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  • West Bengal

    1. Overview.. 1
    2. Human rights violations by the security forces. 2
    a. Violations of the right to life. 2
    b. Arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture. 3
    3. Violations of international humanitarian laws by the AOGs. 4
    4. Violence against women. 5
    5. Violations of the rights of the Child. 5
    6. Violations of the rights of the tribals. 6
    7. Violations of the prisoners' rights. 6
    8. The conflict at Singur 7


    1. Overview

    Ruled by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), West Bengal continued to witness serious human rights violations especially by the State agencies.On 5 January 2006, Calcutta High Court stated that a “jungle raj” was prevailing in the State. Justice Girish Chandra Gupta while hearing a petition by Samsur Rahaman, a resident of Burdwan, stated “The state police will have to understand the difference between a jungle raj and a civil society. The manner in which police are allowing musclemen to torture law-abiding citizens, it seems we are living in a jungle raj”.[1]

    The armed opposition groups, particularly the Naxalites, were also responsible for violations of international humanitarian laws. The Naxalites targeted the activists of the ruling Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M).

    According to the estimate of Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), 22 persons were killed in the Naxalite conflict in the State during 2006 which included eight civilians, 10 security personnel and four alleged Naxalites.[2]  In June 2006, the State Government announced Rs 50-crore special allocation for underdeveloped rural areas of the State, including the Naxal-hit areas and a separate department for Paschimanchal development was created to expedite the implementation of poverty alleviation programme, but the department did not have its own budget.[3] Hence, it failed to address the situation.[4]

    The security forces, particularly the Border Security Forces (BSF) operating along the India-Bangladesh international border in West Bengal, were responsible for serious human rights violations including extrajudicial killings. The BSF personnel allegedly killed Mithun Sarkar (14), son of Nripendra Nath Sarkar, at Harudanga village under Raninagar police station in Murshidabad district on 28 June 2006,[5] Jabiur Hossain at Muslimpur village under Englishbazar police station in Malda district on 20 July 2006,[6] and Musaruddin Molla (17), son of Enamul Molla, near Taltala outpost-1 under Jalangi police station in Murshidabad district on 22 May 2006.[7]

    At least three persons were killed in the conflict over the acquisition of 997 acres of land for a proposed Tata Motors small car plant at Singur in Hoogly district to bring “industrial development of the State”[8] without the consent of the affected persons. On 30 November 2006, the West Bengal Government banned gatherings, meetings and processions at Singur.[9] On 2 December 2006, as many as 60 villagers, including women and minor girls, were arrested by the police when they tried to resist the barbed wire fencing of the project site. Many protestors were injured in lathi charge by the police. On 19 December 2006, Chief Minister ordered an inquiry by Central Bureau of Investigation into the alleged rape and murder of Ms Tapasi Malik, a member of the Krishi Jamin Bachao Committee which was spearheading the movement against the Tata Motors project.[10]

    By the end of December 2006, posts of six judges were lying vacant in the Calcutta High Court while there was vacancy of 140 judges in the District and Subordinate courts as of 30 September 2006. There was a huge backlog of  2,65,553 cases before the Calcutta High Court while a total of 20,52,038 cases were pending before the District and Subordinate Courts as of 30 September 2006.[11]  

    2. Human rights violations by the security forces

    The security forces were responsible for extrajudicial killings, including in custody, alleged encounters and in indiscriminate firing at protestors.

    a. Violations of the right to life

    The Border Security Force personnel operating along the India-Bangladesh international border in West Bengal perpetrated serious human rights violations including extrajudicial killings of innocent villagers in the border areas.

    On 28 June 2006, a 14-year-old boy identified as Mithun Sarkar, son of Nripendra Nath Sarkar, was allegedly killed by the BSF personnel of Outpost No. 2 of 136 Battalion under Kuthibari Camp at Harudanga village under Raninagar police station in Murshidabad district. The victim was held by the BSF personnel during an anti-cattle smuggling operation in the village. During interrogation, the victim was allegedly tortured and later shot dead on the charges that he was part of the cattle smugglers. On the other hand, the Officer-in-Charge of Raninagar police station, S. Bhattacharjee allegedly refused to lodge a First Investigation Report when approached by the victim's father, Nripendra Nath Sarkar.[12]

