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HRDA India exposes UP Police’s tactics to muzzle voice of human rights defender Raja Bhaiyya

The HRD had allegedly worked with an Aaj Tak journalist to expose how women were being sexually exploited in the Karwi mines in UP

Sabrangindia 21 Jul 2020

Image Courtesy:navbharattimes.indiatimes.com

Human Rights Defenders’ Alert (HRDA) India has written to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) regarding the illegal detention, inhumane treatment, abuse, intimidation and threats to human rights defender Raja Bhaiyya by the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Chitrakoot, Ankit Mittal and the Circle Officer (CO) of Sadar police station and the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of Chitrakoot.

HRDA India said that Raja Bhaiyya had been accused of accompanying and being the source of an Aaj Tak journalist who was reporting about the alleged sexual exploitation of women and girls in Uttar Pradesh’s Banda district.

Human Rights Defenders and journalists, especially in Uttar Pradesh have become routine targets of the administration in previous years. From anti-CAA protestors like Sadaf Jafar, ex-IAS officer SR Darapuri, Mohammed Shoaib and journalists like Siddharth Vardarajan and Prashant Kanojia among others, the UP administration has constantly aimed at muzzling any voice that exposes the social rot in the state with violence, threats and intimidation to life and property. Now, the illegal detention of Raja Bhaiyya is just another example to which the state authorities will go to stop HRDs from reporting heinous incidents of violence against women in the state. The crackdown on HRDs has significantly increased during the coronavirus lockdown and increasing evidence of the police moving away from required protocol for detention has also emerged during this phase.

Chain of events

On July 11, three days after Aaj Tak had telecast a show on the alleged sexual exploitation of women and girls working in the Karwi mines at Chitrakoot, Raja Bhaiyya was picked up from his NGO Vidhyadham Samiti in Atarra by policemen who entered the office without permission. The policemen told Raja Bhaiyya that they were from the Bharatkoop police station and had come on orders of the Chitrakoot SP, who had summoned him.

Raja Bhaiyya was not given any reason, notice or warrant for being summoned and was reportedly forcefully placed in the car “like a criminal” and presented at Chitrakoot SP Ankit Mittal’s office. HRDA said that once he was there, he was asked questions which were aimed at establishing that he was the source of the story done by the journalist.

HRDA India wrote, “SP Mr. Mittal asked Mr. Raja Bhaiyya questions like, 'Who went with Mausami Singh? (Aaj Tak reporter who did the story). Why did he go to Dafai? Why did he come to Chitrakoot? Was he the source who told the journalist and took her to the area?' All questions were aimed at establishing his source of the news story done by the journalist on the exploitation of local women. Mr. Raja Bhaiyya replied that he knows Ms. Mausami Singh since the past 5 years and she came to the region for a story and accompanied her to the Bharatkoop area since he goes there frequently. However he was not aware of what story she was filing because she talked to the women in that area without his presence. SP Mr. Mittal intimidated and threatened HRD Mr. Raja Bhaiyya that he will file a case against him under the SC/ST Act and the POCSO Act and that he is a criminal.”

Raja Bhaiyya was then ordered to be put in a lockup. Fifteen minutes later, he was called back to the SP’s office, where the SP shouted at him and accused him of lying stating that his photo was in the video which proved that he had accompanied the journalist. Even though he clarified once again that he hadn’t accompanied the journalists while she was taking the interviews, he was threatened of physical torture (ulta latka doonga) and asked to be taken away by the policeman and torture him with “a hunter”.

HRDA India said that Raja Bhaiyya was treated like a criminal at the Sadar police station where without any seizure document, his wallet and mobile were taken away and he was put in a lockup with other detained persons. Not only this, the CO of Sadar also allegedly accused Raja Bhaiyya of having intimate physical relations with the journalist and threatened him that his wife would be informed about it. Raja Bhaiyya was verbally abused and humiliated by the CO and other policemen who refused to listen to his clarifications. He was not given any food, was not allowed to go to the toilet and not allowed to call anyone for help as well.

The next day on July 12, at around 3 AM, the station in-charge asked Raja Bhaiyya to write that ‘he knew journalist Ms. Mausami Singh and she came here to report on how government schemes are reaching people. He accompanied her to Dafai, Bharatkoop but he had no knowledge about the news story that she had filed. He too found out about her story only when he saw the TV,’ HRDA India said.

Mr. Raja Bhaiyya wrote as directed, as this was the only way he would be released and was threatened with cases under the SC/ST Act and POCSO. He was released from lockup only at around 2 PM on July 12, 2020 – more than 24 hours of illegal detention. After this, he was repeatedly approached by various local authorities for a statement in the matter of the Aaj Tak report. However, Raja Bhaiyya said that he would only respond to an official summon and soon he received a letter from the Chitrakoot SDM for an inquiry who too asked him the same questions and said that ‘his inhumane treatment and detention by the police was valid as he was a liar’.

