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Asian Human Rights Commission - Urgent Appeals

Asian Human Rights Commission - Urgent Appeals

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding a brutal attack causing grievous injury and bodily harm to a senior journalist, Mr. Aribam Chaoba Sharma of the Imphal Free Press. It is reported that the Commander of a team of officers from the Indian Reserve Battalion are responsible for the assault.

CASE NARRATIVES:

According to information received by the AHRC the brutal assault took place at around 11:30pm on 10 February at Northern Gate of the Kangla Fort, perpetrated by a group of officers from the Indian Reserve Battalion. The leader of the group and the perpetrator of violence is a Havildar, who has been called by the acronym M.M. and the group is codenamed 'Whiskey 8'.

Sharma, is a senior reporter with the Imphal Free Press. On 10 February Sharma was returning home from work on his motorcycle. The offices of the Imphal Free Press is located near Imphal East and on the return journey at around 11.30 p.m. when Sharma was passing the north side of the bridge near Kangla Fort, the officers flashing torchlight beckoned him to stop.

The assault had started with the officers asking Sharma for his identification documents, which he had produced, after which they had questioned him as to where he was from and where he was travelling to, for which Sharma had politely and truthfully replied to.

He had specifically replied to the officers that he is a journalist for the Imphal Free Press and that he had been working in this profession for almost a decade and that he was returning home after work.

In this instance another officer had appeared and ordered that Sharma lie down on the ground on the street and this he had refused. The officer whose was later revealed as a Havildar, then ordered Sharma to produce his identification document again. The officer looked at the document and threw it on the ground threatening Sharma in an abusive manner by saying “so you think just because you are a media person, that you can do anything you please?” Sharma replied that he was just travelling home and he had done nothing wrong, and therefore asked why he should be made to lie down on the street.

The Hawildar then threatened Sharma stating that he is a relative of the Cabinet Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Abdul Naser and demanded that Sharma lie down on the street and even threatened to shoot Sharma if he refused.

Sharma, had then, although in shock, and in fear of being tortured, or harmed bodily, replied to the Havildar that, he is a civilian and he is entitled to his rights and since he had done nothing wrong there was no reason to be treated as he was. This retort by Sharma was according to him not taken so well by Havildar who had been enraged and had then threatened to shoot Sharma.

Immediately after the Havildar launched his brutal attack on Sharma, first grabbing him by his collar, and tried to pushing him down onto the street, virtually manhandling him onto the ground in full view of three other security personnel who did nothing nor responded to the brutal assault. The Havildar then continued to beat Sharma, and started beating him with full force over the head, Sharma's forehead and face with the radio set, until blood started to gush out of his injuries on his forehead.

Sharma pleaded with the officers to give him some first-aid or to take him to the medical clinic, which was nearby. The officers made no attempt to do so and left Sharma lying there on the street, in the dark and continued to threaten him, saying they will kill him if he reports this incident to the police, the media or to the Trade Unions. Sharma recalls later that one officer had thrown a band-aid (medicated plaster) on over his wounds, which did nothing to stop the bleeding.

Sharma remembers after a long period of time sitting there, bleeding from his wounds after the assault, the Imphal police arriving at the scene. He had no recollection of how the 'Whiskey 8' officers had called the Imphal police in the aftermath, and he recalls that the officers informed the police that they had caught a petty thief. Imphal police seeing that Sharma's wounds were serious and that it was still bleeding took him to the hospital where Sharma received treatment and around 4 stitches to his open gash on the forehead.

Sharma revealed to the AHRC that the Imphal police too had identified the perpetrator as a Havildar and that he is called by his initials M.M. However, the Imphal police have refused to divulge any further information about the perpetrator to Sharma.

AHRC learnt that the group of officers belonging to the IRB had been posted near the Kangla checkpoint, which is a historical area in Manipur. Sharma also revealed to the AHRC that this group of officers have been referred to by the nickname 'Whiskey 8' perhaps due to being intoxicated on duty, and that the leader of the group, the Havildar, had been suspended from active duty several times for misconduct.

