India: Cease harassment of human rights defender Malini Subramaniam

William Nicholas Gomes strongly condemns the attack on the home of Malini Subramaniam and the continuing attempts to intimidate and harass the human rights defender, which are believed to be solely motivated by her legitimate and peaceful activities in the defence of human rights in the Chhattisgarh state.

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Nanredra Damodardas Modi
Nanredra Damodardas Modi
Nanredra Damodardas Modi

Mr. Shri Nanredra Damodardas Modi,
Prime Minister of India, Prime Minister’s Office,
Room number 152, South Block,
New Delhi, India.
Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857.
E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in / manmo@sansad.in

Your Excellency,

I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human rights defender and Freelance journalist.

On 8 February 2016, the home of human rights defender Ms Malini Subramaniam in Jagdalpur city was attacked by unknown assailants. The attack follows months of harassment of the human rights defender by the government and police authorities of Chhattisgarh state.

Malini Subramaniam is a journalist and correspondent for the news website Scroll.in, actively reporting on human rights violations taking place in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh state. During the last year, Malini Subramaniam has conducted investigations into arrests and torture of journalists by police, as well as allegations of sexual violence by security forces.

On 8 February 2016, Malini Subramaniam spent several hours at one of the local police stations in Bastar district in an attempt to file a complaint for the attack on her home that occurred earlier on the same day. The complaint was eventually accepted, however the chief police officer of Jagdalpur city, Mr Deepmala Kashyap, refused to accept the First Information Report (FIR) on the incident provided by the human rights defender. He claimed that no FIR could be filed without approval of the district chief police officer, who was not in his office on that day. As there was no officially approved FIR, the police took no action to investigate the case of Malini Subramaniam or to ensure her protection.

Early in the morning of 8 February 2016, Malini Subramaniam’s home in the Jagdalpur city was attacked by unknown people, who threw stones at her house, shattering the window glass of the human rights defender’s car which was parked outside.

In the evening of 7 February 2016, another incident of harassment of the human rights defender took place. A group of approximately twenty people gathered in front of Malini Subramaniam’s residence, shouting slogans accusing the human rights defender of being a supporter of the Naxalite–Maoist insurgency and demanding that she be put to death. The mob’s aim was to agitate neighbours of Malini Subramaniam against her, and provoke an attack by them on the human rights defender. Malini Subramaniam identified several participants in the protests as representatives of local political groups and government agencies, as well as members of the Samajik Ekta Manch, a Jagdalpur-based forum formed to counter Naxalism, a radical movement of the far-left in Bastar and support the work of the police in the area.

Late on 10 January 2016, representatives of the Samajik Ekta Manch visited Malini Subramaniam at her house, and subjected her to multiple rounds of questioning concerning her work as a journalist. Police have also interrogated the human rights defender on many occasions, both at her home and at police stations. Scroll.in has tried to take these instances of intimidation of Malini Subramaniam to the attention of the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister, Mr Raman Singh, but he has never provided a formal response and only threatened the human rights defender.

The harassment of Malini Subramaniam is part of a larger crackdown on activists, lawyers and journalists standing up against abuses committed by police in the Bastar district. Previously, investigations into human rights violations in the area were rare, as a result of significant restrictions on people’s freedoms imposed in view of the long drawn-out military confrontation between government forces and Maoist rebels in the region.

I strongly condemn the attack on the home of Malini Subramaniam and the continuing attempts to intimidate and harass the human rights defender, which I believe to be solely motivated by her legitimate and peaceful activities in the defence of human rights in the Chhattisgarh state.

I urge the authorities in India to:

1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the attack on the house of Malini Subramaniam, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

2. Immediately cease all further harassment of Malini Subramaniam, as Front Line believes that the human rights defender has been interrogated by police on numerous occasions solely as a result of her legitimate work in defence of human rights;

3. Take immediate steps to ensure the protection of the physical and psychological integrity of human rights defender Malini Subramaniam;

4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in India are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

Sincerely,

William Nicholas Gomes

Human Rights Defender &  Freelance Journalist

Twitter @wnicholasgomes

Email: william@williamnicholasgomes.com

www.facebook.com/williamnicholasgomes

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