Friday, December 31, 2010

RAMDAYAL, PINDARA, VARANASI - Bonded Labour continues in Modern India, Labour Ministry Silent over Forced Labour in Brick Kilns

It’s a tale that forces one to question if the India that gave rise to it belongs to the 21st century, or to the dark ages ruled by feudal lords. But surprisingly, this story of forced and bonded labour comes from an India that is emerging as a superpower in the global world, with a modern constitution that supposedly ensures every citizen’s right to freedom and equality. What adds to gloom is the fact that those entrusted with responsibility for ensuring justice were found to be hand-in-gloves with the exploiters of human labour and dignity.
     Until recently, an agricultural labourer - 27-year old Ramdayal of Sarai village in Varansai - was held captive at a brick kiln along with his family and many others from his community and village. Those were days and nights of constant abuse, where they were subjected to forced and bonded labour without the money that was promised to them. Even primary necessities like proper medical assistance were denied to them, and the mildest demands resulted in beatings and abuses.
     Ramdayal and many others like him had landed the job at Raja Kiln through one of his relatives. He was promised decent wages and shelter. For the first 3 months, things went fine, but then the owners started showing their true colour. One fine day a labourer called Bhola was mercilessly beaten when he begged for some financial help for treatment of his daughter Sarita. When Ramdayal objected to it, he too was abused and beaten.
     After this armed goons were deployed by the owners to ensure that none of the labourers escaped from the site. Daily wages were often denied to the labourers who were verbally and physically abused, and sexual harrassment of the women became a regular feature. When things became too much, one fine day Ramdayal and others finally decided to flee. The group of men, women and children who fled were chased and harassed by goons of the kiln owner. The fleeing labourers spent days without food and nights without sleep, drinking unhygienic water from ponds. Even today in the modern age, human life can still be held captive, and people treated like slaves as in ages gone by!
     After a few days,  relatives of these  men finally got in touch with local politicians. Hearing the plight of these men, the local MLA came forward to help. They were given shelter and in turn were asked to do some domestic work at the MLA’s place. However, for the families on the run, it was no concrete help for the goons of the kiln owner still searched for them. No action was initiated against he kiln owner and his men, despite the fact that local police was informed about the case. Finally, the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) got to know of the labourers' plight. Mangal Bhaiya of the PVCHR helped them to register their complaints with relevant authorities. They were also taken to the District Magistrate of Varansai.
     The District Magistrate also assured them of all possible help, but when the enquiry was taken up by his administration, te police applied pressure. Cops started forcing the District Magistrate's office to withdraw the complaint on the grounds that the people against whom the complaint had been filed are too powerful and there was no point in standing against them.
     At present, Ram Dayal’s application has been filed in the Supreme Court and they are waiting for justice.  Due to continuous suffering, Ram Dayal is shattered, but still has hope that someday he would get justice. Meanwhile, after being freed, he works as a farm labourer earning Rs.50 to 100 on any given day. This is not sufficient to maintain his family but at least it is better than being subjected to the horrors of bonded life on the kiln.
     This is the true story of Ram Dayal who, along with his wife and three children, stays in Sarai village in Varanasi district.
  Earlier he was working in Raja Kiln as a bonded laborer but now, he works as an agriculture labourer. Sometimes, he drives a tractor or ploughs the field. For all this, he gets Rs.100/- a day or Rs.50/-
for half day's work. Because he is crippled, he cannot carry heavy loads although earlier he used to do all kinds of odd jobs.