    The other victims included Jabiur Hossain who was shot dead by a BSF personnel identified as Bishnu Jha at Muslimpur village under Englishbazar police station in Malda district on 20 July 2006,[13]   and  a 17-year-old boy identified as Musaruddin Molla, son of Enamul Molla, who was allegedly tortured and then shot dead by the BSF personnel near Taltala outpost – 1 under Jalangi police station in Murshidabad district on 22 May 2006.[14]

    There were also reports of custodial deaths. On 26 March 2006, Robin Tudu, a schoolteacher, died in the district hospital in North Dinajpur district. He was arrested on 22 February 2006. While an inquiry was ordered into the circumstances of Tudu's death, his wife alleged that he was tortured to death in the lock-up.[15]

    b. Arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture

    Arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture were also reported. On the morning of 20 May 2006, BSF personnel allegedly picked up a 10-year-old boy identified as Nazimul Sheikh, son of Nasif Sheikh, a farmer, while he was returning from school and beat him up at their camp at Chapra in Nadia district. The villagers found the boy in an unconscious state in a bush off a road 150 km from Calcutta on the evening of 20 May 2006. The boy, who was a student of Class V, had to be admitted to Chapra block hospital and later shifted to Shaktinagar Hospital after his condition deteriorated. Although Nazimul Sheikh was carrying schoolbooks, the BSF officials claimed that the boy was picked up mistaking him to be son of a cattle smuggler, who was part of a gang of smugglers from whom the BSF personnel had seized a number of cattle. The doctors at Shaktinagar hospital reportedly stated that Nazimul Sheikh suffered both internal and external injuries and his condition was critical.[16]

    Many were killed in use of fire-arms. On 12 April 2006, a woman identified as Tulsi Das, daughter of Mr. Sukdeb Das, was reportedly killed on the spot and another seriously injured when Sub-Inspector Kali Prasad Banerjee of Salar police station fired from his service pistol at a mob without warning at Daspara under Salar police station in Murshidabad district.[17]

    3. Violations of international humanitarian laws by the AOGs

    The armed opposition groups were responsible for violations of international humanitarian laws. On 26 February 2006, four persons – the driver, a helper, a home guard and a constable – were killed and six others were injured when the Naxalites blew up a police van at Naakrachhara in Belpahari in West Midnapore.[18]

    The Naxalites targeted alleged police informers. After killing a CPI-M leader identified as Kartick Singh at Lalgar in West Midnapore district on the night of 4 March 2006, the Naxalites reportedly tied Kartick Singh's dead body to a palm tree in the Jhitka forest and left behind a note at the spot which read as “death sentence was awarded to the police agent”.[19]

    Similarly, alleged Naxalites killed two workers of the CPM identified as Gumai Tudu and Jaladhar Mahato on the charges of being police informers at Dangardihi area of West Midnapore district on the night of 8 March 2006.[20]

    The activists of the ruling CPI-M were specifically targeted. The political party activists killed by the Naxalites included a CPM local committee member identified as Chhoti Mahato at Lalgarh in West Midnapore district on 2 July 2006;[21] CPM activist Anil Mahato and his bodyguard Dinesh Baskey who were dragged out of a bus and shot dead at Joypur in West Midnapore district;[22] and  a CPI-M activist identified as Dipak Mahato, who was killed in Birghosa forest near Bhimpur under Salboni Police Station in West Midnapore on 26 December 2006.[23]

    4. Violence against women

    The National Crime Records Bureau recorded a total of 11,887 cases of violence against women which represent 7.6 per cent of the total cases of violence aganist women in India during 2005. These included 1,686 rape cases, 1,039 kidnapping/abduction cases, 446 dowry death cases etc.

