Children in conflict with law and those in need of care and protection, especially those residing in poor pockets, are facing severe harassment, mainly at the hands of the cops in Bhopal. This was found by a six-member fact-finding team, including legal experts and activists from across the state and country, after visiting seven poor settlements in Bhopal.
The survey comes close on the wheels of the alerts sent by local NGOs, including Muskaan and MP Mahila Manch. The team would now submit a detailed report on their findings within a month and would also take up the issue with state-level authorities, Mahrukh Adenwalla, a lawyer and juvenile justice expert from Mumbai, said.
The team — comprising Adenwalla, Delhi-based child rights activist Khushboo Jain, former chairperson of child welfare committee (CWC), Delhi, Bharti Sharma, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti’s Asha Mishra, Indore-based human rights activist Kalpana Mehta and NGO Aawaz’s Prashant Dubey — has also noted gross violation of law, including provisions of the juvenile justice act (JJA).
They found that even innocent children and their family members in poor pockets of the city were targeted whenever there was a crime in the vicinity.
Children in conflict with law are those who get involved in criminal activity.
“We found that children are branded as criminals, beaten up, picked up at will, kept in police custody without any formalities, not presented before the authorities as required and money is extorted from families to allow them to go,” Adenwalla told HT.
Bharti Sharma said since the police were the first point of contact with authorities whenever there was conflict with law, they came about as the biggest harassers. “There is easy negative labelling and discouragement of children even at the community level. This deprives them of the opportunity to normal life.” This, according to Asha Mishra, led children to drop out of schools.
When approached, deputy inspector general of police (DIG), Bhopal, Raman Singh Sikarwar said that the city police were “very alert” towards dealing with children and the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) was working in this direction with “due care”. “We keep conducting training programmes to sensitise the staff. Our work of reuniting missing children with parents has been appreciated very much,” he said.