VINOD GUPTA, JAUNPUR - Driver's Trauma and New Height of Custodial Violence

This is a real story, not just of a man’s agony and suffering at the hands of the police and the system, but also of a country's shame at the gross violation of its principles of justice and freedom. Vinod Kumar Gupta of Jaunpur district was kept in police custody for almost a week, defying the rule clearly laid out in law that no one can be kept in custody for more than 24 hours without being produced before a competent magistrate. Vinod was denied not only fair trial, but was also subjected to the extremes of torture that would have made even the strongest of men weep.
     28-year old Vinod was working as a driver with one Mahendra Seth of Sipah area in Jaunpur. Vinod tells that on 23 January, 2010, he had driven Mahendra Seth’s son Ajay to Varanasi. Ajay told him to take the car to Madagin and be there to await his call. According to Vinod, when no one called him till late at night, at about 10 pm, he gave a missed call to mobile no. 9918982059. He recalls, "Ajay told me to bring the car to the crossing.  I saw Ajay coming along with his uncle and a small child. Later, after dropping uncle at his house, we started our journey for Jaunpur. About 2 kms  before Pindara, an Indica car (silver colour) started following us. I only remember that car had a registration number starting with up 50 h."
     "A few miles ahead on the highway I was signaled by the driver of the Indica to stop. I committed the mistake of doing so. Immediately, 4 people came out of the car and pointed pistols at us and robbed us of our cash, mobiles, gold chains, rings and coats. After leaving Ajay in the car, they took me with them and left me at Phulpur market.  I didn't know what to do, so I asked for a lift in a vehicle passing by. As it was very cold,  I and the driver of the jeep had a cup of tea on the way and then I went to my home. This was a probably a big mistake. I should have gone straight to my owner’s house. Anyways after reaching my place I found my family had already been informed of the loot and that I was being looked for."
     "After some time, 2 policemen came and took me to the police station. There, I narrated the whole incident to Sethji’s nephew and the police sub-inspector. My nightmare started soon after. I was subjected to such extreme torture that even the mere memory of it sends shivers through me. I was seated on the ground with my legs spread apart and then lathi was placed on my thighs and a policeman jumped on it. Unbearable pain made me cry and beg for mercy but no mercy was given. The torture continued and then I was thrown in the lockup."
     "Morning came, and my tryst with third degree torture resumed.  I was brought out of the lockup, and taken and hung from a tree with my arms stretched and feet dancing in the air. It seemed like my arms would just tear away from my body. The pain was unimaginable and even then every few minutes, my feet were burnt with a candle and was lashed with a whip."
     "From the police station I was taken to the police lines where the circle officer too indulged in torturing me. I was stripped naked and then was thrashed by lathi till the point where they felt I would die. Gripped by panic I gave the name of one of my friends. He too was brought there and beaten up. Seeing his state I was filled with remorse. I told the cops that I had framed my friend because of fear. This unleashed a next round of torture."
     "All along I was being asked to accept the crime and give names of my aids in the crime. I was even promised a share in cash reward. I denied to accept the charges and so the atrocities went on increasing. Over the days I often felt I will die…I even thought of committing suicide."
     "For two days I wasn't allowed to sleep. On 30th January 2010, my father came to bail me out but the policemen didn't leave me. Later I was tied to a tree and was beaten up again.
 When I remember the barbaric behavior I was subjected to, I feel like crying. Days after being freed, I did not dare to go to a doctor, because the policemen warned me not to tell anyone about my injuries.
     After talking to us, Vinod feels relieved. "Now I am not so afraid of being killed, and am happy to stay with my family,’’ he says.

UP Police: Champions and Flag-Bearers of Human Rights? A report on Police Violation of Human Rights (Shocking violence involved, minors do not read.)