    Women continued to faced societal violence. On 6 June 2006, a woman identified as Purnima, wife of Ramashis Rabidas, was reportedly stripped and her hair cut off when she protested against a group of people who were allegedly running a prostitution racket at Idrakpur 30 kilometers from Balurghat, the headquarters of South Dinajpur district. When Ramashis Rabidas went to Purnima's rescue, he was tied to a tree and beaten up. The police arrested three persons identified as Gopal Saha, Bapi Saha and Bani Mondol out of the seven accused named by the victim in her complaint.[24]

    The people who were targeted and thrown out of their village on the charges of being practitioners of black magic seldom received protection from the police. On 1 September 2006, 15 members of a family headed by Haridasi Sardar were attacked and drove away from their village under Ranaghat police station in Nadia district at the orders of a witch doctor, who held the family responsible for continued illness of the villagers. The victim family was not allowed to carry anything with them. Homeless and hungry, the family members sought shelter and protection from the officials of the Ranaghat police station but they were driven away by the police officers without arrangement of alternate shelter and protection. On 3 September 2006, the victimised family took shelter outside the Ranaghat block-I development office.[25]

    5. Violations of the rights of the Child

    Corporal punishment were rampant. In May 2006, an 11-year- old deaf-mute boy identified as Subrata Biswas, son of Judhisthir, was reportedly forced to do 300 sit-ups by the village panchayat chaired by Sambhu Mondal at Kumar village in Nadia district on the charges of attempting to rape a minor girl. The panchayat also imposed a fine of Rs 2,000 on the boy's father, Judhisthir. The boy fainted after the punishment and had to be admitted to Kumar Block Hospital. He was shifted to Shaktinagar district hospital in Krishnagar on the night of 26 May 2006. The village panchayat imposed the penalty without verifying the charges alleged by Bablu Mondol, father of the girl. Earlier, the police had not acted on the complaint lodged by the girl's father against the boy as the charge was neither confirmed by the girl nor the medical report.[26]

    Trafficking of children remained a problem. On 16 January 2006, two Nepalese citizens identified as Karan Lama and Naresh Lama, were caught by members of an NGO, Kanchenjungha Udhar Kendra at Naxalbari for their alleged involvement in trafficking of girls from North Bengal and Nepal to Delhi, and handed over to the police of Naxalbari police station. But the police allegedly refused to arrest the traffickers.[27]

    6. Violations of the rights of the tribals

    The National Crime Records Bureau recorded 12 cases of atrocity against the tribals in the State during 2005, which included seven rape cases, three cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act etc.  

    Apart from hunger and denial of the right to health, housing and other social, economic and cultural rights, the tribal peoples were also victims of cultural cruel practices. They were killed on the charges of practicing “witchcraft” or “black magic”. On the night of 22 March 2006, an elderly tribal couple - Gobindo Soren and wife Chhani – was burnt to death by residents of Kendrapukur village under Habibpur police station in Malda district allegedly for practising witchcraft. The couple was sleeping in their hut which was reportedly set on fire.[28]

    On 7 June 2006, a 18-year-old tribal girl, a resident of the Kamlapur tea estate under Phansidewa police station in Darjeeling district, was allegedly gang raped by four unidentified boys at Gulma. Medical tests reportedly confirmed rape. On 9 June 2006, the victim recorded her statement before the magistrate court in Siliguri.[29]

    On 20 August 2006, a tribal woman identified as Anchala Pramanick died at Namopara village under Belpahari police station in West Midnapore district after going without any food for almost a week. According to the family members of the deceased, there was nothing to eat in the house and even other members of the family were surviving on water.[30]

    7. Violations of the prisoners' rights

    Jails in West Bengal were renamed as “Correctional Homes” with effect from 14 April 2000 in order to paint a rosy picture of the state of affairs of the jails in the State.                 According to the State Government, West Bengal had 19,348 prisoners against the sanctioned capacity of 19,722 prisoners as of December 2005. Of the total prisoners, 74.6% were under-trial prisoners (14,445). The population of female prisoners was 1,598 including 1,048 under-trials.[31]

    On 17 March 2006, 52 undertrials incuding 47 activists of Kamtapur Liberation Organisation, four Maoists and one cadre of United Liberation Front of Asom  started hunger strike in Jalpaiguri Central Jail demanding, among others, speedy trial of their cases and grant of status of political prisoner.[32]

    There were reports of death in judicial custody. On 7 March 2006, Sagar Saha, a convict, allegedly hanged himself from a mango tree in the premises of the Jalpaiguri Central Jail. A suicide note was reportedly found on him.[33]

    On the night of 7 August 2006, an under-trial prisoner identified as Dilip Modak of Dinhata jail died at the sub-divisional hospital in Dinhata. The family members of the deceased alleged that he was beaten to death. However, Sub-Divisional Officer of Dinhata Kajal Banerjee stated that the deceased had fallen ill in the jail and was declared “brought dead” at Dinhata sub-divisional hospital. A magisterial inquiry was ordered.[34]

