Human Rights Activist Assaulted in Front of Court House
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Shillong based human rights activist Hasina Kharbhih was the victim of a planned assault outside of the Shillong District Council Court this afternoon. Her attacker, a woman currently on bail for stalking Ms. Kharbhih over the last few months with threatening calls demanding that she stop her investigation into a high-profile human trafficking case. Ms. Dympep has also tried to use the court system to harass Ms. Kharbhih, filing a defamation case against her and insinuating in her FIR that she was having a relationship with Ms. Kharbhih’s husband. Thanks to police reluctance to pursue Ms. Dympep, she has managed to evade any conviction and today appeared completely unconcerned about the consequences of her actions when publicly striking out at Ms. Kharbhih. One has to wonder who is protecting Ms. Dympep and why?
Ms. Kharbhih, founder of Impulse NGO, an organization implementing anti-human trafficking initiatives and HIV prevention strategies, is also an esteemed Ashoka fellow and recipient of numerous honours, including the UNANIMA 2009 Woman of Courage Award. Ashoka, an international association of social entrepreneurs, believes Ms. Kharbhih’s life to be in danger and is currently looking at evacuation and exile strategies.
The attack on Ms. Kharbhih occurred as she was entering the court. Ms. Dympep and a male companion had been waiting outside for Ms. Kharbhih and when she arrived they began verbally and physically attacking her. Several nearby witnesses heard Ms. Dympep screaming “I’ll get Impulse shut down” and “make sure you are out of Shillong.” She then vowed to have Vijay Mallya [the CEO and owner of Kingfisher Airlines] come to Shillong and put an end to Impulse NGO Network.
Hasina is nationally and internationally famed for her dedication to fighting for the rights of women and children. This ongoing ordeal has made Ms. Kharbhih’s life difficult over the past eight months. A special officer, at the DSP level has been appointed to investigate her case and the Asian Human Rights Commission has posted an urgent appeal on its website (www. ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2009/3132). The AHRC is also providing support by connecting her to additional legal aid.
The harassment began in July 2008 when a male caller, who had been tracking Ms. Kharbhih’s day to day movements, phoned at odd hours trying to prevent the investigation of a particular human trafficking case.
Two weeks later, a female caller also began contacting the Impulse NGO office about the same case, relaying messages to staff members that Ms. Kharbhih had "better watch out." Brazenly, the woman made no attempt to conceal her various numbers and repeatedly demanded Ms. Kharbhih respond to a given cell phone number - which she refused to do.
Impulse NGO has handled human trafficking matters since 1999. From 400 cases, this is the first time intimidation directed at the organization has reached such a high level.
The case gaining so much attention concerns a group of girls recruited under the false pretence of employment with a major private airlines. Like many of Meghalaya's human trafficking victims, these girls were lured for work in escort industries across India's tourist and business destinations.
Among the group was Ms. Dympep, who has been identified as the female caller. When police requested her presence at the police station, she claimed to be too busy planning a wedding to manage it, and the matter was left.
Police apathy has marked this case from the start. While sitting in the police station, Ms. Kharbhih received more of the obnoxious calls, this time with the police able to listen in, and yet they still refused to trace the call.
A FIR was filed against Ms. Dympep by Impulse NGO on 1st September, 2008, and with the signature of a junior lawyer, she was able to obtain bail. Later an extension of this bail was approved while a police investigation took place. However, during this time, Ms. Dympep absconded on numerous occasions and police neglected to refile the report within the 90 day period.
It has been alleged that since her return to Shillong, Ms. Dympep has been acting as a recruiter, luring girls.
More than a year ago Ms. Dympep, in the small city of Guwahati, happened to apply for a passport with 65 other North-East Indian girls on the same day. Ms. Dympep's family reported to Impulse NGO that Dalphi Wahlang, a woman who has a possible link with an international drug smuggling racket, was also a member of this recruitment group.
Ms. Wahlang was arrested by Bangalore Customs just 2 days ago with her Nigerian partner. The couple attempted to smuggle 2.5 kg of heroin, roughly USD 1.6 million worth on the international market, into South Africa from two different multinational courier offices.
During a police interrogation, the duo confessed to mailing 14 of these consignments from Bangalore alone. Kolkata, Patna and Mumbai, were other locations used by the couple and their destinations included Spain, Canada, South Africa, the UK, and China.
Though red flags are waving, serious police work is needed to penetrate this possibly wide-reaching drug and human trafficking ring.
By Rachael Kilsby
Impulse NGO Network