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India : BSF murders four teenagers and assault their parents for complaining

29 March 2012 : The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information from MASUM, concerning the case of gruesome murder of four teenagers by the Border Security Force at Harudanga Mini BSF Border Outpost Camp, near Golpak (a rivulet of Padma) situated at Nirmal Char under the jurisdiction of Ranitala Police Station, in West Bengal state. This incident reportedly happened on the intervening night of December 31 and 1 January.

On 25 March 2012 the BSF assaulted the children’s parents while they were returning from a medical camp organised by MASUM. This incident happened at Kaharpara BSF BOP, Company Head Quarter’s Outpost number 1 in the vicinity of the three-way-crossing at Kaharpara, Char Harudanga and Char Bansgara, near the iron bridge. It is reported that the BSF assaulted the children’s parents since they had dared to pursue the case of their children’s death with a formal complaint. It is disheartening to note the impunity with which the BSF operates along the Indo-Bangladesh border.

The two incidents is one more indication to the alarming fact despite some 300 similar cases brought against the BSF so far from the region, nothing has been done by the BSF management as well as the state or union government to address the entrenched impunity and the resultant moral and legal turpitude of the force. Having such a force mandated to protect the country’s border is in itself a threat to the country. Of the four boys murdered, three are from the Dalit community and one is a Muslim. The boys and their parents are Indian citizens.

 

CASE NARRATIVE:

AHRC-UAC-054-2012-02.pngMurder of the children: This incident happened on the intervening night of December 31 and January 1, 2012. The four boys are from the socio-economically marginalised section of the society and deprived off any form of assistance from the government. The children are: (1) Sunil Mondal, son of Mr. Nabadwip Mondal, aged 16 years, (2) Sukumar Mondal, son of Mr. Ramesh Chandra Mondal, aged about 15 years, (3) Babar Seikh, son of Mr. Nasidul Seikh, aged about 19 years, (4) Raju Mondal, son of Mr. Nimai Mondal aged about 17 years. Their families are victims of land erosion by river Padma and have lost their agrarian lands. They sustain lives working in their small pieces of land and earning some pittance as agricultural labourers.

On 31 December 2011, the boys went out from their houses reportedly on the pretext that they were participating in a new year celebration in the village. However what they were reportedly up to was take some cattle across the Indo-Bangladesh border to earn some money, illegally. It is reported that the boys gathered some 50 cows from Mr Dhananjay Mondal and Mr Sandip Mondal. They then tried to smuggle the cattle across the border at about midnight. The place they chose to take the cattle across was near Harudanga Mini BSF Border Outpost Camp, near Golpak (a rivulet of Padma) situated at a place called Nirmal Char.

At that time, it is reported that the BSF fired from a flare gun and in the light located the boys. The boys tried to hide inside the rivulet. The rivulet is nearly 2 kilometres inside the Indian territory, and is about 120 foot wide, about 12 feet deep and about 2 kilometres in length. BSF personnel from the Mini Camp rushed to the scene and reportedly surrounded the boys. A person named Tapas Mondal alias Bhenu Mondal, son of Panchanan Mondal of Char Durgapur village was also accompanying the children in their illegal trade.

It is reported that the BSF officers, estimated to be 30 in number surrounded the children. Tapas by then had suffered burn injuries from the flare gun shot and somehow managed to escape from the place. It is reported that the BSF then prevented the boys from coming out of the ice-cold water. Whoever tried were mercilessly beaten by the BSF and send back into the water. Soon from the injuries the boys sustained and from the shock of being in cold water all of them died at the spot.

One of the boys, Sukumar Mondal, had marks of blood oozing out through his ears and nostrils apart from the injuries he sustained from the assault. The marks of beating with sticks were all over the bodies of the deceased children. It is reported that the boys though were good swimmers like the children living near the river did not dare to swim away since they feared that they would be shot. It is suspected that the BSF left the bodies in the rivulet and left the scene.

On 1 January 2012 in the evening, the bodies of Sunil Mondal and Sukumar Mondal surfaced. The news spread like wildfire and the family members of the deceased children later identified their bodies. The villagers informed Ranitala Police Station about the incident and police came along with four or five BSF officers and brought the bodies to Ranitala Police Station at about 9 pm. Later, on 2 January 2012 at about 2 pm, the bodies of Babar Seikh and Raju Mondal surfaced and once again the Ranitala police brought the bodies to the police station. On 3 January the bodies were sent for post mortem examination at Lalbagh Sub Divisional Hospital. The post mortem examinations were done on two consecutive days, 3 January and 4 January.

The parents of the deceased boys made a written complaint about the incident on 27 January to the Superintendent of Police, Murshidabad. The complainants requested the police to investigate the incident and alleged in their complaints that the BSF is responsible for the murder of their children. The police however registered a case for unnatural death, vide Ranitala police station, Undetected Case numbered 1 and 2, dated 2 January 2012 for Sunil Mondal and Sukumar Mondal respectively and Undetected Case numbered 3 and 4, dated 3 January 2012 for Babar Seikh and Raju Mondal respectively. It is not known however, why the police cases are predated the complaints. When MASUM contacted Ranitala Police Station for the details of the incident, the police refused to divulge any information.

