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April 27, 2018
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‘Ensure no arms at religious rallies’Bengal child rights panel urges govt. to prevent violations during processions

The West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights has urged the State government to ensure that no arms or weapons are carried by children in the Ram Navami rallies organised by the Bajrang Dal.

The WBCPCR summoned the officials of the Bajrang Dal and the Vishva Hindu Parishad last month for allegedly arming children during the Ram Navami processions in Purulia and Hooghly districts.

The Commission urged the Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Department and the Home Affairs Department to “ensure that no arms or any kind of weapons are used by children participating in religious processions conducted by the Bajrang Dal”.

The Commission also asked the State government to ensure that violation of child rights do not take place during religious processions conducted by the organisation, and that it abides by its undertaking given before the WBCPCR last month.

Asked why no recommendations about VHP were sent to the State government, WBCPCR chairperson Ananya Chatterjee Chakraborti said that the VHP official who appeared before the Commission was in charge of north Bengal whereas the Ram Navami rally in which children were seen carrying arms took place in Hooghly district. “We will issue fresh summons to the district leader of the VHP soon,” she said.

Not enforced

However, rights activists questioned the “importance” given to such recommendations by the State government and the police. “Even as the WBCPCR is trying to address the issue, the State government and the police rarely act on them,” said Ranjit Sur, vice-president of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights.

He also said that unless the State government and the police “change their attitude”, the issue will not be resolved.

In April last year, the WBCPCR took suo motu cognisance of children carrying arms at Ram Navami rallies in Birbhum district and sought a report from the District Magistrate. There were similar incidents in the districts of Paschim Bardhaman and North 24 Paraganas last year.

However, WBCPCR chairperson argued that unlike last year they have asked all the District Magistrates (on March 22) to ensure that “children who take part in the Ram Navami procession do not carry any arms”.