Monday, December 21, 2009

Countering violence, promoting peace in South Asia



4410 Verda Lane NE, Keizer, OR 97303, USA


Countering violence, promoting peace in South Asia

Pritam K. Rohila, Ph. D.

Growing intolerance, extremism, and violence in South Asia, but particularly in Pakistan & Afghanistan, must be a source of great concern to all those who desire peace and prosperity in South Asia.

Just condemning these evils or arguing with their perpetrators will not help stem them. However justified, blaming foreign interventions, colonialism, inept governments, and unfair social structure will not work either.  Participating in peace rallies and vigils, cross-border peace delegations and conferences will also be ineffective, since the major source of these threats lies within rather than from across our borders.

While our governments try to put out the wildfires of hate and violence which are engulfing our nations, peace workers need to urgently adopt a long-range, but sustained strategy to safeguard the rest of our assets and to protect the future our nations.

In each nation, we need to help build a culture of peace. We should train our children to become good members of their families, schools and neighborhoods, and good citizens of their countries. We should teach them respect for the rights of others, cooperative ways to solve problems, and the art of empathetic negotiation to settle difference. We should help them learn to respect for nonviolence, tolerance, harmony, peaceful coexistence.


Dr. Rohila is the Executive Director of the U.S.-based ACHA, the Association for Communal Harmony in Asia and he can be reached at

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dainik Jagran E- Paper - city. Local news from 37 locations on Dainik Jagran Yahoo! India E-paper

Dainik Jagran E- Paper - city. Local news from 37 locations on Dainik Jagran Yahoo! India E-paper

Police Tyranny in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh:a letter from Varanasi,India

Dear Mr. Raman Singh,
Greetings from PVCHR.
I am Lenin Raghuvanshi,founder and convenor of Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights(PVCHR) and alumni of UP Degree college as well as life member of old student association of UP college.
I am forwarding the open letter of Alban Toppo,which is recieved through Kamayani Bali Mahabal.It is serious concern in the context of rule of law,participatory democracy and non-violence.
Please ensure an appropriate action.
with warm regards,


I am a fresh lawyer coming from a tribal family of Jashpur, Chhattishgarh. I finished my law graduation in year 2008, got enrolled with Chhattisgarh Bar Council and started working for poor and underprivileged. For which I had a commitment since my college days. I started learning basics of human rights litigation at Delhi office of Human Rights Law Network and very recently had come to Chhattisgarh to do research for right to food case which is going on in Hon'ble Supreme Court of India and for this. I went to Dantewada, and met Mr. Himanshu Kumar, Director of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, who has done some study on this issue and taking information, his advice and guidance. I was also providing some legal assistance to him during my stay in Dantewada.

