BARAK HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION COMMITTEE: AN OVERVIEW

(A Human Rights Organisation of the nature as is envisaged under section 12 (i) of the protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 and registered under the Societies registration Act, 1860 vide No. RS/CA/243/B/61 of 2002-03 dated 1st October 2002)

The mission of BARAK HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION COMMITTEE (BHRPC) is (i) to promote and protect human rights and prevent their violations, (ii) to improve socio-economic situation for full realization of Social, Economic and Cultural Rights for all and (iii) to work for promotion and establishment of democracy, secularism and world peace as these are sine qua non for full realization of all human rights.
B C Gupta Road, Malugram, Silchar-788002, Assam, India. Email: bhrpc.net@gmail.com or bhrpcsilchar@yahoo.co.in

BACKGROUD: Every human being has certain inherent rights due only to the fact that s/he is a human being. These rights are called human rights. In 1948 United Nations’ General Assembly proclaimed the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (UDHR) as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. Most of the rights enshrined in UDHR have also been embodied and elaborated in a number of other binding international and regional treaties and instruments. The United Nations adopted the DECLARATION ON THE RIGHT AND RESPONSIBILITY OF INDIVIDUALS, GROUPS AND ORGANS OF SOCIETY TO PROMOTE AND PROTECT UNIVERSALLY RECOGNIZED HUMAN RIGHTS AND FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS (UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders) by its General Assembly resolution 53/144 of 9 December 1998 recognising and encouraging the efforts of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in promoting and protecting human rights. Fundamental human rights are also guaranteed in the Constitution of India and the Supreme Court and High Courts are made the custodians of these rights. There are other laws and mechanisms in India guaranteeing human rights enacted and constituted to fulfil its obligations under international law and treaties. One such legislation is the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, (the Act) which encourages explicitly under section 12 (i) the efforts of NGOs in the field of human rights. Barak Human Rights Protection Committee is such a non-profit organization as is envisaged under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and contemplated in the Act.

BHRPC is named after the river BARAK as it is based in its valley. In Article 3 of the constitution of BHRPC the area of
operation is defined as "basically entire Barak Valley and if necessary beyond this area". Barak Valley is the part of the globe which is located in southern part of the state of Assam in India where about four million people live mainly on agriculture. Almost 80% people of Barak Valley belong to Bengali speaking Hindu and Muslim communities and others are Manipuri Meitei and Bishnupriya, Jharkhandi (Sadani speaking) Hindi speaking people, Dimasa, Khasi-Pnar, Hmar, Riang etc. while Assam, or for that matter the entire North East India is populated by nearly 70 ethnic groups. The land now known as Barak Valley was in part an independent kingdom known as Cachar before the British annexed it to the empire in 1832 and the rest was a part of Sylhet district of Bengal. The districts of Cachar and Sylhet along with Goalpara were appended to Assam in 1874. At the time of partition in 1947, following the referendum as to the question of joining India or Pakistan held in Sylhet, as per recommendations of the Radcliff Commission the area covering the jurisdiction of three police stations and half area of another police station of Sylhet district joined India and the district of Cachar was formed of four sub-divisions, namely, Cachar, Karimganj, Hailakandi and North Cachar Hills. Later on North Cachar Hills was curved out form Cachar and annexed with Mikir Hills. Subsequently in 1983 Karimganj and in 1993

Hailakandi were declared separate districts of Assam. Now Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts are known as Barak Valley for their relative geographical and cultural unity after the name of the main river of the area. After a few years of the independence of India the ethnic groups of North East India, a region rich with cultural and geographical diversity, tended to slacken ties with each other and with the main land India. Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh were curved out from Assam and were made separate states. Though the cases of Manipur and Nagaland are slightly different, this politics of assertion and establishment of separate identity gave birth to the violent secessionist movements through the pangs of "Language Movement" of 1961 in Barak Valley, "Assam Movement" of seventies culminating in the Neelie Massacre of 1983 and resulting in formation and operation of various armed opposition groups turning the region into a conflict zone. The war field where the main casualties of the conflicts are security, justice, peace and human rights includes Barak Valley also. The valley being a free play ground of corruption, nepotism, political vested interests as well as illiteracy and poverty the human plight here got further worsened.

Establishment and Status:
It was in this background that in 2002 human rights activists of the valley came together for promoting and protecting human rights systematically and formed this BARAK HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION COMMITTEE (abbreviated as BHRPC) on 28th June and was registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 vide No. RS/CA/243/B/61 of 2002-03 dated 1st October 2002.

