: सैंपल लेटर देकर चिदंबरम और नरेंद्र मोदी समेत कई लोगों को पत्र भेजने का आह्वान किया : Journalist Rahul Singh facing persecution for reporting about a mass grave in Gujarat : Urgent Appeal Case- AHRC-UAC-001-2011 : Dear friends, The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information concerning a concocted criminal case registered against a journalist in India, Mr. Rahul Singh, for reporting a mass grave in Panderwada village within Panchmahal district of Gujarat.
In December 2005, Rahul came to know about the mass grave in Panderwada from the local human rights activists. The mass grave reportedly had the remains of 21 victims of the 2002 Gujarat genocide. Rahul reported the news about the exhumation of human remains by the victims’ family members through Sahara, a TV news channel in December 2005.
The mass grave exposed the criminal nexus between the state administration led by the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), the state police and other fundamentalist Hindu political groups operating in India, particularly the persons in the state administration who colluded with the Hindu fundamentalists to carryout the genocide. Eight years later, the Gujarat State Police have now registered a criminal case against Rahul accusing him that he has aided the tampering of evidence in a criminal case and has broadcast reports that could have caused communal hatred. Mr. J. K. Bhat, who was the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Panchmahal district when 21 bodies were buried in the mass grave in an alleged attempt to hide the evidence of genocide, is now the Inspector General of Police stationed at Vadodhara who is investigating the case registered against Rahul and five other accused persons, a background that seriously challenges the state police’s motives of accusing Rahul of a crime that he has not committed. Rahul, after leaving Sahara is now working with Headlines Today in New Delhi.
Rahul’s life is at risk from the corrupt Gujarat State Police, an institution that has thus far proved that their allegiance is not to serve the rule of law, but to act at the behest of a religiously fundamentalist political party and its leaders who have thus far escaped prosecution despite being exposed of having orchestrated a genocide that has claimed an estimated 1267 lives.
CASE DETAILS : Rahul Singh is a journalist working with Headlines Today, an English TV News Channel associated with the media group, India Today. Before joining Headlines Today, Rahul was working with the Sahara TV. On 29 December, 2010, the Gujarat State Police went to Rahul’s house in Bophal, Madhya Pradesh state, reportedly to serve him a court summons, issued by a court in Gujarat. The court has issued the summons to Rahul upon the request of the Gujarat State Police, since the police have made Rahul a co-accused in a crime registered against four other persons, including human rights defenders, working in Gujarat state in an alleged act of vengeance against their involvement in taking up and reporting cases of genocide and religious violence perpetuated by Hindu fundamentalist forces operating in Gujarat in collusion with the BJP led state administration, notorious for orchestrating the 2002 Gujarat genocide.
Rahul now stays in New Delhi and was not present at his home in Bophal when the police arrived. The police demanded Rahul’s father, Mr. N. K. Singh, to accept the summons on behalf of Rahul, which Mr. Singh denied to comply. Then the police ordered Singh to issue a statement, which also Singh denied. Mr. Singh is the Resident Editor of the Hindustan Times. The six police officers who came in two vehicles, left from Rahul’s house when other journalists in the city, coming to know about the incident, came to Rahul’s house and questioned the process by which the summons was sought to be served. Rahul suspects that the purpose of the police visiting Rahul’s house in such large number was for the police to arrest Rahul and take him to Gujarat state.
The police from one state to execute a court process or even to arrest a person residing within the jurisdiction of another state, as it is in this case, have to follow procedures prescribed by the law. In ordinary circumstances a court summons is served by a police officer or a court staff to the person concerned, wherein the summons will specify the time, date and the address of the court in which the person has to be present. Sections 62 and 67 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (Cr.P.C) prescribes the procedure to serve a court summons upon a person. Section 67 prescribes the process by which a summons issued by a court upon a person residing outside the jurisdiction of the summons issuing court. It appears that the local police or the court that issued the summons have not complied with this procedure and the court has handed over the summons to the police, instead of sending a request to an executing court having jurisdiction in Bophal to serve the summons upon Rahul. The number of police officers and their attitude to Rahul’s father when they found that Rahul was not at home reiterates Rahul’s fear that the police had ulterior motives that could have endangered his safety, or at least to arrest Rahul and taken him to Gujarat.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION : In December 2005, Rahul was working with Sahara TV. He came to know about the mass grave in Panderwada village from a local human rights activist, Mr. Rais Khan, who then worked for a civil rights organisation called Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP). The family members of 21 persons, whose remains were recovered from the mass grave, were seeking the whereabouts of their missing relatives with the state administration at the time. These 21 persons were found missing after the Gujarat genocide, orchestrated by the BJP that ruled the state then and is also now holding power in Gujarat. The state administration and the local police, of which Mr. J. K. Bhat was the SP at that time, had informed the family members of the missing persons, that the state police did not have any information about their missing relatives.