Police action obstructs work of HRDs and journalists

Given the treatment of Raja Bhaiyya by the police, HRDA India said that the actions of the district administration and the police in this case were heinous, arbitrary and illegal. They especially showed that they were more interested in finding the source of the story instead of investigating the actual crime of the alleged sexual exploitation of women.

HRDA India also said that the illegality of the interrogation exposed the malignant intention of the police – to create obstructions in the work of HRDs and journalists and also raised a question of the freedom of speech of HRDs in the state. The police action, HRDA India said, was violative of Article 19 of the Constitution, NHRC guidelines and also of the DK Basu judgement as the illegal detention and interrogation hindered the work of the HRD and journalists and muzzled their right to free speech and expression.

Therefore, HRDA India has appealed the NHRC to –

1.       Direct an independent team (with members of the NGO core group, if possible) to investigate the matter since the SP and SDM of Chitrakoot were directly involved.

2.       Direct the DGP of Uttar Pradesh to submit urgently with the NHRC the CCTV footage of SP Chitrakoot office for July 11, 2020, and Sadar Police Station for July 11, 2020 and July 12, 2020.

3.       Direct the DGP of Uttar Pradesh to submit urgently with the NHRC the vehicle logs of Bharatkoop police station and Sadar police station for July 11, 2020 and July 12, 2020.

4.       Direct the DGP of Uttar Pradesh to take urgent action against Chitrakoot SP Mr. Ankit Mittal, Circle Officer Sadar Police station Mr. Rajneesh Kumar Yadav and immediately suspend them for their illegal actions and misuse of power.

5.       Direct the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh to take urgent action against the Chitrakoot SDM for knowing about the illegal actions of the police on Mr. Raja Bhaiyya by the police, holding it valid and refraining from initiating any action.

6.       Preserve the life and liberty of Mr. Raja Bhaiyya by urgently ordering the police and administration of Chitrakoot to desist from threatening, harassing or torturing him further.

The complete statement by HRDA India may be read below.

Related:

Human Rights Defenders’ Alert India asks NHRC to step in to probe Meeran Haider’s arrest
Webinar on rise in Human Rights violations in UP during lockdown

HRDA India exposes UP Police’s tactics to muzzle voice of human rights defender Raja Bhaiyya

The HRD had allegedly worked with an Aaj Tak journalist to expose how women were being sexually exploited in the Karwi mines in UP

Image Courtesy:navbharattimes.indiatimes.com

Human Rights Defenders’ Alert (HRDA) India has written to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) regarding the illegal detention, inhumane treatment, abuse, intimidation and threats to human rights defender Raja Bhaiyya by the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Chitrakoot, Ankit Mittal and the Circle Officer (CO) of Sadar police station and the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of Chitrakoot.

HRDA India said that Raja Bhaiyya had been accused of accompanying and being the source of an Aaj Tak journalist who was reporting about the alleged sexual exploitation of women and girls in Uttar Pradesh’s Banda district.

Human Rights Defenders and journalists, especially in Uttar Pradesh have become routine targets of the administration in previous years. From anti-CAA protestors like Sadaf Jafar, ex-IAS officer SR Darapuri, Mohammed Shoaib and journalists like Siddharth Vardarajan and Prashant Kanojia among others, the UP administration has constantly aimed at muzzling any voice that exposes the social rot in the state with violence, threats and intimidation to life and property. Now, the illegal detention of Raja Bhaiyya is just another example to which the state authorities will go to stop HRDs from reporting heinous incidents of violence against women in the state. The crackdown on HRDs has significantly increased during the coronavirus lockdown and increasing evidence of the police moving away from required protocol for detention has also emerged during this phase.

Chain of events

On July 11, three days after Aaj Tak had telecast a show on the alleged sexual exploitation of women and girls working in the Karwi mines at Chitrakoot, Raja Bhaiyya was picked up from his NGO Vidhyadham Samiti in Atarra by policemen who entered the office without permission. The policemen told Raja Bhaiyya that they were from the Bharatkoop police station and had come on orders of the Chitrakoot SP, who had summoned him.

Raja Bhaiyya was not given any reason, notice or warrant for being summoned and was reportedly forcefully placed in the car “like a criminal” and presented at Chitrakoot SP Ankit Mittal’s office. HRDA said that once he was there, he was asked questions which were aimed at establishing that he was the source of the story done by the journalist.

