Kirity Roy, 57, campaigns to stop the powerful trampling on ordinary people’s rights.
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“Victims of police abuse are swallowed up by a culture of silence. If the victims speak out then society will be forced to change the system.”
Kirity Roy, 57, India
Kirity Roy has dedicated his life to defending human rights. His activism came full circle when Amnesty International recently spoke out against his arrest.
Kirity Roy started out as a young political activist in West Bengal, India. He has since spent decades exposing human rights abuses and fighting injustice. His work has sometimes come at a great personal cost. But he has also won many battles.
“Human rights are universal, indivisible and applicable to all shades of people around the world. That’s why I moved from parochial political activism to human rights activism. I tried my best to fight against police torture, police firing on innocent masses, and violence and deaths in custody. I led several fact-finding teams and we uncovered barbaric acts by the police and state administration.”
“Torture is a slow process, designed to render its victim helpless, dependent and devoid of all human qualities. Victims of police abuse are swallowed up by a culture of silence. They fear repercussions if they speak out, and these fears are often well-founded. We have to break that silence to obtain justice. If the victims speak out, society will be forced to change the system.”
Kirity has taken legal action against the authorities several times. “In 1997, the police − backed by an influential building developer − ransacked a hospital established by workers who were locked out of their factory. I took legal action against the police, the matter was referred to the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, and the police officers were found guilty.”
Another case involved a casual worker at a jute mill who was abducted by the police, tortured and disappeared. “There was an outcry and, as a result of my enquiries, criminal proceedings were started against the police.” In 2008, he defended the rights of more than 6,000 scavengers living in extreme poverty on a municipal dump, who faced forced eviction without any compensation.
But his activism has come at a cost. “In 1994, my house was bombed by the police, and my wife and son were threatened.” Kirity has been arrested twice for observing Human Rights Day, and in 2008 the police raided the offices of the human rights organization of which he is now Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM).
When the anti-terrorist police arrested him for campaigning against torture in 2010, the time had come for someone to speak out on Kirity’s behalf. “Amnesty International issued a public statement in support of me, and I am really grateful for that,” he says.