On April 11-12,the full commission of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will hold open sittings in Raipur,the capital of Naxal-infested Chhattisgarh. This is not the first time that the NHRC is venturing out of New Delhi to hold open sittings,which have become a regular feature ever since former chief justice of India K G Balakrishnan took over as chairperson. What,however,is unique is that for the first time,residents of Dantewada,the heart of left-wing extremism,stuck between Naxalites and security forces,will be able to interact with two members of the NHRC and highlight their grievances.
In deciding to go to Dantewada,the NHRC also rightly rejected a suggestion by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs against the same. While only time will tell what impact,if any,the NHRCs outreach would have on the lives of the people of Dantewada,it is certain to give the countrys highest human rights forum a new insight into the problems faced by those living in the red corridor.
Equally interesting is the range of subjects that the commission will take up during at its meetings with state government functionaries. Starting with alleged excesses by Salwa Judum members to torture in police custody and atrocities on Scheduled Castes,the NHRC will also discuss malnutrition,sexual abuse of students,reconstruction of school buildings damaged or destroyed by Naxalites,death of undertrial prisoners in judicial custody and in fake encounters,and medical negligence.
While residents of state capitals and big cities are aware of their rights and know whom to approach in case these are flouted,the tribals of Dantewada are hardly likely to be as aware or even have the option open to them. Caught between the growing firepower of Naxalites,who have their own agenda,often not in any way connected to the welfare of tribals,and security forces,Dantewada needs all the succour that organisations like the NHRC can offer.
Maneesh is senior assistant editor based in Delhi