By Henri Tiphagne*
Ravindra Velip, an anti-mining activist and human rights defender from Cauvrem-Pirla village in Quepem taluka, was blind folded and beaten up mercilessly by inmates in judicial custody inside Sada sub-jail in Goa. The incident happened on March 23, 2016, Velip and his colleagues were arrested for participating in an anti-mining protest in Cauvrem village of South Goa where they were opposing transportation of illegal iron ore.
Velip hails from a tribal community and is a resident of Cauvrem-Pirla village in Quepem taluka, South Goa. He is an anti-illegal mining activist associated with the non-governmental organisation known as ‘Goa Foundation’ whose petition in the Supreme Court resulted in a two-and-a-half-year ban on mining in the state. Velip has been consistently working to expose the illegalities of mining lease holders in Cauvrem. It was due to the efforts of his group that the authorities could locate lakhs of tonnes of iron ore illegally extracted and hidden in artificial mountains under layers of mud, after the closure of mining was announced by the State Government.
Velip was instrumental in revealing the information to the mining directorate that the excess amounts of iron ore discovered by his group with the help of villagers were being systematically removed under the garb of e-auction. The situation has been turning grim due to the unmonitored movement of mineral ore in the mining belt amid claims of the government that it lacks manpower and resources to prevent illegal mining and monitor movement of trucks.
On March 22, 2016, Velip was arrested along with four others for participating in an anti-mining protest in Cauvrem village of South Goa. Their arrests were made under Sections 143 (unlawful assembly) and 341 (wrongful restraint) for blocking transportation of iron ore e-auctioned by the state government to a private trading company. They were remanded to judicial custody in Sada sub-jail.
Around 9 PM on Thursday March 23, 2016, when he was getting ready to move out of the Sub-Jail facility after securing bail, suddenly someone from back blindfolded him and began hitting him. He was beaten up with boots and fists. He was lifted and thrown from a height due to which he suffered multiple fractures on his arms and suffered internal injuries. Velip was taken to the Goa Medical College and got medical treatment.
Velip along with his colleagues were protesting mining operations in Cauvrem village of South Goa. They were arrested after they questioned the veracity of the iron ore consignment passing through their village. The villagers of Cauvrem are protesting against transportation of iron ore by a mining firm through their village road. The iron ore export in Goa has begun after Supreme Court lifted the ban imposed on the mining activity.
Anti-mining activists of Goa alleged that “a mining firm, a ruling BJP legislator and jail authorities were behind the attack”. They filed a complaint with State Chief secretary against the jail authorities on Friday the March 25, 2016, and urged that the government should initiate proper inquiry into the incident and demanded that guilty should be punished.
We, therefore urge you to immediately take necessary steps to ensure that the concerned authorities in Goa:
- Order an immediate, thorough, transparent, effective and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned physical assault made on the anti- mining activist and human rights defender Velip;
- Ensure complete medical check-up of human rights defender Velip totally at state cost in the best medical facility available in the state to ensure that he is not suffering from any internal medical ailments;
- Take immediate action on the perpetrators by arresting them and using all provisions of law to ensure that the defender is not harassed or attacked in future and provide a re-assurance of not engaging in such acts against HRDs;
- Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of human rights defender Velip and his family members from further reprisals from the perpetrators;
- Ensure provision of reparation, compensation, apology to the human rights defender for the physical and psychological sufferings he has undergone and also ensure to compensate Velip for his medical expenses incurred during his treatment and give this assurance to the NHRC of India in writing immediately and urgently;
- Put an end to all acts of attack and harassment against all human rights defenders in the State of Goa to ensure that in all circumstances they carry out their activities without any hindrances;Takes steps to conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:
- Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels;
- Article 12.2, which provides that “”the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;
- Recommend urgently and speedily during the pendency of this complaint the SHRC in Goa to also take necessary steps to establish a state focal point for HRDs in order to ensure that HRDs have a new protection mechanism in their own state;
- Recommends urgently and speedily during the pendency of this complaint, the NHRC to convene a meeting of all state human rights institutions in the state [the SHRC, the SCW, the SCPCR, the SCM, the SIC, State Commissioner for PWDs, etc.] to ensure that a coordinated strategy is developed within the State of Goa for the protection of the rights of human rights defenders;
- Recommend urgently and speedily during the pendency of this complaint the State Government of Goa in collaboration with the NHRC Focal Point on HRDs and the SHRC Goa to provide sensitization training to law enforcement and security forces on the role and activities of human rights defenders as a matter of priority, with technical advice and assistance from relevant United Nations entities, NGOs and other partners;
- Recommend urgently and speedily during the pendency of this complaint, the State Government of Goa in collaboration with the SHRC Goa to publicly acknowledge the importance and legitimacy of the work of human rights defenders, i.e. anyone who, “individually and in association with others, … promote[s] and … strive[s] for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” (art.1 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders);
- More generally, ensures in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international human rights instruments ratified by India is strictly adhered to in the state of Goa.
*National Working Secretary, Human Rights Defenders Alert – India. Excerpts from the letter sent to AK Parashar, National Focal Point – Human Rights Defenders & Joint Registrar, National Human Rights Commission; Justice (Retd.) H L Dattu, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission; Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland; Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, High Commissioner for Human Rights United Nations Office at Geneva; Ajit Kumar Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva; Goa Human Rights Commission; R.K. Srivastava, IAS, Chief Secretary, Government of Goa; TN Mohan, IPS, Director General of Police – Goa; and others