Saturday, October 5, 2013

Report of the Fact Finding Team of Bandi Mukti Committee Visited Darjeeling on 18th and 19th September, 2013

As per the decision of the State Executive Committee of the Bandi Mukti Committee a fact finding team visited Darjeeling hills on 18th and 19th September, 2013 to have an objective assessment of the situation relating to arrest of political leaders and activists of Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha (GJMM) as well as common participants in the recent agitation in support of their long-standing demand of separate statehood.

Fact Finding Team (FFT) on behalf of the Bandi Mukti Committee, led by the State Secretary Sri Chhoton Das, comprised the following other members:

One of the Vice-Presidents of the State Committee Prof. Ajit Kumar Ray, State Committee member Dr. Arunkanti Biswas, State Executive Committee members Sri Bhanu Sarkar and Sri Ratan De, Joint-Secretary of Darjeeling district Bandi Mukti Committee, Sri Indranil Bhattacharyya and members of Darjeeling district committee Sri Arun Ghatani and Sri Palan Chanda.

At Kalimpong on 18th September 2013:

After reaching Kalimpong in the morning of 18th September, the team met with Mr. Mohan Porel, Secretary, Kaliburang Unit of Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM), Mr. J. B. Rai, Vice President, Joint Action Committee, Mr. Sudip Pradhan, a member of CPRM, several members of GJMM Kalimpong unit and common citizens in presence of representatives of printing and electronic media at CPRM Kalimpong office. After a brief introduction on team’s purpose of visit made by Prof. Ajit Kumar Ray on behalf of FFT, the team had a long dialogue with all present there and took note of the submission made by them. As Prof. Ray clarified in his introductory explanation that the purpose of the visit of the FFT was neither to support or to oppose the issue of Gorkhaland movement, the dialogue and enquiry was confined only to collect facts on arrest of political activists, atrocities, if any, by administration and law-enforcing agencies, condition of family members of arrested activists, legal nature of charges against them, incidents of violation of statutory procedure, if any, while arresting etc.

Being informed of the visit of the fact finding team of Bandi Mukti Committee, the elected representative from Kalimpong in West Bengal assembly, Mr. Harka Bahadur Chettri came to meet the team and submitted his views before the FFT. Being invited to meet a full delegation of GJMM in their Kalimpong office, FFT went to GJMM Kalimpong office where advocate Mr. L. M. Chettri, who has been looking after legal cases against their activists, briefed the team on the total scenario and submitted a complete list of arrested activists who are in jail custody, police custody or granted bail along with specific charges against them in Kalimpong subdivision.

The team then went to meet one of the arrested activists associated with GJMM Mr. Barun Bhujel, an elected Municipal Commissioner from Ward no 16 of Kalimpong Municipality. He was brought to be produced in the court of Hon’ble sub-divisional magistrate Mr. Kamal Sarkar from Jalpaiguri jail. When Mr. Bhujel was brought outside of Magistrate’s court room, members of FFT attempted to talk with him. Hon’ble magistrate, however, denied the permission and the team could not complete the discussion with him.  However, the team had a very revealing discussion with Mrs. Sabita Bhujel, wife of Mr. Bhujel, who came to court with her little daughter for making arrangement of moving bail petition for his husband.
The team visited the residence of Mr. Kalyan Dewan, Professor of Kalimpong College and one of the elected members of the Executive Committee of GTA. The team met Mrs. Gouri Dewan, wife of Prof Dewan and came to know the following. While Prof. Dewan was on his way to attend a public gathering in Darjeeling in his own vehicle on August 12, 2013, he was requested by the police on civil dress to come to the police station for a discussion with the IC. Once he entered into the police station he was informed that he had actually been arrested. No warrant was shown to him. His family members were not informed about his arrest by the police. Prof. Dewan was sent to Jalpaiguri police station and was produced before the judicial magistrate of Jalpaiguri court the following day. He is now under jail custody at Jalpaiguri. Mrs. Dewan and her three school going daughters have been able to meet husband/father only once during this one and half month.

The team then visited the residence of Mr. Nima Tamang, an elected member of GTA and met his wife Mrs. Tina Pradhan (Tamang). The team came to know from his wife that police arrested Mr. Tamang on August 15, 2013 at 5 p.m. from the Guest House of Uttarbanga Krishi Vidyalaya (UBKV), Kalimpong. But, while he was produced before the court, police reported that he had been arrested from a place near Nepal border. Mrs. Tamang expressed her apprehension before the FFT members that police have been trying to falsely implicate her husband with the charges of maintaining link with the Maoist group of a foreign country in order to get their support in favour of their on-going movement. In this case also, neither the arrest memo was issued, nor was the arrest warrant served. His wife also informed the team that the police, in order to prevent her husband from getting out of jail custody on bail, have been continuously implicating him with newer charges.