It was at this time that some villagers in Panderwada came to know about the mass grave in the outskirts of their village. The villagers came to know about the mass grave when they found dogs scavenging bones and other decomposed flesh that the villagers suspected to be human remains. They reportedly informed Khan, who was at the time working for CJP assisting the victims’ families of the 2002 genocide about the suspected presence of decomposed human remains in the village. Khan contacted the families who were searching for their missing relatives and also Rahul and informed them about the possibility of unearthing the mass grave.
Rahul contacted the then SP of Panchmahal district, Mr. Bhat and informed him about the suspected mass grave. The officer, in an interview that was broadcast over TV, informed Rahul that the police had no information about the grave or about the 21 persons alleged to be missing and suspected to be buried in the grave. Then, Rahul along with the camera crew went to the suspected mass grave where the family members of the missing persons were unearthing the grave. At the site, the family members unearthed human remains, with dress and other personal belongings of their missing relatives. Rahul, on behalf of the Sahara TV, recorded the incident and later broadcast the incident on TV. The incident revealed the attempt of those who were behind the Gujarat genocide to hide evidence of mass executions.
The state police and the administration were forced to respond. They cordoned the area and an official exhumation was conducted. The recovered remains were sent to the Forensic Laboratory in Hyderabad and the tests conducted revealed that the exhumed remains are that of the 21 persons that the families were claiming to be missing since the genocide. The state police soon came up with a story that the exhumed human remains were in fact buried after a post-mortem examination of the dead bodies of unidentified victims of a ‘communal violence’ in the state. The state police further claimed that the place from which the human remains were recovered was in fact a burial ground and not a hidden mass grave. The fact however is that the place resembles a waste dumping ground, and the bodies were piled one over the other and were buried only a few inches below the surface, that dogs were able to dig up the remains, which led to the disclosure of the mass grave.
The state police also produced post-mortem reports that they claimed to be relevant to the bodies that were recovered and identified, alleging that the bodies, before they were buried were examined by a forensic surgeon. However, the reports of the post-mortem examination of the 21 bodies, all conducted in the same facility and by the same crew, had the time of post-mortem examination recorded, in five to ten minutes intervals, suggesting that the documents were fabricated to fit the story invented by the state police and the administration, and further to justify the claim that the bodies were buried after proper procedures prescribed by the law.
In a recent development, Rais Khan, the human rights activist formerly working with CJP, fell off with its management and has started making accusations against the CJP. Based on Khan’s allegations the Gujarat State Police have registered a criminal case against the office bearers of the CJP, including Khan. The state administration and the state police that faced severe criticism for participating in the 2002 Gujarat genocide is now allegedly making use of Khan’s animosity to CJP to wreck vengeance against CJP and against everyone who exposed the despicable and alarming role the state government and the police played in the genocide. In that, the state police have made Rahul a co-accused in a case registered against Khan and the other office bearers of the CJP on the ground that Rahul, by entering the site of the mass grave has contaminated forensic evidence and through his TV reports has incited communal violence.
The fact however is that Rahul has only reported the discovery of a mass grave, the reaction of the family members who had lost their relatives in the genocide and their acts when they found the remains of their missing relatives, which the state administration and the police until then had refused of having any knowledge of.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION : The case registered against Rahul once again reiterates the fact that the Gujarat state administration and its police is continuing their witch-hunting of everyone who voiced their concern against the government led by Mr. Narendra Modi, a senior leader of the BJP and the present Chief Minister of Gujarat, who actively participated in the 2002 Gujarat genocide. The police action of incorporating Rahul’s name as the fifth co-accused in the crime registered by the Gujarat state police against four other persons including human rights defenders, exposes the conspiracy between the state police and the state administration in seeking out and punishing everyone who exposed the state administration’s and the state police’s role in facilitating the genocide and assisting in hiding or destroying the evidence of state participation in the horrific event.
The registering of a case against Rahul is also a threat to the free media in India. Rahul is one of the journalists who were instrumental in exposing and reporting state government’s role in the genocide. The fraudulent nature of the crime registered against Rahul is exposed further by the fact that it is the same police officer, Mr. Bhat, who was once in charge of the area in which the mass grave was discovered, is now after promotion as the Inspector General of Police, investigating the crime registered against Rahul and four others.
