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Murshidabad Starvation Deaths

Posted Online on Thursday 21, July 2005 00:55 IST

Local official flees protesting starved villagers in West Bengal, leaves thugs to attack

PRESS RELEASE

(Hong Kong, July 20, 2005) A local official fled his offices in Murshidabad district, West Bengal on Tuesday when around 800 starving villagers gathered to protest government inaction over their plight. 

Local human rights group Manabadhikar Surksha Mancha (Masum) told the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) that when the people from Paraspur, Taltali and Dayarampur villages came to see Kanchan Chowdhury, the Block Development Officer (BDO) in Jalangi, he fled. 

"The people waited there shouting slogans for about five hours," Kirity Roy, secretary of Masum, said. 

"After a while, people came in the street and blocked the main road from Baharampur to Jalangi," he said.

"Suddenly around 15 to 20 armed hooligans from the CPIM [Communist Party of India (Marxist)] came and started assaulting the villagers with sticks, chains and fists," Roy alleged.

The CPIM is the governing party in West Bengal.

According to Masum, the leaders of the group attacking the protesters were Ananda Ghosh, Hannan Khan, Kanu Saha and Yadul Sarkar, who is the brother of the local member of the legislative assembly Yunus Sarkar. 

After a time, the police force arrived and dispersed the attackers, Roy added.

A Muslim organization distributed rice, wheat, clothes and building materials to the affected persons at the front of the BDO's office, he said. 

The AHRC on Monday warned the state governor of looming violence due to starvation in the Jalangi region. 

The Hong Kong-based regional human rights group contacted local officials and was told that a few hundred families had been given some rice. 

The AHRC has accused government officials of failing to properly use funds earmarked for recovery work in the region, and being hopelessly inefficient and corrupt.

The use of thugs connected to the ruling political party to break up protests is a common phenomenon in West Bengal. 

In April the house of Gopen Sharma, a human rights defender responsible for raising cases of starvation and police abuse in Murshidabad district, was attacked by a mob of over 500 people reportedly led by persons attached to local politicians. 

Sharma has since gone into hiding for fear of his life. 

Last August the AHRC also reported on an attack on human rights defenders in greater Kolkata by a gang of over 50 people attached to the CPIM.

About AHRC The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Asian Human Rights Commission
19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building,
998 Canton Road, Kowloon, Hongkong S.A.R.
Tel: +(852) - 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) - 2698-6367

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