Objectives:
The main objectives are (i) to promote and protect human rights and prevent their violations, (ii) to improve socio-economic situation for full realization of Social, Economic and Cultural Rights for all and (iii) to work for promotion and establishment of democracy, secularism and world peace as these are sine qua non for full realization of all human rights.

Activities:
1.1 Activities aimed at promoting human rights include: (i) Research and study of human rights laws and situations and other related matters, (ii) Awareness generation campaigns through public meetings, lectures, seminars, symposiums,

workshops, publications etc. (iii) Awards to, or felicitations of, the activists, journalists, authors and other outstanding contributors in the field and (iv) Cultural activities including drama, documentaries and other arts. 1.2 Activities aimed at protecting human rights include: (i) Monitoring and documentation of human rights situations as well as individual events of violations, (ii) Reporting events of violations to the appropriate forum for justice by way of legal action or otherwise (iii) Resorting to street actions if and when needed and (iv) Rendering services aimed at relief and rehabilitation of the victims including victims of man-made and natural disasters. 1.3 Activities aimed at preventing violation of human rights include: (i) Taking measures for implementation of the existing laws, rules, guidelines etc., (ii) Providing timely and accurate information to the appropriate authorities and other concerned groups for prevention of violations by way of Urgent Appeal or other actions, (iii) Programmes to sensitize law enforcement and security agencies and improve their relationship with the public and (iv) Maintenance of 24 hour emergency help-lines through fax, land phone, mobile phones and e-mails. 1.4 Some activities may serve more than one purpose and as such fall under all three categories mentioned above. The Specialised Programmes of BHRPC are such activities: These include (i) Right to Justice Programme, (ii) Right to Information Programme (iii) Gender Justice and Child Rights Programme. 2. Some of these Specialised Programmes are aimed at Economic, Social and Cultural Rights /Socio-Economic Development. These include: (iv) Right to Livelihood Programme (v) Disaster Risk Management Programme, (vi) Health Rights Programme (vii) Environmental Awareness and Protection Programme and other development and service programmes taken from time to time. 3. Projects considered conducive for furthering the cause of Human Rights, Democracy, Secularism and Peace funded by the Governments, Government Agencies and Non Governmental Entities are also implemented by BHRPC. 4. All programmes and activities of BHRPC are directed in such a way as they can contribute as much as possible towards securing justice, democracy, secularism and world peace. In all programmes and activities of BHRPC, creation and mobilization of public opinion is emphasized.

Organization:
1. Houses: The organization of BHRPC is comprised of six houses: 1.1. Auxiliary Body: Any person agreeing with the ideology, constitution and other rules and regulations of the organization and having interest in human rights can join the organization by joining first the Auxiliary body as Auxiliary Member.

The main duties of an Auxiliary Member are i) to develop his or her understanding of human rights, ii) to protect and defend his or her own human rights, and iii) to learn the ways of promoting, protecting human rights and preventing their violations by interaction with other members of local Auxiliary Group, participation in the activities of the organization and through orientation and training programmes. 1.2. Auxiliary Group: Whenever in a particular locality, at least five auxiliary members join BHRPC, and demand so, or situation demands so, as felt by the Executive Body, an Auxiliary Group may be formed with a convener. The group acts as de facto primary unit of BHRPC and as such takes up activities of local relevance and importance in consultation with the Executive Body. 2. Associates Body: Members of Auxiliary Body would be nominated to membership of the Associates Body by the Executive Body if and when the latter is satisfied as to the eligibility of the concerned member. The main duties of a member of the Associates Body are i) to develop further his or her understanding of human rights laws and mechanisms, ii) to provide timely and accurate information of the events of violations of human rights occurred in his or her locality, iii) to carry out specific responsibilities entrusted by the Executive Body, and iv) to take part in all activities and events of BHRPC. The Associates Body meets once a year where activities of the last year are discussed and activities for the next year are contemplated on and suggested to the Executive Body through resolutions. 3. Advisory Body: The persons who are specialists/experts in particular fields if agree with the ideology, constitution and rules and regulations of the organization and have interest in human rights may be nominated by the Executive Body as members of the Advisory Body. The main duties of a member of the Advisory Body include: i) to provide expert opinion/advice as sought by the Executive Body, Chair Person and/or Secretary General. A member of the Advisory Body may participate in the deliberations of the meeting of the Executive Body if requested or allowed by the latter, the Chair Person and /or Secretary General. The Advisory Body meets once a year where activities of the last year are discussed and activities for the next year are contemplated on and suggested to the Executive Body through resolutions.

