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India - Physical assault on human rights defenders, Mr Choudhury Charan Gorh and Mr Shyama Prasad Kurmi
Front Line is deeply concerned following reports of a physical assault on human rights defenders, Mr Choudhury Charan Gorh and Mr Shyama Prasad Kurmi, on 30 June 2009 in Hailakandi, Assam. Mr Choudhury Charan Gorh is the secretary of NGO HELP, a grass-roots organisation which monitors corruption in the local self-government (the Panchayati Raj) and works for the practical realisation of rural development. Mr Shyama Prasad Kurmi is also a member of NGO HELP and of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) which advocates for students' rights in the province and campaigns against corruption and mis-governance.
On 30 June 2009, NGO HELP convened a public meeting to discuss the scale of corruption in the implementation of rural development schemes by the local government in Assam, in conjunction with the Aenakhal Unit of the AASU and the Mazuri Shramik Union, a local labour organisation which raises awareness concerning the development schemes of the Union government of India and the State Government of Assam. At approximately 3.00 pm, a group of armed men, carrying daggers, sticks and swords, broke up the meeting and assaulted the attendees indiscriminately. Choudhury Charan Gorh and Shyama Prasad Kurmi sustained severe injuries and were admitted to hospital. The identity of the armed men who assaulted them is known to the human rights defenders; they are believed to be connected to the president of Aenakhal Gaon Panchayat, the village level unit of the institution of Pachayati Raj.
The organisers of the public meeting had previously informed the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police of Hailakandi and Officer-in-Charge of Lala police station of the forthcoming meeting. They had also requested a police security presence for the meeting, fearing a potential disruption from those involved in corruption in local development schemes. No response to this security request was received. Following the attack, the organisers of the meeting filed a complaint with the Lala Police Station. As yet, no visible action has been taken by the police to investigate the case or bring the perpetrators to justice.
Front Line believes that the break-up of the meeting organised by NGO HELP, AASU and the Mazuri Shramik Union and the subsequent assault on the attendees are related to the abovementioned organisations' work against corruption in the Assam Province. Front Line is seriously concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Choudhury Charan Gorh and Shyama Prasad Kurmi as well as that of all members of NGO HELP, ASSU and the Mazuri Shramik Union.