The Association of Survivors of Kandhamal Communal Violence (ASKCV) has urged the Orissa Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, to protect the rights of children of Kandhamal, especially those severely affected by the aftermath of December 2007 and August 2008 pogrom.
“We have sent a memorandum to the Chief Minster for his kind attention and consideration expecting appropriate actions to ensure rightful and adequate restoration and rehabilitation of the children affected by the communal violence in Kandhamal and other districts,” said Prafulla Digal, ASKCV Convenor, and Bipra Charana Nayak, Secretary, in a joint letter on September 13.
Of the affected people almost 36 per cent are children below 18 years, who have been both physically and psychologically broken. Almost all the children from affected families had fled to distant places to save their life and they had to drop their studies. While most of them could come back to their villages, they are yet to overcome their trauma. Many children have migrated to other places and are yet to return to their villages. The real status of the affected children is not known to anybody. Even the administration could not provide the statistics as to how many children left their studies, how many could not come back to their villages or schools and how many have become child labourers.
Kandhamal’s children remain silent spectators. They are totally left out of administrative or judicial decisions. Nobody asks their views; their voice is not heard. No mental health services or programmes are conducted for the children on the lines of the announcements by the district administration.
The administration must immediately focus on the situation of the children in Kandhamal and take urgent steps to do the following:
• Steps need to be taken by the appropriate authority to institute an independent and empowered committee to assess the status of children affected by violence to identify and shortlist and to create a data base for their relief and rehabilitation.
• The Government should undertake adequate and rightful measures for relief, rehabilitation and restoration programmes to ensure the rights and interest of the children in the field of health, education, nutritious food and clothing on the lines of the human rights standards.
• There should be a monitoring body for the whole process of relief and rehabilitation, which should take cognizance of children and also ensure that the rights of the children are not violated in the process.
• Children’s voices are important to be heard, especially in the case of mass violence. Government should ensure the participation of children in the rehabilitation and post- rehabilitation process of normalizing the situation.
As maintained by UN guidelines and various judgments, specific guidelines must be followed to protect the rights of children when he or she is testifying in front of law enforcement agencies or the judiciary.
• In any man-made disaster such as communal or ethnic riots, children’s education and then health are the first to get affected. The administration must ensure adequate access to food and nutrition, clothing, shelter and education facilities. There should be education facilities in relief camps for school-going children as well as a separate place or tent in the camp to be used as study shall, especially for those who are appearing for examinations. Children should be helped in every way so that they don’t have to drop a year or miss out on examinations.
• Special measures to address children’s needs, especially of those who have lost one or both parents, should be incorporated in all relief and rehabilitation plans. A special compensation package is needed for such children to help them continue their studies till the age of 18.
• Children should be provided trauma counselling services as well as playful and creative activities to help them cope with the situation effectively, especially when they also lack family support. Without these, children may develop all kinds of psychological and behavioral problems, lose interest in education, suffer from depression, drug addiction, or other kinds of problem.
• Hygiene needs, especially of girls, are always found to be neglected in relief camps. Sanitary towels and toilet soaps for adolescent girls are a must.
• Regular, on-site health check-ups are essential to prevent any major disease outbreak in the camp. Such check-ups should continue at least for three months after the families have gone back to their homes or any other resettlement site.
• Special attention should be paid to the nutrition needs of children in the age group of 0-6 years and of adolescents. All children, irrespective of caste, community and religion, should be entitled to protection from any kind of exploitation in difficult situations.
• There should be a proper mechanism to create a database of the affected children, which can be used to develop care plans for children of different age groups. Government should have a list of services that can be availed by the children during or after the violence.
Helpline services should be set up for children to address the immediate needs of the children during and after the violence.
• The juvenile justice mechanism in Kandhamal is in a shambles, whereas the need of the hour is to strictly implement the provisions of the Act to check proliferation of illegal activities involving children who are vulnerable, such as trafficking for child labour, sexual abuse and adoption. An action force to check such incidents as well as track people who are involved in such activities must be formed, which should continue to work for the medium term and also provide a feeling of security to the children and families.
• Special provisions for orphaned boys and girls are needed so as to recognise them as separate and independent units and enable them to receive entitlements to land and compensation money. They should not be merely absorbed into the family units that have temporary guardianship.
• Instead of trying to suppress facts and mislead the media, the local administration should ensure that the media in general and the electronic media in particular, strictly follow an ethical reporting code during any communal or ethnic violence. It should appeal to them not to telecast live incidents of violence, which are certain to create tension among the people and aggravate the sense of fear, especially among children, and cause lasting damage.
Even after two years of Kandhamal communal violence, there are places in the district where tension and insecurity among Christians prevail, which make the children stay away from the schools and colleges. Discrimination on the basis of religion and caste is being encouraged by caste Hindus and fundamentalists. There are schools where a section of children are not allowed to sit and play together. The government should take immediate action to ensure conducive atmosphere in schools and villages.
Due to lack of livelihood option in the victim families, many children become child labourers. The government should arrange some vocational and soft skill development training for the children above 16 years.