The NHRC had ordered Rs. 5 lakh as compensation to the widow but the Government of India and West Bengal denied it. The State government did not allow any social welfare scheme to reach the family. Now, NHRC has closed the case. Where is the justice?
Kolkata: In 2009, 35-year-old Abdus Samad had just returned to Biswanathpur village in Murshidabad district. He had come home to help his wife Rimi Bewa as she had just delivered twin sons. He was sleeping when the Border Security Force that mans the India-Bangladesh border broke into their hut, beat Samad brutally and killed him on suspicion of smuggling heroin.
Nine years and enough evidence later, his widow has not received any compensation and is living in decrepit conditions trying to provide for their six children. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recently closed the case without serving any form of justice.
Kirity Roy, Secretary of Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) and National Convenor of Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI) wrote to the Chairman of NHRC noting that the closure of the case was a travesty of justice.
“In connection with the NHRC case no. 157/25/13/09-10-AD/UC, I received your communication through e-mail dated 22.10.2018, from where it is revealed that your good office has directed the wife of the deceased can approach the appropriate forum for implementation of Commission’s recommendation for payment of monetary compensation to her and concerned authorities to receive various government welfare schemes under the rule and thereby closed the case,” he wrote.
“It is to be mentioned that previously the fact that deceased Abdus Samad died as a result of torture at the hands of BSF personnel was proved and therefore the Commission recommended to the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India to pay a sum of Rs. 5 lakhs as monetary compensation to the next of kin of the deceased,” he added.
Despite the direction, no payment of monetary compensation has been done till date. Bewa sent a written application to the District Magistrate of Murshidabad urging to pay her compensation on 05.09.2018 but nothing came of it either.
“By closing this particular case without final facilitation of financial compensation, the irresponsive attitude of the Commission is again revealed. An authority which supports the victim, speaks for the oppressed people, provides justice against violation of their rights, now withdraw its helping hands and make destitute the kin of the deceased. I think to close cases the NHRC wants to show a huge number of cases were disposed during the 25 years after constituting the Commission,” Roy wrote.
“Can the Commission take a humanitarian step against the conventional situation? Our organization is devoted to taking an adjuration, “not to withhold the victim’s hand in the rugged road to justice.” So far the predominant thrust of a poor family has been growing, expenditure for her family is unbearable, Punishment of the killer has not been done; even compensation money is not given to the widow,” he said.
“Therefore, it is my earnest request to your good authority not to close the matter and take adequate measures especially when Government of India and Government of West Bengal turned off their hands to save one widow with six kids,” he wrote.
A research report by Human Rights Watch titled ‘Trigger Happy: Excessive Use of Force by Indian Troops at the Bangladesh Border’ wrote about his murder in detail. The report was in partnership with Odhikaar and Masum.
The extracted story of Abdus Samad’s brutal murder:
Saying that they suspected 35-year-old Abdus Samad of smuggling, several BSF personnel, led by Commander P. Vodra, forcibly entered his mud hut in the village of Biswanathpur in Murshidabad district on May 5, 2009. Abdus Samad did not live in the village but worked as a day-labourer in Kolkata. However, he had come home after his wife delivered twin sons, to help take care of the family. Rimi Bewa, his wife, said that the BSF soldiers were harsh and abusive:
We were asleep when the BSF came at around 3 a.m. We have a broken door. We heard footsteps. They entered through the door. One of them kicked me and asked, ‘Where is your husband?’ They kicked me and used verbal abuses…. My husband woke up and immediately the BSF personnel started to beat him in front of our children with rifle butts, boots, and sticks. Then they tied his hands on his back and dragged him outside the house, still beating him… I was scared and ran after them pleading that they stop beating my husband, but they ignored me. Hearing me screaming, some neighbours came out of their house. They also asked those BSF personnel to stop. The men threatened them too with their guns. We saw him being dragged off. He was shouting. He was bleeding.
Abdus Samad’s body was later found in the field and was taken to the BSF camp. Next morning, Rimi, accompanied by her husband’s brother Abdul Hakim and a village council leader, went to the police to complain about the assault, abduction, and killing of Abdus Samad. The police initially refused to register a complaint against the BSF and only complied when village leaders intervened. Later, the police informed the family that the BSF had registered a complaint with the police, claiming that he was arrested for trafficking heroin, and had died in custody because he had suffered a heart attack.
The BSF apparently tried to persuade the local hospital authorities to support their claim of a heart attack. However, Dr. Goutam Ghosh, superintendent of the hospital told MASUM:
I had prepared myself to conduct the post-mortem but after observing few abnormalities, injuries on the body, I decided not to proceed with the post mortem.
He sent the body instead for autopsy by more senior doctors at the Behrampore New General Hospital. Mr. P. Vodra, the BSF Commander, who according to eyewitnesses was present when Abdus Samad was detained, later told MASUM:
Abdus Samad was arrested with heroin near the Indo-Bangladesh border by constables Prahlad Roy and Ran Riyauddin. He was transferred to the Ramnagar BSF Camp as their camp didn’t have adequate facilities in which to detain a person. However, Samad became ill in custody as was duly treated at the Ramnagar camp and referred to Bhagabangola Hospital. I don’t have any knowledge of how he died.
Rimi Bewa insists that the BSF is always abusive, and they had no reason to suspect her husband. “My husband did not even live in the village,” she said:
He worked as a migrant laborer… The BSF is like this. They come and always ask who does cattle smuggling. They abuse the women. People go to defecate in the fields. But in the evening, after 7 p.m. the BSF is patrolling and they stop us. They want shops to shut. They beat us up, and say, ‘we have the power to do so.’ This BSF abuse has ruined our peace of mind.
The interviews were conducted by MASUM and The Human Rights Watch in 2009 and 2010. The research report was published in December 2010.