4. Board of Patrons: The persons who agree with the ideology, constitution and other rules and regulations of the organization and have interest in human rights but can not participate actively in the activities of the organization for various reasons may be nominated by the Executive Body as members of the Board of Patrons. Members of the Board provide recurrent financial assistance in a specific amount fixed by the Executive Body from time to time. A member of the Board may participate in the deliberations of the meeting of the Executive Body if requested or allowed by the latter, the Chair Person and /or Secretary General. The Board meets once a year where activities of the last year are discussed and activities for the next year are contemplated on and suggested to the Executive Body through resolutions. 5. General Body: Members of Associates Body, Advisory Body and Board of Patrons are nominated to the membership of the General Body by the Executive Body if and when the latter is satisfied as to the wish and eligibility of the concerned member. The members of the General Body are responsible for all activities, events and programmes etc. of BHRPC. They choose the members of the Executive Body from amongst themselves. The Executive Body is primarily answerable to the General Body. The Body may meet as many times as needed and must meet once a year. The executive Body is obliged to work as per the resolutions adopted in the meetings of the General Body. 6. Executive Body: The Executive Body of BHRPC is the main body which is responsible for implementation of all programmes, projects and policies. It takes decisions in matters related to day to day work. It can also formulate policies, rules and regulations to be followed by the concerned body, division or offices till these are not placed before the General Body. After consideration, the General body may approve, modify or reject them. In case of approval they have retrospective effect; and in case of modification or rejection, the actions taken before under them or their previous form, shall be deemed to be valid. In short, the Executive Body is the main body responsible for all activities and works of BHRPC. It is directly answerable to the General Body.

2. Offices:
There are some offices in the organization such as (i) The Chairperson, (ii) Vice-Chairpersons, (iii) Secretary General, (iv) Joint Secretaries, (v) Secretaries with particular responsibilities and (vi) the Executive Members. These offices are held by the Executive Members as chosen by the members of the General Body.

Other positions include Directors, Coordinators, Advisors, Consultants, Resource Persons, Representatives, Spokespersons, Monitors etc. which can be held by members of the Associates Body and other equivalent bodies as nominated by the Executive Body.

3. Divisions:
All activities and programmes of the organization are run by 8 divisions. Each division is headed by a director and may have members in appropriate numbers. The divisions work in close co-ordination with each other under the general supervision and control of the Executive Body. They are: 1. Organisation and Administration Division: This division is responsible for all works related to organizational expansion and administration. It works for expansion of the activities by suggesting to the Executive Body formation of Auxiliary Groups and nomination of Local Monitors of Human Rights in or out of Barak Valley and entering into networking and partnership with other similar minded organisations and institutions in points of mutual agreement and interests in and out of the valley. The division keeps close look on the working of all other divisions, programmes and projects as well as on the performance of individual members of BHRPC and suggests changes, modification, improvement regarding the former and entrustment and curtailment, as the case may be, of responsibilities of the latter to the Executive Body. The division is also responsible for preparation, amendment and enforcement of the Code of Conduct for the members. The Code of Conduct is incorporated in the Manual for BHRPC Members prepared by Education and Training Division. 2. Education and Training Division: This division is responsible for running education centres and giving training to the members of the organization, members of the public and members of the various Government agencies by itself and/or in collaboration with other organisations, institutions and agencies. The division formulates draft curricula for human rights study, training manuals and hand books for activists and submits to the Executive Body and works for their implementation as approved by the Executive Body. 3. Monitoring and Documentation Division: This division monitors human rights situations, takes up individual cases of violations on communication by victims or any person or suo moto. The division is also responsible for fact-finding and documentation of such cases, forwarding them to the appropriate forums for redressal and monitoring till the final disposition and implementation of the decisions giving remedies. Monitoring is done through close observation of a situation or individual case in such a way so as to determine what further actions needs to be taken. BHRPC uses the following elements while monitoring human rights violations; a. It is carried out over an extended period of time.