HRDA India wrote, “SP Mr. Mittal asked Mr. Raja Bhaiyya questions like, 'Who went with Mausami Singh? (Aaj Tak reporter who did the story). Why did he go to Dafai? Why did he come to Chitrakoot? Was he the source who told the journalist and took her to the area?' All questions were aimed at establishing his source of the news story done by the journalist on the exploitation of local women. Mr. Raja Bhaiyya replied that he knows Ms. Mausami Singh since the past 5 years and she came to the region for a story and accompanied her to the Bharatkoop area since he goes there frequently. However he was not aware of what story she was filing because she talked to the women in that area without his presence. SP Mr. Mittal intimidated and threatened HRD Mr. Raja Bhaiyya that he will file a case against him under the SC/ST Act and the POCSO Act and that he is a criminal.”

Raja Bhaiyya was then ordered to be put in a lockup. Fifteen minutes later, he was called back to the SP’s office, where the SP shouted at him and accused him of lying stating that his photo was in the video which proved that he had accompanied the journalist. Even though he clarified once again that he hadn’t accompanied the journalists while she was taking the interviews, he was threatened of physical torture (ulta latka doonga) and asked to be taken away by the policeman and torture him with “a hunter”.

HRDA India said that Raja Bhaiyya was treated like a criminal at the Sadar police station where without any seizure document, his wallet and mobile were taken away and he was put in a lockup with other detained persons. Not only this, the CO of Sadar also allegedly accused Raja Bhaiyya of having intimate physical relations with the journalist and threatened him that his wife would be informed about it. Raja Bhaiyya was verbally abused and humiliated by the CO and other policemen who refused to listen to his clarifications. He was not given any food, was not allowed to go to the toilet and not allowed to call anyone for help as well.

The next day on July 12, at around 3 AM, the station in-charge asked Raja Bhaiyya to write that ‘he knew journalist Ms. Mausami Singh and she came here to report on how government schemes are reaching people. He accompanied her to Dafai, Bharatkoop but he had no knowledge about the news story that she had filed. He too found out about her story only when he saw the TV,’ HRDA India said.

Mr. Raja Bhaiyya wrote as directed, as this was the only way he would be released and was threatened with cases under the SC/ST Act and POCSO. He was released from lockup only at around 2 PM on July 12, 2020 – more than 24 hours of illegal detention. After this, he was repeatedly approached by various local authorities for a statement in the matter of the Aaj Tak report. However, Raja Bhaiyya said that he would only respond to an official summon and soon he received a letter from the Chitrakoot SDM for an inquiry who too asked him the same questions and said that ‘his inhumane treatment and detention by the police was valid as he was a liar’.

Police action obstructs work of HRDs and journalists

Given the treatment of Raja Bhaiyya by the police, HRDA India said that the actions of the district administration and the police in this case were heinous, arbitrary and illegal. They especially showed that they were more interested in finding the source of the story instead of investigating the actual crime of the alleged sexual exploitation of women.

HRDA India also said that the illegality of the interrogation exposed the malignant intention of the police – to create obstructions in the work of HRDs and journalists and also raised a question of the freedom of speech of HRDs in the state. The police action, HRDA India said, was violative of Article 19 of the Constitution, NHRC guidelines and also of the DK Basu judgement as the illegal detention and interrogation hindered the work of the HRD and journalists and muzzled their right to free speech and expression.

Therefore, HRDA India has appealed the NHRC to –

1.       Direct an independent team (with members of the NGO core group, if possible) to investigate the matter since the SP and SDM of Chitrakoot were directly involved.

2.       Direct the DGP of Uttar Pradesh to submit urgently with the NHRC the CCTV footage of SP Chitrakoot office for July 11, 2020, and Sadar Police Station for July 11, 2020 and July 12, 2020.

3.       Direct the DGP of Uttar Pradesh to submit urgently with the NHRC the vehicle logs of Bharatkoop police station and Sadar police station for July 11, 2020 and July 12, 2020.

4.       Direct the DGP of Uttar Pradesh to take urgent action against Chitrakoot SP Mr. Ankit Mittal, Circle Officer Sadar Police station Mr. Rajneesh Kumar Yadav and immediately suspend them for their illegal actions and misuse of power.

5.       Direct the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh to take urgent action against the Chitrakoot SDM for knowing about the illegal actions of the police on Mr. Raja Bhaiyya by the police, holding it valid and refraining from initiating any action.

6.       Preserve the life and liberty of Mr. Raja Bhaiyya by urgently ordering the police and administration of Chitrakoot to desist from threatening, harassing or torturing him further.

The complete statement by HRDA India may be read below.

Related:

Human Rights Defenders’ Alert India asks NHRC to step in to probe Meeran Haider’s arrest
Webinar on rise in Human Rights violations in UP during lockdown

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