The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) 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.
This had allegedly despite the District Collectors' orders that public should not venture out from 11:00 a.m. to 04:00 p.m. due to scorching heat.
The commission 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 unfortunate incidents.
NHRC has also directed them to take all necessary measures to prevent reoccurrence of all such incidents in the future.
Issuing the notices, the commission has observed that the allegations are serious and the incidents, if true, are indeed unfortunate.
It said, "while the political parties, especially during the election period, have every right to organise public meetings, it is also 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."
The repeated incidents, one after the other, point towards failure on part of the authorities.
Allegedly, for three public rallies on the April 11, 15 and 20 in Cuddalore, Virudhunagar and Salem districts respectively, people were forced and threatened to assemble as early as 11:00 a.m. in the scorching heat, although, the meetings were to start after 03:00 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.
It is reported that 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 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.
It is also reported that people were paid Rs.300 over and above the wages under the MNREGA to participate in the meetings.