Freedom Under Fire: Two Killed in Police Firing in Arunachal’s Tawang; Two Manual Scavengers Die inside Manhole

A round-up of news, both bad and good, on the rights front from India.

Two killed in police firing on protestors in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh. Credit: Twitter/ANI

Two killed in police firing on protestors in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh. Credit: Twitter/ANI

Two killed in police firing in Arunachal’s Tawang

Two people were killed and six others critically injured on Monday when police fired at agitators who attempted to barge into a police station in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang town, demanding immediate release of Buddhist monk and anti-dam activist Lama Lobsang Gyatso, The Times of India reported.

Although the agitators were protesting peacefully, the situation turned hostile when the court rejected Gyatso’s bail plea. The agitators then tried to break into the Tawang police station and demanded immediate release of the anti-dam activist. After the violence, police presented Gyatso in court again, and he was granted bail.

Two manual scavengers die in Hyderabad manhole, police inaction alleged

Two migrant labourers from Mahbubnagar, hired to clean up a clogged manhole at Ram Kote in Hyderabad on May 1, died inside it, possibly due to inhalation of toxic fumes, a report in The Times of India says.

Kotaiah and Veeraswamy , both aged 35, had migrated to the city recently for work. They were offered the job of cleaning a sewer  by some locals from Kapadia Lane, as civic workers were on holiday for May Day.

Sultan Bazaar police received an alert from the police control room about two people lying unconscious inside the manhole at Kapadia Lane. When cops arrived, they found that no one was ready to reveal who hired the victims. Cops alerted the water board officials, who rushed to the spot along with ambulance staff. When the water board officials confirmed that the victims lying inside the manhole were not their workers, cops called the numbers in their cell phones and informed their family members.

Venkatesh, one of the victim’s family members, told the media that had the police personnel pulled out the victims from the manhole when they first arrived, two lives would have been saved.

However, the police justified their actions saying they were neither equipped nor qualified for the job. “We did not know what kind of gas was in the manhole. We sought help from other agencies, but none could arrive in time. Finally, the family members of the victims got inside the hole and brought the bodies out with a lot of difficulty,“ inspector Shiva Shanker said.

A suspicious death case was registered under section 174 of the Criminal Penal Code.

NHRC issues notice to Tamil Nadu chief secretary and DGP over deaths at election rallies

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sent notices to the Tamil Nadu chief secretary and DGP over alleged human rights violations at political rallies in the scorching heat, The News Minute reported. Five people have died due to heatstroke and overcrowding at political rallies in the state.

The commission took cognisance of a complaint that several people were gathered, forced and threatened to sit for political rallies under the hot sun in open fields for four to five hours without drinking water and other basic facilities. The NHRC noted that violations happened despite the district collectors’ orders that people should not venture out between 11 am to 4 pm due to the intense heat.

The NHRC said: “While the political parties, especially during the election period, have every right to organise public meetings, it is also the duty of the state/district administration, while granting permissions for such meetings, to take all necessary steps considering the safety and security issues in mind.”

Nine-year-old boy thrashed by alleged Trinamool workers for pulling down flex poster

According to a report in The Indian Express, a nine-year-old boy Shaheel Mollah was abducted, bound, gagged and thrashed, allegedly by Trinamool Congress workers, for taking down a flex poster of a party leader in order to make a kite.

Six men grabbed Shaheel and took him away, allegedly to the residence of TMC strongman Ayejul Sardar, where he was beaten up. Sardar has been arrested, say police.

“I kept telling them that all I wanted to do was fly a kite. But they tied my arms and legs and gagged me. They punched me and kicked me. The last thing I remember them telling me was that I should tell my father that they would kill him and me.” After he fainted, he was dumped near a ditch, on an empty piece of land. Just before he lost consciousness, Shaheel says, the men told him, “Your father is a CPM agent”.

MLA Soukat Mollah, whose face was on the poster, claims the allegations against his party workers are baseless. “This has been engineered by the Left. What happened was that the boy got lost, and some of our workers brought him back to his parents.”

The boy’s father, Moiuddin, says he has been receiving threats from Trinamool Congress workers since the incident. “Today afternoon the accused came with TMC workers in a TMC vehicle and promised to come later and kill me and my family. I’ve approached the police, but I’m not sure they will do anything.”