Section 468 of the Cr.P.C prescribes a time limit for taking cognizance of offences punishable under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). While it is yet to be ascertained the exact provisions of the IPC or other laws under which the case is registered against Rahul, under ordinary circumstances the courts in India and the police are barred by the operation of Section 468 to even initiate a case against Rahul, should the charges alleged are under Sections 153, 153 A (1) and 297 of the IPC.
The series of events, from the complaints of the family members of the 21 persons who went missing after the 2002 genocide and whose remains were identified in the mass grave, to the issue of summons against Rahul raises the following questions:
1. Why did not the police have any information about the 21 persons reported missing after the 2002 genocide, if the police had conducted autopsy of these persons and had buried them in a public burial ground?
2. Had the autopsies been actually held, how is it possible to conduct 21 autopsies in one day, by a single team in the same facility, that too within an interval of five minutes between autopsies?
3. How is it possible that the place where the mass grave was discovered is a burial ground, if the local people are not aware about the existence of such a burial ground?
4. If the place is a burial ground, how many other persons are buried in the same place before and after the discovery of the mass grave?
5. Which government records of what time specifies the place as a burial ground?
6. If the police is of the opinion that, Rahul, by reporting the event has contaminated forensic evidence, how does the police accept the fact that the place alleged to be now a burial ground is in fact a dumping ground?
7. Even if the police charge is to be believed, about the contamination of forensic evidence and incitement of communal violence by reporting the excavation of human remains, why did not the police register a case on these charges in 2005 itself?
8. It was the family members of the once believed to be disappeared 21 persons, who undertook the excavation. Why have the police not registered a crime against the family members who actually undertook the excavation?
9. The news broadcast was made by Sahara TV, after the News Editor edited the news. Why has no crime registered against the Editor or against Sahara TV?
10. Under what law in India is reporting a crime classified as a crime?
11. Has the police undertaken any investigation to indentify and prosecute those who were responsible for the murder of 21 persons and their burial in a mass grave?
12. What is the moral, professional and legal rationale for the same police officer under whose jurisdiction where the mass grave was discovered, now investigating a crime, registered eight years after the discovery of the mass grave against those who spoke about it?
13. Why has the state administration not entrusted the investigation of the case to an independent agency, like the Central Bureau of Investigation?
14. What action have the state police initiated against those who incited and executed the 2002 Genocide and also later destroyed the evidence of genocide?
15. Since when in India has media freedom has become restricted to such extent that the state police can register crimes against those who speak against a state administration or the political party that runs the state government?
India has ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide on 27 August 1959. It has also ratified the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 10 April 1979. While India’s obligation under international human rights law by ratifying the Genocide Convention requires India to prevent genocide and take actions against those who perpetuate it, Article 19 of the ICCPR mandates India to guarantee freedom of expression and opinion. These are in addition to the fundamental guarantees and prohibitions prescribed in the Indian constitution that also guarantees freedom of expression and opinion.
The 2002 Gujarat genocide has placed India in the list of those countries where conditions exist where such a crime against humanity is possible. The incident has attracted such global condemnation, that even recent reports, like the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ms. Asma Jahangir, in her report (A/HRC/10/8/Add.3) to the UN General Assembly dated 26 January 2009, in paragraphs 34 to 36 has criticised Government of India, in particular the Government of Gujarat, in taking no responsible and conceivable actions against those who were responsible for the genocide. The report in paragraph 36 specifically mentions about the Godhra train burning incident and the violence that erupted thereafter in Gujarat. The Rapporteur expresses concern about the demonstrated lack of interest of the state government in investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the genocide.
Registering a concocted case against a journalist like Rahul, who followed the events and exposed the culpable nature of the state administration in Gujarat in actively and passively participating in the events that led to the genocide, the genocide itself and thereafter, is further proof to the fact that the allegations and apprehensions of all those who are concerned about the role played by the Gujarat state administration in orchestrating what is today more known as the modern India’s shame is not baseless.
SUGGESTED ACTION : Please write letters to the authorities listed below asking them to intervene in the case immediately.
The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression seeking an intervention in the case.
SAMPLE LETTER :
INDIA: The concocted case registered against the journalist, Mr. Rahul Singh, must be withdrawn
Name of victim: Mr. Rahul Singh, Journalist, Headlines Today, New Delhi
Name of alleged perpetrators: State government of Gujarat
Date of incident: 29 December, 2010
I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the criminal case registered against Mr. Rahul Singh, a journalist working for Headlines Today by the Gujarat State Police.
