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Harsh Mander quits as NHRC special monitor

Social activist Harsh Mander has resigned as the special monitor at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), alleging “lack of response” from the rights panel on a report submitted by him on the conditions of persons “deemed to be foreigners” in Assam detention camps.

Mander, a former bureaucrat, who has worked for the rights of minorities in north India, sent his resignation letter to National Human Rights Commission’s chairperson justice (retd) H L Dattu yesterday.

“There have been a few issues, and one of them was the lack of response from the NHRC on the report I had submitted to it on the the conditions of people deemed to be foreigners in detention camps in Assam,” he said.

“Besides, I also wanted to raise the issue of detention camps in Assam, more so, ahead of the scheduled release of the final draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) on June 30,” Mander said.

The NHRC engages people from civil society and other spheres of life as special monitor, which is an honorary position, with a tenure of a year or so.

“I was made a special monitor around September last year. I was sent to Assam as part of a mission, consisting of two senior officials, besides me, in January. The two officials had submitted their independent reports, but I had also submitted a report on the issue,” he said.

“However, I received no response from the NHRC on it,” he alleged.

Mander in his resignation said as the special monitor at the NHRC, therefore there was “no constructive role” for him to play.

From January 22-24, the mission visited two detention centres and met the detainees. The mission held meetings with jail and police authorities, district magistrates and senior officials at the state secretariat. The team also had a series of meetings with civil society groups in Goalpara, Kokrajhar and Guwahati, Mander said.

“I therefore resign forthwith, so that I can with greater freedom continue to pursue these concerns, including those that I raised with the NHRC of encounter killings targeting minorities in UP and Haryana, and of the legal treatment of persons deemed to be foreigners, in my capacity as an independent human rights defender,” he said in the letter.

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