India: alleged physical violence, intimidation & arrest perpetrated against MASUM members Pranab Roy & Arkadeep Goswami (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of India on 7 June 2023. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. Regrettably, the Government did not reply within this time frame. If a reply is received it will be posted on the UN Special Procedures communications database.

On 20 May 2023, following a complaint filed by Mr. Pranab Roy, the Court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate in Bangaon, West Bengal, directed the police to register a First Information Report (FIR) and conduct an investigation into the allegations of torture against him.

As for Mr. Arkadeep Goswami, two cases against him are still pending, despite the fact that no official charges were filed (respectively since 2018 and 2022). The human rights defender is thus restricted in his freedom of movement and unable to avail of a passport.  

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication


Topic: violations against two members of the human rights organisation Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM): the alleged attack on, and torture and ill-treatment of, the human rights defender and community activist Mr. Pranab Roy, as well as the harassment of human rights defender, Mr. Arkadeep Goswami.

Mr. Pranab Roy is a human rights defender as well as a member of the group Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM). Since 2022, when the organization expanded their presence to the Barnabera village of North 24 Parganas District in West Bengal, he has been an active participant in the work that they have carried out. MASUM is an organization dedicated to the advancement and protection of human rights. It advocates for the Border Security Forces (BSF) to take accountability for the violations they are reportedly committing in West Bengal. Throughout his time working with the organization, Mr. Roy has alerted to, and voiced his concerns about the human rights violations that have been reportedly committed in the local vicinity. He undertook various initiatives to address the issues and to mobilize and enable the villagers to fight for their rights. Most notably, Mr. Roy played a leading role in recent advocacy efforts against the illegal grabbing of 600 hectares of land belonging to the local community in North 24 Parganas by the Border Security Force (BSF). Mr. Roy helped to launch a committee comprised of the villagers in his local area under the name ‘Amra Simantabasi’ (We the border populace).

Mr. Arkadeep Goswami is a human rights defender and freelance journalist also based in the state of West Bengal. Within his journalism, Mr. Goswami has covered issues of human rights abuses in India, namely infringements to workers’ rights. He has also been critical of the state’s prison conditions and of laws which are reportedly used to quash dissenting opinion and expression. Like Mr. Pranab Roy, he is also a member of MASUM. The human rights defender has also served as an executive member of the All India council for Student Struggles and has participated as a member of the All India University Students Fact Finding Team on Fake Encounters in 2017. Furthermore, he has played a role in the ‘Justice for Rohith Vemula’ movement in India, which arose in the aftermath of PhD student Vemula’s suicide after he was suspended from university in what was alleged to be an example of state-sponsored discrimination of peoples of the Dalit caste. This movement sought accountability by the university and the government and called for an end to discriminatory treatment based on caste-fueled biases (2016-2018). Mr. Arkadeep Goswami has previously been the subject of reprisals on account of his activism with MASUM, and his work campaigning for justice. He was previously arrested and detained for activities linked to his activism.


In 1998, the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) constructed a fence in Gaighata block which falls under Jhawdanga Gram Panchayat. This block borders the Ichamati river. CPWD had constructed a fence from a stretch of 1.5 km from the Jhawdanga crossing to the Noradoho crossing along the Ramnagar road. Given that the old fencing ran along the road, it did not encroach on the agricultural land of local farmers in the vicinity, namely the farmers of the Jhawdanga, Noradoho and Barnabera villages who reside within this border area. Therefore, the construction of the original wall was compatible with the rights of the landholders, hence why this site was chosen as a suitable place to erect the wall.

Currently, however, BSF and CPWD are planning to construct a series of new border fences which will run through the Jhawdanga and Barnabera farmland and eventually join up with, and supplement, the previously constructed fences at two distinct points along the Ramnagar road. Should the construction of these fences be allowed to proceed, it will have a damaging impact on the right to livelihood of the 300 farmers in the Jhawdanga, Noradoho and Barnabera areas on whose territory this building will intrude. This will create divisions in the farmland, frustrating their ability to cultivate it. Farmers have voiced their concerns as to the construction of these fences in the past and have even raised their issues with the Gaighata Block Development Office. However, no measures to address these concerns appear to have been taken as of yet.

In the face of this pending development, the villagers of the aforementioned areas formed a committee called ‘Amra Simantabasi’ (We the border populace). One individual who came to play a leading role in the project, and who is considered to be a central “portfolio holder” in their efforts, is Mr. Pranab Roy.

In the month of October 2022, Mr. Roy organized a mass protest with the villagers of Barnabera. This involved a peaceful protest in front of the premises of the Block Development Office, Gaighata. As part of the protest, Mr. Roy addressed the staff of the Block Development Office and inquired as to why BSF, CPWD and other administrative bodies had carried out surveys of on the land of the local farms people without giving them prior notice or seeking consent in advance. The officer present in the Block Development Officer who Mr. Roy spoke to, replied to the demands of the villagers informing them that he did not know anything about these affairs and maintaining instead that such matters were within the remit of the Land Acquisition Department and the Border Security Force, rather than the Block Development Office to which he belonged. He did not file any formal complaint in connection with this.

On 3 November 2022, another protest was organized by Mr. Roy at the office of the Sub Divisional Officer, Bangaon Sub Division.

The next day, on 4 November 2022, the members of ‘Amra Simantabasi’ submitted two petitions to the Block Development Officer, Gaighata Block and District Magistrate, North 24 Parganas. In these submissions, the members of ‘Amra Simantabasi’ implored the aforementioned recipients to take proper action against the illegal fencing that is being carried out by the BSF, CPWD and Block Land and Land Revenue Officer. To the knowledge of those who submitted the petitions, no action has since been taken by the various authorities that they addressed.

