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Letter to National Human Rights Commission requesting ugent intervention in the case of targeting of Human Rights Activist Debaranjan Sarangi, Ganatantra Adhikar Suraksha Sangathan (GASS), Odisha

22 Aug 2015

The Chairperson,

National Human Rights Commission,

Manav Adhikar Bhawan,

Block-C, GPO Complex,

INA,

New Delhi, Delhi 110023

22 August 2015

Subject: Request for urgent intervention in the case of targeting of Human Rights Activist Debaranjan Sarangi, Ganatantra Adhikar Suraksha Sangathan (GASS), Odisha

Dear Madam/Sir

We seek to bring to your notice the grave human rights violations of Mr. Debaranjan Sarangi, a human rights defender and documentary filmmaker, currently associated with the Ganatantra Adhikar Suraksha Sangathan (GASS), by the Odisha security agencies. Mr. Sarangi has been the target of state monitoring and surveillance and has had false cases foisted against him, as a pretext for curtailing his activism relating to state violence and atrocities against adivasis in Odisha. As part of the process launched by the security agencies, a case has been registered against him at the Malkangiri Police Station and notice issued to him to be present at the PS on 23 August 2015. We offer below a sequence of events beginning from 8th-9th August 2015 in Malkangiri, to substantiate how Mr. Sarangi is being harassed.

Surveillance, Intimidation and Foisting of false cases against Debaranjan Sarangi

On 8 August 2015, Debaranjan Sarangi visited Malkangiri for two days to shoot a documentary film on the adivasi land rights struggle in Odisha. In the afternoon, he was visited by members of the security forces who insisted that he should come with them to the police station. On being asked for the warrant or a written document seeking his attendance at the police station, or to explain the reason behind such a demand, they failed to produce either. Debaranjan therefore refused to accompany them.

The next day, on 9 August, Debaranjan was tailed by members of the Special Branch of the Intelligence Department to the locations where he was shooting the documentary. These officials interrogated him about his involvement with human rights causes, his association with GASS and their activities, and the reason behind his visit to Malkangiri. Debaranjan faithfully responded to all their questions. He was then told by the officials that they had been informed of his plans to visit Malkangiri by the office of the Director General of Police three days prior to his arrival, and that he was under constant monitoring and surveillance by them.

Again in the evening, shortly before Debaranjan was to leave Malkangiri, he was visited by two women police officers in civilian clothes, demanding that he accompany them to the police station. They stated that a complaint of molestation had been filed against him earlier that day. The police officers were again unable to produce a copy of the FIR, or any warrant seeking his attendance at the police station. Accordingly, Debaranjan refused to accompany them to the police station, and left Malkangiri as planned.

Around midnight thereafter, members of security forces visited his place of accommodation in Malkangiri again. On discovering that Debaranjan had already left, they illegally detained the cameraperson who was accompanying him and another boy at the police station for a day. Since then, security forces have been harassing the local tribals who had given interviews to Debaranjan for his documentary, and the local teachers who had assisted him, in a bid to get further information on him.

Thereafter, on 16 August. he was served a notice by the SI Malkangiri Police Station to be present at the PS for interrogation as a case no. 95 dated 09.08.2015 has been registered against him u/s 294/241/323/354/354-B/506(ii) of IPC. And he has been directed to be present at the PS on 23 August for interrogation.

About Debaranjan Sarangi

Debaranjan Sarangi is a human rights defender who has been tirelessly campaigning for the human rights of Dalits and Adivasis in Odisha and Chhattisgarh, through his writings and documentary films. He has been associated with several human rights organizations and been a part of fact-finding missions on fake encounters, disappearances and police atrocities against tribals. Previously, Debaranjan was a member of a fact-finding team to Basaguda in 2012, in Chhattisgarh, where 17 people were killed by CRPF personnel. Debaranjan’s video of the fact-finding was submitted to the Judicial Commission of Inquiry instated to inquire into the incident, which later found that the firing was unprovoked. Debaranjan was also a member of the fact-finding team in 2013, on the killing of a tribal youth, Ganga Kirshani, by the BSF, on allegations of being a Maoist. This formed the basis of a petition by GASS before the State Human Rights Commission, where the Sub-Judicial Magistrate in his report to the SHRC confirmed that the youth was innocent.

In the light of Debaranjan’s sustained human rights activism in Odisha and Chhattisgarh, PUDR holds that:

  • The surveillance over Debaranjan’s movements and activities, and the glaring irregularities in the due process in the incidents of 8-9 August in Malkangiri, confirm the suspicions that the cases foisted against him are false, malicious and intended to intimidate and immobilize him. 
  • The foisting of Section 354 B IPC (criminal assault with the intention of disrobing a woman) in the absence of any substantiation whatsoever amounts to gross misuse of the provision by the Odisha Police.
  • These actions of Odisha security and police agencies constitute a violation of Debaranjan Sarangi’s fundamental right to personal liberty, and are intended to disable the exercise of his freedom of speech and dissent as a citizen of India. The surveillance over his movements and activities further infringe his fundamental right to privacy.
  • As persons who are involved in the promotion and protection of human rights and who demand state accountability for violations, human rights defenders such as Debaranjan Sarangi are at particular risk of reprisals and persecution by state agencies

 

PUDR is deeply concerned at the manner in which the Odisha security agencies have attempted to violate Debaranjan Sarangi’s guaranteed freedoms of speech and movement, and to take away the fundamental right to personal liberty without following the due process as established by law.

We, therefore, urge you to take urgent and necessary action in order to prevent such a false case being proceeded against him.

Thanking you

Yours sincerely

Sharmila Purkayastha, Megha Bahl

Secretaries, PUDR

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +919971179595, +919013292099

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