Monday, March 14, 2011

INDIA: Human rights defender murdered for challenging corruption

AHRC, March 10, 2011 

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the murder of human rights activist Mr. Niyamat Ansari in Kope Gram Panchayat of Latehar District, Jharkhand state, on 2 March, as well as a similar attempt on the same day upon the life of his associate Mr. Bhukhan Singh. It is reported that the local private contractors engaged in the implementation of employment generation schemes under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (MGNREGA) are behind the murder since Ansari and Singh were trying to expose the corruption behind the utilisation of funds under the MGNREGA. Only one person has been arrested so far despite nationwide public outcry for immediate arrest of the suspects.

CASE NARRATIVE:

As provided by the notes prepared after detailed enquiries conducted by Prof. Jean Drèze, Mr. James Herenj and Ms. Reetika Khera and also draws on the findings of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) fact finding team on 6 March, 2011. Some details may require further corroboration, but the main points are well established.
On 2 March, 2011 a group of armed men in uniforms abducted Niyamat from his residence in Jerua village (Kope Gram Panchayat). He was brutally beaten for nearly one hour. According to eyewitnesses, the same people who attacked Niyamat in October 2008 did this. It is strongly suspected that Mr. Shankar Dubey, a petty contractor in the locality and his associates instigated these men. After they deserted him, Niyamat’s brother and other family members carried his unconscious body on a charpoy from Jerua village to Manika Police Station, a distance of about 10km. Niyamat’s family reached Manika Police Station by foot, with Niyamat unconscious on a charpoy, before the administration managed to send an ambulance to them. After this, Niyamat was brought to Latehar Sadar Hospital. Soon after reaching there, he died.

The suspects were also seeking out Niyamat’s associate, Mr. Bhukhan Singh to be assaulted. But he was able to save his life by hiding. On the morning of 3 March he was brought to Latehar by the district authorities.

Niyamat is a resident of Kope Gram Panchayat in Manika Block, Latehar District. During the last few years, he was working with Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, a local campaign for village self-rule, also involved in issues such as the right to information, the right to food and the right to work.

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