Were you to approach any of the Commissions set up in independent India presumably to redress torts, what you would get after few days of your filing a report is a printed letter informing you that the Commission has taken note of your complaint and directed the pertinent authorities to give an Action Taken Report by such and such date! This very official and officious letter is probably all you will ever get!
During a recent TV debate post the Gauwahati incident, the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women proclaimed that she has asked for an Action Taken Report (ATR) and was waiting for it! The long forgotten words jolted my mind! Yes, I too was the recipient of a letter stating that an ATR had been solicited in the case of my complaint no: xxx! Many years ago we had started a small outreach at the gypsy camp that was located along the main road next to a busy intersection, the kind of location always preferred by these gypsy iron smiths as it enables them to sell their ware. It was a heart warming place
replete with love, dignity and abundant common sense. I soon was to discover that the place was illegal ( I wonder how illegal any place that has survived 3 or more decades, has a postal address and voter's ID cards for its inhabitants is). I also found some old tattered official looking papers that had promised relocation to these nomadic tribes.
Remember, these were early days of pwhy and I was still naive and gullible. I had been told by the chieftain of the clan, a man I had profound respect for, that their camp was regularly bulldozed
and then after greasing some palms allowed to be re erected. I witnessed one such bulldozing and my blood ran cold as one child was retrieved in the nick of time! I had heard about all those wonderful sounding Commissions one being the Human Rights one. I took pen to paper and poured out my anger, indignation and compassion seeking intervention from those meant to protect torts. My complaint, as that is what such writing is called, was duly received and I was informed that an ATR had been sought. In those days I thought I had conquered the moon and my lohar friends would soon be safe. Silly me! A few days later I got a strange phone call from the local cop station. I was incomprehensible as what i was asked is whether the lohars were bothering me as they ! You can imagine my bewilderment! I did not know what to say. To cut a long story short all my attempts failed: PIL in court, appeal to the CM etc etc.
We managed to buy some time though and withstood some storms. But then came our greatest adversary: the Commonwealth Games and Delhi had to be made beautiful. On 28 August 2010 the camp was destroyed
once for all. The tribe got shelter in different parts of the city but I lost my friends. I wonder of the city gained in beauty. I know I learnt my lessons and never approached a Commission again. I know what an Action Taken report means not forgetting that a member of the Commission made the unforgivable blunder of revealing the name of the victim.
So to get back to the Guwahati case I wonder what the NCW will achieve with this report. This brings us to asking ourselves the role and effectiveness of such commissions which are, let us not forget, funded by tax payers. Are they convenient institutions that allow the ruling party to reward or rid itself of someone. Perhaps. So one needs to review such bodies and give them teeth and independence. Then perhaps those they are meant to protect will be truly heard!