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India: Threats against Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi and members of the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)
Front Line is deeply concerned following reports of death threats made via mobile phone against human rights defender Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi and members of the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) between 25 April 2008 and 18 May 2008, calling for them to cease their human rights work, in particular their work with the Dalit communities in the Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh. Dr Raghuvanshi is the convener of the PVCHR and also a member of the District Vigilance Committee on Bonded Labour in the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India. Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi's human rights work focuses on hunger and death due to starvation.
Posted 21/05/2008 Since 25 April 2008, Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi has been receiving threatening calls to his mobile phone in which he has been verbally abused and warned that he will be killed if he continues with the work of the PVCHR with the Dalit communities in the Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh.
The threatening calls were made from the following numbers: +919415158550, +919794207227, +919454592038, +919792166784, +919792317547, +919453982577, +919956198171, +919838709973, +919889028806, +919792625583, +919795067828, +919838709937, +919792308119, +919793181915 and +919335985425, +919956816351 and +919919784317, all of which are registered in India.
Front Line wrote to you on 25 January 2008 regarding the harassment of Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi and members of the PVCHR. On 23 January 2008, Dr Raghuvanshi appeared before the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court 1 to present his application for bail, which was accepted as the Court ruled that there was no reason for him to be detained.
Furthermore, the Magistrate ruled that the complaint that had been filed against Dr Raghuvanshi on 9 December 2007 by the village head of Belwa in the Badagaon administrative district, Rajendar Thripathi, for “anti-state activities” could not be registered due to insufficient evidence. Dr Raghuvanshi, along with Ms Anupam Nagavanshi and Ms Shruti Nagavanshi, also staff members of the PVCHR, has been charged with “statements conducing to public mischief”, under Section 505 (b) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. However, the Court reportedly ordered that they are not to be arrested in relation to these charges until further notice. Due to questions regarding the procedure that was followed in this case, the Magistrate has ordered the Phulpur police to produce all documents relevant to this case before 29 January 2008.
Front Line has previously expressed its concern regarding threats against Dr Raghuvanshi and the staff of the PVCHR, received between 4 and 6 December 2007, as well as the complaint filed against him by Rajendar Thripathi, on 9 December 2007. Dr Raghuvanshi was the subject of intimidation by Rajendar Thripathi, and in 2002, a First Information Report (FIR) was filed against Rajendar Thripathi by Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi in his capacity as member of the Committee on Bonded Labour. A warrant was consequently issued for Rajendar Thripathi's arrest, which is still pending. It is not known why Rajendar Thripathi was not arrested when he presented himself at the police station to file the FIR against Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi; however it could be seen to indicate a degree of collusion between the police and the local authorities.
Furthermore, in August 2005, Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi received death threats from a friend of Rajendar Thripathi, Rmasray Singh, while Rajendar Thripathi was contesting the Panchayath election. Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi reported these threats to the authorities on 6 August 2005 and a FIR was issued. This case is also pending despite expressions of concern from three United Nations Special Rapporteurs to the central government.
Front Line believes that these threats against Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi and members of the PVCHR are directly related to work that the PVCHR does in the defence of human rights, in particular its work to assist those facing discrimination and death by starvation due to their caste in Uttar Pradesh.
Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi and the PVCHR have recently drawn attention to incidences of babies and young children dying from starvation in the state, which have engendered widespread media attention and criticism of the state government's failure to acknowledge and tackle the problem, which is closely linked to the issue of caste discrimination. Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi and all members of the PVCHR.