    On 26 November 2006, an under-trial prisoner identified as Surya Limbu alias Souden, a Nepali citizen, allegedly hanged himself inside the Siliguri jail. Limbu, son of Kal Bahadur Souden of Jhapa district in Nepal, was arrested on 24 November 2006 for his alleged involvement in a scuffle. The Superintendent of the jail, Sudipta Chakraborty stated that the deceased used  his trousers and shirt to hang himself.[35]

    8. The conflict at Singur

    The Special Economic Zones have been turned into “Special Eviction Zones” with the State Governments allotting prime agricultural lands to manufacture. The conflict in Singur under Hoogly district began over land acquisition for proposed Tata Motors' small car manufacturing project. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee justified the land acquisition for the Tata project in the name of “industrial development of the State”.[36]

    The State Government claimed that most of the land acquired was wasteland. But a report released by a committee of Singur-based organisations investigating the Singur unrest said wasteland constituted less than 60 acres out of 997 acres allocated by the government.[37]

    In May 2006, the TATA Motors, an Indian multinational company, proposed to the West Bengal Government for setting up a small vehicles factory in the state and asked the State Government to provide 1000 acres land in Hooghly district, alongside the new Durgapur Expressway and near Kolkata. Desperate to bring in investments, the CPI (M) government accepted the TATA's demand readily without considering the proposal. The State Government acquired 997 acres of farmland in five villages of Gopalnagar, Beraberi, Bajemelia, Khaser Bheri and Singher Bheri in Singur under Hoogly district under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 without consulting the local bodies. Reportedly, less than 27 percent of the 11,000 odd landowners had been willing to give their land while those who had acquiesced were either not living in Singur or had done so fearing coercion by the government and the ruling party. Fearing loss of their fertile farm land, the only source of their livelihood, the farmers who have been permanently residing in these villages spontaneously got together to launch a resistance movement under the banner of ‘Krishijami Raksha Samiti' (Association for the Protection of Agricultural Land).[38]

    The Singur area turned into a battlefield. On 7 November 2006, the West Bengal Government started deploying huge contingents of armed police and the Rapid Action Force and setting up camps at several places in the area.[39] On 30 November 2006, the West Bengal Government banned gatherings, meetings and processions at Singur.[40]

    On 2 December 2006, as many as 60 villagers, including women and minor girls, were arrested by the police when they tried to resist the barbed wire fencing of the project site. The police resorted to indiscriminate lathicharge, used rubber bullets and shelled tear gas on the villagers, majority of whom comprised of women and children. A large number of villagers were injured, some of them critically and were undergoing treatment.

    The conflict gained momentum following the recovery of the burnt body of an 18-year-old girl identified as Tapasi Malik at the site of the proposed Tata car plant on 18 December 2006. The victim was reportedly a member of the Krishi Jamin Bachao Committee which was spearheading a movement against the land acquisition in Singur. Trinamool Congress alleged that the victim was raped and burnt by men guarding the controversial land.[41] Following strong protests, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee ordered a CBI inquiry into the alleged rape and murder of Tapasi Malik on 19 December 2006.[42]

    The situation worsened following alleged murder of two other persons identified as Tinkari Dey and his wife Maya whose bodies were recovered from the site of the Tata project on 28 December 2006.[43] By the year's end, the stalemate continued.



    [1]. HC rap for 'jungle raj' - Burdwan police refuse to accept extortion complaint, The Telegraph, 6 January 2006 

    [2]. "Naxal Conflict in India", Asian Centre for Human Rights, 10 January 2007 

    [3]. At gun-point, crores for hungry villages, Telegraph, Kolkata, 24 June 2006 

    [4]. Buddha's sops to cops fighting Maoists, The Pioneer, 24 June 2006 

    [5]. UA-225-2006: INDIA: 14-year-old Mithun Sarkar becomes the latest victim of Border Security Forces' killings, Asian Human Rights Commission, 10 July 2006, http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2006/1840/ 

    [6]. BSF jawan kills villager, The Telegraph, 21 July 2006 

    [7]. UA-184-2006: INDIA: Border Security Forces torture then kill a 17-year-old boy, Asian Human Rights Commission, 8 June 2006, http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2006/1773/ 