The AHRC was informed that this brutal and arbitrary attack on a senior journalist whilst being heavily condemned by the All Manipur Working Journalists Union journalist, the Union will also be taking legal action against the perpetrators for gross violation of human rights in carrying out this unwarranted and brutal attack which is seen as a threat to free media in Manipur. Sharma has also lodged a formal complaint against the Havildar with the Imphal Police.

AHRC also learnt that officers of the IRB, police officers and paramilitary police have, on many other occasions, deliberately and without any reason attacked journalists in the area. Manipur is an area where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, is implemented and this incident is yet another proof of its misused.

Speaking to reporters, the President of the All Manipur Working Journalists' Union, Mr. Wangkhemcha Shyamjai said that the matter is a serious threat to the media. The AHRC also supports the Union’s initiative to pursue legal action to bring the perpetrators to justice and commends the efforts by the AMWJU to communicate this brutal attack, on a senior journalist to the Press Council of India (PCI), Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and North East India Federation of Journalists (NEIFJ) in order to bring to light the impunity with which security personnel abuse powers vested in them to deprive basic fundamental rights of people in Manipur, powers which in contrast should rightly be used to protect the rights of all citizens in Manipur.

Kindly write to the authorities quoted below expressing your concern in this case, demanding and that the perpetrators of this brutal assault on a senior member of the press in Manipur are brought to justice and that the victim is accorded with just compensation.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the concerned authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case.
The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression calling for an intervention in this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ................,

INDIA: Drunken soldiers brutally assault a journalist in Manipur

Name of the victim: Mr Aribam Dhanajoy alias Chaoba, aged 40 years, S/0 Aribam, Priyogopal, resident of Thangmeiband Lourung Purel Leikai Imphal West District, Manipur
Alleged Perpetrators: Personnel from the 1st Indian Reserve Battalion
Date of incident: 10 February 2014
Place of incident: Northern gate of Kangla Fort, Imphal, Manipur

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing to you to express concern about the assault and injuring of a senior journalist, by officers from 1st Indian Reserve Battalion, stationed in Imphal, Manipur state. It is reported that the attack upon the journalist was without provocation and that the officers are notorious for being under the influence of alcohol whilst on duty. The Hawildar in command of the officers involved in this incident has been in the past suspended from active duty due to drinking while on duty.

According to information received by the AHRC the brutal assault took place at around 11:30pm on 10 February at Northern Gate of the Kangla Fort, perpetrated by a group of officers from the Indian Reserve Battalion. The leader of the group and the perpetrator of violence is a Havildar, who has been called by the acronym M.M. and the group is codenamed 'Whiskey 8'.

Sharma, is a senior reporter with the Imphal Free Press. On 10 February Sharma was returning home from work on his motorcycle. The offices of the Imphal Free Press is located near Imphal East and on the return journey at around 11.30 p.m. when Sharma was passing the north side of the bridge near Kangla Fort, the officers flashing torchlight beckoned him to stop.

The assault had started with the officers asking Sharma for his identification documents, which he had produced, after which they had questioned him as to where he was from and where he was travelling to, for which Sharma had politely and truthfully replied to.

He had specifically replied to the officers that he is a journalist for the Imphal Free Press and that he had been working in this profession for almost a decade and that he was returning home after work.

In this instance another officer had appeared and ordered that Sharma lie down on the ground on the street and this he had refused. The officer whose was later revealed as a Havildar, then ordered Sharma to produce his identification document again. The officer looked at the document and threw it on the ground threatening Sharma in an abusive manner by saying “so you think just because you are a media person, that you can do anything you please?” Sharma replied that he was just travelling home and he had done nothing wrong, and therefore asked why he should be made to lie down on the street.

The Hawildar then threatened Sharma stating that he is a relative of the Cabinet Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Abdul Naser and demanded that Sharma lie down on the street and even threatened to shoot Sharma if he refused.

Sharma, had then, although in shock, and in fear of being tortured, or harmed bodily, replied to the Havildar that, he is a civilian and he is entitled to his rights and since he had done nothing wrong there was no reason to be treated as he was. This retort by Sharma was according to him not taken so well by Havildar who had been enraged and had then threatened to shoot Sharma.

