Empower SHRC

 

The new government has recommended members for the Public Services Commission (PSC), but a vital organization, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), remains defunct to this day, having been systematically decapitated as well as dismembered. An eyesore for the previous government because of a landmark decision on unmarked graves in 2011, the Commission had been told in clear terms not to investigate the issue further, a situation the dispensation ensured by delaying the appointment of its new chairman and members as terms of incumbents expired.

Although the previous government had set up a four-man empowered committee headed by the former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, last year to appoint the chairman, the panel never met. A senior functionary of the   General
Administration Department had assured that the appointments would be made before the beginning of assembly’s autumn session
starting August 25.

In his capacity as the state’s home minister, the then Chief Minister had dealt the Commission a severe blow by restraining it from pursuing the unmarked grave case, saying that the task would be entrusted to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But even this has not come about.

The previous government’s reluctance to make the Commission functional again, that too after taking it off the unmarked graves case, had added to its already poor image, and the results are there for it to rue.

The SHRC had been sought to be strangled from the very beginning, not the least by rejecting its recommendations in many cases. But the Commission managed to survive, and passed some vital judgements, creating hope among the masses. And when more cases started pouring in, the government stifled it by administrative and legislative means.

The return of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed to office had generated expectations of the SHRC being empowered, but this probably figures very low on the new Chief Minister’s priority list.

Since Mr Sayeed has spoken of his Healing Touch policy again around the time of his swearing in, he must act in substance, and not only make the SHRC functional as soon as possible but also allow it proceed with the unmarked graves investigation.

The Commission must be permitted to function without fetters, and equipped with the wherewithal to make that happen.

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