Allahabad University students allege brutal lathi charge

Students protesting against the application process at Allahabad University being made compulsorily online were brutally lathi charged by the police on May 2, they have alleged. According to students, several students sustained severe injurious and were admitted to the hospital while peacefully protesting against compulsory online admission application and exam. Police also detained union president, Richa Singh and other office bearers of the union. However, they were freed after two hours.

Singh said, “Compulsory online application is against those who come from rural background and belong to marginalised communities. Moreover, if other central universities like BHU, AMU, Hyderabad University and JNU can have both the option of online and offline, then why not Allahabad University.” Singh has also accused the officer on special duty to the vice-chancellor and the chief proctor of threatening her.

Caste Hindus detained for allegedly assaulting Dalits

The Negamam police in Tamil Nadu have detained four caste Hindus, including a minor, for allegedly assaulting two Dalits on finding that the brother of one of the victims was in a romantic relationship with a caste Hindu woman, The New Indian Express reported.

Police said a 22-year-old Dalit worker in a local company, and a 21-year-old caste Hindu, a college student, had been in love for over four years.

When the girl’s brother learnt of the love affair, he and five others the met boy’s brother, and demanded that he ask his brother to break ties with the girl, leading to an argument. A fight then broke out between two groups which ended in a scuffle leaving three persons injured. They were admitted to the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital.

Based on a complaint, the police detained four persons and are conducting further investigations. They are likely to be formally arrested, the police said.

Religious tolerance in India deteriorated in 2015: US report

According to a report in Hindustan Times, a US report on international religious freedom has said that religious freedom in India was on a “negative trajectory” in 2015 as religious tolerance “deteriorated” and religious freedom violations “increased”.

In its annual report, the Congress-mandated US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) asked the Indian government to publicly rebuke officials and religious leaders that make derogatory statements about religious communities. Members of USCIRF were denied visas by the Indian government early this year on the argument that religious freedom is enshrined in the constitution and any foreign third party has no locus standi to comment or investigate on it.

“Minority communities, especially Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs, experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups,” the report alleged. “These issues, combined with longstanding problems of police bias and judicial inadequacies, have created a pervasive climate of impunity, where religious minority communities feel increasingly insecure, with no recourse when religiously-motivated crimes occur.”

According to NDTV, the Indian government has reacted sharply to the report, saying they “take no cognisance of it”. “The US Commission on International Religious Freedom once again fails to show proper understanding of India, its constitution and its society,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Satna church: Right-wing activists ask Hindus not to attend Sunday mass

According to a report in The Indian Express, right-wing activists in Satna, Madhya Pradesh have announced that they will campaign every Sunday to dissuade Hindus from attending Sunday mass because pastors “trick them into conversion”.

On Sunday, a group of right-wing activists visited every household in the seven mohallas near the church and raised slogans to “awaken people to the design of Christian missionaries who trick people into conversion by offering to exorcise them”. “No one attended the Sunday prayers due to our campaign,’’ Bajrang Dal leader Rajbahadur Mishra said. The right-wing activists also said they have shared their contact numbers with people living near the church and asked them to inform them if they spotted “strangers and outsiders’’ visiting the prayer hall.

On Wednesday, a group of Bajrang Dal and VHP activists, accompanied by police, reached the Church of God in India in the Sidhharthnagar locality of the town and stopped the marriage between Arun and Subhadra Kushwaha, saying they had been forcibly converted. Subhadra was also found to be ten days short of her 18th birthday.

Non-vegetarian food banned in Lucknow varsity campus

Non-vegetarian food has been banned in the Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar University (BBAU) mess in Lucknow, officials said on Tuesday, quoted in Hindustan Times. The decision was taken after “tension prevailed” in the university following a statement by Dalit thinker Kancha Ilaiah at Osmania university, Hyderabad, that eating beef was beneficial for health.

There were protests in the BBAU after April 14, the day when the statement first appeared. Protests were staged soon after Kancha Ilaiah’s statement. Vice-chancellor R.C. Sobti accepted the proposal to ban non-veg food on the campus.

The ban has been enforced and only vegetarian dishes would be served in the varsity mess. Special occasional demands for non-veg food would also not be entertained, said the university’s spokesman Kamal Jaiswal.

On Tuesday, student leaders led a protest march of about 200 students to demand restarting of the serving of non-veg food at the mess, terming the decision to ban it as anti-Dalit.

Do you know of any other incident we should highlight in this column? Write to me at [email protected].

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