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26 February 2010

Re: India - Death threats, harassment and intimidation against human rights defender Mr
Aftab Alam

Human rights defender Mr Aftab Alam received death threats and was the subject of harassment
and intimidation on 9 February 2010. Aftab Alam is a weaver by trade and is associated with the
Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR). Since 2004, Aftab Alam has been
working on the issue of hand-loom weavers rights in the Lohta Panchayat region of Varanasi, Uttar
Pradesh, an area where hand-loom weaving is a common occupation. He has reported on the
issue of malnutrition, tuberculosis, starvation and the general situation of hand-loom weavers in
Lohta following the downturn in the hand-loom weaving industry as a result of the introduction of
power looms into India which left many hand-loom weavers without work.

0n 9 February 2010, at approximately 12.16pm, Aftab Alam received a threatening call on his
mobile phone from the number +91-9936036962 while he was on a routine visit to members of the
hand-loom weaver community in the village of Dhannipur in the Lohta region. When he was
preparing to return home from Dhannipur, a Mr Mukhtar Ahmad stopped him to ask him about the
case of a weaver from the village of Sabha Bhatti who has been unable to work for the last three
months as a result of a serious illness. The man's wife stitches blanket for a living and earns only
10 -15 Rupees a day which is not enough to provide for her husband, herself and her two children.
Aftab Alam had previously highlighted the case of this weaver and had sent a letter in relation to
the matter to the leader of Sabha Bhatti village, Mr Sujeet Yadav (alias Lakkad Pahalwan).

While Aftab Alam was discussing the case with Mukhtar Ahmad, Sujeet Yadav and a group of
influential villagers approached them and threatened Aftab Alam, verbally abusing him and warning
him not to return to their village. When Aftab Alam asked what he had done wrong the group tried
to physically force him onto his motorbike. Fearing for his safety, Aftab Alam quickly left the village
on his motorbike.

Front Line believes that the death threats, aggression and intimidation against Aftab Alam are
directly related to his work in defence of human rights, in particular the rights of the hand-loom
weaver community of Lohta. Front Line fears for the physical and psychological integrity of Aftab
Alam.

Front Line calls on you to urge the authorities in India to:

1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the death threats
against Aftab Alam, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those
responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
2. Call on the local authorities and village leadership to ensure that Aftab Alam is free to
carry out his legitimate human rights activities in the Lohta Panchayat region of
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, including in Dhannipur village;
3. Guarantee the security and physical and psychological integrity of Aftab Alam;

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4. Ensure that all human rights defenders in India, carrying out their legitimate work in
the defence of human rights, are able to operate free of restrictions and reprisals.

Yours sincerely,

Mary Lawlor
Director