Skip to main content

Raids on children's homes: Govt of India now using NCPCR to 'intimidate' dissent

By Harsh Mander*

The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) descended on a surprise 'raid' on two children's homes in Delhi with which I have been associated in the past, Ummeed Aman Ghar and Khushi Rainbow Home, on October 1. This was led by the chairperson of the NCPCR himself.
A brief context maybe useful. After I left the IAS, I felt that one of the things I must try to do was to find humane highly scaleable public systems of protection for homeless street children. Their neglect by public policy for more than half a century I regarded as an unconscionable public crime.
My colleagues and I developed the idea for homeless children to share existing school spaces, where they would study with other children in the day and sleep in safety at night. These were open, voluntary, non-custodial stay homes for children without homes and families, with high standards of comprehensive care, and high focus on child participation.
This was accepted as a model by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan policy frame work in 2011, it is continued even in Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan in 2018., This idea has been replicated over the last 13 years by dedicated people and organisations in various cities in our country, reached out to over 10,000 children, presently taking care of 5000 former street children.
I am no longer formally associated with these homes. But I have close bonds of great love with the children especially in Delhi, who call me Harsh Papa. I visit them when I can, to assure myself about their welfare, speak to them about the world and leading a good life, and sing songs together.
The NCPCR team in its "raids" on the two homes had four central focuses.
The most important was whether the children participated in the anti-CAA protests. The second focus was about my association with the homes. The children spoke about the occasional visits to meet them. The third focus was on foreign funding. As it happens, Ummeed is entirely funded from Indian donors. Khushi also is largely supported by Indian donors, but has some foreign donors as well.
The fourth question was whether we had given shelter to any Rohingya children. My colleagues said that for us, we don't focus on the identity of any child; the only thing important for us is that she or he is homeless and in need of care and protection.
It is no secret that the Union government, using various official agencies which fall under its control, has launched a massive campaign against those who participated in the peaceful non-violent protests against the CAA/NRC/NPR from December 2019 to March 2020. It has been made amply clear by the actions of the state machinery that I am one of those targeted. 
I am no longer formally associated with these homes. But I have close bonds with children, especially in Delhi, who call me Harsh Papa
In its affidavits to the High Court and Supreme Court, and in a number of its charge-sheets, the Delhi Police has charged me with the fantastical allegation that I was part of a group that fomented hate under the 'facade of peace', referring to my address to anguished students in Jamia Millia Islamia University on December 16, and that I committed contempt of the Supreme Court by criticising its failures to defend minority rights and freedoms.
The full recording of this address, and indeed all my speeches and public writings make apparent that instead I spoke about the centrality of love and the Constitution, the importance of non-violence, and that the soul of the freedom struggle and the constitution was the idea of a humane and inclusive nation of equal citizenship for people of all faiths, castes and genders.
On the morning of October 1 it was evident that the government was using one more of its agencies, NCPCR to advance its campaign against the peaceful protesters and dissenters, to defame me. I have no idea about the spin that the NCPCR may give to their investigation.
The NCPCR is India's apex body for child rights, and is well within its rights to enquire about the welfare of children in any context. But the timing, mode and questions raised by them are unconventional and raise doubts about the motivation of the agency, whether it will be just one more willing tool for the witch-hunt that is ongoing against independent dissenters in India today.
It is apparent that the objective behind this hydra-headed witch-hunt of wild police charges and defamatory innuendos to damage reputations and shut down organizations – using a range of official agencies – is to intimidate and discredit dissenters who are committed to the defence of the constitution into silence. My former colleagues are deeply committed to standing by the most vulnerable homeless child whatever it may take.
I am convinced that our republic is passing through one of its darkest times, dominated by the politics of hate and the crushing of freedoms. Therefore it is my foremost duty, as also the duty of all those who love this country and its people, to not be silenced, to continue to resist, to continue to speak out and organize for love, fraternity and justice.
---
*Bureaucrat-turned activist. Statement by Harsh Mander following NCPCR raid on children’s homes founded by him

Comments

TRENDING

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

Gross 'injustice' to children: Rs 5000 cr cut in education budget; 15 lakh schools shut down

Counterview Desk  More than 100 dignitaries, including educationists, academia, social activists, teachers’ union, civil society organisations (CSOs), various networks and people working on child rights, in a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have sought reversal of reduction in allocation for education in the Union Budget 2021-22, even as demanding substantial increase in it.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

India sees 62 journo deaths, 4th highest, amidst pandemic: Swiss media rights body

By Our Representative The Switzerland-based media rights body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) has noted that India is the fourth most affected country as far as mediapersons’ death on account of Covid-19 is concerned. According to Blaise Lempen, secretary-general of PEC, the global tally of casualties among media persons in the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 1,036 journalists in 73 countries till date.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

RSS love for 'killer' Myanmar junta behind Indian military presence at Tatmadaw Day?

By Shamsul Islam*  If a shameful act means an action which is criminal and nauseating, it would be an understatement to describe the attitude of the present RSS-BJP rulers of India towards the demolition of democracy and large-scale killing of the people of Myanmar by the military ( tatmadaw ) junta which took power through a coup on February 1, 2021 after renegading the election results in which the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy, was a clear winner.

Chhattisgarh’s Apra riverfront imitates Sabarmati: 'Devaluing' water, environment

Sabarmati riverfront By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  This year’s #WorldWaterDay (March 22) focus was on ‘Valuing Water’. My school friend, Pragati Tiwari from Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, called that day knowing my interest in water matters. We were remembering our childhood days as how we used to play on the banks and the bed of the Arpa Nadi (River) during the summer holidays and as how the river would swell like Anaconda to flow happily during the monsoon.

Bihar massacre on Holi day: Brahminical, casteist mindset behind 'uneasy' silence

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Several people were killed in Bihar amidst Holi festivities, but not much response has come in from the media. The silence of the government and the society as a whole is also appalling. We seek to romanticise these festivals, yet we forget that every year they take so many lives. This despite the fact that Holi appears to be the best time for 'avenging things'.

India's draft migrants policy: Whither concern on job restrictions imposed by states?

By Anil Kumar*  India’s Niti Aayog has prepared a Draft Migration Policy. The draft policy acknowledges migration as an integral part of development, and it calls for positive government interventions that facilitate internal migration. With a rights-based solution to migration, the draft states that the policy should “enhance the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive”.

Gujarat religious freedom amendment bill 'pursues' votebank politics, is anti-minority

Gujarat home minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja  By Our Representative  A Gujarat-based minority rights organisation, taking strong exception to the state assembly last week passing the Gujarat Religious Freedom (Amendment) Bill, 2021, has asserted that the proposed law “is completely unconstitutional”, even as asking the Gujarat governor to give his accent to it.