I am informed that on 29 December, 2010, the Gujarat State Police went to Rahul’s house in Bophal, Madhya Pradesh state, reportedly to serve him a court summons, issued by a court in Gujarat. It is reported that the court has issued the summons to Rahul upon the request of the Gujarat state police, since the police have made Rahul a co-accused in a crime registered against four other persons, including human rights defenders, working in Gujarat state in an alleged act of vengeance against their involvement in taking up and reporting cases of genocide and religious violence perpetuated by Hindu fundamentalist forces operating in Gujarat in collusion with the BJP-led state administration, notorious for their orchestrating of the 2002 Gujarat genocide.
I am aware that Rahul now stays in New Delhi and was not present at his home in Bophal when the police arrived. It is reported that the police had demanded Rahul’s father, Mr. N. K. Singh, to accept the summons on behalf of Rahul, which Mr. Singh denied to comply. It is alleged that the police then ordered Singh to issue a statement, which also Singh denied. It is reported that the six police officers who came in two vehicles, left from Rahul’s house only when other journalists in the city, coming to know about the incident, came to Rahul’s house and questioned the process by which the summons was sought to be served.
I am informed that Rahul suspects that the purpose of the police visiting Rahul’s house is for the officers to arrest Rahul and take him to Gujarat state or even to endanger his safety. I am informed that in ordinary circumstances a court summons is served by a police officer or by a court staff, to the person concerned, wherein the summons will specify the time, date and the address of the court in which the person has to be present. I am worried that in this case, the police arrived in full force, as if they were to arrest an absconding criminal, which in unambiguous terms justifies Rahul’s apprehension that his life might be at risk in the hands of corrupt officers of the Gujarat State Police.
I am also informed about the background in which the police have registered a crime against Rahul. I am aware that in December 2005, Rahul, on behalf of Sahara TV, had documented and reported the exhumation of the remains of 21 persons by the family members from a mass grave in Panderwada village in Gujarat. It was reported that the mass grave was that of 21 persons, reported missing, after the 2002 Gujarat genocide. I am aware that the report revealed the criminal attempt of those who were behind the Gujarat genocide to hide the evidence of mass executions. I am also informed that the Gujarat state administration since then has been witch-hunting those responsible for exposing the state administration’s role in perpetuating the genocide, of which I am afraid Rahul is the latest victim.
I am informed that the Gujarat State Police have now incorporated Rahul’s name as the fifth accused in a case registered against those who exposed the criminal nexus between the Gujarat state administration, the state police and the Hindu fundamentalist groups operating in that state, all suspected to be responsible for the 2002 genocide. I am also aware that the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ms. Asma Jahangir, in her report to the UN General Assembly dated 26 January 2009, in paragraphs 34 to 36 has criticised the Government of India, in particular, the Government of Gujarat, in taking no responsible and conceivable action against those who were responsible for the genocide. The report in paragraph 36 specifically mentions about the Godhra train burning incident and the violence that erupted thereafter in Gujarat. The Rapporteur expresses concern about the demonstrated lack of interest of the state government in investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the genocide.
I am worried that the registering of this concocted case against a journalist like Rahul, who followed the events and exposed the culpable nature of the state administration of Gujarat in the genocide, is further proof to the fact that the allegations and apprehensions of all those who are concerned about the role played by the state administration in orchestrating what is today more known as the modern India’s shame is not baseless.
I am informed that the series of events that has now culminated in the Gujarat State Police’s attempt to smother whistle blowers like Rahul raises a series of questions, including that of the freedom of opinion and expression in India, which a journalist like Rahul is entitled for like any other Indian. I am also informed that given the despicable track record of the Gujarat State Police in orchestrating fake encounters and undertaking extrajudicial executions at the behest of the state government or the political party that rules the state, Rahul’s life is at risk.
I, therefore, urge you to immediately take necessary steps to ensure that :
1. All necessary steps are taken to guarantee the professional and personal freedom and personal safety of Rahul;
2. The discovery of the mass grave in Panderwada village in December 2005 and its background is investigated by an independent agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation;
3. The case against Rahul Singh is immediately withdrawn.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Mr. P. Chidambaram
Home Minister, Griha Mantralaya
Room No. 104, North Block,
Central Secretariat, New Delhi 110001
INDIA, Fax: +91 11 2301 5750, 2309 3750, 2309 2763, E-mail: email@example.com
2. Mr. Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi
Chief Minister, Government of Gujarat
New Sachivalay, Gandhinagar – 382 010,Gujarat
INDIA, Fax: + 91 177 23222101, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Home Minister
Government of Gujrat, Block No.2, 3rd Floor
New Sachivalay, Gandhinagar – 382 010, Gujarat, INDIA
Fax: + 91 177 23250501, E-mail: email@example.com
4. Director General of Police
Police Bhawan, Sector 18 Gandhinagar
Gujarat 382 009, INDIA, Fax: + 91 177 23253918
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)