India: BSF Torture Yet Another Person In West Bengal – OpEd


Ms. Mamata Banerjee
Chief Minister
Government of West Bengal
Writers’ Building, Kolkata, West Bengal
Fax: + 91 33 22144328

Dear Chief Minister,

I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Ambassador for Salem I am writing to express concern regarding yet another case of custodial violence by BSF personnel at Out-Post No. 2 under Farajipara BSF BOP Camp at 5.30pm on 21 February 2012 as well as criminal negligence by the police officer on duty at Jalangi Police Station at 10am on 22 February 2012 who recorded GDE no. 1316. The details of the case are as follows:

The victim in the case is Ms Rupjan Bewa. She is a resident under the jurisdiction of Jalangi Police Station in Murshidabad district in West Bengal.

Ms Rupjan Bewa was suffering from fever and cold on 21 February 2012 and decided to seek treatment through a doctor, Mr Piklu Mondal, at Raipara Market. She deposited her voter identity card at BSF Out-Post No. 2 under Farajipara BSF BOP at about 4.30pm. At about 5.30pm, she returned to the BSF Out-Post to collect her voter identity card but the BSF jawans started to search her person, hitting her all over her body with an iron rod in a cruel and humiliating manner. When the victim protested against such degrading acts, the BSF jawans began pushing and molesting her and a verbally abusing her with profanities. They thrashed her on the ground forcibly and ripped her clothes, injuring her. In the process, Ms Rupjan Bewa lost a gold earring. The medicine she was carrying home and Rs. 3900.00 was also taken from her by the BSF jawans.

The victim went to Jalangi Police Station the next day (22 February 2012) with a written complaint against the BSF jawans who had beaten and robbed her. The complaint had been written by one of her neighbours according to Ms Rupjan Bewa’s account because the victim herself was illiterate. The police officer on-duty at Jalangi Police Station at the time took the complaint from her but requested she bring a fresh one, directing her to Mr Ichahaq Mondal (a tout) sitting near the police station who could take down her statement for her. She followed his instructions and met Mr Ichahaq Mondal, who charged her Rs. 10.00 for writing the report. When the victim submitted this new statement, she asked the same on-duty police officer to return her previous complaint. Not only did he refuse, but he issued her only one GDE entry slip, no. 1316, dated 22 February 2012 and did not explain the contents of the statement that had been officially accepted.

Ms Rujan Bewa later came to hear that Mr Ichahaq Mondal had not written the complaint according to her statement, choosing instead to omit the parts which indicted the BSF jawans for assaulting, molesting and making mischief upon her person. The acceptance of the second “selective” statement, instead of the first, by the police officer on-duty therefore revealed no intention to bring formal charges against the BSF jawans for their acts of cruelty and impunity. By retaining the first statement, the police officer further removes the evidence of Ms Rupjan Bewa lodging such a report in the first place. This is a secondary form of oppression and impunity that precludes the possibility of prosecution of the BSF jawans and the possibility of bringing justice to Ms Rupjan Bewa, who, as an elderly Muslim widow, is unable to stand up for herself in the face of such injustice and brutality.

The victim filed a written report before the Superintendent of Police of Murshidabad on 23 February 2012, disclosing details of the entire incident and the malpractices of the police of Jalangi Police Station. The victim in her complaint demanded proper action be taken against the BSF jawans and the deliberately delinquent police officer at Jalangi Police Station, but there has been no action taken to date. On the same day, the victim received medical treatment from Primary Health Centre, Parshpur Char Colony and the attending doctor recorded the injuries sustained by the victim on her chest and back. She was referred subsequently to Sadhikhan’s Dearh Rural Hospital for further treatment.

The above case highlights several systemic failures in the police administration of Murshidabad and particularly in Jalangi Police Station with regards to this case:

1. The lack of transparency and accountability in the most basic police proceedings, such as taking a statement;
2. The lack of responsiveness of police officers and judiciary to aggrieved locals; and
3. An unwillingness or inability of the justice system to respond to everyday crime against individuals living within their legal and geographical jurisdiction demonstrating fear of, tacit approval of or collusion with violent BSF jawans acting with impunity.

Ms Rupjan Bewa’s rights to “freedom of movement” within the borders of the Indian state, to “liberty and security of person” and against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” have been infringed and she has exhausted all possible avenues for justice. Although Ms Rupjan Bewa has a right to “effective remedy” by a competent national tribunal she has no practical access to such. These are individual rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the Indian state is signatory to.

Without state intervention or international pressure, the people of Murshidabad, particularly the most vulnerable – women, children, elderly, the widowed, the illiterate and religious minorities – face, for the foreseeable future, continued abuse of their freedoms and physical person and no likelihood for justice to be served to those acting with complete impunity.

I therefore request you that:
1. The statement of the victim, Ms Rupjan Bewa, is immediately recorded and a criminal case brought against the BSF perpetrators for subjecting the victim to severe torture;
2. The whole case, specifically the incident of torture by the BSF personnel, is investigated by an independent agency and that strong legal action taken against them;
3. The criminally negligent police officer on-duty at Jalangi Police Station when Ms Rupjan Bewa first attempted to make a report against the BSF be severely reprimanded for not only failing to discharge his duties as an upholder of justice but actively distorting Ms Rupjan Bewa’s complaint and being non-transparent in his dealings with the aggrieved victim;
4. Ms Rupjan Bewa is paid adequate compensation by the government for physical and psychological hurt resulting from her beatings and humiliation under the BSF and the officer at Jalangi Police Station;
5. The life, liberty, dignity and respect of women, children, elderly, widowed, illiterate and religious minorities be protected under all circumstances.

Yours sincerely,

William Nicholas Gomes

Human Rights Ambassador for Salem

William Gomes

William Gomes is a British Bangladeshi freelance journalist and human rights activist based in York, North Yorkshire. He has previously worked for an international human rights organisation, a news agency, and published in different online and printed media. He has a particular interest in researching racism and forced migration.

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