b. It involves collecting or receiving a large quantity of data. c. Close observation of the situation is done through periodic examination or investigation and documentation of developments. d. International human rights standard and norms are used as reference in objectively assessing the situation or case in question, especially in determining what is wrong with it. e. Tools or instruments developed by various international documentation centres are used in identifying how the situation compares with established standards or norms. f. The product of monitoring is usually a report about the situation. g. The report embodies an assessment of the situation which provides a basis for further action. Documentation in relation to this division means recording information about ongoing or recent events of human rights violations including both an individual case of violation and pattern of violations. The division undertakes mainly documentation of events, which generally have very specific purposes. The information collected pertains to actual events that happened on the ground, and these are usually used in carrying out various kinds of intervention in these events. This kind of documentation is very much action-oriented. 4. Law and Legal Affairs Division: This division is mainly responsible for giving legal opinion and advice to any organ of the organisation regarding any matter, if and when sought. It looks after the litigations entered into by the organisation. The division also works in projects of research and studies with Research and Study Division. This division also runs a “Workshop cum Counselling and Conciliation Centre” approved by the Assam State Legal Services Authority. The division conducts free legal aid camps in remote villages of the valley and forwards the eligible persons for free legal services to District Free Legal Aid Committees and The High Court Free Legal Aid Committee. The division also works as a Counselling and Conciliation Centre which involves counselling both to the victims and alleged violators with a view to their reconciliation mainly in cases of domestic disputes. As the next step it adopts Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods to give justice to the victim and reconcile them. These methods are applied mainly in cases involving family law and domestic violence. 5. Projects and Programmes Division: This division adopts, manages and co-ordinates Specialised Programmes of the organization and projects undertaken from time to time. At present the division is working on the following programmes: (i) Right to Justice Programme,

(ii) Right to Information Programme (iii) Gender Justice and Child Rights Programme. (iv) Right to Livelihood Programme (v) Disaster Risk Management Programme (vi) Health Rights Programme and (vii) Environmental Awareness and Protection Programme 6. Research and Study Division: This division is responsible for all works related to research and study of human rights laws and situations and other related matters. The division identifies the fields, topics and methods of research and prepares and submits project proposals for consideration by the Executive Body. If approved works on the project as per direction of the Body. At present the division is working on a research project titled “Freedom from Torture and Violence: Compatibility of Indian Law and Practice with International Human Rights Standards (Focusing on The North East)”. 7. Information and Publication Division: This division disseminates information relating to BHRPC and other matters related to human rights through publications and responsible for public relations.

Achievements:
Past achievements of the organization include: 1. The term ‘human rights’ and its significance became more familiar to the people of the valley following many seminars, symposiums, public meetings, workshops, debates, interactive sessions, demonstrations, publications etc. conducted by the organization since its establishment. A drastic increase in recent days can be seen in the numbers of complaints regarding cases of violations filed by the victims and others with the organization, Assam Human Rights Commission and National Human Rights Commission which is indicative of greater awareness of the people. BHRPC received more than 150 complaints in the last year. 2. The organization has published folders and booklets containing Bengali translation (the local language) of (i) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (ii) Provisions of the Legal Services Authority Act, 1988, (iii) Requirements of Arrest under D K Basu Case, (iv) NHRC Guidelines Regarding Arrest, (v) Dos and Don’ts regarding Solid Waste Management and (vi) The

Supreme Court Judgment on Employment of Teachers on non-teaching duties and continues to distribute them free of cost among the public. 3. The organization maintains a 24 hours mobile helpline for the victims. A victim or anyone on his behalf can call at anytime on +919435989997 or +919401134314 or can e-mail to bhrpc.net@gmail.com or bhrpcsilchar@yahoo.co.in . 4. The organization has got the status of district nodal NGO in Disaster Risk Management Programme from the district administration in 2007. 5. The Assam State Legal Services Authority has accorded approval to “Workshop cum Counselling and Conciliation Centre” run by the organisation in 2008. 6. The organisation runs its WebPages at the URL: http://bhrpc.net.googlepages.com and its discussion group at the URL: http://groups.google.co.in/group/bhrpc 7. The organization has undertaken a research project titled “Freedom from Torture and Violence: Compatibility of Indian Law and Practice with International Human Rights Standards (Focusing on The North East)”. 8. The organization publishes a yearly journal on human rights named ‘The Human Voice’ and a monthly e-news letter named ‘RightsNews’. In the Days to Come: BHRPC will expand its activities and networking both horizontally and vertically by continuing formation of Auxiliary Groups and nomination of Local Monitors of Human Rights in or out of Barak Valley and entering into networking and partnership with other similar minded organisations and institutions in points of mutual agreement and interests in and out of the valley. The organization has undertaken a project of translation (in Bengali) and publication of the International Bill of Human Rights and the organization is going to launch its own website. Besides, the organization is contemplating to start some other important programmes for working more conveniently in the area of i) Labour Rights, ii) Agricultural Awareness, iii) Right to Education, iv) Health Rights and v) Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Barak Human Rights Protection Committee will continue to fight for rights, justice, peace and truth with resilience and dynamism.

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