Anjum and Shireen write to the Daily Etalaat about their recent interactions with the J&K State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) …….
(Anjum Mir, 22, and Shireen Shafi, 24, represent the new youthful face of Kashmir committed to bringing social justice among its disfranchised people. Ms. Mir was born in Srinagar and completed her B.Sc. degree in Environmental Science from S.P. College in 2006. She is pursuing her Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from the Kashmir University and is presently doing internship at “Act Now for Harmony and Democracy” (ANHAD), a Srinagar based NGO. Ms. Shafi was also born in Srinagar and completed her B.Sc. degree from Women’s College in Srinagar, and is presently doing MSW in the Kashmir University, and doing internshio at ANHAD. Both are volunteers/members of the J&K Right to Information (RTI) movement. Their interests include RTI, cleanup of Dal Lake and awareness of human rights abuses.)
THE DAILY ETALAAT
Any person who has got some rights and is bound to perform some duties is said to be a citizen. Besides, duties and rights there comes concept of freedom – freedom of thoughts, freedom of speech, freedom to express him or herself, freedom to know about his society but, people living in this part of the world are not aware of these rights.
JK Right to Information Act, 2004 came into force on Oct 12, 2004. As per this act every citizen has the right to obtain information from the office in charge of any Govt dept or public authority and the officer incharge is liable to provide information under and in accordance with the provisions of this act. The office incharge can deny to disclose the ‘seeked’ information if the disclosure of information would prejudicially affect the sovereignty, integrity and security of the state or conduct of international relations. Moreover, officer in charge can also refuse to disclose the information if disclosure can lead to law and order problem etc.
With the ambition in mind to know about the human right scenario in our blood stained Valley, we filed RTI application in J&K State Human Rights Commission (SHRC). We sought the information about the details of the total number of human rights violation cases filed in the commission right from its inception till date, total number of fake encounter cases filed in SHRC, total number of custodial disappearances and custodial killings with details from its inception till date, total number of cases for which compensation has been sanctioned.For that matter we approached administrative officer to our surprise he appeared totally ignorant about Right to Information Act (RTI Act). He promised us to provide all the possible help as a good will gesture. He referred us to the legal assistant who pretended to be very reserved and busy gentlemen. That very gentleman after so many queries asked us to come on Jan 23, 2008. Initially, he refused to give any kind of acknowledgement in form” A” of JK RTI Act. He was very suspicious about our identities and the staff there including the administrative officer got irritated by our presence. Reasons best know to them.
When we reached to the commission office on Jan 23, 2008 we were directed to meet secretary as the administrative officer was on leave. We were ill treated and embarrassed by him. He said it is practically impossible for him to gives us such details as they don’t have manpower available to get such vast details. Later on we met the commission secretary who firstly talked very politely, but gave same reasons for not providing the information. Besides, he also refused to give reasons in black and white. He asked us to satisfy ourselves with one of the annul reports plus some annexure, when we refused to accept it he asked us to come on Jan 28, 2008 to meet Administrative officer to get requisite information. The Commission secretary also turned rash. We tried to explain him about the legal formalities that the officer should follow in providing the information or rejecting the seekers application under this act but instead he treated us like kids.For the first time in our life we realized that we are living in such a type of society where every concerned govt. officer displays behavior quite contrast to his position.
J&K SHRC didn’t provide us the complete information under J&K RTI Act 2004. At one hand government claims to bring about transparency and accountability in the state administration. But the situation is totally different in govt offices. Laws and rules are only present in books. They never get implemented on ground. Govt officials are totally unaware that they are public servants. The whole govt machinery has got paralyzed and has totally collapsed. All this needs a massive over handling.
Anjum and Shareen
MSW Students, University of Kashmir
Volunteers ANHAD/J&K RTI Movement