Asian Centre for Human Rights

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ACHR Press Release
ACHR Index: CRC-IND/PR/01/03
30 October 2003

Vulnerable children's rights not protected in India, ACHR study

Press Club of India, New Delhi: The rights of children who are vulnerable because of their caste, ethnic origin, religious belief, economic status and national origin or simply living in armed conflict situations are not protected in India and they are not included in the draft National Plan of Action for Children of 11 October 2003 of the government" - stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights while releasing its 161 page study, The Status of Children in India at the Press Club, New Delhi.

Children who are caught in armed conflict situations in 14 out of 28 States are worse off. Hundreds of children are subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture, rape, custodial death, and extrajudicial executions every year at the hands of both the security forces and the armed opposition groups. On 18 May 2003, members of the armed opposition groups slit the throat of 4 years old Irshad Ahmed and 2 years old Mehroof Ahmed along with four women at Mehra Chokian village under Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir. Their only fault was - their father was a police. On 26 May 2003, three Special Police Officers of Tripura raped a Reang girl at Gandacherra and pushed a cane up her sex organ causing serious injuries. Often, there is little difference between the law enforcement personnel and the armed opposition groups.

A large number of children, especially in Jharkhand, have been arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002. On 9 July 2002, 14 year old Mayanti Raj Kumari, a student of Class VII has been arrested for allegedly waging war against the State (under Sections 121 A and 122 of the Indian Penal Code) and POTA while returning from her school. She is presently detained in Ranchi jail and not in a juvenile home.

The government has little concern for the juvenile delinquents. In a reply to Rajya Sabha on 3 December 2001, the government stated that there are no juvenile detainees in Jammu and Kashmir. It is because Jammu and Kashmir state government has not taken any measure to implement the Juvenile Justice Act of 1986, let alone replace it with Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000 until today. The juvenile delinquents are being kept in District Jail of Jammu along with harden criminals. Hundreds of minors across India are languishing in jails along with adult prisoners, as the Magistrates do not order age verification involving scrutiny of birth or school certificates and bone ossification tests if a suspect seems under 21 years.

Although, the Dalits are considered "untouchable" - too "polluted" to be touched - the rape of Dalit women and girls, who represent the honour of the community - by the upper caste is a commonplace. The SCs/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 has failed to combat caste atrocities due to low rate of conviction - 5.4% out of 31,011 cases in 1998.

As a result of caste bias of the administration, judiciary and most importantly, those who enforce the law, the police. Only 10 States out of 28 States and 7 Union Territories have established Special Courts despite the increasing caste atrocities as reflected from registration of 34799 cases in 1999, 36,971 cases in 2000 and 39,157 in 2001 under the Act.

Indigenous peoples, Adivasis, have been disproportionately affected by displacement - the Scheduled Tribes who constitute 8.1 percent of the total population also constitute 55.16% of total displaced people. This had serious affect on overall development of tribal children. The government continues to use colonial Land Acquisition Act of 1894 to displace the indigenous peoples from their lands.

25 million out of 35 million out of school children in the age group 6-14 years are girls. What is most condemnable is "not only allocation earmarked for education was inadequate but funds allocated for secondary education from 1995-96 to 1999-2000 were not fully and properly utilised". Similarly, on elimination of child labour under the eighth plan, out of Rs 100.76 crore sanctioned by the government, more than only 25% were not utilised. Under the ninth plan too, the funds remain unutilised. The conviction under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act is extremely low - after carrying out 24,985 inspections from 2000 to 2002, prosecution launched in 99 cases, which resulted only in 13 convictions.

Tens of thousand children including the descendents of the victims of partition are deprived the right to nationality and therefore, denied access to education, land ownership, employment etc. These include children of Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh, Mohajirs in Andhra Pradesh, Punjabi refugees in Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistani Hindu refugees in Rajashtan. The Centre has failed to implement the Supreme Court judgement on the grant of citizenship to the Chakmas and Hajongs.

The government discriminates against "politically expendable" refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). While Sri Lankan Tamil refugees are provided protection and assistance, between 20 July and 19 August 2003, over 5,000 Myanmarese asylum seekers and their children were refouled from Mizoram. Similarly, while the Kashmiri pandits are provided "cash relief of Rs.600/- per head per month subject to a maximum of Rs. 2400/- per month per family plus other assistance, the Reangs from Mizoram are provided Rs 80 per adult per month and Rs 40 per child per month. Majority of over 500,000 conflict-induced IDPs in India are tribals from North East.

Discriminatory policies and practices and impunity either through non-implementation of the laws and court orders or through legislative measures such as section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, section 6 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 and section 19 of the Human Rights Protection Act, 1993 justify and encourage violations of the rights of vulnerable children. Unless the government adopts a policy of zero tolerance against violation of child rights, ends impunity and adequately empowers the proposed National Commission for Children, the disadvantaged and vulnerable children, who require special protection and measures, will be denied their fundamental rights. [END]

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at +91-11-25503624 or 25620583

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