On 10 December, 2009 at about 2:30 P.M. the Thana Incharge (TI) of Bhairamgarh Police Station Mr. K.S. Nand in civil uniform came to the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) situated at Katiyarraas accompanied by approximately more than 25 SPO's in 5 cars. Director of VCA, Shri Himanshu Kumar and few other volunteers of VCA were present. I was also present there. TI spoke to Himanshu Kumar about taking Kopa Kunjam, s/o Lacchu Kunjam, resident of village Alnaar, Block – Geedam, P.S. Dantewada, who is a volunteer of VCA stating that they need him for some interrogation by the Superintendent of Police. He said, "SP Sahab ne bulaya hai, kuch puch tach karni hai". No notice was served for this. However on being asked by Himanshu Kumar to give some written notice about it, the TI Bhairamgarh immediately wrote on a piece of paper that, "Prati, Kopa Kunjam ! Apse thana Dantewada me kuch poonch thanch karna chahta hoon. Kripya ap mere sath sadar P.S. kotwali chalein." (I want to do some investigation with you at Dantewada Police Station. Please come with me to P.S. Kotwali). Being an Advocate present at the spot, I thought it to be my duty to accompany VCA Volunteer Kopa Kunjam to Dantewada police station. With the consent of Himanshu Kumar, Director-VCA I went alongwith Kopa Kunjam. At Dantewada police station we were asked to sit down. After making both of us wait for about half an hour, we were asked to come and sit in a vehicle . Thinking that we were being taken to the S.P. Office, we sat in the vehicle. As vehicle proceeded, I introduced myself to the IT Bhairamgadh saying that I am an advocate, having done my law course from Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur and am associated with Human Rights Law Network. When the vehicle crossed Dantewada, we became suspicious and asked as to where we were being taken now, to which TI, Bhairamgarh, replied, "Kopa Kunjam is now being taken to Beejapur District". Kopa Kunjam refused to go further as he was not informed about being taken to Beejapur earlier. I also objected to it, stating that the police should follow necessary procedures under the law and should act as per guidelines of the Supreme Court and that they cannot take Mr.Kopa to Beejapur without giving any notice in this regard. By this time Kopa Kunjam came out from the Bolero vehicle and I also got out of the vehicle. The TI along with 2 others got hold of Mr.Kopa and with the help of around 15 S.P.O's bundled Mr. Kopa into another vehicle which was also coming along with them. When I again resisted to such behavior saying that it was illegal to behave in this manner, two S.P.O.'s started abusing and slapping me and bundled me also inside the car. Before being bundled into car, I somehow managed inform my senior Lawyer, colleagues and friends in Delhi about this incident. Noticing this two SPOs, started slapping and beating me and tried to snatch my mobile and, but I didn't give my mobile, but after this they force me inside the car and did not allow me use the mobile phone.
At about 5 P.M., we reached Bhairamgarh police station. The IT, Bhairamgadh asked me to give my mobile phone and also asked to switch it off and we were asked to sit there inside the police station. We were kept at a place inside police station with two S.P.O. keeping an eye on us. At about 8 p.m. we were taken for dinner in a nearby Hotel, from where we came in 15-20 minutes. At about 8:45 P.M. the officials of Bhairamgarh police station called me inside a room and tried to ask about the reason of me deciding to accompany Mr.Kopa. About three minutes later TI of Bhairamgarh started addressing me in an extremely rude and disrespectful manner and soon became violent and abusive. He started abusing me with slur and offensive language, which was followed by beatings with a thick bamboo stick and with a hard rubber cane, continuously slapping me while pulling my hair and kicking severely. After sometime he went out and started beating Kopa Kunjam. Kopa Kunjum was brought into the same room and both of us were beaten severely for 30 minutes by the TI Mr. Nand and an assistant constable Banjara, while some 15 other police staff & S.P.Os surrounded both of us. TI Mr. Nand also said that " No Advocate in Bastar dares to speak in my presence and you talk a lot. Now show me how much you can talk! Show me how much law you know?" Later I was taken to a separate room and was questioned about the purpose of my stay in Dantewada and association with VCA. At around 10 PM, I listened someone saying that , "Sala Bada Admi hai , Delhi se Sahab ka phone aya hai." Soon after this I was asked to write in a paper that I was brought to Bhairamgadh and as it has become late evening and there is no mode of transport and since the area is a very sensitive and unsafe, I decided to spend the night at Bhairamgarh station, where I am safe. In Bhairamgadh Police Station, they said that that Himanshu is a Naxalite and whoever is working with Himanshu is a naxalite and who stays with Himanshu it a Naxal supporter.
Mr. Kopa was very badly beaten and had received serious injuries on his chest, back and leg, due to which he was even unable to walk and sleep properly. I have got injuries on front portion of elbow of right hand, biceps and back causing severe pain and swelling. I was even not able to move my hands and back due to severe pain. I spend whole of night shivering and in pain, speculating what next is to happen.
On 11 December, 2009 at 9:30 a.m. I was send to Dantewada police station accompanied by 4 S.P.O.'s in a vehicle and one head constable of Bhairamgarh police station, while Mr. Kopa was kept detained. When they reached Dantewada Police Station, two volunteers of VCA were called and I was handed over to them.
After being released, next date day, I went to Ambedkar Hospital, Raipur to get a medical examination done, however I was asked make a compliant before the police and I was informed that the police will come after I make the complaint and then MLC will be conducted in the presence of police. I thought of going back to Dantewada to lodge the F.I.R. but because I was scared of being implicated in any false case this time, I did not go there.
However, being very much concerned about the trend of even lawyers not being allowed to function freely and being beaten up like this, I have no other option except to write this open letter-cum-appeal addressed to every body so that the issue could be taken up by the society itself. I have been subjected this kind of brutality for working for poor and powerless. It is against law, against democracy and even against morality to do this to an advocate. If such kind of treatment is given to young lawyers who want to work towards a better society, young generation will loose hope.

