NHRC issues notice to Tamil Nadu on rally deaths

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Chennai, May 2 (IANS) The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday said it has issued notice to the Tamil Nadu government calling for detailed reports on the circumstances leading to the death of people at election rallies.

In a statement, the NHRC said it has taken cognizance of a complaint that several people were gathered, forced and threatened to sit for political rallies, in open fields under the scorching sun for four to five hours without drinking water and other basic facilities leading to injuries and loss of lives, amounting to violation of basic and fundamental human rights.

“Allegedly, this happened despite the District Collectors’ orders that public should not venture out from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. due to scorching heat,” the statement said.

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The NHRC has issued notices to the chief secretary and director general of police, Government of Tamil Nadu calling for detailed reports, within two weeks, about the circumstances leading to the incidents. The Commission has also directed them to take all necessary measures to prevent reccurrence of all such incidents in the future.

The deaths and injuries happened at the election rallies addressed by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa at Cuddalore, Virudhunagar and Salem districts.

“Allegedly, for three public rallies on April 11, 15 and 20, 2016 in Cuddalore, Virudhunagar and Salem districts respectively, people were forced and threatened to assemble as early as 11 a.m. in the scorching heat, although, the meetings were to start after 3 p.m. They were neither allowed to attend nature’s call nor provided with basic amenities like drinking water, thereby subjecting them to various hardships,” the NHRC said.

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The NHRC said allegedly, many people fainted at Virudhuchalam rally in Cuddalore district, creating unrest and panic, which in turn, led to stampede.

“Total 17 persons were admitted in hospital following the incident. Two persons lost their lives as first aid was not provided promptly. Another person was seriously hurt in the stampede at Aruppukkottai in Virudhunagar district and eventually died while two others died in Magudanchavadi in Salem district due to heat and overcrowding,” the NHRC said.

The commission has said that even if the political parties have the rights to organise public meetings, it is the duty of the State/District Administration, while granting permissions for such meetings, to take all necessary steps considering the safety and security issues in mind.

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