Assaulting the parents:

AHRC-UAC-054-2012-01.pngThis incident happened on 25 March 2012 when the parents of the deceased children were returning from Padma Bhaban at Jalangi after attending a medical camp organized by MASUM. After the camp they were on their way to home. From Sheikhpara they hired a three-wheeler van rickshaw of one Mr Sushil Mondal, son of Late Kalipada Mondal of Village- Harudanga, to reach homes. At about 5 pm, they were intercepted by four BSF personnel at Kaharpara BSF BOP Company Head Quarter’s Outpost number 1 in the vicinity of three way crossing Kaharpara-Char Harudanga and Char Bansgara, near the Iron Bridge.

The officers stopped the vehicle and started searching. They brought down the passengers and started indiscriminately beating them without any provocation. They tried to forcibly remove the dress from the women and verbally abused them in the filthiest language having sexual connotations. The BSF officers then threatened them by shouting at them that “you are making campaigns against BSF”. Then the officers called the BSF officer in-charge of Kaharpara BOP – Company Head Quarter from their mobile telephone. The officer in-charge came to the spot in a BSF vehicle, identified to be a Maruti Gypsy Van. This officer too assaulted the parents with a stick.

The victims were carrying visuals (printed flex board sheets) concerning MASUM’s programme. The officers snatched the visuals from Bhanubati (mother of deceased Sukumar Mondal) and dragged Mr. Baidyanath Mondal (farther of Subodh Mondal) to the BSF vehicle and brought him to the BOP. The BSF officers then tortured Baidyanath at the outpost. The officers slapped, punched and kicked Baidyanath at the outpost. After a couple of hours, the officers let him to go. The old man has reportedly lost his hearing from the beating.

MASUM’s Secretary, Mr Kirity Roy, who was on his way back to Kolkata from the venue of the medical camp came to know about the incident. He immediately informed the incident to the Superintendent of Police, Murshidabad District and to the Company Commander of the BSF, 91 Battalion via a short message sent from his mobile telephone at about 9.50 pm. On 26 March the parents received medical treatment and their injuries have been recorded. A written complaint about the incident was also lodged at the Raninagar Police Station. It is reported however, that no further actions have been initiated upon the complaint.

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and MASUM, for the past 10 years have been documenting cases of human rights abuses committed by the government agencies in West Bengal, including those committed by the West Bengal State Police, the BSF stationed along the Indo-Bangladesh border in West Bengal and the Joint Task Force that is mandated to operate in the allegedly Naxalite/Maoist affected areas of the state. So far MASUM has documented about 300 such cases. This include cases of custodial torture, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment; custodial rape; theft and corruption; cross-border smuggling of goods including that of cattle; and cases of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Out of this, 88 cases are of extrajudicial executions, documented between 2004 – March 2012. Out of these, 33 cases have been communicated to the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions seeking intervention by the AHRC. The cases documented by MASUM contain detailed narratives about the incident. These cases are also sent to authorities in India, calling for investigation and appropriate actions including the prosecution of the alleged perpetrators.

In most of these cases however, no credible action, including an independent investigation of the complaint by the government – state or central – has followed. In cases involving the Border Security Force (BSF) to the information of the ALRC/AHRC and that of MASUM, there was no independent investigation or prosecution of the accused officers as required in the Border Security Force Act, 1968 and its Rules, 1969. The unsatisfactory manner of dealing with cases by the NHRC and the State Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) is also summarised in this report.

The conclusion derived from the casework is the fact that the criminal justice machinery in India is in an appalling state. The limited opportunity to lodge complaints before appropriate authorities including the local police; the absence of an independent investigative framework and the despicable condition of forensic procedures, which is almost absent in most cases and situations; the inability of the prosecution due to its lack of quality, knowledge and capacity to undertake responsible prosecution of cases; the absence of witness protection architecture; the wide-spread practice of torture and the concept of rule by fear; court delays that often runs into decades has created an environment that is most congenial to nurture impunity in India, of which the state of West Bengal is no exception. All the above conditions add into the overall architecture of statutory impunity provided to armed forces like the BSF in cases such forces are involved.

All the above conditions culminate in denying the relatives of the victims their right to know the truth, seek and obtain justice, or to create any form of deterrence reasonably adequate to prevent future incidents of human rights abuses. What is visible is the travesty of justice and without addressing each one of its separate limbs, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions in India cannot be prevented.

In cases involving the BSF, often the identity of the officers involved are not known. In almost all cases involving the BSF, the pattern noticed is that the BSF registering a complaint at the local police station against the deceased, accusing the person having tried to attach the BSF officers. Instances are common where the BSF has shot dead children and later accused them of having tried to attack the BSF officers with a stick or a sickle. The local police readily accept the complaint, register a case against the deceased and close it since the accused is no more. Under pressure if the police accepts a complaint to records once the relatives of the deceased make it, at the most, the police registers a case for unnatural death and never undertakes an investigation. Instances where the police refuse to accept a complaint are common.

MASUM has assisted victims to approach the local courts to file private complaints. However, the alarming pattern recorded is that the courts refusing to register such complaints and dismissing them summarily accepting the contention of the BSF that cases against the BSF cannot be entertained in civilian courts as the BSF Act bars it.

 

Source : http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAC-054-2012

 

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