    [8]. Buddhadeb justifies land acquisition for Tata project, The Hindu Business Line, 1 November 2006, http://www.blonnet.com/2006/11/01/stories/2006110102181100.htm

    [9]. Bengal Govt bans protests at Singur, The Hindu Business Line, 1 December 2006, http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2006/12/01/stories/2006120105470100.htm

    [10]. CBI to Probe Singur Murder, The Asian Age, 20 December 2006 

    [11]. Court News, October - December 2006, Supreme Court of India

    [12]. UA-225-2006: INDIA: 14-year-old Mithun Sarkar becomes the latest victim of Border Security Forces' killings, Asian Human Rights Commission, 10 July 2006, http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2006/1840/ 

    [13]. BSF jawan kills villager, The Telegraph, 21 July 2006 

    [14]. UA-184-2006: INDIA: Border Security Forces torture then kill a 17-year-old boy, Asian Human Rights Commission, 8 June 2006, http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2006/1773/ 

    [15]. Custody death, The Telegraph, 28 March 2006 

    [16]. BSF beats up 10-year-old, The Telegraph, 23 May 2006 

    [17]. UA-136-2006: INDIA: Irresponsible firing by Salar police kills a woman and injures a man in Simulia, Murshidabad district, West Bengal, Asian Human Rights Commission,  25 April 2006, http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2006/1686/

    [18]. Maoists miss target, kill 4, The Telegraph, 27 February 2006, http://www.telegraphindia.com/archives/archive.html

    [19]. Maoists kill CPM men in Midnapore, Bankura, The Statesman 6 March 2006 

    [20]. Maoists in women vendetta, The Telegraph, 10 March 2006 

    [21]. Murder in Maoist hotbed, The Telegraph, 3 July 2006 

    [22]. Maoists kill CPI(M) leader in West Bengal, The Times of India, 20 September 2006 

    [23]. CPI-M activist shot dead by Maoists, life affected in bandh, The Kashmir Times, 28 December 2006 

    [24]. Woman bears protest brunt, The Telegraph, 9 June 2006 

    [25]. 'Witch' family thrown out of police station, The Telegraph, 4 September 2006 

    [26]. Boy sentenced to 300 sit-ups after rape slur, The Telegraph, 29 May 2006

    [27]. Cops refuse to arrest 'girl-traffickers', The Telegraph, 20 January 2006 

    [28]. Tribal duo burnt to death, The Telegraph, 24 March 2006 

    [29]. 18-yr-old tribal girl raped, The Telegraph, 10 June 2006 

    [30]. Death after living on water for seven days, The Telegraph, 23 August 2006 

    [31]. http://www.westbengalprisons.org/rightsprisons.html

    [32]. 52 undertrials on fast in Jalpaiguri Central jail, The Sentinel, 20 March 2006 

    [33]. Suicide puts jail security under scanner, The Telegraph, 8 March 2006 

    [34]. Undertrial dies in Dinhata jail, The Telegraph, 9 August 2006 

    [35]. Undertrial hangs self within 24 hours - Second case in two years, first from Nepal, The Telegraph, 27 November 2006 

    [36]. Buddhadeb justifies land acquisition for Tata project, The Hindu Business Line, 1 November 2006, http://www.blonnet.com/2006/11/01/stories/2006110102181100.htm

    [37]. Busted: West Bengal govt's claims, Rediff news, 25 December 2006, http://www.rediff.com/news/2006/dec/25singur.htm

    [38]. Atrocities at Singur, India: A matter of rights of the dispossessed, Review: 144/06, Asian Centre for Human Rights, 6 December 2006 

    [39]. Atrocities at Singur, India: A matter of rights of the dispossessed, Review: 144/06, Asian Centre for Human Rights, 6 December 2006 

    [40]. Bengal Govt bans protests at Singur, The Hindu Business Line, 1 December 2006, http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2006/12/01/stories/2006120105470100.htm

    [41]. Rape and killing in Singur, The Central Chronicle, 19 December 2006 

    [42]. CBI to Probe Singur Murder, The Asian Age, 20 December 2006 

    [43]. In Singur, furore over elderly couple's death, The Indian Express, 29 December 2006  

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