Target: Rajnath Singh, Union Minister of Home Affairs
Goal: Protect human rights defenders facing systemic harassment and violence.
Four individual human rights defenders in Bastar, Chhattisgarh, India have been forced out of the city following incidences of violence and harassment, sometimes from law enforcement. It is the responsibility of the authorities to protect these people, not endanger them. Sign the petition and demand support for those who risk their lives to help others.
Journalist Malini Subramaniam was forced to leave her home after a crowd of people gathered outside her house, throwing rocks and encouraging her neighbors to join them. After being summoned to the police station, Subramaniam’s landlord informed her she had to leave as soon as possible.
In a similar situation, the landlord of human rights lawyers Isha Khandelwal and Shalini Gera informed them that he had “no choice” but to evict them after he was summoned to the police station to speak with authorities there. Khandelwal and Gera are lawyers for the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JagLAG), which has been targeted recently by authorities as being unqualified to practice law. JagLAG helps prisoners, many of whom are members of the Adivasi indigenous group.
Finally, former prisoner of conscience Soni Sori is in stable condition after an attack in which men threw a black substance into her face and told her to stop her work on behalf of Adivasi communities.
All of these incidents occurred within the same two-week span, which speaks more to a pattern than it does to a mere coincidence. It is the responsibility of the authorities to promote the safety of all, not to harass a few people who have dedicated their lives to helping others. Sign the petition and demand that human rights defenders, including activists, journalists, and lawyers, are allowed to carry out their work free of threats and harassment.
I am writing to express my concern over the disturbing pattern emerging in Bastar. In a mere two weeks, four separate women were threatened, harassed, and attacked as a result of their human rights work. The authorities have done nothing to help them, and have in some cases appeared to be behind the harassment. I urge you to ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their work safely, and I demand that those behind these despicable acts be brought to justice.
Malini Subramaniam, a journalist who has covered stories relating to human rights in the past, was forced from her home after her landlord was summoned to the police station. Upon his return, he told Subramaniam she needed to leave as quickly as possible.
Similarly, the landlord of lawyers Isha Khandelwal and Shalini Gera was summoned to the police station. Upon his return he, too, told the women that he had “no choice” but to tell them to leave. Khandelwal and Gera work for the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JagLAG), which has also been targeted and harassed by authorities.
Finally, activist and former prisoner of conscience Soni Sori is in stable condition following an attack in which three men threw a black substance in her face and told her to stop her activist work with the Adivasi community.
Threats, violence, and harassment are unacceptable, especially when they appear as regular and systemic as these do, and it is the responsibility of the authorities to ensure that human rights defenders–including journalists, lawyers, and activists–are free to carry out their work in safety. I urge you to protect India’s human rights defenders and to ensure that those who impede their work and threaten their safety are brought to justice.
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Photo credit: NY Photographic