India: Ongoing arbitrary detention of Messrs. Rabindra Kumar Majhi, Madhusudan Badra and Kandera Hebram
IND 002 / 0510 / OBS 060
Ongoing arbitrary detention /
May 12, 2010
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in India.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) about the ongoing arbitrary detention for almost two years of Messrs. Rabindra Kumar Majhi, Madhusudan Badra and Kandera Hebram, members and activists of the Keonjhar Integrated Rural Development and Training Institute (KIRDTI), an organisation that advocates for the land rights of Adivasis, and for ecological protection from mining and illegal logging in Keonjhar district, in the State of Orissa.
According to the information received, as of May 12, 2010, Messrs. Rabindra Kumar Majhi, Madhusudan Badra and Kandera Hebram remained in prison in Keonjhar since their arrests in July 2008 after the court rejected their bail applications several times, most recently on March 31, 2010.
Mr. Rabindra Kumar Majhi and Mr. Madhusudan Badra were arrested on July 11, 2008, and Mr. Kandera Hebram on July 13, 2008, after the police tried to establish a connection between the attack of the house of a certain Mr. Khageswar Mahanta by unknown individuals on June 30, 2008, in Rebena Palaspal village, which was assumed to have been carried out by Maoists, and the above-mentioned KIRDTI members. The police filed a charge sheet against them under sections 294, 342, 397, 427, 435, 436, 458 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code: obscene songs, wrongfully confining a person, robbery or dacoity, mischief and thereby causing damage of an amount of 50 rupees or upwards, mischief by fire or explosive substances with intent to cause damage, mischief by fire or explosive substances with intent to destroy a house, lurking house-tresspass and criminal intimidation. In addition, the police would have reportedly publicly stated that the group was “Maoist”. As of issuing this urgent appeal, the charges against them remained pending.
The Observatory also recalls that on July 10, 2008, the house of Ms. Mamina Munda, a volunteer for KIRDTI, was raided by the police of Daitari police station, who arrested her, along with her father and a villager who was at her house. Ms. Mamina Munda and her father were detained illegally for two days, before being released subsequent to the protests of several civil society organisations.
The police looked for other KIRDTI members, but several of them went underground due to police harassment.
The Observatory denounces the ongoing arbitrary detentions of Messrs. Rabindra Kumar Majhi, Madhusudan Badra and Kandera Hebram, which seem to merely aim at sanctioning their human rights activities, in particular their work, as members of KIRDTI, in favour of land rights of tribal people, mining and displacement, pollution, right to information and food security. The Observatory therefore urges the Indian authorities to put an end to their ongoing detention and to police harassment against them.
Please write to the authorities of India, urging them to:
- Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Rabindra Kumar Majhi, Madhusudan Badra and Kandera Hebram, as well as all KIRDTI members;
- Release Messrs. Rabindra Kumar Majhi, Madhusudan Badra and Kandera Hebram immediately and unconditionally since their detention is arbitrary as it only aims at sanctioning his human rights activities;
- Put an end to any acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Messrs. Rabindra Kumar Majhi, Madhusudan Badra and Kandera Hebram and more generally against all KIRDTI members as well as against all human rights defenders in India so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrances;
- Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as with Article 12.2 (“the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”);
- More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by India.
- Shri Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, Prime Minister’s Office, Room number 152, South Block, New Delhi, Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857
- Shri Shivraj Patil, Union Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, 104-107 North Block, New Delhi 110 001 India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979.
- Justice K. G. Balkrishnan, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, Tilak Marg, New Delhi -1, Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of India, Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110 001, Tel: +91 11 230 74448, Fax: +91 11 2334 0016, Email: email@example.com
- Mr. T. Theethan, IAS, The Joint Secretary, National Commission for SC, 5th Floor, ‘B’ Wing, Lok Nayak Bhavan, Khan Market, New Delhi 110103, India. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Justice N K Jain, Faridkot House, Rajasthan State Human Rights Commission, Jaipur 102, 120 - A, S. S. O. Building, Secretariat, Jaipur. Email: email@example.com
- Mr. Ashok Gehlot, Chief Minister, Rajasthan, 8, Civil Lines, Jaipur - 302 006. Phone No: 2227351 (O), 2228712, 2228713 (R), 2227687 (Fax)
- Mr. Hariprasad Sharma, Superintendent of Police, Ajmer, Ph: 0145-2629910 (O) 2625431 (R), Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Geneva), Rue du Valais 9, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Tel: +41 22 906 86 86, Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Embassy of India in Brussels, 217 Chaussée de Vleurgat, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 (0)2 6489638 or +32 (0)2 6451869
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of India in your respective countries.
Geneva-Paris, May 12, 2010
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
- E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
- Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
- Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
KIRDTI is also involved in working on development activities with the “Juang” tribal community.
 On July 1, 2008, Mr. Khageswar Mahanta filed a complaint at the local Daitari police station and a written report (FIR) was registered as 22/2008 dated July 1, 2008. The written report did not contain any name of the alleged attackers for which the police registered a charge sheet against unknown persons. It is worth noticing that Mr. Khageswar Mahanta knows Messrs. Rabindra Kumar Majhi, Madhusudan Badra and Kandera Hebram, as they are his co-villagers and could have identified them at the time of the events, if they were involved.
 On July 11, 2008, Mr. Duskar Barik, Ms. Mamata Barik, Ms. Jyanti Sethy and Mr. Ranjan Patnaik, four KIRDTI activists, fled Keonjhar district after being informed that they were under investigation by the police in relation to alleged connections with armed Maoist groups, as they feared that they would face torture and ill-treatment in police custody. On July 12, local newspapers published articles according to which Keonjhar police would believe that KIRDTI activities were linked with armed Maoists groups, a claim denied by KIRDTI staff and human rights organisations that work with them. See Observatory Annual Report 2009. Charges against Mr. Duskar Barik, Ms. Mamata Barik, Ms. Jyanti Sethy and Mr. Ranjan Patnaik were finally withdrawn after a campaign and they are now free.