As many as 48 human rights activists have written to the National Human Rights Commission raising specific concerns over cases of police excesses in the time of national lockdown announced in the wake of the spread of COVID 19.
Apart from police excess, the activists also said that specific areas like the living conditions in judicial and non-judicial institutions, situation of the homeless and migrant workers and children in conflict with law should to be addressed.
They said that the police, who risked their own health and safety in the present situation, have found themselves in an unexpected situation. However, they have responded with excess force and insensitivity. This high-handedness is a blatant human rights violation, the activists say.
Urging the NHRC to take cognisance of this act by the police, they said that guidelines should be laid on par with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). There must be a complete prohibition of use of force, and if warranted, bare minimum force must be used.
The Supreme Court has already taken suo motu notice of overcrowding in prisons and directed the States to address the issue, as it posed a threat in the wake of the spread of COVID-19. However, there was no information on whether physical distancing was maintained at the prisons or protective gear like masks, sanitisers and soaps are provided to the prisoners. High-level committees comprising the authorities concerned must take necessary steps.
In the aftermath of the lockdown, millions of migrant labourers and their children have been left without shelter, livelihood and basic facilities. Many of them have been left stranded on the streets. A dedicated 24-hour helpline must be set up to help these people in distress.
The State Human Rights Commissions must act as a link with the local authorities and to ensure that essential commodities reach the homeless. Joint working groups at all levels must be set up to monitor the situation.
The NHRC must look into the issue of children in conflict with law. In the present scenario, the parents or guardians should not be forced to take back their children. Guidelines must be framed to ensure children are safe and in touch with their parents through video conferencing.
Action must be taken against hate speech, to restore high-speed internet connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir and deploy National Disaster Response Force to co-ordinate the relief work, the activists said.