17 October, 2012.
CHENNAI — Two children — Rishita, 14, and Postine, 12, — and one adult — Mrs. Malar — from Idinthakarai deposed before the panel of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights at a public hearing held in Theyagaraya Hall, TNagar, Chennai, today. The deponent referred to the report of the Justice Kolse Patil fact finding committee on the police violence following the September 10 peaceful gathering on the Idinthkarai beach. It was pointed out that the Patil report endorsed the claims of local people that:
a) the police had unleashed violence on people, including children
b) at least 4 juveniles had been arrested, of whom at least 3 faced charges of sedition and waging war
c) an atmosphere of fear was prevalent in the area that was preventing children from enjoying a life of normalcy.
The children who deposed articulately in the poetic Tamil of South Tamil Nadu said that they feared for their future, their parent’s safety and were also afraid of stepping out of their homes for fear of police harassment. The children said that they are unable to focus on their studies as they are traumatised by the happenings of September 10 and later, and because they are fearful of police harassment of their friends and family.
The panel was requested to send a team to visit the area and assess the “atmosphere of fear” prevalent in the area, and to see how children have been affected and their rights violated. The panel was also requested to issue directions in the instance of the four children who were arrested, detained in the Palayamkottai Juvenile Home, and charged with heinous crimes including attempted murder, sedition and waging war against the state. It was pointed out that at least one student — Kishen — had missed his examinations for want of sufficient attendance due to the 10 day detention caused by the police. In a written affidavit signed by Kishen, which was handed to the committee, Kishen had stated that the illegal arrest not only lost him valuable time, but it also has prevented him from sitting in his examinations and has resulted in a waste of fees paid for the year.
The panel made the following key observations:
- It was not empowered to make any recommendations on the desirability, or not, of nuclear power.
- It was not averse to the idea of constituting a committee to visit the protest areas and assess the atmosphere of fear and speak to children.
- It was not averse to the proposal of recommending counsellors to advise children traumatised by the ongoing protests.
- It was equivocal in declaring that children in such situations of political conflict cannot be treated as criminals. Referring to the state of children in areas like Orissa, where communities are protesting against steel FDI of Posco, the panel said that children in these areas need to be seen as persons in need of support and counseling, and not as criminals.
One member of the panel proposed that a copy of the Kolse Patil Committee report be forwarded to the Government of Tamil Nadu for their comments.