The case of Mr. Pranab Roy

On 9 April 2023 between 5 and 5.30 pm, Mr. Pranab Roy and his father were stopped by the Company Commander of the Border Security Force (BSF), as well as two other individuals representing the 105 Batallion of the BSF who are employed at the Barnabera Border Out Post. At the time of being stopped, Mr. Pranab Roy and his father were returning home after working on their agricultural land. The Company Commander and the men accompanying him began to question Mr. Roy.

Following this, the men in question began to beat Mr. Roy forcefully. The three perpetrators struck the victim and knocked him to the ground. Though the human rights defender’s father begged them to cease the violence against his son, they ignored his pleas. While on the ground, the perpetrators brutally kicked Mr. Pranab, striking him with the ends of their boots. They also proceeded to strike the human rights defender with wooden rods they had on their person.

In the course of the beatings that they subjected the human rights defender to, the perpetrators also reportedly dragged Mr. Roy to the nearby bank of the Ichamati River.

In addition to the physical violence committed against Mr. Pranab Roy, the three BSF affiliated perpetrators also reportedly committed psychological aggressions against him by means of threats and intimidation. They are alleged to have threatened the victim that he would be faced with charges of smuggling Phensedyl across the India-Bangladeshi border, and that he would be accused of being an undercover agent for the State of Bangladesh. They also reportedly took a photo of the victim near the Ichamati River for the purpose of threatening him in the future. Furthermore, they forced him to sign a false confession admitting that he had been detained by BSF after being caught returning home late at night and assuring that he had not been subjected to any form of torture. Once the document was signed, the perpetrators released the victim and left him alone.

According to the information received, while suffering physical assault at the hands of the BSF representatives, the perpetrators explicitly stated numerous times that the violence being committed against him was in connection with his work in defence of human rights in the area, seemingly in reference to the human rights defenders work in opposition to the land grabs to which his local community have been subject.

Once he had been released by the BSF affiliated perpetrators, Mr. Pranab Roy admitted himself to Chandpara Rural hospital where his injuries were examined by the medical personnel. He received an injury report from the on-duty doctor. The doctors report notes that Mr. Pranab Roy has suffered traumatic bruising on his body.

On 10 April 2023, Mr. Pranab Roy filed a complaint on the incident against the BSF with the Sutia Police out post. While the complaint was recorded, police officers refused to give Mr. Roy a copy of the First Information Report (FIR), a document to which he is entitled by law under the Criminal Procedure Code. Police also refused to assure Mr. Roy that a formal complaint had been lodged.

The case of Mr. Arkadeep Goswami

On 24 April 2022, Mr. Arkadeep Goswami was intercepted and forcibly abducted while passing through the market on his way home, in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. The alleged perpetrators of the incident were officials of the Special Task Force (STF) and Counter Insurgency Force (CIF), based in the police station of Bolpur, in the Birbhum district, in West Bengal state. Mr. Arkadeep Goswami was subsequently taken to Barikul police station, which is situated nearly 200 kilometers from his home. He was informed that his arrest stemmed from a First Information Report (FIR) which had been previously filed against him on 27 January 2022. This FIR pertained to sections 148, 149, 120B, 121, 121A, 122, 123, and 124A of the Indian Penal Code which refer to offences such as “rioting”, “unlawful assembly, “waging war against the Government”, “criminal conspiracy”, “sedition” and “concealing (a deadly weapon) with the intent to…wage war”. In the course of his arrest and detention, Mr. Goswami was never presented with an official warrant for his arrest.

On 25 April 2022, the family of the human rights defender was informed that the human rights defender had been arrested. The STF and CIF officers also communicated to the family of Mr. Arkadeep Goswami the location of the detention centre in which he was being held. He was reportedly subsequently detained there for one and a half months on the basis of an alleged fabricated case.

On 3 June 2022, the human rights defender was granted bail and was released. However, the case against him is still ongoing despite the fact that no official charges have been filed.

On 18 April 2023 at 3 p.m., two unidentified men visited Mr. Arkadeep Goswami’s residence in Kolkata, where he usually resides with his parents. On finding the human rights defender absent, they questioned his parents as to Mr. Arkadeep Goswami’s whereabouts, and as to when he was intending to return home. The perpetrators in question asked Mr. Arkadeep Goswami’s mother to call her son via telephone at which point they spoke to the human rights defender and pressured him to reveal details of his current location. The men refused to disclose their identities to the victim or his family, however, one of them claimed to have met the human rights defender when he was arrested and jailed under false charges in 2022. It is believed that at least one of the men was one of his captors linked to the Counter Insurgency Force (CIF), a special force associated with the West Bengal Police.

Mr. Arkadeep Goswami also continues to face accusations of offences of sedition and waging war on the state. This case was originally raised against the human rights defender on 13 November 2018, and was allegedly filed in retaliation to his work in defence of human rights, namely his efforts to report and document the mistreatment of political prisoners in the West Medinipur district of West Bengal.


In the communication, we express our concern at the alleged physical violence, intimidation and arrest perpetrated against the two above-mentioned members of MASUM.

In particular, we are deeply concerned by the physical assault of Mr. Pranab Roy, in the beatings and aggressions which may amount to torture, as well as the psychological violations committed against the individual, in the form of threats and intimidation, which appear to be exercised in retaliation to his legitimate work in defence of human rights. We would like to further express our concern at the illegal forced disappropriation of land in the localities of Jhaudanga, Noradoho and Barnabera which is allegedly being carried out by the Border Security Force, Central Public Works Department and Block Land and the Land Revenue Officer.

Furthermore, we wish to express our serious concern at the harassment of human rights defender Mr. Arkadeep Goswami, namely the alleged arbitrary detention, as well as the threats and intimidation to which he and his family have been subject.


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