Kindly take appropriate step against those who have abused power vested in them to beat and insult me in this gruesome manner and help restoring the faith of young people in the democracy and rule of law.

Yours Sincerely

Alban Toppo

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Open letter to Prime Minister of India and Member of Parliament in India


Greetings from PVCHR and Wide Angel.

The Government of India has been actively considering amendments to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). In this regard, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Amendment Bill 2009 has been listed for discussion during the ongoing winter session of the Parliament.

Pertinently the proposed amendments have not been placed in the public domain for a discussion on the same. Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) and NATT alliance member Wide angle from Manipur  would like to urge that AFSPA should be repealed in totality and no part of it should be inserted in any other legislation of the country.

The AFSPA grants special powers to the armed forces of the union to operate in the States of Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura,Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh since 1958, and in Jammu Kashmir since 1990. Once an area is declared 'disturbed' under this Act, the armed forces of the union can arrest and detain citizens without warrant, search and destroy properties without warrant, and even use force to the extent of killing citizens on mere suspicion.

Civil society groups in these regions as well as human rights groups outside the regions have documented gross violations of human rights under this Act and have been demanding its repeal. Ms. Irom Sharmila, a Manipuri poet, has created history as she enters the tenth year of her indefinite hunger strike against the Act, despite several attempts by the state to forcibly feed her. She has been uncompromisingly demanding the repeal of this draconian law.

· India: Please take immediate action to save the life of the Female Human Rights Defender in Manipur, India.

· Thanks from the mothers of Manipur to you
· PVCHR actions against torture in Manipur torture-in.html

· Open letter in the matter of Manipur


We wrote the open letter to Shri Rahul Gandhi for repeal of AFSA on 2 August 2009.Please visit:

My personal experience in two times visits to Manipur, I gaze the behaviour of the military and the police with the common people and I also witnessed the frustration of the Manipurian people for the main land Indian. Torture and corruption by law enforcement agencies and violence by underground forces are eliminating the democratic space for democratic processes, which is converting in collapse of rule of law in Manipur fueled by the frustration and anxiety of common Manipurians.

I met the Irom Chanu Sharmila, co-awardees of Gwangju Human Rights Award from Manipur, a Northeastern province of India. Burning the fire of non-violence in the land of insurgents, Sharmila has made the extraordinary protest against a black law. She started 'fast unto death' six years back, demanding repeal of the draconian law 'Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958' (AFSPA). The Guinness Book of World Records has already recognized Sharmila as the longest surviving fasting individual in the world. According to the Guinness Book, it is the longest protest on a social cause by a single individual anywhere in the world. Sharmila was also one of the '1000 Peace Women', who were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, 2005.

In fact, the curly-haired, fair complexioned Sharmila has changed the face of protest in the insurgency torn Manipur. Located nearly 2400 km away from the national capital, the Myanmar (Burma) bordering state is home to 30 ethnic groups. Moreover Manipur nurtures near about 25 armed outfits, who are fighting New Delhi with demands ranging from sovereignty to self-determination. Sharmila completes six years of her non-violent protest on November 2. She started hunger strike immediately after the Malom massacre of November 2, 2000 in which the security personnel (of Assam Rifles) killed 10  innocent  people.

During her fasting days in Manipur, Sharmila was kept in a well-guarded ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital in Imphal. On November 20, 2004, Prime Minster Dr Manmohan Singh assured Sharmila that the government would review the controversial law to fight insurgents in the region. Later, a review committee was constituted by the central government to review the imposition of AFPSA. However, Sharmila remained unmoved. "I will continue my non-violent agitation until my demand is fulfilled," she told government representatives.

