Spot Probe Points To Violation Of Human Rights In Sandeshkhali: Rights Body

The rights panel has made several recommendations and sought an action taken report.

New Delhi:

In a spot inquiry into the Sandeshkhali case in West Bengal, the NHRC has flagged “several instances of atrocities”, saying it indicates that there was a “violation of human rights” due to “negligence” in the prevention of such incidents.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in its report, also observed that the “pervasive fear of reprisal, coupled with the power dynamics at play, acted as a formidable barrier”, preventing individuals from voicing their grievances.

The rights panel has made several recommendations and sought an action taken report (ATR) within eight weeks on each of the recommendations made therein from the government of West Bengal, the NHRC said in a statement on Saturday.

“The Commission’s spot inquiry has revealed several instances of atrocities inflicted upon the victims, which clearly demonstrate, prima facie, that there was a violation of human rights due to negligence in the prevention of such violation or abatement thereof by the public servant,” it said.

The report has been uploaded on the NHRC website for “wider dissemination of information,” the statement said.

The Commission has sent its spot inquiry report to the chief secretary and DGP, West Bengal for submitting the ATR.

The NHRC report made an observation that the “atmosphere due to the atrocities by the alleged accused persons rendered the victims silent”, and intimidation, and terror made them “reluctant to seek justice”.

This “climate of terror” not only “perpetuates the cycle of abuse” but also underscores the urgent need to create a safe and supportive environment for victims to “break free from the shackles of silence”, it has observed.

The rights panel has also made an observation that the “atmosphere of fear” not only affects the victims but also has a “negative impact” on the growth and health of the children who constantly witness the ordeals of their parents at the hands of these alleged accused.

On February 21, the NHRC had taken suo motu cognisance of print and electronic media reports that in Sandeshkhali, North 24th Paragana, “innocent and impoverished women have been harassed and sexually assaulted by a group of local gang of a political person”.

As a result, for the last few days, local villagers had started protesting, seeking appropriate legal action against the “perpetrators of horrific crimes indulged by various goons and anti-social elements, when the local administration failed to take appropriate legal action against the perpetrators of crime,” it added.

In addition to seeking reports from the state government, the Commission, considering the gravity of the situation, had deputed an investigation team for a spot inquiry, headed by one of its members.

“In response, thereto, the DG and IGP, West Bengal vide communication dated 29.02.2024, revealed that a total of 25 cases were registered among which seven cases were on alleged complaints of a sexual offence against women and 24 accused persons were arrested”, it said.

Efforts were also being made to arrest the absconding perpetrators of the crime. The overall situation of the entire Sandeshkhali police station area and Nazat police station area was described to be “well under control”.

The NHRC investigation team found that there is a need to “uproot the fear” of these persons from the hearts of the victims to enable them to live their normal lives with their families and gain the confidence to live in society with dignity and pride.

It is the duty of the district authorities, being arms of a welfare state, to take consistent measures to instil confidence in the residents of the area in general, and victims in particular, so that others who have been victims of crimes may come forward and file their complaints, the statement said.

The NHRC, in its statement, said its team also interacted with the police and administration at Sandeshkhali and requested for further information, “but despite reminders, no reply has been given to date”.

The recommendations given by the NHRC team include “reinstating trust in the rule of law and confidence in authorities” and ensuring witness protection and redressal of grievances.

Counselling and rehabilitation of victims of sexual offences; return of the land to the legitimate owners; impartial investigation of complaints by central agencies; initiating awareness programmes are other recommendations, it said.

Operationalisation of a nationwide emergency response system (NERS); and vocational training and creating employment opportunities have also been recommended.

Reviving the land to make it suitable for agriculture; improving socio-economic indicators and preparing area-specific plans; appointing special rapporteurs to periodically report on the situation in Sandeshkhali; and investigating cases of missing women or girls from the area of the police station of Sandeshkhali are among the other recommendations.

The Commission has noted that “this incident is also seized by the High Court of Judicature at Calcutta in WPA No.4011 of 2024. It has decided to seek leave from the High Court to intervene in the matter,” the statement said.

The rights panel also observed that “villagers or victims faced assault, threat, sexual exploitation, land grabbing, and forced unpaid labour, and under the given circumstances they were compelled to seek livelihood outside the Sandeshkhali region or state”.

The allegations of discrimination or denial of benefits of state or central government schemes, such as old age pension, MGNREGA, public distribution system, financial help to build their houses and toilets by officials concerned in connivance with the alleged group of persons is of “deep concern”, it said.

“The allegations of deprivation of the right to vote are serious in nature and undermine the democratic values of the nation,” it added.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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