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Police Detains Bengal’s Human Rights Defender and Beats in Custody

Courtesy: Maps of India

“Human Rights Defender Mr. Azimuddin Sarkar of West Bengal was allegedly detained, and then viciously beaten by police”, according to Front Line Defenders. Azimuddin is the District Human Rights Monitor of Howrah-based human rights NGO ‘MASUM’.

On 21 November 2014, human rights defender Mr Azimuddin Sarkar was detained during the night by local police at his home in the village of Bardhanpur, Murshidabad district, West Bengal. Following his detention, he was viciously beaten in custody.

Azimuddin Sarkar works as a District monitor for Banglar Manabadhikar Surakksha Mancha (MASUM) human rights group. He is currently involved in reporting abuses, which include mistreatment, violence and torture, committed by the local police and Border Security Forces in Murshidabad district, West Bengal. He also campaigns against torture and mistreatment in detention. He has recently faced a number of threats from the local police, civil administration and the Border Security Force for his human rights work.

Azimuddin Sarkar was detained by the local police on charges of alleged misuse of his passport, in violation of section 12 of India’s Passport Act 1967. On 5 June 2013 the police opened a criminal case against him. However, the human rights defender has never been outside of India and does not have a passport. Reportedly, he was not aware of the criminal charges against him. The criminal case was initiated after an accused smuggler, who was detained by the Border Security Forces and later handed over to Raninagar Police Station, made a statement in which he claimed that Azimuddin Sarkar and his colleague Kirity Roy, the secretary of MASUM, told him to smuggle goods to Bangladesh. Human rights defenders suspect that local police cooperated with the alleged smuggler to falsify criminal charges against the human rights defender.

On 22 November 2014, the day after his detention and vicious beating, Azimuddin Sarkar was brought to the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Court in the Murshidabad district. During the court hearing, Azimuddin Sarkar’s lawyer requested that his client be released on bail. As the lawyer stated, the human rights defender was assaulted, abused and mistreated in police custody.

The court upheld the lawyer’s request and granted the human rights defender bail. The court also ruled to carry out a medical examination of Azimuddin Sarkar under the supervision of the court’s Inspector of General Record Office. Following the ruling, the medical officer of Lalbagh subdivisional hospital examined Azimuddin Sarkar and advised hospitalisation, as the human rights defender appeared to have fractured ribs, reportedly the result of the beating that the human rights defender received while in detention.

According to colleagues of the human rights defender, “blood is oozing from the mouth of Azimuddin Sarkar at Lalbagh Subdivisional hospital. After three days [following the detention], an X Ray was done of his chest and back”. At the time of writing, the human rights defender remains hospitalised and, according to his colleagues, he is not even able to stand up. Reportedly, the local police are pressuring the hospital to discharge Azimuddin Sarkar. His bed has been given to another patient and he has reportedly been moved onto the floor of the hospital.

On 23 November 2014, Azimuddin Sarkar’s son filed a complaint to the local Police Superintendent urging them to carry out an investigation into his father’s beating in detention. A year ago, on 16 September 2013, Azimuddin Sarkar had previously been assaulted while interviewing a victim of suspected police torture. For more information please visit Azimuddin Sarkar’s page on the Front Line Defenders website.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in India to:

  1. Immediately drop the charges against human rights defender Mr Azimuddin Sarkar;

  2. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the beating of Mr Azimuddin Sarkar, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

  3. Take the necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Azimuddin Sarkar as well as ensuring his access to adequate medical treatment;

  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.

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