Immediately after the Havildar launched his brutal attack on Sharma, first grabbing him by his collar, and tried to pushing him down onto the street, virtually manhandling him onto the ground in full view of three other security personnel who did nothing nor responded to the brutal assault. The Havildar then continued to beat Sharma, and started beating him with full force over the head, Sharma's forehead and face with the radio set, until blood started to gush out of his injuries on his forehead.

Sharma pleaded with the officers to give him some first-aid or to take him to the medical clinic which was nearby. The officers made no attempt to do so and left Sharma lying there on the street, in the dark and continued to threaten him, saying they will kill him if he reports this incident to the police, the media or to the Trade Unions. Sharma recalls later that one officer had thrown a band-aid (mediacated plaster) on over his wounds, which did nothing to stop the bleeding.

Sharma remembers after a long period of time sitting there, bleeding from his wounds after the assault, the Imphal police arriving at the scene. He had no recollection of how the 'Whiskey 8' officers had called the Imphal police in the aftermath, and he recalls that the officers informed the police that they had caught a petty thief. Imphal police seeing that Sharma's wounds were serious and that it was still bleeding took him to the hospital where Sharma received treatment and around 4 stitches to his open gash on the forehead.

Sharma revealed to the AHRC that the Imphal police too had identified the perpetrator as a Havildar and that he is called by his initials M.M. However, the Imphal police have refused to divulge any further information about the perpetrator to Sharma.

AHRC learnt that the group of officers belonging to the IRB had been posted near the Kangla checkpoint, which is a historical area in Manipur. Sharma also revealed to the AHRC that this group of officers have been referred to by the nickname 'Whiskey 8' perhaps due to being intoxicated on duty, and that the leader of the group, the Havildar, had been suspended from active duty several times for misconduct.

The AHRC was informed that this brutal and arbitrary attack on a senior journalist whilst being heavily condemned by the All Manipur Working Journalists Union journalist, the Union will also be taking legal action against the perpetrators for gross violation of human rights in carrying out this unwarranted and brutal attack which is seen as a threat to free media in Manipur. Sharma has also lodged a formal complaint against the Havildar with the Imphal Police.

AHRC also learnt that officers of the IRB, police officers and paramilitary police have, on many other occasions, deliberately and without any reason attacked journalists in the area. Manipur is an area where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, is implemented and this incident is yet another proof of its misused.

Speaking to reporters, the President of the All Manipur Working Journalists' Union, Mr. Wangkhemcha Shyamjai said that the matter is a serious threat to the media. The AHRC also supports the Union’s initiative to pursue legal action to bring the perpetrators to justice and commends the efforts by the AMWJU to communicate this brutal attack, on a senior journalist to the Press Council of India (PCI), Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and North East India Federation of Journalists (NEIFJ) in order to bring to light the impunity with which security personnel abuse powers vested in them to deprive basic fundamental rights of people in Manipur, powers which in contrast should rightly be used to protect the rights of all citizens in Manipur.

I therefore request you to:
1. Undertake an independent investigation in the case;
2. That a judicial magistrate records the statement of the victim;
3. That the Government of Manipur pays all expenses to the victim for his treatment, which is to be realised by the IRB from the perpetrator;
4. That the perpetrator officers are immediately suspended from service;
5. And the officers put to a civilian trial in a criminal court and not proceeded by regular Court Martial, since the offense alleged against them is not of such nature that the officers have committed whilst in discharge of their legitimate duties.

Yours sincerely,

-----------------------------------------------
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Okram Ibobi Singh
Chief Minister of Manipur
New Secretariat Building
Bapupara, Imphal, Manipur
INDIA


2. Director General of Police
PHQ Imphal Manipur
795001 Imphal, Manipur
INDIA


3. Chief Secretary, Manipur
Old Secretariat Building
Bapupara, Imphal, Manipur
INDIA

4. Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission of India
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi-110001
INDIA

Thank you.

ends

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