In August 2004, Chief Minister of Manipur, Okram Ibobi Singh, tried to persuade her to give up her fast as the state government had lifted the 'Disturbed Area Act' (this act is preliminary essential to impose AFSPA somewhere) from the Imphal municipal areas. But she refused to entertain the request of the chief minister, as the decision of the cabinet was 'not up to her expectations'.
It may be mentioned that, AFSPA that is applied only in Kashmir and Northeast empowers the security forces to arrest people and enter property without warrant, and to use excessive force (including shooting or killing, even if the lives of the members of the security force are not at imminent risk). The Act facilitates impunity because no person can initiate legal action against any member of the armed forces for anything done under the Act, without permission of the central government.

AFSPA was first applied to Assam (now Asom) and Manipur and later amended in 1972 to extend to all Northeastern states (of the country), including Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. Insurgency-torn Manipur was completely placed under AFSPA in 1980. Manipur has witnessed innumerable killings ever since. Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh himself admits, "Over 12,000 security personnel and insurgents, and 8000 innocent people have lost their lives till date."

In the last decade, the armed forces have often been accused of committing brutalities under AFSPA. The brutal July 11 (2004) slaying of weaver Manorama Thangjam, 32, by the men of Assam Rifles sparked off a public outcry. When this failed to elicit any response from the authorities, grief-stricken angry women stripped naked and rattled the gates of Kangla Fort (headquarters of the Assam Rifles), demanding justice.

Born in 1972 to Irom Nanda and Irom Shakhi, Sharmila, the youngest of the 9 children, has always been considered to be very brave and sensitive. On the third day of her fast-unto-death, Sharmila was arrested by the state police and charged of attempting to commit suicide. Sharmila has been under judicial custody ever since.

In 2002, Chief Minister Singh told Sharmila that as the government would not be able to repeal the act, keeping in view the law and order situation of the state, she should withdraw her agitation. Sharmila said in reply, "I love peace very much, but first of all, we must have the right to justice." Later in the year, a frustrated Singh told the Manipur State Assembly that the state government had to spend around Rs 147,000 in two years to keep Sharmila 'alive'.
 The legitimate question that may be raised here, that how can India, which prides itself as the largest democracy in the world, ignore the spirit of non-violent movement that was initiated by none other than Mahatma Gandhi?

 So in this hostile situation, to provide the psychological support to the survivors of arms conflict area PVCHR – RCT with the support of Wide Angle a local organization of Manipur is organizing training of the trainer on the testimonial therapy from 10th August to 21st August, 2009. In the workshop Manual "Giving Voice" will developed in the context of the North –east region. 

The imposition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, a draconian law pressed to use in several parts of India, in the states of Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir in particular, provides statutory impunity to the state agencies. The vires of this law was repeatedly challenged before the Supreme Court of India. Each time the Court dismissed the petition. Caught between two equally inhuman forces, the underground militants and the state agencies, the people of Manipur live as if they are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Concerns have been expressed about this situation by domestic and international agencies. For example, the National Human Rights Commission of India has repeatedly requested the Government of India and the state administration to deal with the situation of law and order in Manipur on several occasions. The annual reports of the Commission for the past four years consistently reflect this fact.
Justice B. P. Jeeven Reddy Commission, deputed to study and report to the Government of India about the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 has also highlighted this fact, in addition to recommending to the Government of India an immediate withdrawal of the law from the state. The Commission filed its report to the Government in 2005. The Prime Minister of India responded by stating in a press conference that the law will be withdrawn as early as possible. Since then nothing is heard about the governments' plan to withdraw the law. International human rights organizations have also expressed similar concerns.

 The PVCHR and wide angle therefore requests you to:

1) Encourage the Government of India to immediately withdraw the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958;

2) Suggest the government to constitute an independent agency to investigate and prosecute cases of human rights violations committed by the state agencies in Manipur;

3) Recommend the government to implement the recommendations made by the Justice B. P. Jeevan Reddy Commission submitted to the government in 2005;

4) Urge the government to simultaneously find a political solution to the problems affecting the rule of law in Manipur though a process of interactive dialogue with the people and their leaders, thereby creating an environment of mutual respect and understanding.


With warm regards,

Dr. Lenin

Ashoka Fellow
2007 Gwanju Human Rights Awardee
 Please visit:

My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can loose our battle.. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is battle for freedom. It is the battle of reclamation of human personality….
Dr. B.R.Ambedkar
"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality." (Desmond Tutu)

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