Abduction of a social activist in Kolkata

March 6, 2010

[On 5th March, we received this letter written to the NHRC by Abhijnan Sarkar, a student activist from Kolkata. In the letter, he narrates his harrowing experience after being abducted by persons who seem to be personnel of some Indian secret service. We are publishing this in order to bring to light the terror unleashed by state law enforcement agencies on anyone who opposes the policies of the state. Abductions of radical political activists by such agencies have become a routine affair and illegal torture is carried out during such detentions, which are in complete violation of any kind of legal procedures to be followed. The legal system has completely broken down with such acts being carried out with impunity, thereby failing to protect the voices of dissent in a so-called democratic country. We urge all democratic voices to join together to protest such acts of terror.  – Ed]

To
Justice G, M, Mathur,
Acting Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
New Delhi

Date: 18/02/2010

SUBJECT: ABDUCTION BY POLICE IN AN UNLAWFUL WAY

Respected Sir,

I am writing this letter with grave concern about the incident of abduction and sheer coercion that had befallen on me. To let you know about the dread terror situation in West Bengal unleashed by police, I am describing that incident chronologically.

On February 2, 2010, I was heading for New Delhi to attend an interview in Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Pusa, for my research purpose. The interview was to be held on February 4, 2010. I was accompanied by one person who was also journeying to attend the interview (I am not revealing his name for his safety). We were in coach no. S2, in 2323 UP Howrah New Delhi Express.

As the train arrived at Asansol station approximately at 9.30 p.m., seven men wearing civil dress came into the coach S2, pounced on us with fake allegation of robbery, forced us to alight from train. We were baffled to deal the situation. As we were shoved to move in the platform, suddenly one of them snatched my mobile, put my hands behind compellingly and blindfolded me. I smell a rat. I tried to shout for help, but on that moment no one came forward. I was shoved vehemently throughout the platform and hurled into a vehicle just outside the station. At that time, I realized that I was abducted and my companion also faced the same fate. I was sitting in the middle row of a SUV and my companion was in the last row.

Two persons were sitting alongside me, grabbing my hands, and bullying not to make any mess. The vehicle moved for minutes. And then it stopped, one person (I suspect he was the senior officer) replaced the man at my right. Then he started the interrogation (or intimidation!!) and again the vehicle started to move. They told me that they were heading for Ghatsila, Jharkhand.

As the vehicle moved, I was ordered to bend forward; at the gunpoint (They poked a metallic object at my rib). I was covered with a cloth. I was told that Bihar police had done this ‘operation’ to gather some information. They were speaking in Hindi.

Then they started to pelt innumerable no of questions. Most of those were irrelevant to my daily life. First they asked why I was going to Delhi, what is my past etc. As I cleared my position they had started to terrorize. They repeatedly recited that their course of action is different from West Bengal police and something brutal, they are used to abduct and encounter many persons. They would pierce my head with a bullet and leave my body in the jungle, no one would be able to find my corpse. One claimed that he had been an encounter specialist like Nana Patekar in the film ‘Ab Tak Chappan’. As the time gone, they methodically created an immense pressure on me, on my life.

Basically, my life was at their mercy. Blindfolded, without any premonition, I was in the abyss of consternation. With some prior knowledge from books and literature, I was aware of these types of incidents commenced by secret police as well as anxious about our future, about our life. In police custody, murders of innocents are common in our country. We were abducted in a surreptitious manner. The fright of death pervaded my conscience at that time. They had not done anything physically. But psychologically they infused terror into my mind.

Besides that coercion, they repeatedly asked me about Maoist activism in Kolkata and West Bengal. I tried to convey that I am not involved with any banned outfit. Hard of hearing my say they continued to pressurize me. I divulged tits and bits of my movement but was unable to satiate them.

I am involved with some kind of social movement that had broken out in West Bengal 2006 onwards. Like other democratic persons I spoke out against the forceful land acquisition and state terror unleashed by CPI (Marxist) led left front government. I suspect that’s why I was a target of police. In recent times many incidents of coercion by secret police had taken place in West Bengal.