At Darjeeling on 19th September, 2013:

The team reached the office of CPRM Head office at Darjeeling. Mr. Chhoton Das, Secretary, Bandi Mukti Committee explained the purpose of visit. The team then had a meeting with Mr. Akash Thapa, Mr. Sunil Rai in presence of several media persons. After completing the dialogue at CPRM office and taking note of every details of arrested activists, the FFT then proceeded to visit families of few arrested activists.

Meeting with the family members of activists who are in Jail custody:

The team first visited the residence of Sri Subhomoy Chattopadhyay.  Mr. Chattopadhyay, owner of the Darjeeling Tailoring House, is an elected Councilor of Ward no 36 and also official spoke-person of GJMM. He was arrested on August 13, 2013 at night12.15 a.m. from his residence without producing any warrant of arrest. No arrest memo was also given at the time of arrest. The team came to know from his family members that due to heart problem Mr. Chattopadhyay has been transferred by the police to North Bengal Medical College but no proper arrangement for treatment has been made by the administration. All investigations suggested by doctors have been arranged by the family members. Family members of Mr. Chattopadhyay have complained that the administration has been trying to prove him as a mental patient and has been administered medicines of mental disease. The situations of the family worsen further due to issuing of arrest warrant against his wife Mrs. Anita Chattopadhyay.   

After that the team visited the residence of another arrested activist Mr. Narayan Pradhan. Mr. Pradhan who is the Secretary of Darjeeling Town Committee, GJMM, was arrested on August 7, 2 013 at 11 p.m. from his house without any warrant of arrest. His wife Mrs. Sabita Pradhan explained in details before the team how administration implicated his husband in various new cases since the date of his arrest. Because of this revengeful attitude of the administration he has not been able to come out from jail custody in spite of granting bail by the judicial magistrate.

While the team was about to leave Darjeeling  we received the information about the arrest of Mrs. Nira Sharma, Councilor, Ward No-1 of Darjeeling Municipality. She has a son and no body is there at home to look after the boy. Presently Mr. Amit Chettri, a neighbour of Mrs. Sharma is taking care of the boy. Mr. Amit Chettri, not being financially very sound, has been going through acute hardship in order to maintain the additional burden of the boy. 

The fact finding team made every effort to meet police and administrative authorities but could not succeed to get appointment of any of them.

The details of submissions deposited at Kalimpong and Darjeeling before the team that includes names of arrested persons, location of residence, location of jail, and sections of charges of IPC etc are given in the Annexure-I and Annexure-II respectively. However, following is a summary of general and common findings that have been observed by the fact finding team:

a)      List of arrested activists includes elected representatives of GTA, college professors, teachers, municipal councilors, students, unemployed youth, petty businessmen, footpath hawkers and common citizens. Even an arrest warrant has been issued against an ailing cancer patient Mrs. Goma rumba.

b)      Very few are named specifically either in FIRs or in general diaries of police, but in several cases administration have mentioned citizens of certain localities, like 41 Suruk Sampa, as unidentified persons whose figure run into hundreds. It has created a sense of fear of possible arrest among the whole population of that locality. 

c)      Each and everyone was arrested without serving any warrant notice,

d)     The mandatory and legally binding procedure of issuing inspection and arrest memo has not been followed in any of the cases of arrest.

e)      None of the arrested activists was given so far the status of political prisoners and, thereby, everyone has been denied his/her rights and privileges.

f)       In spite of availability of space for jail custody in the hill, a large section of arrested activists were sent to either Jalpaiguri or Siliguri jail. Considering the time and financial constraint, it has been made difficult to visit arrested activists at jail by the family members for a few and quite impossible for the rest.

g)      Though it was agreed upon and had been included as a provision in section 29 of GTA agreement that pending cases against all participants of Gorkhaland movement barring the cases of murder would be withdrawn, many have been arrested now for the old charges.

h)      Documentary evidences of several instances of imposing newer charges against a section of arrested activists have revealed the vindictive and ulterior attitude of the police and the administration. In order to prevent from getting out of jail custody Police have been continuously implicating many with newer charges once the court grants their bail petition.

Signatures of the members of the Fact Finding Team on behalf of Bandi Mukti Committee, West Bengal:

Dated the  20th September, 2013                                                                 Sri Chhoton Das
Secretary, State Committee
Prof. Ajit Kumar Ray
Vice-President, State Committee
Sri Bhanu Sarkar
Member, State Executive Committee
Sri Ratan De
Member, State Executive Committee
Dr. Arunkanti Biswas
Member, State Committee
Sri Indranil Bhattacharyya
Joint-Secretary, Darjeeling District Bandi Mukti Committee
Sri Arun Ghatani
Member, Darjeeling District committee
Sri Palan Chanda
Member, Darjeeling District committee