//INDIA: Husband and wife abused and assaulted by officers from the state forest department

INDIA: Husband and wife abused and assaulted by officers from the state forest department

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-106-2011. 25 May 2011

ISSUES: Violence against women; fabrication of charges; impunity; torture

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission is shocked to learn that Forest Department officials brutally kicked five-month pregnant Seema Adhikari as she opposed their illegal arrest of her husband Rakesh Adhikari at 5am on 3 May 2011. Due to the assault, Seema went into early labor and delivered twin fetuses in front of the officials. Despite this, the officials left Seema in an unconscious state in her home, while taking away Rakesh on false charges of hunting Nilgai. This case underlines not only the common practice of false allegations made against ordinary citizens by the Forest officials, but also their brutality, particularly towards women. No action has yet been taken against the responsible officers.

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to information received by the AHRC from various organizations and newspaper reports, a team of officials from the Forest Department in Gangau Abhyaran of Panna tiger Reserve, arrested Rakesh Adhikari on false charges of hunting Nilgai on 3 May 2011. At that time Rakesh and his wife Seema were sleeping in their house. Upon entering their house, the officials started searching their belongings. When Rakesh enquired about their search, he was told that he hunted Nilgai. When he denied the allegations, and when the officials could not find any evidence of such a hunt, they left, only to return with a team of 22-24 officials at 5am with the skin of Nilgai. They started beating Rakesh, and at his wife’s opposition, beat her as well, brutally kicking her stomach. At this time Seema was five-months pregnant with twins. The officials’ inhuman behavior resulted in her immediate labor and delivery of dead fetuses, the trauma of which rendered her unconscious. The Forest officials left her in this state while taking Rakesh into custody.

When Seema was taken to the Panna District Hospital by her neighbors on 4 May, she was denied admission, apparently because there was no gynecologist available. The hospital administration instead referred her to Jabalpur, but there was no ambulance to transfer her there. The AHRC learnt that the police were pressurizing hospital officials to shift her elsewhere. Without her husband, any other relatives or money, it was difficult for Seema to manage. It was only after considerable pressure from local rights groups that the District Hospital finally admitted her. She was discharged 8-9 days later.

Rakesh was released on bail on 5 May. Although an FIR has been filed at the police station on the basis of an affidavit by Seema’s neighbors, no action has yet been taken against those responsible.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

While the government talks about a violence free society for women and children, including improving maternity and child rights, as well as rights for people living in the forest, government departments and public officials continue to violate basic human rights of everyone. Their behavior makes a mockery of all laws and regulations designed to promote and protect human rights. In this case, the Forest Department, Police Department and Hospital Administration all violated the rights of Seema and Rakesh, and until today no complaint has been registered against them. After some pressure, the State Human Rights Commission requested the District Collector to begin an inquiry into the incident on May 7, but as yet nothing has been initiated. While such cases of violence against women and children are regularly reported in the news, the Forest Minister of Madhya Pradesh, during an interview, claimed that Seema’s untimely labor was due to her own medical condition, rather than any actions taken by the Forest officials. Such collusion and covering up is detrimental to the rule of law in the state.

Women generally face critical situations, and in Seema’s case, after undergoing such brutal assault and trauma, she was not even able to get treatment at the hospital. During the course of her beating more than 20 officials were present, but not one prevented the ruthless attack. Male officers are not allowed to beat women, and female police officers should have been called if Seema needed to be restrained or taken into custody. Such regulations are rarely followed however.