After five or six hours of drive, the vehicle stopped. Again I want to repeat that throughout the journey I was interrogated, coerced, blindfolded. My companion also experienced same kind of ordeal. As the vehicle stopped they told me to come out of the car. Then they ushered us to the 2nd floor of a building. I was groping to find the correct steps. During that time they helped me to go upstairs.

They ordered me to sit on bed. After another period of interrogation I was allowed to lay down on the bed. After this they reminded me to think and reveal everything to them that I know, and assured me if I response positively, they would pay a reward in return. They acted in graceful and compassionate manner to mould me, to be subservient to them. Veiled, blindfolded, I was in a predicament condition, about to spend a night of nightmare. I was also unaware of my companion’s condition.

On the next morning, laying approximately five hours on bed, they had started their interrogation again. In the mean time they also provided the breakfast and tea. They fed me as my eyes were blindfolded.

Throughout the inquisition they repeatedly asked me the same questions seven or eight times. Every time they tried to hit upon the trivial discrepancies and browbeaten me that I was not cooperating. I visited Lalgarh four times, overtly, before the deployment of joint force in month of June 2009. I had to repeat this information seven to eight times (and other in formations also).

On that morning, after three hours approximately, another person came to interrogate me. From their conversations, I perceived that the new comer possessed higher rank, as the others called him ‘sir’. He asked some questions aggressively, in a humiliating tone. He showed me a picture of some students through a laptop (a HP model), among them I could identify a student of JNU, New Delhi. Only that moment they uncovered my eyes. I saw a glimpse of a room containing a table, a sofa set and chairs. Within a few seconds they put the shroud on my eyes.

The person, who supposed to be higher in rank, left the room within two hours. Then again the tedious interrogation had started. Intermittently, the officer advised me to shun the ‘despicable anti-state’ politics and advised to join their hand to return back to ‘mainstream’ life. Throughout this ordeal, I could not endure this kind of long chatter and became a yes-man. I had to pass some personal information like email address and passwords, my friend’s names etc to them as I was dejected, traumatized and perturbed.

They provided the lunch. And the repetition of above-mentioned interrogation had continued. In the mean time, the interrogating officer assured me that I might attend the interview I was heading for. And suddenly he asked me to stand up, to put on shoes. Without any argument I followed them. I did not rely on them and the whole episode was a riddle to me.

They again pushed me in a car. That time I realized that my companion was also pushed into that car. They ordered me not to unfold the covering. As the vehicle moved the interrogating officer gave me two A4 size pages and informed me that those were the air tickets to Delhi. He also told me that the car would leave us to the nearest airport. He threatened not to speak about this whole incident otherwise they would grill me and my friend and our family also. After one hour of drive the vehicle stooped. He ordered us to come out of the vehicle and unfold the covering after five minutes. I came out of the vehicle, unfolded the cover of my eyes within five seconds, and saw a TATA sumo hastily melted away, leaving us behind. I could not note the number of the car. It was dusk, we stood in a desolate by road, beside the International Terminus of Netaji Subhas Airport, Kolkata. They were definitely coming from Kolkata Police Department. The time was 7.25 pm, 3rd February 2010.

My friend and me were spellbound, astounded, after the extrication. Later I came to know that he was hosted in the same house, but in 1st floor. He was also interrogated for some times. He was total innocent (if I was found guilty of doing protest against state terrorism), and both of us faced an experience that is beyond the imagination of us, in this ‘democratic, civilized’ West Bengal.

I want to tell that this incident is mere indication of decrepitude condition in our state. How far the secret police could go, how easily they could flout law that I have experienced blatantly. As a civilian, I may have some view, some critics of policy of state. But this kind of infringement and coercion is unimaginable. I am not a ‘Maoist’, but I am a social activist and continue to be so.

For the sake of freedom of expression and transparency in intelligence network, I am writing this letter. Unfortunately, I am already late to inform about that severe incident. I was traumatized, so far my companion also. That case of abduction had repleted confusion, terror, and nothingness in my mind. To get rid of the plight I am appealing you for justice and demanding assurance to stop this kind of despicable acts of police.

Please accept this letter as complaint and I urge upon you to investigate the mater concerning harassment and mental torture, detention incommunicado and illegal action by the cops.