Book AIADMK cadres: NHRC

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday asked Tamil Nadu Police to book AIADMK supporters who pierced cheeks of children as part of a ritual for speedy recovery of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

The directions, which included seeking a report from the state government on steps taken to stop such rituals, came after the Chennai Police Commissioner confirmed that such an incident took place on 3 October 2016.

The NHRC also wanted to know from police about the disciplinary action taken against “erring” policemen, who were present at the site and “did nothing to stop the criminal act”.

The police came in for severe criticism from the NHRC after the Commissioner suggested that children participated in the event with the approval of their parents and were not forced to do so. However, the officer accepted that the incident was a gross violation of child rights and that the police personnel who were at the spot “had been severely warned”.

Rebuffing the Commissioner, the NHRC said that it “fails to understand” how the consent of the parents or that of the children for the ritual “can justify the criminal act of piercing children’s cheeks” with rods. “Admittedly, the police officials, present at the site of the incident did nothing to stop it. Therefore, a simple warning to the erring police personnel is abysmal considering the gravity of the incident,” it said.

Armed with the police report, NHRC said AIADMK supporters forced around 20 children to pierce their cheeks with two metre steel rods as part of a ritual for the then ailing Jayalalithaa’s speedy recovery.

The children were made to walk from Murugan Temple in R K Nagar to Seniamman Temple in Tondiarpet by the supporters of AIADMK and that the children were “very small” and their cheeks were forcibly pierced,” it said.

“A photograph reveals that the children were made to wear a cap with a photograph of Jayalalithaa and with slogan written on it — ‘long live Amma’. One girl is seen caught by some persons for the purpose of piercing her cheeks. The incident makes it a clear case of violation of human rights of children,” it said.

The NHRC directed Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) in North Chennai to register the case under sections of criminal conspiracy, common intention, voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons and wrongful restraint against AIADMK supporters who organised the programme.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 27, 2017)

Inaction led to BHU protests

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday sought a report from UP government and the Banaras Hindu University Vice Chancellor over “inaction” on a complaint of eve-teasing and harsh police action against agitating students.

The NHRC felt that students, who were protesting the eve-teasing and inaction by security guards, were subjected to “inhuman treatment” by police personnel and it amounted to violation of their human rights.

“The university authorities should have acted sensibly as the matter related to the dignity of a woman. The police authorities resorted to rather harsh steps than the situation, perhaps, warranted,” an NHRC statement said.

Taking suo motu cognizance of media reports, the NHRC asked the Chief Secretary and the Vice Chancellor to submit reports within four weeks and provide details about action taken against miscreants and precautionary measures taken to ensure that such incidents do not recur in future.

The NHRC said the media reports are “indicative of lapses” on the part of the university authorities, including the security guards. Instead of taking a quick action into the complaint of eve-teasing, it said, they allegedly indulged in sarcastic comments towards the victim girl.

Students were lathicharged by police on Saturday night after they protested against an eve-teasing incident and response of BHU authorities to it.

Quoting media reports, the NHRC siad when the matter was brought to the notice of Hostel Warden, she instead of taking up the issue with her superiors, asked the girl why was she returning late to the hostel.

This response angered the students who sat on a protest at the main gate of the university demanding round-the-clock security, making security personnel accountable, adequate lighting on roads to girl’s hostel, CCTV network and proper checking at the gates.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 27, 2017)

Citizens’ group for dialogue on JK

Taking a cue from latest statements from government and BJP on Jammu and Kashmir, a high-profile citizens group led by former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday urged the government to initiate dialogue with stakeholders.

In a statement, the Concerned Citizens Group (CCG) said they are reading the statements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP leadership with “much hope” as there is a “positive change in policy towards Kashmiris.

While it is looking forward to a “concrete follow up” on these statements, the CCG said it wants the government to “clearly identify” the stakeholders and announce the name of an authorised interlocutor to “operationalise the well-intentioned statements” that have “so eloquently been made”.

The statement, signed by former National Minorities Commission Chairman Wajahat Habibullah, former Union Minister Manish Tewari and former foreign secretary Nirupama Rao among others, also wanted the government to set a time-frame for the beginning and conduct of the dialogue process and start it as soon as possible.

“Despite deep scepticism that has taken hold of their minds, the encouraging statements by the Prime Minister, Home Minister and others hold promise for the Kashmiris. The present opportunity should not be wasted. And, therefore, it is our fervent appeal to the government to quickly act definitively on the sentiments expressed in a time-bound manner,” the statement said.

Other signatories include Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation Sushobha Barve, former Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, former Special Secretary V Balachandran, academicians Badri Raina, Ramchandra Guha and Zoya Hasan, journalist Bharat Bhushan and activist John Dayal.

In his Independence Day speech, Modi had said that Kashmiris need a hug not abuses or bullets while Singh had undertaken a visit to Kashmir recently. Senior BJP leader Ram Madhav has said that government is ready to hold dialogues with every stakeholder, including separatists.

Last month, a CCG delegation had visited Kashmir and said “simmering anger” over Article 35(A) is leading to an “increasing distance” between Kashmiris and the rest of India and the “sense of dismay and despondency in the people had grown” compared to their previous visits.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 27, 2017)

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