India: environmental defender assaulted, abducted while his family members are threatened and beatenEvent
- Initial Date
- May 31, 2022
- Event Description
About the Human Rights Defenders: Mr. Somnath Dugga is a member of the Rowghat Sangharsh Samiti, an organisation fighting against the Rowghat iron-ore mining project in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district. He is also the Gram Patel (traditional village headman) of Anjarel village in Narayanpur, located on the edge of the mine, and has participated in numerous peaceful protests against the project in the past few years.
Background of the Incident: Anjarel village, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Bharanda Police Station in Narayanpur district, is home to about 25 Adivasi families. Located barely 50 metres away from the edge of Bhilai Steel Plant’s Rowghat iron-ore mine, Anjarel is not shown as displaced in the environmental and forest clearance granted to the project. Local authorities had also assured the gram patel Mr. Somnath Dugga and villagers that it would not be affected by mining activities. But blasting and digging activities that began six months ago have damaged farm lands and houses in the village. The Rowghat Sangharsh Samiti has organised several protests against these moves in the past six months.
Details of the Incident: On May 31, 2022, at 9:00 PM, around 15-16 District Reserve Guard (DRG) personnel led by Mr. Suku Nureti, Mr. Manu Ram Dugga arrived at Mr. Somnath Dugga’s residence on six motorbikes. The personnel – all men – were in civil dress and carrying arms, and some of them had their faces covered with cloth. They forcefully barged into the house, started thrashing the HRD with batons and boots, and dragged him out without giving any reason for their assault. They severely tortured Mr. Dugga in front of his house with batons, logs of wood and kicks till he lost consciousness. When Mr. Dugga’s mother tried to intervene, they put a gun on her chest and threatened to kill her. DRG personnel also assaulted other family members who tried to prevent them from torturing the HRD. They slapped his wife, hit his mother and other family members Mr. Kamlesh Dugga, Ms. Hembati Dugga and Ms. Lalita Dugga (who was carrying an infant) with batons on their back, waist and buttocks. The DRG personnel then abducted Mr. Somnath Dugga. They lifted him by his hands and feet, carried him till the foothills, where an official police vehicle (Bolero) was waiting, bundled him into the vehicle, and took him away to an unknown place. The HRD was unconscious at the time and wearing only an underwear, as his clothes were torn during the assault. The DRG personnel did not tell the family anything about whether there was a case against the HRD, or where they were taking him. At around 10.30 PM, Mr. Dugga’s family members and neighbours visited the Bharanda Police Station to inquire about him, but police officials said they did not know anything and asked them to check with the Narayanpur Police Station. When other HRDs called the Officer in Charge of the Narayanpur police station, he denied having any information in the matter. On June 1, 2022, at around 10 AM, Mr. Dugga’s family received a call from Narayanpur Police Station, informing them that the HRD had been released. They also showed the family a statement bearing Mr. Dugga’s signature claiming the police did not assault or torture him (Mr. Dugga stated he was forced to sign on the statement by police personnel). Family members then took the HRD for a medical check-up to the District Hospital, Narayanpur, where he was admitted, and where he underwent treatment for seven days. The admission ticket mentioned police assault and noted that Mr. Dugga was still unconscious at the time of admission, with swelling and blood clots on his back, legs and chest. After his release from the hospital, Mr. Dugga was treated for dislocation of his knee by a traditional healer in the village. On June 1, 2022, Mr. Dugga’s mother lodged a written complaint at the Bharanda Police Station regarding the torture and illegal detention, asking for the registration of an FIR against Mr. Manu Ram Dugga and other DRG personnel within five days. Though the complaint was received at the police station with a stamp, no FIR has been registered yet. Meanwhile, personnel from the Bharanda Police Station visited Anjarel and threatened to implicate Mr. Somnath Dugga and witnesses who signed the complaint regarding his torture if they pursued the matter any further.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Death threat
- Intimidation and Threats
- Violence (physical)
- Rights Concerned
- Freedom of expression
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Freedom of expression
- Community-based HRD
- Environmental rights defender
- Family of HRD
Case shared by FORUM-ASIA member People's Watch
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 31 May 2022, Somnath Dugga, environmental defender and member of the anti-mining organisation Rowghat Sangharsh Samiti, was severely beaten by the police until lost consciousness, abducted and five of his family members attacked and threatened by the police, who also threatened them with reprisal not to proceed with reporting the incident in Narayanpur district, Chhattisgarh, India.