The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has given four weeks to the Tamil Nadu Government to act against erring police officials responsible for the forced piercing of cheeks of about 20 children last year.
Taking cognizance of the incident on Tuesday, the NHRC asked the Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) for North Chennai, Tamil Nadu, to register a case under Sections 326/341/34/120B of the Indian penal Code (IPC) and 23 of Juvenile Justice Act against those who forced about 20 children to pierce their cheeks with two meter steel rods as part of a ritual for speedy recovery of then ailing chief minister of Tamil Nadu J. Jayalalilthaa.
The NHRC also asked the officer to provide an action taken report (ATR) within four weeks against the erring police officials, who were, admittedly, present at the site and did nothing to stop the criminal act.
Further, the NHRC issued a notice to the Principal Secretary (Home), Government of Tamil Nadu, to submit a report, within four weeks, on the steps taken to stop such rituals.
The commission's directions came after the Commissioner of Police, Greater Chennai, confirmed that such an incident had happened on October 3, 2016.
As part of a ceremony, the children were made to walk from Murgan Temple, R.K. Nagar, to Seniamman Temple, Manikondu, Tondiarpet by AIADMK supporters.
The NHRC, acting on a complaint into the allegations, had called for a report from the concerned authorities on November 7, 2016.
It observed that from the material available on record, including the photographs, it was apparent that the children were very small and innocent and their cheeks were forcibly pierced.
A photograph reveals that the children were made to wear a cap with a photograph of Ms. Jayalalithaa and with slogan written on it - "long live Amma". One girl is seen caught by some persons for the purpose of piercing her cheeks.
THe NHRC said that the incident makes it a clear case of violation of human rights of children.
The Commissioner of Police, Greater Chennai, in his report, confirming the incident, had said that the children participated in the event with the approval of their parents and were not forced to do so.
However, he had accepted that the incident was a gross violation of Child Rights and that the police personnel, who attended the Bandobast duty on October 3, 2016 in connection with the event, had been severely warned.
He assured that if any such incident is reported in future, action will be taken under the relevant provisions of the law against the guilty.
The NHRC observed that it failed to understand how the consent of the parents, or that of the children for the ritual, can justify the criminal act of piercing children's cheeks with two meter steel rods.
Admittedly, the police officials, present at the site of the incident did nothing to stop it. Therefore, a simple warning to the erring police personnel is abysmal considering the gravity of the incident.