On 6 August 2015, human rights defender, Mr Durbadal Majumder was detained in police custody overnight at the New Jalpaiguri police station. He was informed that a criminal case had been opened against him.
Durbadal Majumder, is the Jalpaiguri District human rights monitor for Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), a non-governmental human rights organisation based in Howrah, Kolkata, West Bengal. MASUM works on a variety of issues, including combating illegal evictions, enforced migration, trafficking of persons and impunity for acts of torture. As a human rights monitor, Durbadal Majumder has been involved in campaigns against the use of torture by the police and Border Security Forces in the area, as well as investigating individual cases of torture and mistreatment.
On 6 August 2015, at approximately 3 p.m., the human rights defender was taken into police custody at the New Jalpaiguri police station. He was not provided with food during his time in custody and was released at 10:30 a.m. on 7 August. Before he was released, the police officer on duty forced Durbadal Majumder to sign a paper, which he was prevented from reading. He was further informed that a criminal case had been opened against him.
The case was allegedly opened at the request of Mr Prithiraj Barman, a police officer in New Jalpaiguri who claims that Durbadal Majumder threatened him. Durbadal Majumder has been offering assistance to Prithiraj Barman‘s wife, Ms Namita Barman, in relation to alleged domestic violence. On 2 August 2015, Durbadal Majumder visited Bhaktinagar Police Station with an order from the Sub Divisional Officer Court to collect Namita Barman’s belongings. On 6 August the human rights defender accompaniedNamita Barman to collect her belongings from the police station. After placing her belongings in a rented car, Namita Barman and Durbadal Majumder were informed by the driver of the car that he had been stopped by three police officers and the car had been seized. Durbadal Majumder, Namita Barman and the driver were ordered to go toNew Jalpaiguri police station for further enquiries. Upon arriving at the police station, they met with Prithiraj Barman. He questioned Durbadal Majumder about his human rights work and involvement in Namita Barman‘s case. Prithiraj Barman is then reported to have harassed and verbally abused the human rights defender, including accusing him of being in a long-term relationship with his estranged wife. Other police officers who were present did not intervene.
MASUM has been subjected to ongoing targeting by the police, with nine members of staff under criminal investigation. In February 2015, MASUM member Mr Ajijul Haquewas beaten by a group of unknown men in West Bengal, allegedly in the presence of police officers, and detained for approximately eight hours. In November 2014, another MASUM member, human rights defender Mr Azimuddin Sarkar was detained overnight by local police in the village of Bardhanpur, Murshidabad district, West Bengal. During his detention he was severely beaten.
Front Line Defenders is concerned at the arbitrary detention of human rights defender Durbadal Majumder and at the reported case that has been opened against him, especially in the context of ongoing police harassment of MASUM. Front Line Defenders believed this to be an attempt to prevent him from carrying out his peaceful and legitimate advocacy in defence of human rights.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in India to:
Immediately and unconditionally cease all investigations against Durbadal Majumder;
Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the illegal temporary detention of Durbadal Majumder, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in India are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.