and was released on bail after spending 14 days in police custody.
The Orissa government lodged several false cases against tribal activists opposing the TATA steel plant at Kalinga Nagar.
Similarly, many false cases have been filed against the leaders of the Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh.
The armed opposition groups (AOGs) also targeted the human rights activists through issuing threats, abductions and even killings them. On 27 June 2006, Takhellambam Menaka Devi, Secretary of the Wangoo Meira Paibi, a women's organization was killed by alleged cadres of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) after kidnapping from her home at Wangoo in Bishenpur district of Manipur. The PLA reportedly claimed that she was punished for working as an informer for the Assam Rifles.
Earlier, on 16 January 2006, 78-year-old Rev. Dr Tongkhojang Lunkim, Chairman of Kuki Movement for Human Rights was abducted from his home in Imphal, Manipur by the Kuki Liberation Army (KLA). The KLA later clarified that Dr Lunkim was not abducted but merely summoned for a talk. Yet, Dr Lunkim was released only on 18 March 2006, after two months of captivity.
On 9 June 2006, Elvis Chorkey, President of Mizoram Bru Displaced Persons Forum was abducted by Bru Liberation Front of Mizoram (BLFM) cadres at Santipur under Kanchanpur police station. He was released on 30 June 2006.
Apart from the AOGs, the human rights activists also faced threats from the vigilante groups. In Chhattisgarh, the anti-Naxalite Salwa Judum activists often targeted the civil society activists or journalists. In Andhra Pradesh too, the human rights activists constantly live under threats from the anti-Naxalite vigilante groups consisting mainly of former Maoists.
In the name of establishing accountability, the Central Government introduced the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Bill 2006 in the Rajya Sabha on 18 December 2006. NGOs extensively commented on the Bill and unanimously held that it is not in conformity with India's liberalisation policies; and it contradicts with India's role for promotion of democracy in other countries though contribution to the United Nations Fund for Democracy or its intervention for restoration of democracy in Nepal.
In addition, foreign contribution received by the NGOs is quite insignificant considering the amount of funds disbursed by the Government of India and the State Governments to NGOs and voluntary organizations in the country. There are several existing legislations to address the concerns of the Ministry of Home Affairs with regard to possible misuse of foreign funds.
The Foreign Contribution Regulation Bill does not address the measures needed to be taken to improve functioning of the NGOs irrespective of whether they are funded by the Government of India / State Governments or overseas funding agencies.
. UA-278-2006: INDIA: Two human rights activists illegally arrested and tortured in Manipur, Asian Human Rights Commission, 25 August 2006, http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2006/1928/
. Amnesty International India: Further information on Fear for safety/ torture, 4 September 2006
. Amnesty International, AI Index: ASA 20/028/2006, 11 October 2006
. Email communication to ACHR from National Alliance of People's Movements, 10 January 2006
. National Alliance Of People's Movements, Press Note/ Appeal, 6 January 2006
. PLA admits to killing woman, The Telegraph, 4 July 2006
. Dr Lunkim's case taken up by Yairipok police, The Sangai Express, Imphal, 15 February 2006
. Dr Lunkim released unharmed after two months in captivity, The Kanglaonline, 10 March 2006
. Bru rebels abduct Bru leader, The Newslink, 13 June 2006
. BLFM release hostage on Peace Day, The Newslink, 4 July 2006