From electric shocks to merciless beating, 23-year old Ram Lal of Mirzapur was subjected to continuous torture for days on end, for a robbery which he never committed. Ram Lal was picked up on the basis of an unverified complaint and subjected to such inhuman treatment that even years after, his body still bears the marks of torture. Fear has become part of his personality. The torture has traumatized him to such an extent that today, he hardly dares to move out of his house.
     Ram Lal’s family comprises a wife and two sons. On 28 May 2009, Ram Lal was at his in-law's place at Bahararanganj village, which is under the jurisdiction of Chunar Police Station in the same district, for the marriage of his brother-in-law. He recalls, "The next day at about 10pm, while coming back from the market, a constable and a Sub-Inspector from Chunar Police Station stopped us and started interrogating me. Later they took me to the house of one Ramji, Ramdhani, Neeraj and Mukesh Patel, who had filed a complaint of robbery against me."
     From their house, he was brought back to his house. The team of police entered his house and looted it, taking away some jewellery and 7000 rupees in cash. From there, he was next taken to the local police station and locked up in a cell in total darkness. He was just given a chapati to eat. From there, he was later taken to the quarters of a Sub-Inspector called Sudarshan, and from there to an isolated factory in Dagmagpur. There, the police threatened him, commanding him to accept and confess his role in the dacoity, or they would shoot him in an "encounter".
     The policemen forced him to consume liquor. He recalls, "After I was drunk, they begun interrogation again and resumed beating me. Later on, police also raided the houses of my neighbor and took 12 others into custody. On 30th of May, my interrogation resumed at the Chunar Police Station. A cop crushed my finger under a chair, and sat on it. The pain was unbearable. I cried out but my pleas fell on deaf ears. All along, I was being asked about the looted items. When I denied my involvement, more policemen joined in and started thrashing me. Later on, I was thrown in the lockup without food or water. Interrogation resumed at night and after that, I was again denied food and thrown back in the lockup."
    "My ordeal did not end there; morning brought more horrors. The cops got me seated on a slab surrounded by electric wires, and then the nightmare begun. Current was passed through my body once, twice. I thought 'I am going to die.' At that time my brother Om Prakash came. I could just murmur for a glass of water. Even that was denied. My brother was chased away and electric shocks were resumed."
     "I fainted and when I regained my senses, i found myself in a bed at the Mirzapur district hospital. Imagine, I had been there unconscious for five days. My life was saved by the timely intervention of the local media and people. Even the local MLA helped us out. I also came to know that I was tortured more because the police wanted my family to shelve out 13 thousand rupees to get me freed."
     "Though I was freed by police and got medical assistance, first at a clinic in Chunar and then at the Mirzapur hospital, I am still not totally fit. Pain resurfaces, my fingers are still swollen..and more than that, a strange fear has settled over me - a fear of khaki and abuse. I know it is tough to get those people punished who almost killed me and ruined my life and reputation. I hope my story and testimony will help save others from meeting my fate. Some mechanism should be put in place to punish policemen who indulge in corrupt practices and subject innocent people like me to inhuman torture and extortion.

Vimla, Varanasi - Molestation+Physical Abuse=Forceful Eviction=Blatant Violation of Human Rights

It is an open secret that police in Uttar Pradesh often tend to be on the payroll of 3 Ms - Money, Muscle and Mafia. It is this unholy association which results in atrocities like that faced by the entire community of poor craftsmen and labourers of Dharkar Basti, Varanasi District.
     The shameful acts of local police came to light when 40-year old Vimla, a native of Basti, dared to come forward and speak to us. According to Vimla, her family and many others like her had been staying in Hukulganj Dharkar Basti for more than five generations. Never were they asked to vacate the place.
     Life was going smooth until one night, the calm was shattered by police sirens heralding the arrival of police raids and abuse. A group of policemen headed by the local station head officer attacked and started beating young and old, women and children, even pregnant women were not spared. The entire family of Vimla, including her daughter, sons, daughter-in-laws, grandsons and granddaughters were mercilessly beaten and summarily asked to vacate the property.
     The cops were all in an inebriated state, they even set a few huts on fire, endangering dozens of lives. 60-year-old woman Lachi was beaten up badly. 8-month pregnant Rekha was kicked about on her stomach. Lives were only saved after people ran to nearby localities for cover.
     Vimla says no prior notice was given to them. It was a direct attack under cover of night, probably after the hands of the cops were greased by some local heavyweights. When the people dared to ask the reason for the raid, they were further beaten up. Vimla herself was kicked around and abused. The police attempted to rape some women, who just barely managed to escape.
     Recalling the horror of the night, Vimla recalls that she was fast asleep when the attack took place. She was dragged out of bed at gun point. The policemen claimed they were from the Cantt Police Station.  The station officer was accompanied by more than 50 policemen.
     Vimla and many others like her have gotten no justice till date. Policemen have gotten scot-free and police threats to vacate the land still continues. These families ask that police harrassment should cease, otherwise, they should be properly relocated and rehabilitated in some secure and decent place.

BABUNDAR GHASIA, SONBHADRA - The real "caste-conscious, people-friendly" face of UP Police.

