In Solidarity with Protesting Family Members of Disappeared ULFA Activists and Demanding Answers from the Government of India about their Whereabouts sign now

The Prime Minister of India
South Block, New Delhi
Fax: 91-11-23019545 / 91-11-23016857

Dear Sir/Madam

On March 21 2007, Gyanoma Moran (alias Shyamoli Gogoi and wife of Prakash Gogoi), Menoka Chetia (alias Meenakhi Borbora and wife of Naba Changmai); Padumi Timung (alias Juri Neog and wife of Robin Neog); Kabita Chakrabarty (wife of Nilu Chakrabarty); Anima Devi (wife of Bening Rabha) and Malini Ingtipi (alias Hema Hansipi and wife of Asanta Baghphukon) wives of missing ULFA activists began an indefinite hunger strike in Assam to obtain answers from the Indian Government.

Their husbands, had gone missing after who have been missing after the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) aided by the Indian Army attacked camps belonging to ULFA, National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) and Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) in December 2003 in what they called Operation All Clear.

The attacks were widely publicised in the regional media and the ferocity and lack of transparency of the terms of combat prompted several national and international organisations including the Red Cross to plead for access to the victims. Such pleas went unheeded by the RBA, who claimed that those who were arrested/detained in the course of combat, were handed over to the Indian administration.

Ever since, the women and their comrades have been trying to find out what has become of their spouses and friends who have not been traced as yet. With the help of human rights organisations they protested in front of the Royal Bhutan Embassy in New Delhi in June 2004 and continued to demonstrate in Guwahati as we well. They also submitted a memorandum to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on enforced and involuntary disappearances.

In 2004 itself, they moved the judiciary for answers and consequently the Gauhati High Court ruled that the government should clearly state what had happened to the persons who were detained and subsequently handed over to the Indian administration. The Government of India has resolutely refused to comply with the courts order stating that such a disclosure would tantamount to compromising the security of the country.

In a memorandum addressed to the President of India just before they embarked on the hunger strike the six activists pointed out what prompted them to take the extreme step of their fast unto death. They demanded that:
(a) the custodial disappearances of their husbands and others following the infamous Operation All-Clear in December 2003 be addressed by the highest authorities of the land;
(b) peaceful resolution to the Indo-Assam conflict; and
(c) the unconditional release of the ULFA leaders in jail, which remains a key to ensuring a just resolution to the impasse in the possibility of talks between the government of India and the armed opposition group.

These three demands simply reiterate the basic tenets of democracy and justice in the quest for a peaceful resolution to armed conflict. The protesting women are demanding answers from Indias political classes who tend to forget that their celebrated democracy does not extend to the people of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and other states of the so-called Northeast.

The response of the government has been utterly predictable. After trying to appease the women with false promises, they have unleashed the might of the police upon them. In the early hours of March 31, 2007; police personnel forcibly entered the venue of the protest and dragged the protestors to hospital where they were fed intravenously against their will. A case was filed against them in the Panbazar Police Station (case number 133/07; u/s 309 IPC).

The police and government spokespersons have shockingly gone on record to state that the women would not be allowed to die in this manner. Instead of addressing their grievances, they have been treated as though they were criminals and clinically disturbed persons in need of governmental discipline. The administration no longer feels that it is important to find the political will to ensure transparency in their secret war against democratic principles and justice. Instead, with the collusion of the powerful security apparatus, they expect the protest to go quietly into the night.

If indeed the government of India is serious about solving the problems that beset Assam and its people, surely the best way to demonstrate such intentions would be to find an ethical solution to the armed conflict by adhering to the basic norms of international law. Instead, there is a callous and heartless effort to criminalise the protest.

We urge all democratic sections of society, and those who believe in rights and justice to extend their solidarity to the hunger-strikers and demand:

(a) They be released from detention forthwith;
(b) Their demands be addressed by the highest bodies of the Indian government, including the security apparatus;
(c) That the administration release information about the whereabouts of their spouses;
(d) That the government make a genuine effort to engage ULFA in peace talks;
(e) That a political resolution to the armed conflicts in the region be taken as the only means of resolution of the same.

Yours sincerely

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