15th May 2000.
The North East Coordination committee on Human Rights (NECOHR), strongly criticised the central government's proposal to enact the anti-people Prevention of Terrorist Activities Bill. As a part of a three day programme held from 15th to 17th May 2000 in Chanmari, Guwahati, a seminar was organised by NECOHR and hosted by MASS, to discuss the anatomy of the Bill on 16th May 2000.
On the first day of the programme, NECOHR met to form a new executive committee and discuss immediate issues that were affecting the people of the region. The following persons were selected as new office bearers this term:
- Chontham Cha Surjeet: Chairman
- Hebal A. Koloy: Vice Chairman
- Asish Gupta: Secretary General
- Dino D.G Dympep: Finance Secretary
- Anjali Daimary: Publicity Secretary
- Narendra Debbarma: Organising Secretary
- James Sylliang: Organising Secretary
- N. Homeshwar: Organising Secretary
Furthermore, the new committee also made the following resolutions prior to the seminar that was held the next day:
- NECOHR shall continue to protest against the conspiracy of the government of India to enact the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, which is now known as POTA, to curb movements that reflect the hopes of the common people. NECOHR resolved to extend the anti-CLA/ POTA campaigns to an all-India level.
- The Convention strongly resolved to condemn the policy of the Indian State through its organs like UCIL, for misleading the people of Meghalaya, especially in the West Khasi Hills District, regarding the uranium extraction which has been considered harmful.
- The Convention endorsed the view that the dichotomies created by the Indian State, such as public and private, are untenable as long as the third entity of the community is also provided an equivalent space to express their position on the decisions that are being taken.
- The Convention recognized that the peoples rights on Uranium information are being violated and cautioned the government machineries to increase their sensitivities on the issue, failing which the people will witness the widespread violations of Human Rights.
North East Convention against the Criminal Law Amendment Bill-1995 (POTA) On 16th May 2000 the convention on the proposed Criminal Law Amendment Bill (now called POTA) was organised at Pandit Tirthanath Sarma Sabhaghar. It was presided over by a presidium comprising CC Surjeet, Chairman NECOHR, Ms. Anjali Daimary, Chairperson BWJF and Bubumoni Goswami, President MASS. The Chief Guest, Retd. Justice Mr. D.K Basu inaugurated the convention and cautioned the gathering on the impending threat of the possibility of this bill being enacted. This was followed by a keynote address by Asish Gupta, Secretary General NECOHR, which outlined the colonial antecedents of the Bill. Apurba Bhattacharya of AJYCP, Advocate S.P Deka of All Assam Lawyers Association, noted social worker Mukul Mahanta and advocate Bijan Mahajan addressed the gathering and outlined their misgivings about the Bill.
The first paper of the convention was presented by Prof. N. Sanajaoba who outlined an ethical attack on those who `felt the need for such a Bill to fight "terrorism"'. He made a spirited appeal to social scientists to adhere to the legal and political distinction between acts of terrorism and acts of national liberation. He further stated that India, being a signatory to the ICCPR, is obliged to recognise the right to self-determination of oppressed nationalities within its political boundaries. Subsequently, Subhram Rajkhowa, outlined the various instances of misuse of preventive detention by law enforcement agencies and provided the convention with a detailed critique of the POTA bill. Advocate N. Brajakanta of Law College, Imphal also spoke of the potential to do damage that is built into such a Bill. Following the presentation by the experts, questions were asked from the floor of the house. Mr. Rabiul Islam, Editor People Today; N. Jayakumar of Committee for Disappeared People Manipur; Suren Bora, Advocate and Hebol Koloy of BPHRO asked the panel for certain clarifications regarding the Bill. Mr. Charan Deka, President of SAKP also addressed the gathering. After its deliberations the convention unanimously passed the following resolutions:
- the proposed POT Bill 2000 is withdrawn immediately before it is placed before the upcoming session (or any other session) of Parliament.
- In view of the threat posed to the life of Lachit Bordoloi, Secretary General MASS and other Human Rights activists, the State and Union governments should seriously uphold the UN declaration for protection of HR defenders and take immediate measures to prevent threats to the lives of all HR defenders.
- The Government of India should take cognisance of the legitimate aspirations of the people and address them in a genuinely democratic manner.
The Fourth Death Anniversary of Martyr Parag Kumar Das The Fourth Death Anniversary of Martyr Parag Kumar Das, founder-Secretary General of Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS) was observed at the spot where he was assassinated in Rajgarh Road, Guwahati by MASS on 17th May 2000.
The programme commenced at 9: 00 a.m. with Ms. Anupama Das formally opening the session by paying homage to the Martyr. Apart from the family members of Parag Kumar Das, activists of MASS, intellectuals, journalists, advocates and leaders of various democratic and human rights organisations also took part in the programme to commemorate the memory of the Martyr. At 10: 00 a. m. the Parag Das Memorial Meeting was held. Activists from human rights organisations from Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland and other states took part in the meeting that was presided over by Bubumoni Goswami. The meeting started with an opening address from the Martyr's mother, Ms. Anupama Das. Following this, Retd. Justice Mr. D.K Basu, Calcutta High Court, also spoke to the assembled people. Criticising the role of the State in the assassination of Parag Das, Ajit Bhuyan, advisor of MASS and editor of Natoon Somoy called the State to order for its role in the dastardly repression of human rights. Sujato Bhadra of APDR (West Bengal); Lachit Bordoloi, Secretary General MASS; Haidar Hussain, editor, Asomiya Protidin; noted social worker Mukul Mahanta; S. Sheshaiah, convener of All India Coordination of DR, CL and HR Organisations; Jatin Borgohain, Secretary Asom Gana Sangram Parishad; Anjali Daimary, president Boro Women's Justice Forum; CC Surjeet, Chairman, NECOHR; Debo Prosad Borooah, ex- vice chancellor of Guwahati University; Hebal Koloy, Borok People's Human Rights Organisation; Madhuram Gogoi, Secretary KASS; Jeenu Borooah, President NASS; D.D.G Dympep and others addressed the gathering. All the speakers recalled the sacrifices made by Parag Das and pledged to carry on with the task that he left unfinished. They criticised the inept manner in which the CBI has handled the case and thereby shielded the killers of Parag Das. The programme ended with the lighting of the Martyr's Flame at 6: 00 p. m.
The three-day programme organised by NECOHR and hosted by MASS brought together all the leading Human Rights organisations in the North East on a number of issues. The main threat, it was felt, was the increasing tendency of the State to resort to anti-democratic methods to deal with genuine social and economic problems. As a result the democratic ethos of the region has been severely threatened by the State apparatus' distortion of reality. This was the shared opinion of the activists, intellectuals and working people who had gathered under the banner of NECOHR from 15th to 17th May 2000.
Lachit Bordoloi Secy Gen, Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti firstname.lastname@example.org