Demand for Prompt and Stern Action Against Assault on Women's Human Rights Defenders
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On the evening of 27th October 2013, the office of Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiative (AALI), women’s rights organisation based in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh was attacked by Ashish Shukla, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), political leader from district Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, along with his family and goons.
Around 5:00pm, the BSP leader Ashish Shukla, his wife Uma Shukla, son Aakarsh Shukla along with 40-50 men, barged into the premises where the organisation is based and beat up the caretaker and his wife. The organization is based in the house of a retired High Court judge. They then forcibly entered the premises, beat-up the two women AALI members, dragged them by the hair and abducted them. They took them to Khatu Shyam Mandir, a temple (located Old Hyderabad Colony, Police Station Mahanagar), about one kilometer from the office , where they were confined, badly beaten up and mauled for 45 minutes. The attackers put a gun to the team member’s head and asked for information about the girl whose case AALI was dealing with. When the team member refused to give away the girl’s whereabouts she was threatened with rape and murder.
In the meanwhile, the other team members got to know about the incident and managed to trace the girls. Girls were rescued by Mahanagar (local) police from the temple. Some of the perpetrators were arrested.
AALI’s office was also ransacked, property was damaged and documents were taken away. A First Information Report (FIR) regarding the incident was lodged the same evening at Mahanagar (local) Police Station along with written statements by the two AALI team members.
We are apprehensive about the manner in which investigation into the attack has so far been carried out. The main perpetrators (named in the FIR and statements of the AALI team members) are still at large. Of the 7 people arrested, one of them has already been released on bail.
The next day on 28th October 2013, the AALI team members were again physically and verbally abused in Lucknow Civil Court premises by the relatives of the girl, including her mother, when they were accompanying the girl to record her statement before the Magistrate.
The threat and fear of further attacks still remains as the attackers have threatened the team members and are constantly enquiring about the whereabouts of the team members from the caretakers of the organization’s office.
This attack has occurred in the context of the case of a 19 year old girl who approached AALI for help on the 24th of October, 2013, as she was being sexually abused within the home. AALI followed all appropriate legal procedures, including informing the Director General of Police (DGP), Station House Officer (SHO) Ghazipur police station, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Lucknow and UP State Human Rights Commission and provided her safe shelter as per her wishes. The people who attacked the AALI team members and the office are family members of the girl.
The brutal attacks have occurred in a posh colony in the capital city of Uttar Pradesh and in the district court situated right in the center of town, near the High Court and in broad daylight. This clearly demonstrates the confidence and arrogance of impunity and the complete absence of fear that any action will be taken against the perpetrators.
As concerned women’s rights and human rights activists/groups, we unanimously condemn the attacks on AALI and demand for prompt and strict action against the perpetrators. The threat and fear of further attacks on AALI team members still remains. We demand that the main perpetrators of the attack Ashish Shukla, Aakarsh Shukla and Uma Shukla should be arrested immediately. Police should ensure proper and prompt investigation in the case of attack against the staff members of AALI.
A stern and direct message must be sent across by the State Administration and Executive that any such brazen display and misuse of power and force against women and women’s rights defenders shall not be accepted in the State.
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