This is a real story of police atrocity and gross violation of human rights. A tale that exposes the inhuman face of police in Uttar Pradesh and the plight of the poor - mostly Dalit - communities in the state. Babunder Ghasia, a Dalit by caste still shivers when he recalls the day 4 years ago when a police  party raided his house and mercilessly beat him on charges of copper wire theft. For a crime which he did not commit, Babunder was subjected to inhuman third degree torture and subsequently jailed.
     Babunder recalls, he was all alone when police entered his house at 2 pm. They kicked him, asking about some electric copper wire which had been stolen (wire is used in electricity transmission). The entire house was ransacked, and when the stolen wire was not found, he was taken to Bihari Hotel where he was so severely beaten that he fainted.  
     After that, the police took Babunder to the
 Kotwali police station and later to the hospital, with a made-up story that Babunder has broken his hand after falling down a hill. However, when Babunder dared to tell the reality to the doctor, he was again thrashed by the Sub-Inspector accompanying him. Babunader was put in lockup, and when his wife came to meet him, the police verbally abused her by using derogatory caste names, and the Sub-Inspector threatened to mete out even more inhuman punishment to Babunder in jail. Babunder claims that the policemen themselves had brought some electric copper wire from a Kabari wala (junk seller) which they said was recovered from him, and on basis of this fabricated evidence, Babunder was booked for theft and sent to Mirzapur jail.
     Later on, his family got him out on bail after gathering the required bail amount. Those days have passed but the horror still lurks in the minds of Babunder and his family. Babunder hopes that someday, those people who had almost ruined his and his family's life would be punished. Today, Babunder lives with the stigma of being called a thief. He hopes that by making his story public,
others might be saved from meeting a similar fate.

Stray bullets from police makes pasmanda (dalit muslim ) weaver physically challenged…. Deprived him of his livelihood compensation given yet .....

For 24 year old Abdur Rahman of Bajardiha in Varanasi, the day of 11th March, 2009 was a terrible nightmare that forever changed his life. Gross negligence of police during a field operation almost killed Rahman, when he was caught in the stray firing of cops. Although Rahman survived, bullet wounds in his legs and genitals left him crippled. But what further adds to his woes is the fact that those responsible for his plight are still free and none of the government agencies have shelved out a single penny for Rahman's treatment and rehabilitation.
      On 11th March, 2009 at about 11:30am, Abdur Rahman who lives in Sarai Surajan, Bajardiha, Varanasi along with his four brothers and two sisters was visiting his uncle who lives in Gosia Mosque. As Abdur Rahman was entering the lane before the mosque, police started firing and bullets hit him on his right leg and abdomen area.
     Critically wounded, Rahman was rushed to a government hospital in Kabir Chaura. Despite tremendous blood loss, Rahman survived. When he regained consciousness, he came to know of the circumstances under which he was hurt. Abdur had been erronously shot by police in an incident of un-announced firing near Kolhua Mosque in an attempt to control the communal violence which had broken out there.
     For Rahman, meeting the costs of treatment from his injury was a major struggle. Coming form a poor family, he had no money. His neighbours contributed towards his treatment. This incident was a major blow for Abdur and his family members. Formerly a fine weaver of Vanarasi saris, Rahman could no longer work on the yarn. His dream of leading a dignified and happy life has been shattered, for he was now a cripple with a bullet injury in his leg.
     Abdur says, "I didn't receive any monetary help from the Government. And neither did the people involved receive any punishment. I want to adopt legal procedures because justice is for everyone.’’ Besides Abdur, there were eight people who were injured and two of them expired.
 At present Abdur is leading the life of a handicap. On 4th Feb, 2010, Abdur went to Sir Sunder Lal Hospital of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) where the doctors told him that he has to be treated for a broken bone. The doctors told him that infection in his leg was continuing and the bullet injury was not healing. The doctors said that Rs one lakh is required for his treatment which is a big amount for him. At present, he is being treated under Dr  Shakeel.
     Though there is some improvement in his condition, Abdur is dependent on others for food. However, the poverty stricken family is not able to spend any amount on him, and he is often even denied food. For a man moving around on clutches, commuting to hospital on his own becomes a nightmare for none in the family is ready to accompany him. For a family struggling to secure two meals a day, a crippled Rahman is an object of sympathy but livelihood demands prevent them from giving him needed support. "Earlier I used to get annoyed when people asked me 'How are you, Abdur?' but now I am used to it,’’ he says.
     Amidst his devastated life, Rahman now wants his plight to be shared with people at large, and to bring the culprits to justice, so that no one else needs suffer from a similar fate.