24, Jul 2020 | CJP Team
After having registered its complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) along with All India Union for Forest Working People (AIUFWP) have now approached the National Commission for Women (NCW) against police personnel and forest officials of Rajaji National Park, Dehradun.
The petition to NHRC was regarding the human rights violations by forest and police officials as they destroyed the shelter of members of Van Gujjar community and physically assaulted women and men alike. The petition to the NCW is with regards to physical abuse of women whereby they were not only brutally beaten up but also subjected to gendered custodial violence.
Among its four pillars of action, the land and livelihood rights of Adivasis and traditional forest dwellers, is one. CJP, with its expertise in navigating cases of human rights violations in the courts and beyond has been active on the issue; partnering with the All India Union of Forest Working Peoples (AIUFWP) since 2017 to battle any setback to these rights in the courts. This includes legally fighting back against malicious prosecution of leaders of the community and defending the Forest Rights Act, 2006 in the Supreme Court. We stand with the millions of Forest Dwellers and Adivasis whose lives and livelihoods are threatened. Please support our efforts by donating here.
About the incident
On June 16, around 4 P.M, only about 6 forest officials came to an area in Asharodi forest in the Ramgarh range of Rajaji National Park inhabited by Van Gujjars and tried to destroy the dera (shelter) that belonged to Noorjahan, daughter of Mustafa Chopra a senior resident and member of AIUFWP. On the following day, June 17 around 9:30 A.M, about 30 officials came to the spot and destroyed the shelter. They also, shockingly, assaulted the women.
The incident of June 16, 2020 has in fact been captured on the phone camera, in a video by one of the children of the community. In this video it can be clearly seen that it was the police officials who assaulted the family members of Mustafa Chopra while destroying their shelter and it can also be clearly seen how his family members were manhandled and attacked by police officials and forest officials when they objected to the destruction of their shelters. As per a detailed account, Noorjahan, aged 42, was beaten up on June 16 and Ramzan Bibi, aged 50, the daughter in law of Mustafa Chopra, was brutally assaulted the following day and they had to be taken to Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Hospital, Dehradun where they were examined and treated by doctors. The officials dragged Noorjahan and RamzanBibi and tore their clothes and started hitting them with sticks and after seeing other members approaching, they fled from the scene.
Ramzan Bibi’s husband, Noor Mohammad even tried to lodge an FIR at Clement Town police station but the police refused to register the same and asked him to drop the complaint in the drop box without giving any acknowledgement of receipt. Instead, an FIR was filed against the victims of the assault, Noorjahan, Ramzan Bibi, Mustafa Chopra and other family members, which even included minor children.
While in custody, on June 18, 2020 Noorjahan, was beaten up by the police and forest department staff and assaulted and injured on sensitive parts of the body. The police, however, gave a false medical report before the Magistrate stating that they were all fit. Noorjahan was extremely scared and embarrassed to even mention that she was assaulted (read molested through gendered violence) on her sensitive parts and this information was divulged by her to a female relative.
Plea to NCW
Emphasizing upon the need to take cognizance of this incident, the petition states, “Such incidents of violence against women that should generate outrage and immediate legal steps and prosecution are even more worthy of action when perpetrated on women belonging to vulnerable sections of society such as Adivasi, indigenous and forest dwelling communities”. It further states that since these tribal communities are large distinct and distant from urban and rural societies, incidents of violence and gendered sexual abuse against them go easily unnoticed even if they take place in broad daylight.
The petition urges NCW to take cognisance of this incident so as to prevent such acts of sexual abuse and assault on women by public officials in the future.
It also points out the lacunae in penal law that does not recognise sexual assault or sexual abuse by a person holding public office to be serious offence. The petition seeks cognisance of the Commission so that the menace of violence in police custody, especially against women, is adequately addressed and is brought forth in the discourse.
Apart from other reliefs, the petition asks the Commission to intervene in the independent inquiry ordered by Principal Conservator of Forests, Uttarakhand to probe the incident to “ensure that the offences of sexual assault and abuse are also addressed with equal importance rather than the inquiry just focusing on eviction of the Van Gujjars and the destruction of their shelters”.
The complete petition may be read here: