Bahrain rights body wants probe into Indian’s death

July 1st, 2008 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, July 1 (IANS) The death of an Indian worker in Bahrain, said to be a case of suicide, has snowballed into a controversy with a prominent human rights body in the Gulf nation demanding a probe into the cause of his death. The Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS) has demanded an open investigation into the death of Vinod Kumar, 32, who allegedly choked himself to death with a piece of cloth while in police custody Saturday, local media reported.

“The Indian worker strangled himself in custody and later died at the BDF Hospital,” Faisal Fulad, BHRWS regional and international director, told the Bahrain Tribune.

“This is because of the negligence on the part of the ministries of interior and labour,” he said.

Calling on the Bahraini government to protect workers’ rights as the country has recently been elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR), Faisal said his organisation is preparing an urgent report on Kumar’s death. This would be sent to UNHCR, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHCR) of India.

Kumar, who worked for Bahrain-based contracting and construction major Ahmed Mansoor Al A’ali, reportedly committed suicide while in police custody two days after a delay in paperwork stalled his return to India.

Kumar was found wandering in a dazed state last Wednesday in a Bahrain locality, a day prior to his scheduled departure. His friends said he even called up some of them saying that he wanted to commit suicide. Later they came to know that the police had taken him into custody.

Reports said Kumar was detained at the Riffa police station for his own safety as he had tried to commit suicide by making a dash through moving traffic Wednesday. That was the first of the three reported suicide attempts he made.

After he reportedly choked himself with a piece of cloth Saturday in his cell at the police station, he was taken to the BDF Hospital where he died four hours later.

Meanwhile, hundreds of workers of Ahmed Mansoor Al A’ali at a labour camp in Aksar stayed away from work demanding a proper explanation of why Kumar died.

“We are being told different things by different people,” one of the workers told the Gulf Daily News.

“We were first told he strangled himself, and then someone told us he choked himself with a blanket, while others told us he ate something. We want to know what exactly happened,” he said.

The company, on its part, said its top priority now was to repatriate Kumar’s body to India.

“At this stage, our priority is to send the body home,” Hussain Nasser, administration manager at Ahmed Mansoor Al A’ali, was quoted as saying.

Kumar, who hailed from Kozhikode in Kerala, leaves behind his mother, wife and an 18-month-old son.

“Vinod Kumar was a good worker and we are shocked like all his colleagues about his suicide in detention,” Nasser said.

As for the workers staying away from work, he said that the company understood that they had lost a dear friend and colleague, “which is why they are staying away from work”.

Denying the workers’ claims that they were being misled, Nasser said: “We have nothing to hide. The workers’ representatives have been in touch with the police themselves and they are convinced by the police version.”

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