India: minority HRD and lawyer verbally and physically assaultedEvent
- Initial Date
- Oct 6, 2020
- Event Description
Expressing grave concern about the physical assault of a human rights defender and the subsequent apathy by Satara police, the Human Rights Defenders Alert and the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ) have written an urgent letter of appeal on September 29.
The letter addressed to the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC), the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and various UN officials demanded action against the rural police for their apathetic treatment of the physical assault case of Advocate Sujit Nikalje and his family by local goons for his work as a human rights defender.
As many as six people allegedly assaulted the Dalit rights activist and lawyer, who was returning to Phaltan from Dhumalwadi on September 6, along with his wife and his brother’s family. The family was returning from a visit to a nearby waterfall when the group of miscreants verbally and physically harassed them. A crowd that had rushed to the family’s help after hearing their shouts caught one attacker Kunal Gaikwad and handed him over to the police.
The organisations alleged that the Inspector of Phaltan rural police, Nitin T Sawant, not only failed to apprehend the attackers but also threatened Nikalje for a baseless offence of entering a restricted waterfall area.
“The fact is that the waterfall comes under the jurisdiction of Dhamalwadi Panchayat, which had decreed that locals were allowed to visit it. The attackers were in fact in contravention to the Panchayat’s orders barring outsiders from visiting the waterfall. Furthermore, the police let off the Mr. Gaikwad on September 6, 2020, without registering a case despite having been caught red handed,” wrote the organisations.
They demanded that Satara’s Superintendent of Police file a report against the Inspector, the rural police and other personnel for wilful negligence and inaction to register the Advocate’s case.
The organisation also asked that the charge of attempt to murder be added to Nikalje’s existing FIR along with other charges of voluntary hurt, assault on a woman to outrage her modesty, unlawful assembly and armed rioting. Lastly, they demanded compensation for the Dalit rights activist who was assaulted on account of his human rights work.
“We urge that this case is treated as a case of reprisal on the human rights defender,” said the letter.
Five of the six accused were arrested on September 10 following intervention by Superintendent of Police Ms. Tejaswi Satpute. However, Mr. Deepak Gaikwad continues to be absconding.
The organisations that believed the attack was of a pre-meditated nature said, “He [Gaikwad] has been identified by the HRD as being the leader of the pack and took the lead in instigating the attack against the HRD. The fact that he continues to be free puts the life of the HRD [Nikalje] and his family in imminent threat.”
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Other (e.g. undefined, organisation, community)
- Intimidation and Threats
- Violence (physical)
- Rights Concerned
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Minority rights defender
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 6 September 2020, Advocate Sujit Nikalje, lawyer and minority HRD, was verbally and physically assaulted with his family by a group of thugs and did not receive any police protection in Phaltan, India.