The recent incident of the child abuse case in Guwahati has not only shaken the city but also the nation as to how a renowned psychiatrist talking about mental health on several occasions has herself committed a crime sending two minors into a traumatic state.
This incident has raised several questions of whether such cases are still prevailing in Assam which mostly go unreported as the witnesses are unwilling to come forward to file a formal complaint, informed Miguel Das, Child Rights Activist.
Regarding the delay in filing a police report in the case, Miguel Das said that the informants were very afraid to provide any evidence or reveal their identities.
He said, “Earlier, when I were younger, I used to file FIRs as soon as I receive a call regarding an alleged case of child abuse, However, several times the informants who call me turn hostile during police investigation or trial.”
“After repeatedly facing such situations, we set a policy at Utsah that if the witnesses want to lodge any child abuse case or wish to seek any kind of assistance from us then they have to submit a written letter with informants’ name and signature,” he added.
Speaking on the delay in lodging the recent child abuse case, Miguel said, “Similarly, in this case as well no one was willing to identify themselves or reveal their identity. Nonetheless, we intimated the Child Welfare Committee through Childline Services, about the preliminary information so that they are ready to take necessary steps in case of emergency."
“On the evening of May 5, I received a few anonymous calls informing me regarding the incident where a child was tied up on a terrace, whereupon I asked them to go to child line or the police to lodge a formal complaint. After a while, someone, it seems, went to the police station and filed a complaint,” he said.
Miguel said that after the complaint was filed, he provided necessary technical assistance to the Police so that a strong FIR could be filed. “We have a partnership programme with the Assam police known as ‘Assam Police Sishu-Mitra Programme' wherein I am anyway supposed to be providing support to the Police in all child-related cases.” Miguel said.
Further speaking on the child abuse cases that go unreported the child activists said, “Whenever the informants inform me regarding any child abuse over call or through message, the first request they make is to hide their names and identities arguing that they have a family and cannot put themselves at any kind of risk."
They request me to deal with the cases without them coming forward. "This mindset needs to be changed. People need to be conscious, active and most importantly fearless in such kind of incidents.”
“People must be willing to sacrifice their lives for what is right, more so when it is to do with the protection of children.” he stated on being fearless.
In the last few days, several people took to social media to post pictures of Dr. Sangeeta Datta and her husband with influential people of the State suggesting that those were aware of their wrongful deeds. To this, Miguel said, “I don’t think those people were even aware of their misdeeds. The couple presented an imagery of a perfect life in real life and on social media, so that no one could gauge the dirt within. Therefore, no one doubted.”
“They are very smart as they loved to get clicked with influential people and post them on social media to make people believe that they are influential too. They basically used those pictures to their gain,” he said.
“Whenever we are invited to a party, several people attend and we take pictures with a few famous and known personalities. It is not necessary that they are aware of our personal life. There might even be a photo of her with me taken at a studio of a news channel to which we both were invited. She was sitting right beside me. If one finds that photograph, they might also start their own speculations but that doesn’t mean that I knew her well or that I was remotely aware of their misdeeds. Likewise, those people in those photos are innocent,” he added.
Miguel Das Queah founded UTSAH (Universal Team for Social Action and Help) Child Rights Organisation in 2011 because he wished to focus on working against child abuse and specially child sexual abuse. At that time there were no in-depth initiatives on child sexual abuse in Assam. He started this organization to work for children who were victims of sexual crimes so that he can help them in their journeys of justice.
Miguel Das revealed that, though it doesn’t define him, he had been a victim of sexual abuse when he was a teenager due to which he is aware of the sufferings these children have to go through both physically and mentally and how it affects them in their future.
Das mentioned the first child abuse on which he worked after the POCSO Act was implemented. He said, “We received information regarding the sexual abuse of a child from a slum area in Guwahati. We got to know that the victim had to face many difficulties at the Police stage, judicial stage etc. As the POCSO Act was freshly implemented in India so the Police themselves were also not fully aware of the law and its complex procedures.”
“After getting thorough with the entire law myself, I assisted the victim with the legal process. In that case, after one and a half years, the accused was convicted. Following this, many people, including police, reached out to us seeking assistance for children in child abuse cases,” he added.
Miguel Das has been appointed as the Support Person under the POCSO Act for the two minor victims in the recent child abuse case. He explained that there is a provision in the Act, under which the Child Welfare Committee can appoint a support person for victims. The role of the support person is to assist the victim during the legal procedures, access compensation and help children access healing services.
Miguel, further speaking on the present mental and physical health condition of the two minor victims, said, “As for so many years, they had been victims of not only physical but sexual abuse, their mental health is quite sensitive right now, though they are playing and engaging in fun activities in the childrens home. There is a fracture on the hand of the minor girl victim due to which if the minor boy playfully holds her hand, she feels certain amount of pain and discomfort. To heal physically will take a few months, but to heal mentally will take a longer period of time because they are still afraid that they will be sent to their illegaly adoptive parents' home.”
The child rights activist informed that most of the physical marks could be seen in their (the recent child abuse victims) intimate areas. To heal from both physical and psychological trauma, the children will need time, before they can lead a regular childhood.